LivingTruth.cc — The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

God’s Design For the Pastor – 1 Timothy 3:1-7

Church leaders were largely to blame for Mark Twain becoming hostile to the Bible and the Christian faith. As he grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them. He heard men using foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. He listened to ministers use the Bible to justify slavery. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the bad teaching and poor example of church leaders that he became bitter toward the things of God. 1

Leadership in the church is a serious responsibility. Sadly, as in Mark Twain’s case, there are those who aren’t good leaders and cause others to stumble. We are going to examine today the characteristics of a Godly leader found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

What are the qualities that God desires for a leader in the church? We often mark the success of a leader by his charisma, eloquence or intelligence. But what are the characteristics that God emphasizes be found in those who lead His church? Look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

3:1  This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.
2  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
3  not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;
4  one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
5  (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
6  not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.
7  Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

There are 2 offices that are given to the church and they are outlined in the third chapter of 1 Timothy. The first is the office of bishop or what we call pastor – some churches call elders. The second is the office of deacon. This morning we are going to consider the work of a pastor and his fitness for that work. These first seven verses of chapter 3 refer to the office of pastor.

3:1  This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.

What does bishop in this verse mean? What role is Paul referring to here?  In the Greek this word is talking about a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done right. He is a guardian or superintendent.  J. Vernon McGee offers the following insight,

“‘Bishop’ actually means an overseer or a superintendent. In the early church the pastor was called by several different titles: (1) he was called a presbyter, or elder; (2) he was called a pastor, or shepherd; (3) he was called a bishop, or an overseer; and (4) he was called a minister. The pastor was never called “reverend” and I don’t think any preacher should be so called. Reverend means terrible, or that which incites terror. It is a name that applies only to God.” 

I personally don’t care for the title reverend but I understand folks often don’t realize its true meaning. But we get the idea that the office of bishop is synonymous with the term elder or shepherd or pastor. We’ll refer to the office of pastor, as that is what we commonly call it.

The phrase here in verse 1 “If a man desires” in the Greek, has this meaning; 1) it is to stretch one’s self out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something.

The person desiring the position of pastor could have either good or bad intentions. The faithful saying Paul speaks of assumes good intentions.2

It ought to be the desire of the individual seeking the responsibility of pastor to do a work for the benefit of others and not himself. It is this appropriate desire for the work of pastor that will cause a man to labor in the study of the Word and commit to faithfulness in the care of the church.

It is clear that the work of an overseer is important. It is a good work. The NIV calls this work a “noble task”.

I think sometimes we are not clear on our understanding of the work a pastor is to do. I was once in a board meeting where one fellow deacon complained that the pastor didn’t visit enough and another deacon complained the pastor didn’t spend enough time in the office either.

I think perhaps our expectations of pastors would be cleared up if we had a better understanding of our own roles as believers. Once we become a part of the Body of Christ, we all become engaged in the ministry. We should all be doing the work of the ministry. It is the job of the pastor to oversee the work, not be the sole individual involved in doing the work.

Ray Stedman puts it this way:

“I hope it is clear to all of you that every Christian is in the ministry. The moment you became a member of the body of Christ you are in the ministry, and you are given gifts for ministry. It is not the elders who are to do the work of the ministry: You are!

You are directly related to the Lord Jesus so that he can say to you at any time, “I have opened up a door here in your neighborhood for you. I want you to reach these people.” That is the way the Lord works.

Elders are to be watching for this. That is what the word for elder, episkopos, means — “looking over.” Elders are to be looking to see what the Lord is doing with his people, and utilizing the opportunities that arise on every hand. They are to be instructed in what the Lord has said in his Word so as to be able to guide this new and exciting thing that is coming into being, correcting it if need be. That is the work of elders. So it is a “noble task,” as Paul says.

To be an elder is to be, in a sense, at the control board of the most dramatic and exciting thing going on in any day, at any time, because the church, in God’s estimation, is the most important body in the world. God has set the church at the center of life. He has given us the opportunity to control the level of morality around us, the openness of people to hear and respond to his Word. To be given a position as one of those leaders through whom the mind of Christ is revealed and who is able to encourage and train the people of God to fulfill the ministry Christ has given them is surely a very exciting and noble task. ”

Our role as believers is like the phrase I’ve heard more than one church use, “every member a minister.” And a pastor is one who equips the ministers. John Piper says he “leads and feeds.”

We have considered the fact that the role of pastor is a good thing to desire. But desire alone is not enough. We will see as we continue in this passage that there are several characteristics that ought to be found in one who desires to be an overseer in order for him to be qualified. Let’s take a look at the qualifications in our passage.

There are fifteen qualities given here in verse 2-7.

1) Blameless; 2) Husband of one wife; 3) Temperate; 4) Sober-minded; 5) Of good behavior; (6) Hospitable; 7) Able to teach; 8) Not given to wine; 9) Not violent; 10) Gentle; 11) Not quarrelsome; 12) Not greedy for money and not covetous; 13) One who rules his own house well; 14) Not a novice; and he is to have 15) A good reputation outside the church

This is quite a list! Will a pastor be required to have achieved perfection in each of these areas mentioned? I hope not. Lets understand that Pastors are human and as humans they are also sinners. Only Jesus Christ lived a completely sinless life. But these qualities should be evident in the lives of our church leaders and while perfection hasn’t been achieved, a pattern of growing and maturing in each of these areas should be noticeable.

I often have heard people expressing opinions on just what to look for in a pastor. Some want a sense of humor, some a no-nonsense kind of guy. Some look at degrees and experience. Some look at personality; how outgoing is he? It’s easy for us to form our own opinions of what a pastor should be. But the bottom line is what does God want in a pastor?

The Word of God should be our guide for the qualities we look for in a Godly pastor. This is not a business. Calling our quarterly meetings “business meetings”(we have one announced in the bulletin today) makes me a bit uneasy – I want to be careful that calling it such does not give the wrong impression. The church in searching for a pastor should not be searching for a CEO. It really troubles me when a church seems to evaluate a pastor solely on business principles. Instead of looking to see whether or not the Pastor reflects the qualities outlined in the Bible, we are often guilty of evaluating the pastor by the same set of values faced in the business world. The mentality could easily be one of, “finances are down, numbers are down, its time to look for a replacement.”

We never find in the New Testament the church being treated as a business or a large corporation. Jesus is the head of the church. He set the structure for leadership. Jesus established for us the kind of leader he desires and what he should do in the church.

It’s rather easy for us to be self-serving when looking for leaders for the church. We can easily have our eye on the one who will most satisfy our own selfish desires. However, that is not God’s desire for the church. We need to long for the heart of God. What are His desires? We each need to ask ourselves, “Are my desires in line with God’s? Do I study the word carefully so that His desires become my own?” Our goal in the church should be to find Godly leaders that exhibit the qualities that are important to the Lord. So let’s look at the scriptures. What are these qualities that should be found in our leaders?

Look at the first part of verse 2,

2. A bishop then must be blameless

What is meant by blameless? Warren Wiersbe explains it this way: “there must be nothing in his life that Satan or the unsaved can take hold of to criticize or attack the church. No man living is sinless, but we must strive to be blameless, or “above reproach”.

Earlier I mentioned the example of Mark Twain who was negatively influenced by church leaders who were not above reproach.

If a pastor is failing in the areas that we will be discussing, he is not going to be “above reproach”. If he is above reproach, it will be because the qualities we are going to continue to examine are apparent in his life.

Continuing in verse two we note the second qualification for a pastor, the husband of one wife. Does this mean that a pastor has to be married? Does it mean he can’t be widowed or divorced? What exactly is meant by this?  The literal meaning of this is a “one-woman man”. Stedman says of this;

“This sounds like he is to have been married only once. Many have struggled over this passage because sometimes elders’ wives die and elders remarry, or elders are divorced for some reason and remarry. This has given rise to a lot of controversy. But the word basically means that an elder is to be a one-woman man, i.e., not a philanderer, not attracted to every skirt that walks down the street, not constantly eyeing somebody or someone else’s wife. It is to be very evident that an elder is committed to one woman, his wife, whom he loves. ”

I have known men who are married, have never been divorced, have never been unfaithful to their wives and yet are NOT a “one-woman kind of man”. My wife shared with me how once before we were married, a married man who was a Sunday school teacher in a church she was attending, commented on her appearance and said, “you make an old man wish he were young again.” It was hardly an appropriate comment for a married man to be making to someone other than his wife.

A “one-woman man” will be devoted to his own wife. He won’t be flirting with other women or ogling them or relating to them inappropriately. Basically he will be a man who has eyes only for his wife. That is something that should be true for all of us married men. And might I add that the behavior I’ve noted as inappropriate is probably just as inappropriate if you are single. How we speak of and relate to the opposite sex should always be above reproach and should always aim to please the Lord.

Also in verse 2, the pastor should be temperate. This speaks of a man who has a clear head in all situations. Overseeing the work of the church requires someone who is clear-headed. A pastor needs to be calm and cool.  He shouldn’t be flighty or nervous but one who is calm. Not one who is jumping from one thing to another all the time.

Next we note that he should be sober-minded. He should be marked by a governing inner peace, a discipline of life that keeps him level and steady. Consider what Mrs. Johnson said of her husband President Lyndon Johnson when he was somewhat overweight. She told him bluntly, “You can’t run the country if you can’t run yourself.” Respecting Mrs. Johnson’s wise observation, the President lost 23 pounds. (Source unknown)

That’s true of the church too isn’t it? How can a man who can’t run himself or discipline himself, run the church?

Next we note good behavior. The NIV uses the word respectable. The basic meaning of the Greek word here is orderly. The pastor should be orderly and respectable in the way he lives, thinks and teaches.

He should also be hospitable. He should welcome others into his home. He should be hospitable not only to those in the church but also the unsaved.

Next we note that the pastor needs to have the ability to teach. This is an important qualification. Since the pastor is charged with handling the Word of God, and the pastor-teacher is to lead the church he needs to have the ability to make the truths of God’s Word clear to those he shepherds. Certainly the style of teaching may vary from one pastor to another but he must be able to discern the truth and refute error.

He should also not be given to wine or drunkenness. Obviously a drunkard is someone who is out of control and not fit to lead the church. A Godly leader is not controlled by alcohol or any other substance, but by the Holy Spirit.

He also should not be violent. Literally this means he should not be a “striker”.  He should not be looking for a fight. There are those who seem to always be looking to pick a fight with others. Charles Spurgeon told his Pastor’s College students, “Don’t go about the world with your fist doubled up for fighting, carrying a theological revolver in the leg of your trousers.”

Verse 3 says the pastor is not to be greedy for money and not covetous. He is not to be a lover of money. He is not to be one who is always trying to keep up with the Jones’s. His motivation for ministry should not be his own financial gain. Certainly having money is not what this is addressing. One can be a lover of money and have it control his life and at the same time either have money or not have money.

Next we see that a pastor should be gentle. Matthew Arnold translated this word, “sweet reasonableness”. It speaks of one who is gracious, kind, considerate and forbearing. Here’s a good illustration of the gentleness that should characterize a pastor. Pastor Richard L. Dunagin says;

At their school carnival, our kids won four free goldfish (lucky us!), so out I went Saturday morning to find an aquarium. The first few I priced ranged from $40 to $70. Then I spotted it—right in the aisle: a discarded 10-gallon display tank, complete with gravel and filter—for a mere five bucks. Sold! Of course, it was nasty dirty, but the savings made the two hours of clean-up a breeze. Those four new fish looked great in their new home, at least for the first day. But by Sunday one had died. Too bad, but three remained. Monday morning revealed a second casualty, and by Monday night a third goldfish had gone belly up. We called in an expert, a member of our church who has a 30-gallon tank. It didn’t take him long to discover the problem: I had washed the tank with soap, an absolute no-no. My uninformed efforts had destroyed the very lives I was trying to protect.

Sometimes in our zeal to clean up our own lives or the lives of others, we unfortunately use “killer soaps”—condemnation, criticism, nagging, fits of temper. We think we’re doing right, but our harsh, self-righteous treatment is more than they can bear.  (Richard L. Dunagin – Source unknown)

A shepherd should be gentle with the sheep. Not that he shouldn’t correct and direct but that he should do so with gentleness.

Next he should not be quarrelsome. He should not be marked by stubbornness or always insisting on his own point of view. Being of the mind that his opinion is the only one that counts can weaken the ministry of any pastor. He must be one who can get along well with others.

Let’s look at verses 4 and 5 again,

4  one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
5  (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);

How is the pastor’s family? Is there evidence of obedience in the lives of his children? Are they taught to be obedient and respectful? We don’t have to be around even the best taught and well behaved children for very long before we realize that no child is perfect. We are not talking about perfect children but we are talking about children in which it is evident that they have been taught and are expected to obey. It doesn’t mean the pastor won’t have problems at times with his family. We are all prone to problems. But the key is – how does he deal with problems that arise? Does he shrug his shoulders and say “oh well, kids will be kids” or does he take charge realizing that he is the one who is responsible for his children? Paul comments on this in verse 5 by noting that a man who can’t handle his own family isn’t going to be able to handle God’s church.

Verse 6 says,

6  not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.

Sometimes in our churches we are guilty of putting new believers in leadership roles they are not ready to handle. We have an obligation to see to it that new converts are discipled and built up in their faith before giving them too much responsibility. Paul warns that a recent convert may become proud like the devil did and fall under the same judgment.

Lastly we notice in verse 7 that a pastor must have a good reputation with outsiders.

7  Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

A man who doesn’t pay his bills, or has a reputation for lying or for cheating others obviously is in no condition to be leading the church. A man who has a poor reputation in the community is not going to be drawing others to Christ as he should. A man with a poor reputation will be a poor representative for the church of Jesus Christ.

As we’ve considered the role of a pastor today we’ve looked at the characteristics that he should have. Character does count, doesn’t it?

Listen to the wise words of Robert Murray McCheyne to a young ministerial student:

“I know you will apply hard to German, but do not forget the culture of the inner man—I mean of the heart. How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his saber clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword, His instrument—I trust, a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” (Robert Murray McCheyne)

Our study has been directed at the qualifications of a pastor. But the qualities that we have examined today should be ones all believers are striving to make true in their lives. We should be men and women of character. We should stand out in the world around us and our lives should draw others to the Saviour.

How are we doing? The qualities that God desires for a pastor – are they the same qualities we desire in a pastor? Are these the qualities that mark my life? Are these qualities evident in your life? Are there areas we need to work on so we aren’t a stumbling block to those who observe our lives and God’s church?

Yes, our character matters and especially so in the life of a pastor and those who lead the church with him. Chuck Swindoll says it well,

Ministry is a character profession. To put it bluntly, you can sleep around and still be a good brain surgeon. You can cheat on your mate and have little trouble continuing to practice law. Apparently, it is no problem to stay in politics and plagiarize. You can be a successful salesperson and cheat on your income tax. But you cannot do those things as a Christian or as a minister and continue enjoying the Lord’s blessing. You must do right in order to have true integrity. If you can’t come to terms with evil or break habits that continue to bring reproach to the name of Christ, please, do the Lord (and us in ministry) a favor and resign. 3

Let’s be a church marked by Godly leaders displaying the character qualities that count. Let’s be a church marked by believers displaying qualities that make the gospel attractive to the world in need of Christ that surrounds us. Let us strive to be God’s sword, keeping our lives clean and presentable. As McCheyne commented, let us not forget that a holy minister is an “awful weapon in the hand of God.”

Every member a holy minister as awful weapons for great good.


1 Timothy 3:1-7
Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Kevin A. Pierpont
9-28-03

1 Illustrations on Leadership from Bible.org, Source unknown )

2 Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 Timothy pg. 33

3 Chuck Swindoll, Rise and Shine, p. 198