Paul knew that his earthly ministry was drawing to an end. He was concerned that the next generation of leaders would be up to the task.
He charged his young partner in the ministry to make sure that the leadership of the church remained excellent.
He told Timothy, “The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3.1).
The Baptist tradition that I am a part of does not have an office of a bishop.
When we consider a bishop to be a teacher of righteousness and the Scriptures, or someone who oversees a house church, then the function is present even if the title isn’t.
What’s interesting about Paul’s teaching about church leaders is that there is no job description.
Rather than a job description, Paul highlights the character traits of leaders.
Some of the character traits of leaders are these: “Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher” (1 Timothy 3.2).
(1) “Above reproach” heads the list and is a summary statement of what leaders should exhibit.
Military and political leaders of Paul’s day were expected to have the same character traits as listed by Paul with an exception or two.
Should not God’s leaders be equal to or exceed the morality of secular persons?
(2) “Married only once” is one quality that was not important in the Greco-Roman world of Paul.
Men married to have a wife bear them legitimate children and take care of the household. It was generally accepted for a man to have a mistress or a prostitute.
Christian men were to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5.25).
Leaders were models for the congregation and self-giving love for their families was essential to their leadership.
(3) “Temperate, Self-controlled” – A relationship with the Holy Spirit produces self-control (Galatians 5.22-23).
When leaders are filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5.18), it will show. The Spirit will control their inside condition and eliminate intemperate behavior.
(4) “Respectable” does not mean that we will please everyone. In fact, when we live a Jesus-kind-of-life, some people will be very displeased.
People who live like this will certainly not please everyone, but they will gain their respect.
(5) “Hospitable” – The Christian ministry is relational by nature.
Besides times of prayer, Jesus did nothing by himself. He always had some of his disciples present to share the ministry.
With Jesus as our example, Christian leaders will do the same.
(6) “An Apt Teacher” highlights one of the needs in Ephesus, where Timothy was serving.
Deceitful and false teachers were corrupting the church. A major reason for writing the letter was to correct false teachers with able instruction.
More to Come
There is more to write about concerning leaders. Tomorrow’s article will consider more of Paul’s instructions.
As you read Paul’s words, please join me in praying for leaders in the church. Ask God to conform leaders everywhere to this standard.
Rudy Ross and I talk about this passage today on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.