So You Wanna Be in Ministry?

Posted: October 20, 2008 in 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 3:1-13, “So You Wanna Be in Ministry?”

Some people treat the pastorate as a career path, to the detriment of the church (and themselves)…it’s definitely not a career, but rather a calling from God. At the same time, there are specific qualifications to look for in a person who thinks they have been called into ministry – which Paul outlines here.

Take a minute to appreciate that. Don’t you love the fact that God set aside instructions in His Bible to tell us what to look for in those who would give us spiritual instructions? It’s easy to get caught up in charismatic personalities – or impressed by multiple degrees. (End up with cults & non-christian ‘churches’) But God would have us look beyond what the world would view as their ‘skillset’ & focus our attention on what the Holy Spirit is doing in their heart & lives. Thus He calls someone into ministry & gives the church the tools to recognize His calling upon someone’s life – and then they can be released into what God had intended for them to do. (Marvelous!)

Remember that Paul had sent/left Timothy in Ephesus to help bring correction to a church that had gotten somewhat off-track. There had been some false teachers in the city, and so Timothy was a kind of apostolic emissary to help get things right again…getting them back on track with right doctrine & helping the local church reorganize a bit. Came out of a section dealing with the ministry roles of men & women in the church. Men were invited to pray & women invited to learn… Paul narrows it down even further to the qualifications & expectations of church officers…
1 Timothy 3:1-13 (NKJV)
1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.
A. 1st thing we need to do is define “bishop” – we tend to think of guys in pointy hats or chess pieces. 🙂 Other translations use the term “overseer” & it’s pretty accurate. Gk ???????? (episcopal) compound word ??? “over” + ?????? (scope) “view/see”… There are several terms used in the NT to refer to the senior leadership of local churches: bishop/overseer – elder – pastor. Vast majority of scholars (almost universally) view them all as equal terms…synonyms for the same office.
__a. Good evidence for this! Paul exhorting the Ephesian elders (Acts 20)… Peter also affirms it – 1 Peter 5:1-2 (1) The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: (2) Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; [] All 3 combined here…yet we’re still left with the question of: Why would the Holy Spirit choose 3 different words to refer to the same office in the church? We may not be able to answer that now. We can ask the apostles when we see them. 🙂
B. It’s good to desire a calling into the ministry! If that’s something you believe God has placed on your heart – that’s a good thing. Sometimes we get the idea that God’s only going to call us to do things we don’t want to do – but its likely that if He called you, He’d also give you the desire to do it.
__a. At the same time, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the pastorate is the only good way to serve God! [] It’s good to serve God however He’s called you to serve…whether that’s as a truck driver or a teacher. Wherever God has called us to work, that’s the area He’s given us as a mission field.
C. Ministry is work! The one who desires to be a bishop/elder/pastor doesn’t desire a life of laziness or luxury – he desires one of labor. When you hear someone say, “I just get up in the pulpit & say whatever the Spirit leads,” beware! Different men may or may not use notes (mine are pretty extensive, because I can hit rabbit trails! :)) – but a faithful pastor has labored over the text & dug deep into what God wants to say to the church.
– Positive qualifications
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
A. “must be”: Stop there because this is important for everything to follow. Note this is present tense; not past. There is not a man throughout history (save Jesus Christ) that could truly be considered blameless over the course of his whole life – or completely sober-minded, or well-behaved, or whatever. The NT qualifications for a pastor/overseer doesn’t look over the course of one’s past life; but rather what Christ has done in someone’s life upon their salvation – bringing them to a point where God can use them to minister to others.
B. “blameless”: Other translations say “above reproach.” Note the word isn’t “perfect” – simply “blamess”. Gk is the negative form of a word meaning “to seize / lay hold of.” The idea is that if someone was to throw an accusation at him, it wouldn’t stick – that Christ Jesus has done such a work in the overseer’s life that old charges don’t apply anymore & there’s no need for new charges.
C. “the husband of one wife”: A lot has been debated regarding this little phrase! Literally the construction in Greek is “one woman man.” Many interpret this as meaning “married only once” – many others interpret this as faithful monogamy (one wife at a time, till death or divorce only under clear Scriptural guidelines). There are weighty scholars on each position. Wherever the exact line is actually drawn, the overall thought is clear: pastors should not be philanderers.
__a. In a perfect world, this would go without saying – but obviously we don’t live in a perfect world. Some churches are perfectly willing to put up with men in the pulpit who are known to have many mistresses, under the guise of “he teaches so well.” It doesn’t matter how good his sermons are – it’s window dressing upon a lifestyle of sin & it’s abhorrent to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
D. “temperate, sober-minded”: The words are very similar in definition, and different translations might appear to be reversed. The idea isn’t so much one of abstaining from alcohol (though ‘temperate’ can be translated that way in other contexts) – Paul will deal with wine in the next verse. Both words deal more with clear-headedness & refraining from extreme behavior.
E. “of good behavior”: Modest…well-mannered, dignified behavior.
F. “hospitable”: Could be translated “fond of guests”. Especially important in NT times when travelers would more likely stay in house-to-house, rather than in hotels. Still important today! Some joke, “Ministry would be great if it wasn’t for the people.” It’s a poor joke…ministry IS the people. It’s not ensuring we have a well-oiled program; it’s about glorifying God through loving His people & loving the lost enough to share the gospel with them.
G. “able to teach”: Could also be thought of as “teachable” – but most think that it’s a reference to being qualified & capable to teach the Word of God. Ephesians 4:11 implies that “pastors & teachers” are closely related (if not the same) gifting from God – thus it wouldn’t make sense to call a teacher who couldn’t teach.
__a. Doesn’t necessarily mean that someone needs to be skilled to preach to a hall full of people – but rather simply that they are able to teach the Word of God. Perhaps that’s in a small-group – or even one-on-one. Whatever the group size; they simply need to be able to teach when called upon. Thus someone might serve as an elder, but not what we think of as a pastor.
__b. Note this is the only skill. All the rest deal with lifestyle. We put a HIGH value on skills, but God does the reverse. [Samuel looking for a replacement for Saul] 1 Samuel 16:6-7 (6) So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!” (7) But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” [] God is always more interested in our heart-condition than our skills & abilities. God can GIVE the abilities to whomever He chooses – but He desires our heart to be humble before Him.
– Negative qualifications
3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;
A. “not given to wine”: Actually 1 compound word in Greek ???????? “para” = “beside”, “oinos” = “wine”…some translate this “a drinker”, with the idea that someone would be known to be lingering with a cup of wine. Overseers have the responsibility to bring & demonstrate the word of God to the people of God – it’s a misrepresentation of God to do that while tipsy.
__a. There are a variety of opinions for how this is played out (esp. depending on someone’s denomination). For me, I’ve got a personal conviction that overseers/pastors are simply to abstain. Especially in this day & age where alcoholism is so rampant, there’s no reason for a pastor to be a stumbling block for others who might be struggling in this area.
B. “not violent”: Goes hand-in-hand with the instruction on wine – Pastors are not to be drunken brawlers. Moreover, there are some who would abuse their position as spiritual leaders & they do spiritual violence upon the flock of God. Those who do so will answer to the Good Shepherd.
C. “not greedy”: This one little phrase should be enough to shut whole churches down. An overseer is not to be greedy! Pastors have a responsibility to feed the flock of God; not to fleece it. [Ezekiel 34]
D. “gentle, not quarrelsome”: Not looking for fights & arguments, but instead someone who seeks to handle disagreements in the gentleness of Christ.
E. “not covetous”
– Personal Family
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?);
A. What does it mean to “rule” one’s own house well? Does it mean the pastor’s children are to be perfectly behaved & never rebellious? No… (Otherwise men would be dropping out of the pastorate the minute their kids turned 2 & again at 12!) It means that the pastor is faithful in leading his own home according to the Word of God. Sometimes that includes godly discipline.
B. Why is it important to have a well-ruled home? Because otherwise he can’t truly pay attention to the needs of the church! Besides the logical inconsistency of attending to the needs of dozens when he can’t attend to the needs of his own family, there is a huge misplacement of priorities when this takes place. A ministers’ 1st ministry is always to his family…if that’s in chaos, everything else needs to take a backseat.
__a. That’s not reserved for pastors – that’s for everyone. It’s OK to take time off from ministry within the church if things need to be taken care of at home…it’s actually the best thing that can happen for everyone!
6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.
A. Note that “novice” doesn’t necessarily equate to age. Timothy was a relatively young man – but Paul had entrusted him with ministry. Instead, the idea is that someone isn’t brand-new or immature in the faith.
B. What’s the danger here? Pride! Pride seems to have been what took down the devil & it’ll take down ministers of God too. People can mature quickly, but we never want to try to rush the process. Moses tried to rush things & ended up killing an Egyptian – so God let him mature for 40 more years in Midian.
__a. The problem with pride is that (virtually by definition), it places us on a higher place than God. We start thinking, “Look how good I am? I’ve built this all on my own – I can do this all by myself.” Many times in response, God basically says, “Well have at it then,” & things crumble. In all areas of our lives, every good & perfect thing is a gift from God (James 1:17) – but especially in the church, we need to remember that it’s fully dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 16:18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. [] It’s HIS church & HE’s the One that builds it. Any human that takes credit for it is falling into the trap of pride.
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. Sums it up with their personal testimony. Someone’s eloquence in the Scriptures doesn’t mean much if people aren’t willing to hear him because of his poor character.
B. There is an urgent need for pastors & leaders to be above reproach!
8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.
A. What’s the difference between a deacon & a bishop? The responsibilities of the office. The bishop oversees the church & teaches doctrine; the deacons minister to the (primarily) physical needs of the Body. [Acts 6…1st formation of deacons]
__a. Churches often get this mixed up & call their boards “Deacon boards.” That’s backwards, Biblically speaking…if the board is a group of men giving leadership to the workings and doctrine of the church, it should more properly be an elder board. Elders eld & deacons deac. 🙂
B. Regarding qualifications – the deacons are very similar to overseers…
__a. “reverent”: honors God & honorable among men.
__b. “not double-tongued”: Doesn’t say one thing to one person & turn around & say something else to another. Regardless of whether or not we serve as elders or deacons, Christians should not be double-tongued. Let our yes be yes & no be no (Matt 5:37).
__c. “not given to much wine”: English translation looks very similar to that for overseers, but the Greek is fairly different (one word vs. phrasing). The idea here is that deacons would not “pay attention to” or “having their mind held by” wine. Nothing wrong with abstaining (I’d recommend it!), but biblically speaking moderation is the key. Keep in mind that the ancients (for the most part) drank wine differently than we do. They obviously had a natural fermentation process, but generally diluted their wine with 2-3 parts of water. For them, drinking a little wine was virtually like using a water purification tablet – our culture treats it much differently & Christians should take that into consideration.
__d. “not greedy”: just like the overseers.
C. What else are deacons supposed to be doing? “holding the mystery of faith with a pure conscience” IOW – that they’d understand the faith. Overseers are to be able to teach doctrine; deacons must have a good comprehension of it. (Makes logical sense – why would you have church leadership that didn’t understand church teaching?) Possible reference to the end of the chapter…come back next week to dig into it. 🙂
10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.
A. IOW, don’t throw a title on someone – see them in action 1st. The best way to look for future servant leaders is to look at who’s currently serving. Have they been faithfully serving in such a way where blame “doesn’t stick”? They might be a good candidate for a deacon.
11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
A. Some argue that “wives” here could be a reference to deaconesses, and not the wives of the deacons themselves. However, the whole context is one of male deacons (as seen in vs. 12). The difficulty lies in the fact that the Gk word used for “wives” could just as easily be translated “women” & there’s no possessive pronoun (note the italic “their” – added by the translators). There is a female form of the word translated “deacon” (actually applied to Phoebe in Rom 16:1), but Paul doesn’t use it here. As with other items in this chapter, scholars are split on the issue. Historically speaking, the NT shows many women serving in ministry – whether or not this is a reference to that is unclear.
B. What are the requirements for the women/wives?
__a. “reverent”: Same as the deacons.
__b. “not slanderers”: Literally, “not devils” – the Devil IS the Grand Accuser, and when we engage in backbiting & slander, we’re treading on his turf.
__c. “temperate”: Same as vs 2 – not given to extremes.
__d. “faithful”: However we serve the Lord Jesus, we want to be found faithful. It’s not that certain tasks are more worthy of being faithful in than others – we ought to be faithful in all things…whatever the Lord has put before us.
C. Otherwise, same requirements for deacon as for overseers – they’ve got to be able to serve their homes before serving the church.
13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
A. Like those who serve as bishops, those who serve well as deacons have a good work. Re-emphasizes that ministry isn’t a career path; it’s simply serving as God has called us to serve. We are the body of Christ – and whether you consider yourself to be the tongue or the spleen, you have a vital role to fill. I firmly believe at the Bema Seat of Christ, we will see more rejoicing over those who were faithful in “smaller” works than those who spoke to 1000’s of people & fell short in their character.

‘Gee, this was great – but I’m not in church leadership.’ Two responses to that:
A. We all serve Christ in some way – these are characteristics we all should want to see the Holy Spirit develop within us. Most are simply a mark of maturity in Christ.
B. If you’re not serving locally, why not? Do you want to grow in your faith & mature in your walk with Christ? Serve Him how He’s called you to serve. Whether or not it has a title is of little importance – note what happens to those who serve well in vs 13: not only do they have a good standing, but they obtain a “great boldness in the faith.” That’s true regardless of the position in which you serve Him – being simply a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord is better than dwelling in tents on earth (Ps 84:10) – why? Because we’re serving the King! The more we serve Him, the bolder we become in our service to Him, the more joy we gain in our worship of Him!

If you’re not a Christian – this was an in-house message. Ministry is a calling from God He extends to people whom He’s already saved. Does that include you? Are you saved? Did you even know you needed to be saved? Many people don’t. They are either like I was (never giving the afterlife a 2nd thought), or if they do think about heaven they’re relying on their good works to get them there…

The problem is that none of our good works are good enough. The Bible makes it clear that the best we can do are like filthy rags in the sight of God, because God is more than just “pretty good” – He’s absolutely perfect. We’re not! Even the ‘good’ ones of us have lied & lusted, or cheated, or dishonored our parents. And because God is absolutely perfect, He must provide perfect justice…which includes more than just murderers & rapists, but liars & the rest of us. If we are honest in examining ourselves, we will find ourselves guilty – and we’ve got to face God on Judgment Day.

What can you do? YOU can’t do anything, but GOD can & did. He sent His only Son to die on the cross for you & me – taking the punishment that WE deserved upon Himself. Jesus didn’t deserve a single second on that cross, but you & I deserved an eternity there. He paid the price we couldn’t pay & freely offers the gift of forgiveness & eternal life to you – but you must receive it.


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