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Above Reproach

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Above Reproach (Titus 1:5-9)

 

Open your Bibles to Titus 1

Character Matters –

Just this past week, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick pled guilty to obstruction of justice with the result that he must resign from office, spend 120 days in jail, pay $1 million in restitution to the city of Detroit, surrender his law license and serve a five-year probation during which he will be barred from running for office.

We recognize how important character is, in those who run for public office . . . how much more does character matter for those who are entrusted with the glorious responsibility for tending to the body of Christ!

For the Christian and especially for the Pastors of a church . . . Character Matters Most . . . Because character is a measure of what is in our heart . . . it is about who we are and Jesus said that who we ARE leads to what we DO (Evil starts in the Heart) . . . Character is about being not about doing.

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Let Me Set the Context

 

Paul to Titus

Titus has been left on the Island of Crete to bring order to the churches there

“Put what remained in order” is the medical term for setting a broken bone . . . “ something wasn’t right in Crete and we see quickly what the problem was . . . the churches didn’t have leaders. 

Elder – Overseer – Pastor are interchangeable titles.

So Paul is going to identify for Titus and for all of us what to look for in a Shepherd of the flock . . .

I will focus here on what Paul is explaining to Titus, but you must be informed that there is a parallel list in 1 Timothy 3 that is equally important for elders and I would encourage you to go over that list on your own this week.

Paul launches into his list of qualifications with a word picture . . . and this word picture is the primary and overarching qualification for Pastors:  They are to be above reproach or blameless.

The word in Greek literally means, “nothing to grab hold of.”  It is like linebacker who sees the running back at the last second reaches for a grip, but his hand finds nothing he can hold onto in order to bring the running back down.

This does not mean that a Pastor cannot be accuse, but when accused his character keeps the accusation from getting a grip!

Three areas of life in which a Pastor is to be blameless . . . Family, Character, and Doctrine.

Family Qualifications (Vs. 6)

The first family qualification is that he is a “One woman man.”  Please write these down as we go through these notes so you will have them accessible during this entire process as we search for a new pastor to join the team . . .

Tend to gravitate toward exceptions and fringe arguments (divorced before being a Christian). . . keep it general and we stay close to what Paul is communicating.  These are character traits when what we want is a checklist! 

Is he the type of man that is characterized by satisfaction with his wife?  Has he shown a fierce loyalty to her?  This qualification . . . by keeping it general encompasses what a man looks at, how he spends his time, and the more obvious issues of outright fidelity.  He is a man who has Biblically consistent attitudes and actions regarding sexuality and the many temptations and pitfalls associated with it!

The second qualification is that his children obedient believers?  The translation “faithful children” doesn’t cut it.  Again, this is in the context of the leader being above reproach.  The real question to ask, is that regardless of the loopholes (how old are the children?) is he above reproach regarding his children?  Has he brought up his children to fear the Lord? 

Even the behavior of his children matter in that they are not to be “open to the charge” of debauchery and insubordination.  Two VERY STRONG WORDS! 

Debauchery means a Hedonistic lifestyle “a lifestyle centered on pleasure at the cost of others” and insubordination implies a rebellious nature against parents and God.  A man with unbelieving children who shake their fists at God ought to spend his time and focus someplace other than trying to lead others.  Not necessarily punishment . . . but he must pursue his children with all diligence!

So a qualified Pastor will be above reproach in the way that he manages his household,  with his wife and children.

Character Qualifications (vss. 7-8)

As we look at verse 7 Paul uses the word Overseer instead of Elder.  Elder is a title but overseer is like the job description. Also, in calling him a steward he is calling attention to reality that a Pastor is responsible to GOD BECAUSE THE LORD HIMSELF IS THE ONE WHO ULTIMATELY OWNS THE CHURCH!  Paul reminds us once again, that being above reproach is the key to these qualifications . . .

Five “disqualification” each a single word in Greek … THINGS THAT A PASTOR SHOULD NOT BE in VS. 7:

Not arrogant – An Elder is not to be a man who thinks either too highly of himself . . . or that others are too lowly.  He certainly cannot be the type of man who seeks to honor himself in ministry.

Not Quick-tempered – Unfortunate translation . . . because there is a word in Greek that has a very clear meaning of a quick fit of rage that is over quickly.  This word actually contains the concept of a deliberate hostility or animosity that is carried forward.  This type of nursed, fueled anger is not acceptable for a shepherd of God’s flock.

Not a drunkard – This is a straightforward qualification that a Pastor is to be above reproach regarding the use of alcohol.

Not violent – Here is where the flash of anger comes in.  An Elder is not to be the type of man who “strikes with a fist.”  He is not forceful physically or verbally!

Not greedy for gain – This was a particular problem in Crete . . . THIS IS A PARTICULAR PROBLEM IN AMERICA.  How many Pastor’s have fallen due to greed!?  In Crete . . . Material gain was actually stated in some of their writings as more valuable than honesty and honor!  A man must show himself above reproach before he assumes the title of Elder.

Six Qualifications that a Pastor Should Be each a single Greek word in VS. 8

Hospitable – Goes beyond having church folks over after church on Sunday.  This is a person who “cares for strangers.”  A shepherd must be a man who is hospitable to those in the flock, but also outside as well.  Obviously this ties in with having a blameless reputation in his community.

A lover of good – He loves good people, good books, good music, good causes and good deeds.  He does not become weary in doing good . . .

Self-controlled – Considered by the Greeks to be the Prince of all virtues!  He has command over his desires and passions.  He is able to shun temptation due to his internal control.  (Self-control is ultimately a poor phrase because it would be more accurate to say that he is spirit-controlled) 

Upright – or just as some translation have it.  He treats people with equity and gives proper respect to God and others.

Holy – Not the Greek word for set apart in Greek this word is like a word picture of a man who does not push the ethical and moral boundaries, but stays firmly near the center of acceptable thoughts and practices.

Disciplined – As this quality is contrasted with the former self-controlled.  This word implies that his life is orderly and prioritized.  It is possible to keep the plates balanced administratively (this word) while indulging the flesh with sin in private.  That is why both self-controlled and disciplined made the list.

Picture a running back with handles all over his uniform.  All kinds of grips and handholds so that he can easily be brought down.  A qualified elder will shine out godly character in his life.

Doctrinal Competency (Vs. 9)

After all this on Character . . . we now get down to the one point of competency! 

The last qualification is that he must Hold Fast/ Adhere to/ Stick to/ Have a Firm Grip on God’s Faithful and Trustworthy Word!  A level of education in God’s Word is implied by the phrase “as taught.”  It is likely that it means in the way that he was taught.

His primary competency then, is a solid grip on the sword, so that he can teach and rebuke without dropping it.  A solid grip leads to teaching sound or healthy doctrine to the flock and he is also able to rebuke those who oppose it.  Another way of saying this last phrase is that he is able to use the Word in such a way that he is actually able to win others over who disagree.  He must be persuasive in his use of God’s Word.

Conclusion:  Character versus Competency

The search for a new Pastor here is in God’s hands.  He has the man for us.  This list can be extremely overwhelming (TRUST ME!)  But I believe that God has prepared a man who meets these qualifications. 

We live in a society that often places competency over character.  As long as man gets the job done, who cares what he does on his “own time.”  For the Man of God, character is the primary matter!  As Robert Murray McCheyne a the Scottish Pastor said, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”

Response: 

Write down five . . . and add them to your prayer list . . . Pray these for your current Pastoral team and please pray these character qualities for the new Pastor that the pulpit committee will be seeking in the next few months.

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