A Commentary by John Stott
1 Timothy 3:1-7. h). His domestic discipline.
*He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) (4-5). Paul draws an analogy between the pastor’s family and God’s church. Indeed he uses the word *oikos* (‘household’) of both (4, 5, 15). So the married pastor is called to leadership in two families, his and God’s, and the former is to be the training-ground for the latter. The argument is straightforward. If he cannot look after his own family, he cannot be expected to look after God’s. Eli the priest remains a solemn warning to us in this area, for his sons were both immoral and greedy, but ‘he failed to restrain them’ (1 Sam.3:13). The word *manage* (4, 5) translates *proistamenos*, which is a word for ‘leader’, combining the concepts of ‘rule’; and ‘care’, and which Paul uses elsewhere of presbyters (5:17 and perhaps Rom.12:8). It indicates that, although pastoral ministry is a servant ministry characterized by gentleness, a certain authority also attaches to it. One cannot expect discipline in the local church if pastors have not learned to exercise it in their home.
So those responsible for selecting candidates for the pastorate must investigate not only their personal qualities, but also their home and family life. Yet one often hears of instances in which a candidate’s wife and children are not included in the interview or even in the enquiry. Paul insists, however, that if the candidate is a married man, assurances are needed that he has been ‘faithful to his one wife’ (2, NEB) and that his children are both ‘submissive and respectful in every way’ (4, NRSV) and Christian believers (Tit. 1:6).
i) His spiritual maturity.
*He must not be a recent convert (neophytos,* ‘neophyte’, newly planted in Christ), *or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil* (6). It goes without saying that candidates for the pastorate must be converted people, who give evidence of the genuineness of their conversion: what they must not be is recent converts. Doubtless pastors were first called ‘elders’ because that is what they were, senior in age and mature in faith. Although the modern western custom of ordaining people in their twenties straight from college has much to commend it, it also has its dangers, if they have had insufficient time since conversion to put down roots and to grow up in Christ. The main danger (apart from not being mature enough to bear responsibility) is pride (too much responsibility too soon). They *may become conceited. Typhoo* is a colourful verb meaning to ‘becloud’ (from *typhos*, ‘cloud’ or ‘smoke’). It describes people like the false teachers (6:4) who live in ‘cloud-cuckoo-land’, a realm of self-centred fantasy. Such people will *fall under the same judgment as the devil* (6). That is, the judgment passed on the devil for his pride will be passed on proud presbyters too. So humility is a necessary qualification for the pastorate, including humility before God in a life of personal devotion, faith and obedience.
j). His outside reputation.
*He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap* (7). By *outsiders* Paul means ‘the non-Christian public’ (NEB). He wants the people of God to remember that the world is watching them, to be wise in their behaviour towards outsiders (Col.4:5), and to win their respect (1 Thess.4:12. This missionary concern is a recurrent theme in these letters. See 1 Tim.5:7-8, 14 [where ‘the enemy’ may refer to ‘unfriendly, anti-Christian neighbours’, JB mg.]; 6:1; Tit.2:5, 8). This is especially true of pastors. It has already been said that candidates must be ‘above reproach’ (2); now Paul emphasizes that they must have a good reputation outside as well as inside the church. He evidently thinks of the pastorate as a public office requiring public esteem. Otherwise they will suffer public *disgrace* and *fall…into the devil’s trap*. We note this second reference to the devil. But whereas ‘the devil’s judgment’ (6) was evidently an objective genitive (judgment falls on the devil), ‘the devil’s trap’ is a subjective genitive (we fall into his trap, which is also mentioned in 6:9 and 2 Tim.2:26). That is, in his malicious eagerness to discredit the gospel, the devil does his best to discredit the ministers of the gospel. It is an old trick with a long history. The devil has used it for centuries; it remains an effective stratagem today.
Although some commentators disparage these ten qualifications for the pastorate as pedestrian, and as suitable for secular leadership, they have far-reaching Christian implications, as we have seen. And if Paul’s standards are regarded by some as comparatively low, we need to reflect that contemporary standards are lower still! For the selection procedure of many churches today does not include an examination of candidates in these ten areas. They constitute a necessary, comprehensive and challenging test.
Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 3:8-13) The deacons.
|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.|