Friday, September 14, 2012

1 Timothy 3:1-3

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 3:1-3

Paul then talks to Timothy about religious oversight and those who wish to rise to the position of overseeing the church.  The qualities that Paul lists are: above criticism, a husband of one wife, able to think rationally, able to act civilly, modest, hospitable, capable of teaching, not a drunkard, not violent, gentle, not someone who likes to argue, not a lover of wealth.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul does make a point of talking about religious oversight.  Before I jump into the list of qualifications, it is worth talking about why Paul has this list.  There are many people who seek to be in power.  Some of them legitimately seek to be in control because God has called them to be there.  Other people seek to be in control because they like the feeling of being in control.  Others seek to be in control because they have a personal agenda that they want to achieve.  Some seek to be in control simply to prevent someone else from having control.  We’ve spoken frequently about the human flaw of always wanting to be in control and how difficult it is for us to submit to the authority of another (or even others).  This list is necessary for Paul to give because he knows that people – especially the people in the church in Ephesus – love power.

Why do people love power so much?  Where in your life do you have trouble releasing authority to another person or even to God?

Second Thought:
The word for “religious oversight” is the word “episkope” in the Greek.  It is the word that our English denominational name “Episcopal” comes from.  Sometimes it can mean “visit.”  However, by the time it is used in the New Testament it is usually taken to mean “people who oversee through personal contact.”  In many cases, it is assumed to be a position of leadership in both authority as well as in service.

Why is it important to have leaders who serve?  Why is it important to have servants who lead?  What is the difference between those two questions?  Why is it important to emphasize the visitation or personal contact nature of leadership?

Third Thought:
Let’s look at Paul’s list really quickly.  Many of the items make sense.  You don’t want a leader to love wealth, because the goal of the church is to focus on God, not getting rich.  {Mind you, you don’t want to run the church into the ground financially, either!}  You don’t want a person who is prone to getting drunk because you need to be able to rely on your leaders to be able to make good, uninfluenced, and spiritual decisions any time of the day.  They need to be above criticism because if they have obvious flaws upon which they are not working to maintain or correct then nobody will trust their witness.  The abilities to think rationally and act civilly are obviously important – you don’t want leaders who fly off the handle for no apparent reason.  Modesty is important because you don’t want leaders who are more interested in attracting attention to themselves than they are interested in giving glory to God.  Hospitality is obvious because you want people who can make others feel welcome in the love of Christ.  A person should be able to teach – after all, why have a leader that has no ability to train other leaders?  But the two that I think need the most explanation are the “husband of one wife” and the “not someone who likes to argue.”  I’ll handle those in separate paragraphs since this one is already long.

The expression “husband of one wife” has always been debated. Literally, the Greek says a “one woman man.”  We must remember that the Greek uses the same word for “woman” as it does for “wife” and the same word for “husband” as it does “man.”  Thus, there are some people who try to use this passage to indicate that a divorced person cannot lead, but we should understand that Paul is not necessarily speaking about marriage.  Personally, I do not find it necessary to say that Paul is speaking about a married couple.  I believe that Paul says this to make the distinction between monogamy and polygamy (or even in the terms of dating – those who are dating one person versus those who are dating multiple people).  Thus, I don’t think Paul is speaking about divorce at all in this passage; I think he is speaking to the number of intimate relationships we are trying to maintain.  The reason I believe this is because so much of this list has to do with focus, loyalties, and personal agendas.  Obviously, the more spouses a person has or the more dating relationships a person is in, the more focus they will have to give to their significant others and the less focus they will be able to give to the needs of the church.  I believe for Paul this is a comment more on a person’s ability to be devoted to the work of God and not a description about their status of divorce.  {That being said, I do think that Paul would have an issue with a divorced person who desires to lead if the divorced person has not gone through the process of confession, repentance, and reconciliation with God in order to receive genuine forgiveness.  As a church, we are about genuine forgiveness and getting people to that point in their life.}

The other qualification is “not someone who likes to argue.”  I think this one is really important.  There are some people who simply like to argue because debating is fun.  There are some people who simply have a disposition to need to “stir the pot.”  These are not people that should necessarily be in leadership.  It is good to be able to debate and make sure that we see all the sides.  However, we need to do so rationally as church leaders.  We need to be able to make the best decision and move on.  We don’t need endless or fruitless debates.  Constructive discussion is great; arguing for the sake of arguing benefits no group of leadership.

Having gone through the list, which are the qualifications that you think shine through you?  Which are the qualifications that you might stumble upon if you are not careful?  Do you think everyone has a few of these qualifications that they are weaker and a few that they won’t struggle with ever?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 3:4-7
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