Qualifications for Overseers
3 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Qualifications for Deacons
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
The Mystery of Godliness
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
1 Timothy 3 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Paul becomes very specific for those who would be in leadership within the church. Leadership is a heavy responsibility because the church itself does not belong to one person or a group but God Himself. The qualifications listed truly point toward that individual living as blameless as they can before God, something that only comes through our own individual submission again and again to Jesus Christ who can transform us.
The blueprint he lays out is detailed and specific. He ends with a short hymn that is worth reflecting upon.
“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”1 Timothy 3:16
Proclaiming the humanity and divinity of Christ this is the heart of the Gospel. He was a man who appeared in human flesh that at the resurrection showed the power of the Holy Spirit’s power in Him. He is completely divine and lived the perfect life. This hymn speaks to the Christian character of transformation only Jesus and His Spirit can do. And Jesus will transform our life according to that same character when we place our focus on Him.
It is challenging to consider the requirements Paul gives to Timothy for those in leadership. For the hymn shows that on our own we are not qualified at all by God’s standards. The world measures one’s ability to lead, but not God. He is looking far deeper into the heart of us all of us, noting where the Spirit is at work and what transformation is taking place.
1 Timothy 3 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Paul moves from congregational conduct to leadership. There are two offices he addresses: the overseer and the deacon. Today, we would call an overseer a pastor and a deacon an elder. The difference between the two is that the pastor makes a living preaching the Gospel and leading the church (1 Cor 9:14) while the deacon does not.
This list is very practical. The leaders within a church body must live above reproach. This means when others look at your conduct and character, there is no room for accusations to be made against you. Paul feels there are strong parallels between a pastor’s family life and his church leadership. He even asks the question, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?”
If a pastor’s wife does not respect him, his congregation won’t either. If a pastor’s kids do not listen to him, his congregation probably won’t either. This kind of standard also makes it impossible for a pastor to be one way at home and another way at church. Sooner or later, these two personas will bleed into each other and the truth will come out.
Another theme flowing through this first section on pastoral leadership is the idea of being teachable. In a world of self-promoting roosters, teachability is probably the most underrated characteristic of a leader. Self-control, common sense, and gentleness are all qualities of a teachable individual. Avoiding quarrels is an obvious one.
“Don’t go about the world with your fist doubled up for fighting, carrying a theological revolver in the leg of your trousers.”C.H. Spurgeon
Keep in mind, it is not just believers who should have a high amount of respect for church leaders. They also must have a good reputation with outsiders. Is a Christian leader really sincere if his dealings outside the church are questionable?
Deacons are not held to less of a standard; the difference is found in their calling. Once again, we find an analogy to their family life being an important indicator of their spiritual leadership. An interesting note here is that Paul addresses wives as well indicating that women held the office of deaconess within the early church.
“The similar phrasing of v. 1Ti 3:8 seems to indicate that Paul was speaking of another office in the local body, the deaconess. These women, like deacons (vv. 1Ti 3:8-10, 1Ti 3:12-13), served under the leadership of the elders.”Nelson’s Commentary
Overall, these are not just “recommendations.” They are standards that should be expected and required from those in leadership positions.