A Commentary by John Stott

1 Timothy 3:1-7. b). His self-mastery.

Under this heading we may take the next three words together. *Temperate (nephalios)* means ‘sober’, which Hendriksen reminds us is not the same as ‘sombre’, or ‘clear-headed’. *Self-controlled (sophron)* means ‘sensible’ or ‘disciplined’, while *respectable* translates *kosmios*, and ‘what the *sophron* is within, the Kosmios* is without’. it is the outward expression of an inward self-control. This self-mastery is an indispensable quality of Christian leaders. As Francois Rabelais, the sixteenth century French satirist, put it, ‘how shall I be able to rule over others if I have not full power and command of myself?’ Leaders are often left for considerable periods unsupervised, so that they have to supervise themselves. To be sure, they are still people of flesh and blood, with the same emotions and passions as other human beings. But ‘the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control’ (Gal.5:22-23).

c) His hospitality.
*Hospitable* follows *self-controlled* naturally, since self-mastery makes self-giving possible. *Philoxenia*, literally a ‘love for strangers’, is urged in the New Testament on all Christians (E.g. Rom.12:13; 1 Pet.4:9; 3 Jn.5), but specially on Christian leaders (cf. 5; Tit.1:8). For in those days there were no hotels comparable to those we are familiar with, and roadside inns were scarce, dirty, unsafe and unsavoury. So Christian travellers, especially itinerant Christian preachers, needed to be accommodated by the pastor and his wife (See Phm.22; 3 Jn.5-8). Even today, although there are plenty of hotels at least in cities, there are also lots of lonely people, like senior citizens, singles and overseas visitors, to whom Christian leaders can show hospitality, thereby perhaps entertaining angels without knowing it. (Heb.13:2).

d). His teaching ability.
Suddenly, in the middle of a series of moral qualities, a single ‘professional’ qualification is mentioned: *able to teach (didaktikos)* or ‘an apt teacher’ (NRSV). It follows from this that pastors are essentially teachers. Indeed, what distinguishes Christian pastoral ministry is the pre-eminence in it of the Word of God. This also indicates that we should not draw a hard and fast line (as is often done) between an ‘institutional’ ministry appointed by the church and a ‘charismatic’ ministry appointed by God, or between office and gift. The fact that overseers must have a teaching gift shows that the church has no liberty to ordain any whom God has not called and gifted.

e). His drinking habits.
Alcohol is a depressant. It blunts and blurs our faculty of judgment. Those called to teach should take special warning. It is perhaps not an accident that *not given to drunkenness* should immediately follow ‘an apt teacher’. Drinking and teaching do not go well together.
The Old Testament contains several solemn warnings to leaders about the damaging effect of alcohol. Priests were forbidden to drink while on duty, for this was evidently the cause of the presumption of Nadab and Abihu (Aaron’s sons) in offering ‘unauthorized fire before he Lord’ (Lv.10:1ff.). Kings and other rulers were not to drink, or they would forget their country’s laws and ‘deprive the oppressed of their rights’ (Pr.31:4ff.; cf. 20:1; 23:19ff. and 29ff>). Magistrates also, if ‘heroes at drinking wine’, would pervert justice, acquitting the guilty and punishing the innocent (Is.5:22-23). And prophets, when ‘befuddled with wine’, would find that they were unable to teach (Is.28:7ff.)

Against this background, it is hardly surprising that Paul should issue a similar warning to Christian overseers. He did not require them to be total abstainers, since Jesus himself changed water into wine and made wine the emblem of his blood. Yet there are strong social arguments for total abstinence, since much reckless, violent and immoral behaviour is due to excessive drinking. What Paul requires, however, is moderation, as an example of the self-mastery already mentioned, not least because pastors are invited to many social functions at which wine flows freely.

Tomorrow: f) His temper and temperament.

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.