A Commentary by John Stott
Titus 1:7-8. b). Elders must be blameless in their character and conduct.
In describing the blamelessness expected of a presbyter-bishop who *is entrusted with God’s work* or is ‘God’s steward’ (NRSV), Paul employs eleven terms, five negative and six positive, all of which in Greek are single words. The leading thought, which applies to them all, and which occurs twice in verse 8, is that the pastor must be ‘master of himself’ (RSV), which the NIV translates *self-controlled (sophron)* and *disciplined (enkrates)*, the latter being also the final fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23. For an Old Testament emphasis on self-control see Pr.25:28; 29:11).So candidates for the pastorate must give visible evidence in their behaviour that they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, that their new birth has led to a new life, that their fallen passions are under control, and that the ninefold fruit of the Spirit has at least begun to appear and to ripen in their lives.
Paul lists the five negatives first. They relate to five areas of strong temptation, namely pride, temper, drink, power and money. Exposure to them is an occupational hazard attached to Christian leadership. All five challenge us to self-mastery. The principle now is not that ministerial candidates cannot manage the church if they cannot manage their family, but that they cannot control the church if they cannot control themselves.
*Nor overbearing* means not ‘self-willed, stubborn, arrogant’ (BAGD). Leadership roles bring prestige and power, and leaders are tempted to misuse these in order to get their own way and pander to their own vanity. Then they do not readily listen to either criticism or advice. Instead, they tend to lord it over other people, and to become headstrong and autocratic.
*Not quick tempered. Orgilos* means ‘choleric, peppery’. Pastors are often obliged to minister to difficult and demanding people. Their temptation is to become irritable and impatient.
The third negative is *not given to drunkenness*. Pastors have to attend social functions at which wine is served. Not all are total abstainers; but all are called to temperance and moderation.
*Not violent* (to which 1 Timothy 3:3 adds the counterpart ‘but gentle’) is a necessary addition. A gift for leadership usually includes a forceful disposition. But pastors who have learned their leadership style from Jesus Christ will never ride rough-shod over other people’s sensitivities. They will lead by example not by force, and by humble service not by self-assertion.
Paul’s fifth and last warning is *not pursuing dishonest gain* (7). What he is here prohibiting is not so much dishonesty of practice as greed of motive. It is right for Christian teachers to be supported by those who teach (E.g. Gal.6:6), but wrong for them to exploit this situation from love of money (Cf. 1 Tim.6:5). Pastors should be motivated by service, not by greed (1 Pet.5:2)
After the vices come the virtues, after the five negatives the six positives. which are largely self-explanatory. A presbyter-bishop must be *hospitable*, welcoming into his home, and entertaining, both church members and visitors; *one who loves what is good*. a person of large charity and a supporter of all good causes; *self-controlled*, having both a sober, sensible judgment (*sophron*) and a disciplined lifestyle; *upright (dikaios*) in his dealings with people, and *holy* or devout (*hosios*) in his attitude to God; *and disciplined* (8). This reference to self-control (*enkrateia*) comes last in this list of Christian virtues, as it does in the fruit of the Spirit, self-mastery being an appropriate climax, covering everything which has preceded it.
Tomorrow: Titus: 1:9. c). Elders must be blameless in their doctrinal orthodoxy.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Titus. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.