Summary: What makes good leadership material? It might surprise you that it’s not the strong, dictatorial man-in-charge, but is someone who models the gentle and giving spirit of Jesus.
Timothy found himself in a pickle. False teachers had come in and were fomenting dissent among the men and using freedoms in Christ to pull women off into their deception and rebellion. Some of these men were leaders in the church. He needed a strong hand to put this troubled church back on track - and to do that he needed strong but mature leaders.
One of the problems with 1 & 2 Timothy is that we don’t know what the exact controversy was. That’s because Timothy is not an apology against false doctrine but a declaration against false teachers and a list of instructions for how to set things right with the people of the fellowship.
So in this chapter he outlines his requirements for elders and deacons in the church. When looking at this we need to ask - as we did in the last chapter - is this a complete list of requirements and is this to be universally applied to all churches at all times?
The answer to both questions, I believe, is no. However - there are a bunch of important values, qualities, and guidelines for leadership that we see here. These aren’t requirement to keep people out but barometers of spiritual maturity to know who to bring into leadership positions.
1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
Being in this troubled church you might just want to say "leadership? No way - look at all the controversy and trouble here - I’m just going to be attacked and questioned and hurt."
"Anyone" has been translated as "man" but in Greek it is the word tis which is not a male pronoun. In that day, however, there were only male overseers.
Being in leadership is a "noble task" says Paul. "It’s a good thing" is really what it is saying.
So, what is an overseer - or bishop - as it translated in some places. And is it the same as "elder?" For that matter- what’s the difference between that and "deacon?"
The word "overseer" is in Greek episkopee and literally means "overseer". The word "elder" as used in chapter 5 is presbuteros and means a leader - borrowed from the Jewish idea of elders being leaders. It actually comes from a word that means "old man" but although age can be a factor, it isn’t always.
Deacon is the word diakonos and originally was a function, not an office. It means "helper" or "servant." Paul refers to himself this way (1 Cor 3:5) and refers to Timothy in this way as well (4:6). By the time of this letter it was more than a function but a specific office.
I’m going to make this pretty simple: Elders and Bishops are interchangeable - and deacons help the elders of a church minister to the body. Deacons are church leaders as well as elders - perhaps the distinction is that one focuses more on teaching and spiritual discernment and direction, and the other focuses more on carrying out the vision and functions of the church.
So Paul has some things he wants Timothy to look for to get good leaders, rather than ones that put the flock at risk.
2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Paul gives us 15 qualities for a good overseer. Let’s take a closer look:
- Above Reproach - there shouldn’t be any character issues that would call the leaders character into question. Having a leader that was convicted of embezzlement and assault and who cheated on his taxes - not a good idea.
- Husband of one wife - best way to look at this: "a one-woman man." A promiscuous person should not be a leader.
- Temperate - balanced, not extreme.
- Self-Controlled - also translated "sensible." It goes along with "respectable." You could say "having a clear mind and that is not confused." Somebody with good judgment and common sense.
- Hospitable - someone that doesn’t isolate themselves from others.
- Able to teach - someone who can refute false doctrine and teach about good doctrine. It doesn’t mean you have to be able to teach like Chuck Smith or Charles Swindoll - but you can pick up a Bible and communicate its truth to others.