Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Verse of the Week: 1 Timothy 3:1

Verse of the Week: 1 Timothy 3:1

It is a trustworthy statement: If any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 1 Timothy 3:1

(The majority of the footnotes are taken from the Ryrie Study Bible, to clarify additional verses quoted in this writing.)

The Elder is the most important person in the church today. Because of poor training and a de-emphasis on male leadership, this office has fallen short of its high calling. The Elder has tremendous AUTHORITY but is not to bully the congregation with raw POWER. The Bible lays down how the Elder is to carry out his teaching and guiding roles. Let’s look at the scriptural guidelines.
The Greek word for Elder is PRESBUTEROS. It simply implies an older and wiser man who is to lead by depth, calling, spiritual aptitude and human experience. Respect must again be recaptured for this office. Young people and children must know again how to look up to and follow the Elder. In all cultures, and of course among the Jews, Elder leadership was absolutely essential. No culture can survive that dishonors and fails to follow the advice of its elders.[1]

It is a trustworthy statement: If any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 1 Timothy 3:1

It is- Paul begins by describing how wanting to be an elder in the church shows how honored the position should be.

Paul has just written that women are not to hold positions of spiritual or doctrinal authority over congregations, but he did not want to leave the impression that just any man is qualified. No man is qualified to be a spiritual leader in the church just because of his gender.[2]

Trustworthy statement- The statement that Paul makes about wanting to be an elder is reliable. The fact that it is a noble work is something that can be taken to the bank. This is a faithful saying which no one can dispute, of which no one should doubt.

Any man- This is office is for a male, not for a female. This is a hugely unpopular opinion today, but the Scriptures set forth the office of an elder as for men, not women.
We will also see in vv. 2-7 how this office is for male only. Certain of the requirements can only be fulfilled in a man.

Aspires- These men are eager and actively recruiting for it. No such thing as an elder who will only be an elder if the people call him. This is a man that wants to be an elder and he has let the elder board know it. He knows the Lord the has put this on his heart and he can do nothing but act on it.

This is not “campaigning” as we see the politicians do. The prospect does not inform what he will do if he becomes an elder. It is because of what he does and what the other elders see presently in his life that enables him to be chosen to be an elder.

But just because a man wants to be an elder does not mean he automatically gets it. The man must be proved by the qualifications that Paul will list. These qualifications must be adhered to and not neglected. They must be met by the individual for the proof that they are at a level of spiritual maturity that will be acceptable before God and man.

Overseer- Other names include elder, the most used in Acts, bishop, and pastor. These names are used interchangeably in the New Testament. There is no evidence that any of these are superior to the other.

                Importance in titles:       
1.       The word Overseer – EPISCOPOS- “To over-look.” Elders were to carry out this function.
2.       The word “to shepherd.” This is from the verb POIMAINO, “To shepherd,” from the noun POIMAN which means Shepherd or Pastor.
3.       IMPORTANT: The Elder is to Pastor. The Pastor is to be an Elder. The word Pastor is only used as a noun only once in the New Testament.

Nowhere in Scripture are elders elected to the office. They are to be appointed by other elders, such in the case of the command from Paul to Titus:

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains,[3] and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, Titus 1:5

In all passages the new elder is appointed by a body of elders. Since the pastor is also an Elder, he would also be appointed by a body of elders. The idea of “voting” on a pastor is not found in Scripture. When we put the power of electing a Shepherd for our congregation people will always vote in their own best, self-interest. Though we typically have an opinion on everything and are allowed to vote on major issues, in this case we have to swallow our pride and work with what is best for the church. The sheep cannot spiritually see and understand everything from a biblical perspective. We need someone who can “see over” OVERSEER, issues that we can’t.

The elder, the principal official in the local church, was called by the Holy Spirit:

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.[4] Acts 20:28

The elder is to be recognized and acknowledged by other elders:

Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you with the laying on of hands by the presbytery[5] [elders]. 1 Timothy 4:14

His duties will include ruling, or presiding, over the body of Christ, which would include preaching [their word to unbelievers] and teaching [their word to believers]:

Let the elders who rule [preside] we be considered worthy of double honor,[6] especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17

The elder was to guard the truth, which is the ultimate job of an elder:

holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching; that he may be able both to exhort in sound [healthy] doctrine and to refute those who contradict. Titus 1:9

And they have a general oversight of the work, including finances:

29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined [they were not forced, they chose to] to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.
30 And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul [later, Paul] to the elders. Acts 11:29-30

A fine work- It is a noble task that the man wants to begin and be a part of. But it is not an idle work. The man who desire to be an elder will find himself working more at this than any secular job could possibly require. There will be sacrifices of time that the elder must be prepared to make.

He desires- Literally, "stretch one's self forward to grasp"; "aim at".
For the man who desires to be an elder this is a labor of dedicated service that should bring forth the best in him. This is not a position for a carnal believer or for someone looking to increase their own personal ambition.

To do- It is work.  What we see here is a man who did not occupy a plush office. He did not wear fancy liturgical gowns. He did not have a handsome salary at his disposal. He did not have a bevy of assistants who waited on him hand and foot while he supervised. This was a man who was ready to get down in the trenches and work until he hands bled and he felt he was about to fall over from exhaustion.

Before an elder, or even a deacon, is appointed, the body of elders must ask itself the following questions:

1.       Is the man that we are considering growing in grace and maturity? Do we see the Holy Spirit operating in their lives?
2.       Are there sins that are overwhelming to their character and life? Would these sins hinder their effectiveness in a position of leadership?
3.       Are they sensitive to their failures and weaknesses? Do they strive to contain that which would cripple their walk before other?

In the following weeks we will examine vv. 2-7. Paul lists 16 qualifications for the man who wishes to be appointed an elder in the church. When the candidate is examined it must be ascertained if they meet these stringent demands that are required of them. We will examine each qualification in detail to see what is required of the man who wishes to be an elder.

[1] How to Start a New Testament Church, Dr. Mal Couch, Ph.D., p 9.
[2] Enduring Word Commentary, Book of 1 Timothy 3, David Guzik, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-timothy-3/
[3] What remains. A church is defective unless it has constituted leaders. In Crete these were appointed (=ordained) by Titus.
[4] With His own blood. Literally, with the blood of His own (Son).
[5] The presbytery. The body of elders.
[6] Double honor. Respect and renumeration (v. 18). The church was beginning to face the problem of financial support of its workers.

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