This bible study is part of a series on the book of 1st Timothy, in order to see the full series please check out our “epistle” page or alternatively please check out our page dedicated to the book of 1st Timothy for other studies in this book.
When I set this blog up my intention was to explore the epistles and do the occasional bible study based on what I had studied and learned, what you are reading below is notes I have made. I have to confess that this bible study is basic in its content and is not prepared by a pastor and I have to admit I have no theological training; my hope in prayer is that someone will be blessed by the notes below.
Let’s start in verse one of the third chapter of First Timothy.
Qualifications for Overseers
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Paul starts again by stating that right after he introduces that he will be speaking about the qualifications of an overseer, he establishes in the very first word that it will be a “he”. Paul states that it has to be a he, however that not all men are qualified and he will list qualifications below to help those who are called with finding suitable people in their task.
The Greek word (episkopos) which is translated as “bishop” or “overseer” means over – watcher literally someone God has charged to watch over the assembly, our closest English word is “overseer” nowadays it is not uncommon to see more than one “minister” or “pastor” in a larger assembly and some will fulfil different roles, some will be shepherds, some will be counsellors, some will be teachers and some will be evangelists, todays modern pastor will have to do many of these roles.
Timothy is reminded that the person who wants to do this does desire a good work; therefore he had to look for good guys that fulfil the criteria. It is not about elevation it is more about stepping up as an act of service and by taking this task on, you are willing to state that you are willing to serve more and do more work.
Careful of the “title chasers”
Conversely Timothy had not to look for those who chased titles, self-glory or individual honor. That is not service at all (perhaps self-service) which is why there were very steep qualifications in order to qualify.
I won’t get too deep into this but it does sadden me when major denominations with millions of Christian followers deviate from the word of God go away from the word of God and ordain women when there are perfectly able men to do the job.
Let’s look at the qualifications
1) Above reproach – Blameless, nothing in his life would cause attacks to the church, one who lives a righteous life. Really what you are looking at here is a man who cannot reasonably be accused and does not create wonder about why he is in that position. (many of these criteria’s will merge into each other)
2) The husband of one wife – Someone who is committed to his wife, a one woman man. Not someone prone to affairs, someone prone to straying, someone his wife can trust. Someone who is devoted to that one woman and not deviated to others, including fantasies such as pornography.
3) Sober-minded – someone who thinks with clarity, not given to going to extremes and is reliable. Someone who is trustworthy and knows how to handle difficult situations. Ministry can sometimes be difficult and you would not sent someone into a situation where someone was grieving that would constantly be joking and coming out with all manners of ill-timed and inappropriate conversation. Really we are looking at the man’s behavior that he would give a good counsel and not disqualify himself due to foolish conduct.
4) Self-controlled – Is as you would expect someone who controls himself, is trustworthy, is upright and does not rage or “lose it” at the slightest miniscule thing. Self-control is a rare gift in a man.
5) Respectable – Can also be translated as “modest”, “dignified” or “orderly” any of these definitions would give a good example of the type of man that Paul is speaking of.
6) Hospitable – Willing to open their home to strangers and friends, their house is a house of ministry where people are always welcome and their house is an extension to the church where real ministry can happen in a smaller setting.
7) Able to teach – He has to be able to lead the assembly in sound doctrine. Notice it doesn’t state eloquence or be “society friendly” (unlike today when the first concern is how it looks) just the ability to break down doctrine and be skilled to teach either in a large group, small group or individual setting.
8) Not a drunkard – This is quite a hotly debated subject as to whether an overseer should drink wine. Personally, from my history and to err on the side of caution as to not stumble a weaker believer, it would be better to sacrifice personal comfort in order to not cause another to sin.
Paul states “not a drunkard” and for me this goes hand in hand with “above reproach”, “sober minded” and “self-controlled”. I don’t know about you but if I was to see a man falling about and not in control of himself due to being drunk, those words would be the furthest from my mind!
Whilst it is not a “banned substance” I have seen folks who have been encouraged to drink by leadership in churches “go too far with their liberty” and having sin issues because of it. Not really good leadership and a steep price to pay for “liberty”. Paul certainly discourages choosing someone who has an unresolved issue with alcohol.
9) Not violent but gentle – not a brawler, can you imagine an assembly where a man who led it wanted to be involved in fist fights? Doesn’t really show Jesus gentle side as appears to be involved in whatever the latest battle is. Not quite the same as someone who wished to argue all the time, which comes next!
10) Not quarrelsome – Similar to the violent man, this one is violent of speech! Always contentious, always splitting people up, always fighting, always conflict. Why would you do that to your assembly?
11) Not a lover of money – We see this a lot in today’s church, the “career Pastors” or the ones who are in the ministry for the money that it generates. You can see these men’s hearts if you ask them to give up their lavishness for a 2 year ministry in the 3rd world. They would not be lining up to bear another’s burdens with the least of these. Another issue is that these men become covetous, always looking for the next big thing, keep up to date on the pulse of the newest movements to get new people in and he is never satisfied and always looking for more, bigger or better.
By being anchored in the temporary things such as money, the heavenly things are bound to be neglected. How can the man counsel others about the riches of heaven if he is focused on the riches in his own wallet?
12) He must manage his own household well – God has given the man a training environment in his own home. Paul states that those who wish to be leaders have to be effective leaders in their own homes. They have to lead their family in devotions; they have to lead the family in prayer.
13) He must not be a recent convert – One of the dangers of leadership is choosing the wrong man, too quickly. Perhaps he is a likeable man and appears good for leadership with one issue – He hasn’t been saved all that long!
Paul warns against doing this. I have seen this happen and I also have seen someone remove themselves out of ministry due to issues concerning this. Being in ministry is tough and it is not fair to an assembly or the person themselves to put them into a position they are not equipped to handle.
Obviously if it is an obvious calling from God and that would be acceptable, but Paul is speaking about a brand new believer, they can be swayed with erroneous doctrines and fall into errors that a more mature believer would not fall into.
Lastly in extreme cases you can burn a new believer out, cause them to doubt even their faith and you could lose him to the faith. It is always best to be cautious and cover any new appointments with care.
I have been in a missions church where I was perhaps given more than I should have been because it was “all hands on deck” but any training, any teaching, were all done supervised and careful care was taken before I was allowed to do it on my own. That is not distrust but simply good leadership.
14) He must be well thought of by outsiders – He must have a good report, a good testimony both in and out of the church, so much so that he even has the respect and people know what kind of man he is both in the assembly and out. His life must be a positive affirmation of his faith. He must be Salt and Light to those outside and his life must be the best advert for the faith of Christ Jesus.
Quite a long list huh? Which is why I stated it the qualifications were pretty steep. I think already I have ruled myself out from ever being an overseer!
Thank you again for finding this article and I pray these bible studies are a blessing. Please feel free to comment, like or share as the LORD leads you to.