MORAL QUALIFICATIONS for overseers.“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”I Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV
If a person wants to be a “bishop” (Gk episkopos, one who has pastoral oversight; a pastor, an overseer), that person does an important work. However, such individuals must have that desire confirmed by God’s Word, for God has established for the church certain specific qualifications. Any professed call of God to do the work of a pastor must be tested. The church must not endorse any person for ministerial work based solely on desire, education, burden or alleged vision or call.
The church has no right to diminish the requirements that God has set forth by the Holy Spirit. They stand as absolutes and must be obeyed for the sake of God’s name, His kingdom and the credibility of the high office of an overseer. The standards listed for overseers (the words “elders”, “overseers”, “bishops”, “deacons” and “shepherds (pastors)” are used interchangeably throughout the KJV translation) are primarily character issues, moral and spiritual. Character supersedes gifting in God’s value system.
The proven character of those seeking leadership in the church is more important than personality, preaching gifts, administrative abilities or academic accomplishments. The focal point of the qualifications falls on behavior that has persevered in wisdom, right choices and personal holiness. A bishop must be “blameless” (inculpable, unrebukeable, not causing any reason for injury). This does not mean they cannot make mistakes, but rather they are quick to make amends. They live according to God’s Word and are a righteous example to others, leading with integrity.
An overseer must have “a good report of them which are without” (have a good reputation as a moral person). You may not like an overseer’s personality, but we are to examine character and life, not personality. A huge problem in today’s church is people approving of charismatic preaching and personality over their character and morality. This should not be. The Holy Spirit has set forth a high standard of morality. Christian leaders must be an example of the believers, their life and faith must be evident to the congregation and must demonstrate the highest example of perseverance in godliness, faithfulness, purity in the face of temptation, and loyalty to and love for Christ, His gospel and His church.
To disregard the principle of godly leadership is to ignore Scripture’s clear teaching. The Holy Spirit regards the believer’s servanthood and humility as leader in home, marriage and family relationships as of highest importance. The overseer must be an example to the family of God especially in his faithfulness to his wife and children. If he fails in this area, how can he care for the church of God? He must be “the husband of one wife”. The phrase defends the position that an overseer should remain morally faithful to his wife. The literal translation of the Greek is “a one-woman man”. The expression has a female counterpart, “the wife of one man”, which appears in Paul’s discussion of widows.
Consequently, persons within the church who become guilty of serious sin or moral transgressions disqualify themselves from the office of pastor (or deacon) in the local church. They may be pardoned by God’s grace if they repent of their transgression, but they must be removed from their office. Genuine forgiveness does not imply restoration to leadership. Some sins may disqualify one from ever holding a ministerial office again. They may be restored to fellowship, but forfeit their former position of leadership.
A lot of churches fail in this area and continue to allow immoral leadership and therefore fail to persevere in righteousness, fail to obey God, displease Him and quench the fire of the Holy Spirit. God takes leadership seriously. I know many pastors who are in dereliction of duty and this will be required of them. On the other hand, I know many pastors obedient to the calling and their churches are flourishing mightily. Good pastoral doctrine matters. #runyourrace
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