Faithlife Sermons

The Qulaifications of an Overseer.

House Rules: 1 Timothy   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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In our passage this morning, Paul has moved from discussing the role of women in the church to dealing with those who hold the office of Bishop (overseer).
The word bishop is a word that has come to carry a lot of religious institutional baggage in our day, but, in the new testament it is one of three words used to refer to the office of a pastor.
Bishop- simply means “overseer”. It connotes the administrative work of the church.
Elder- Used interchangeably with the word bishop and literally means “an old man.” It is not referring to age but to maturity in the faith.
Pastor- Shepherd. One who cares for and feeds the flock of God.
Church organization wasn't meant to be a complicated system of varying levels of hierarchy. It was set up to have as it’s leadership Pastors (Elders, bishops) and second to that deacons. (Which we will cover next week).
In fact, a careful study of the New Testament and you will find that there was a plurality of pastors overseeing the work of each local congregation.
1 Timothy 5:17 NKJV
17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
Philippians 1:1 NKJV
1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Acts 20:17 NKJV
17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.
Are just a few of the places that mention “elders” not a singular elder. Which makes since, given all the responsibility that the office entails.
In verse one we see the repetition of the phrase “This is a faithful saying” this phrase appears in 1: 15 and is used to identify what had become accepted lingo in the church. It was broadly accepted that for a person to desire the position of bishop is to desire a good (honorable) work.
Notice its not the office that is good or honorable but the “work” that is.
The “work” of the ministry is demanding and life-long . It is a most serious task that shouldn't be entered into solely based off of desire. The desire is good, but anyone who has the desire must also fit the qualifications. Not just anyone can or should be pastors. In fact, much hurt has been done to the Lord’s church due to unqualified men possessing the office.
The church at Ephesus, where Timothy was leading had been blessed with some very high caliber pastoral leadership. It was founded and pastored for three years by the Apostle Paul himself and upon his departure, he left men in pastoral oversight who he had trained. But, the leadership in Ephesus had faltered which is why Paul had sent timothy to Ephesus to correct the problems in that local assembly, which, perhaps above all else, included the task of reestablishing godly leadership. Paul gives Timothy a “divinely ordered checklist” of 16 qualifications that should be looked for in someone who would go on to operate in pastoral leadership. One of the most important tasks of the local church is to pray and ask God to raise up biblically qualified men to lead and then to look for those men using these qualifications.
These qualifications can be placed into four categories:
Personal (v.2-3)
Familial (v.3-5)
Spiritual (v.6)
Communal (v.7)

1.) Personal Qualifications. (v.2-3)

The qualifications given here in vs.2-3 have to do with his personal behavior as a christian.
A.) Blameless
This does not mean that he is to be sinless, only Jesus is without sin, but that he is to live a life that is “above reproach”. It literally means “nothing to take hold upon”. There is nothing in his life that Satan can take hold of to attack the church. His life is not marred by some obvious sinful defect in his character. He is to be an example for his congregation to follow.
1 Peter 5:3 NKJV
3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;
Hebrews 13:7 NKJV
Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
B.) The husband of one wife.
This is a tough one because all throughout christian history and tradition this has been interpreted in four basic ways:
The elder must be married, therefore single men can never pastor. This is flawed, Paul himself was single and by this belief, therefore unqualified.
1 Corinthians 7:8 NKJV
But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am;
The elder must never have more than one wife, even if his wife were to die, he can never get remarried. This is also flawed because the Bible permits and honors second marriages under the proper circumstances.
1 Timothy 5:14 NKJV
Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
1 Corinthians 7:39 NKJV
A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
Why would others be permitted to be remarried upon the death of the spouse but not a pastor? This view doesn't make biblical or logical sense.
The elder must not have more than “one wife at a time” arguing that polygamy was common practice at the time. Though, this is a more reasonable interpretation than the other two this view is also flawed just based on history.
Polygamy was actually uncommon in Roman society, because divorce and sexual partners outside of marriage were relatively easy to come by in that society. Even in Jewish life, by the first century, polygamy though practised wasn’t very common.
The elder must never have been divorced. This is also very flawed and is based in tradition not clear scripture. The Bible does not expressly forbid marriage after a divorce. Jesus himself permitted remarriage if a divorce was caused by adultery.
Matthew 5:31–32 NKJV
“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
Matthew 19:9 NKJV
And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
Paul gave a second permission regarding remarriage when an unbelieving spouse initiates the divorce.
1 Corinthians 7:15 NKJV
But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
It is true that God hates divorce.
Malachi 2:16 NKJV
“For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”
But, in these two situations adultery and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse he is gracious about remarriage.
This tells us that divorce is not necessarily sinful in all situations, nor is it necessarily a black mark on a mans character.
Furthermore, what if the divorce occured prior to faith in Christ?
If Christ has forgiven that sin, why does the church hold it against a man? That is not consistent with the Gospel.
2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
What then does “Husband of one wife mean”?
The greek literally translated says “a one-woman man” .
Paul here isn't actually referring to a man’s marital status, (The is not in the greek, its a supplied english word) but to a man’s sexual behavior.
A man can be married once, never get divorced, and not be a “one-woman man.” Only ever being married to one woman is commendable, but, its not a guarantee of moral purity. This is an area where so many leaders seem to fall. The failure of being a “one-woman man” has cast so many men out of ministry its impossible to count them all.
A one-woman man is devoted to his wife in his heart and his mind. He loves, desires and thinks only of her. He keeps sexually pure in his thoughts and in his actions.
This was especially important in Ephesus where sexual evil was rampant. The temple to the Goddess Dianna of the Ephesians was located there. She was the goddess of fertility and was worshiped by having sex with cult prostitutes who served as her priest and priestesses.
If you were engaged in this prior to faith, it wasn’t a problem. But, if it happened after conversion, it was a problem, and if he’d already assumed a leadership role, it was an immediate disqualification.
C.) Temperate
Self- controlled, watchful and clear headed.
He must possess the ability to think clearly by refraining from excess that would dull his alertness.
D.) Sober-minded
To be of sound mind, sensible and disciplined.
He must be serious about the importance of his work.
This doesn't mean he has to always be solemn and never laugh, but it does mean that he doesn't behave like a fool.
E. Good behavior
He behaves properly at all times. Orderly and composed.
His character and behavior are a pattern for others to follow.
Interestingly its the same greek word translated a modest in ch.2:9.
He doesn't behave in a way that garners unnecessary attention.
F.) Hospitable
His heart and his home are always open to others.
This means the pastor should help others and entertain others as much as he can.
G.) Able to teach
Capable, skillful and qualified to teach.
Teaching the word is the elder/pastors main responsibility.
A pastor has to be a careful student of God’s Word and as such he is able to assist and teach others from God’s word.
To be lazy in his study is a disgrace.
This means that he is gifted and skilled at teaching and understands doctrine, is careful to avoid error and has courage and conviction in his teaching.
H.) Not given to wine
Not a drunkard.
I.) Not violent.
He is peaceable and not always looking for a fight. He is not easily irritated and aggravated at others. He doesn't lash out at people verbally or physically. Gentle.
J.) Not greedy
He is not a lover of worldly gain and possessions. He doesn't live life for the almighty dollar.
The pastor should be someone always looking to give, not get. This doesn't mean he can’t have nice things. He doesn't have to beg in order to live. The contrary is true, the church is supposed to provide for their pastor to the best of their ability, but he isn't always looking to get rich.
1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
K.) Gentle
Patient, kind, tender toward others. He treats others well.
L.) Not quarrelsome
He isn't argumentative.
He may disagree but he isn't disagreeable all of the time. A short temper doesn't make for a good minister.
M.) Not Covetous
He shouldn't live a life desiring to have what others may have.
You can covet things beyond just money. Things like popularity, fame, advancement.

2.) Family Qualifications (v.4-5)

The elder/pastor must lead his own household well.
The home is the proving ground for church leadership and if you cant oversee your congregation at home well, then you are not ready to lead the Lord’s church.
This doesn't mean that he is to be a tyrant at home but that he does lead his wife and children according to God’s design.
This means he isn't subservient or dominated by his wife and that his children are not marked by disobedience and rebellion.
“with reverence”- dignity. He rules his home with dignity, respect and love.
An elder/pastor is responsible for leading people to God, to live in holiness, to obedience, and to witness—all of these things are tested in his own home. Resolving conflict, building unity, maintaining love, and serving each other are essentials to church life that are challenges also in the home. If he succeeds in his family, he is likely to succeed in God’s family. If not, he is disqualified.

3.) Spiritual Qualifications. (v.6)

Novice- Newly sprung up. In other words, he shouldn't be someone who is new to the faith or being a part of a church.
There is a reason given in the text. A novice being placed in the pastoral role can lead to pride and temptation. When a person is given pastoral responsibility prior to being grounded deeply on the faith, he is being set up for a fall. The antidote to pride is humility, and that is the mark of someone who is spiritually mature.
Matthew 23:11–12 NKJV
But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
“More than one spiritual neck has been broken by falling off of a platform.”
How often have we seen a new Christian paraded around like a super conversion and not given time to grow in the Lord before being thrust into prominence.
Kanye West.
An elder/pastor is to be drawn out from the most spiritually mature in the Lord’s church.
Speak to pastors/elders being raised up from within.

4.) Communal Qualifications. (v.7)

This qualification comes down to reputation in the community. A pastor needs to have a good testimony before the world.
The world doesn't choose or even have a voice in selecting church leaders. But church leaders must be respected by their day-to-day acquaintances.
The point is profession verses possession. You must do more than profess the qualities—you must possess them.
Those outside world are usually the first to notice wrong behavior in a Christian. The Christian believer must behave like a Christian believer before he can serve as an overseer in God’s church.
Questions like:
Does he pay his bills?
Is he reputable in his business affairs?
Does he treat people well?
Background checks, etc.


Pastoral leadership in the Lord’s church is of utmost importance and responsibility. To put someone in the the role of an elder prematurely is to expose them to great temptation and leave them vulnerable to failure. A church has got to get this right.
And as I said at the outset, nothing but damage and devastation is left in the wake of an unqualified elder.
Ephesus needed to choose its pastors/elders carefully and so does every local church. So do we!
Every pastor struggles with feeling inadequate and none feel that they are all they could be. This is why as your pastor, the best thing you can do is to pray for me daily. It is not an easy task for someone to be an elder/pastor. But, if their character is all that God wants it to be, then their task will be easier.
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