1Timothy 3:1-7

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 12, 2000


1&2 Timothy, and Titus are known as the “Pastoral Epistles”.  These were letters written by Paul to his younger partners, giving them instructions on how to be a good pastor. Part of Paul’s letter included instructions on how to choose men for leadership.

In the section we’re going to look at this morning, the leaders are called “bishops”, or “overseers”.  The Greek word Paul uses is episkopos, where we get our word “Episcopal”. When Paul wrote to Titus (Tit. 1:5), giving him similar instructions, he used the title “elder”.  There the Greek word was presbuteros, from which we get the word Presbyterian. Though typically, the idea of “elder” means just that, an older person, I want to pick up on the idea today of “maturity”.

We’re going to look at the “Marks of Maturity”. Sometimes “older” is “better”.


Pine Tree Barriers

A young man who was also an avid golfer found himself with a few hours to spare one afternoon. He figured if he hurried and played very fast, he could get in 9 holes before he had to head home. Just as he was about to tee off an old gentleman shuffled onto the tee and asked if he could accompany the young man as he was golfing alone. Not being able to say no, he allowed the old gent to join him.  To his surprise the old man played fairly quickly. He didn’t hit the ball far, but plodded along consistently and didn’t waste much time.  Finally, they reached the 9th fairway and the young man found himself with a tough shot. There was a large pine tree right in front of his  ball - and directly between his ball and the green. After several minutes of debating how to hit the shot the old man finally said,  “You know, when I was your age I’d hit the ball right over that tree.” With that challenge placed before him, the youngster swung hard, hit  the ball up, right smack into the top of the tree trunk and it  thudded back on the ground not a foot from where it had originally lay.   The old man offered one more comment, “Of course, when I was your age  that pine tree was only 3 feet tall.”

:1  If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

office of a bishopepiskope (“over” + “to see”) – investigation, inspection, visitation; oversight; overseership, office, charge, the office of an elder; the overseer or presiding officers of a Christian church

desireoregomai – to stretch one’s self out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something

goodkalos – beautiful, handsome, excellent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable

If someone wants to be an elder, it’s not a bad thing, it’s a beautiful thing!

workergon – business, employment, that which any one is occupied; that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking

desirethepithumeo – to turn upon a thing; to have a desire for, long for, to desire; to lust after, covet

:2 A bishop then must be blameless,

must bedei – it is necessary, there is need of

bishopepiskopos – an overseer; a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent; the superintendent, elder, or overseer of a Christian church

blamelessanepileptos – that which cannot be laid hold of; not open to censure; designating one who affords nothing upon which an adversary might seize in order to make a charge against him.

(1 Tim 3:2 NLT)  …a man whose life cannot be spoken against…


Maturity can’t be criticized

To be honest, there isn’t a single person alive today who could qualify as being totally “blameless”.  You will find that everyone has areas of their lives that can be criticized. 
But in a mature Christian, these areas are constantly getting smaller and smaller.  Why?  Because Jesus is working more and more in their life.
Donald Grey Barnhouse (The Epistle to the Romans) writes,

The true Christian never has to give up anything (of course I am not speaking of sins), but there are a lot of things that will give him up.  They will go one by one.  There will be no grief. It will be the way childish occupations are abandoned.  I never had to give up playing with tops and marbles.  I never had to come to the place where I said, “Oh I am a big boy now, and big boys shouldn’t play marbles. So I will make a great effort to give up playing marbles.”  It did not happen that way.  One day I was playing marbles with a group of small boys and some older boys came by.  They looked at me and said, “Hey, kid, can you field a ball?”  “Sure I can,”  I replied with more vigor than accuracy.  “Well,” they said, “we are short a fielder.  Get out there and see what you can do.”  I went out and was ready to play my head off to keep up with the older fellows.  When it was my turn to bat I was ready to swing till I burst, and to run till I dropped, and do all that I could to keep up with the bigger company I was in.  And when the game was over and we older boys, as I then classed myself, walked down the street past the little fellows who were playing marbles, I did not go back to marbles. I had graduated.  I did not give up marbles, marbles gave me up.

High in the Alps is a monument raised in honor of a faithful guide who perished while ascending a peak to rescue a stranded tourist. Inscribed on that memorial stone are these words:  HE DIED CLIMBING. A maturing, growing Christian should have the same kind of attitude, right up to the end of life.

:2  the husband of one wife

onemia – only one, someone

wifegune – a woman of any age, whether a virgin, or married, or a widow; a wife; of a betrothed woman

husbandaner – with reference to sex; of a male; of a husband; of a betrothed or future husband

We could translate the phrase, “a one woman man”, or “a one wife husband”.

I’ve seen this applied many different ways, many of them bordering on legalism.

I’ve seen some say that a single man cannot become an elder or a pastor.  The problem with this is the apostle Paul himself.  He was not married (1Cor. 7:7-8).
I’ve heard of people who say you can’t be an elder or a pastor if you’ve been divorced and remarried.
It probably has more to do with the issue of polygamy, as it would have been in Paul’s day.


A mature Christian works on his marriage

Your marriage is supposed to be a picture of Jesus and His love for the church.  We are told:
(Eph 5:22-25 KJV)  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. {23} For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. {24} Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. {25} Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
As a leader in the church, the mature Christian sets an example that others will follow. People are going to watch us, people are going to follow our example.
I came across an interesting item about President Coolidge.  Once he invited some friends from Vermont to dine at the White House.  They were worried about their table manners, so they decided to do everything their host did.  All went well until coffee was served.  Coolidge poured his into the saucer. The guests did the same.  The President added sugar and cream.  So did the visitors.  Then Coolidge leaned over and placed his saucer on the floor for the cat.
What kind of an example are you setting with your marriage? Is it a priority to you to work on your marriage?
What can you do to improve your marriage?
I don’t think we need to go any further than what we’ve read in Ephesians.  Wives, submit to your husbands.  Husbands, love your wives by laying down your life for them.

:2  vigilant, sober, of good behaviour

vigilantnephaleos – sober, temperate; abstaining from wine, either entirely or at least from its immoderate use; of things free from all wine, as vessels, offerings

This thought is also repeated in verse 3, “not given to wine” –

given to wineparoinos (“alongside” + “wine”) – given to wine, drunken

sobersophron – of a sound mind, sane, in one’s senses; curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled

good behaviorkosmios – well arranged, seemly, modest

This is a word used to describe “modest” clothing to be worn by women:

1Ti 2:9  In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel …


A mature Christian has self control

The mature Christian has learned to say “no” to himself.  He’s learned to say “no” to the right things.

:2  given to hospitality

given to hospitalityphiloxenos (“love” + “strangers”) – hospitable, generous to guests


A mature Christian reaches out

They welcome strangers.
(Heb 13:2 NLT)  Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
Abraham and Sarah were visited by three strangers who told them they would be having a child soon (Gen. 18).  It turned out to be the Lord and two angels.
Cleopas and a friend were on the road to Emmaus when they began to walk with a fellow traveler.  It turned out to be Jesus.
Do you reach out, or are you waiting to be reached out to?

:2  apt to teach;

apt to teachdidaktikos – apt and skilful in teaching


Mature Christians know God’s Word

They may not have a “gift” of teaching, but they are able to teach because they know the Scriptures.

:3 Not given to wine, no striker …but patient, not a brawler

given to wineparoinos (“alongside” + “wine”) – given to wine, drunken

strikerplektes – bruiser, ready for a blow; a pugnacious, contentious, quarrelsome person

patientepieikes – seeming, suitable; equitable, fair, mild, gentle

brawleramachos – not to be withstood, invincible; not contentious; abstaining from fighting


A mature Christian is a patient person

They aren’t going to beat you up.  Instead, they are patient with you.
Charles Spurgeon tells the story of a pastor, Matthew Wilks, who was appointed to test a young man who desired to become a missionary in India. 
He wrote the young man and told him to call upon him at six o’clock the next morning.  The brother lived many miles off, but he was at the house at six o’clock punctually.  Mr. Wilks did not, however, enter the room till hours after.  The brother waited wonderingly, but patiently.  At last, Mr. Wilks arrived, and addressed the candidate thus, “Well, young man, so you want to be a missionary?”  “Yes, Sir.”  “Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?”  “Yes, Sir, I hope I do.”  “And have you had any education?”  “Yes, Sir, a little.”  “Well, now, we’ll try you; can you spell ‘cat’?”  The young man looked confused, and hardly knew how to answer so preposterous a question.  His mind evidently halted between indignation and submission, but in a moment he replied steadily, “C, a, t, cat.”  “Very good,” said Mr. Wilks; “now, can you spell ‘dog’?”  Our young martyr hesitated, but Mr. Wilks said in his coolest manner, “Oh, never mind; don’t be bashful; you spelt the other word so well that I should think you will be able to spell this:  high as the attainment is, it is not so elevated but what you might do it without blushing.”  The youthful Job replied, “D, o, g, dog.”  “Well, that is right; I see you will do in your spelling, and now for your arithmetic; how many are twice two?”  It is a wonder that Mr. Wilks did not receive “twice two” after the fashion of muscular Christianity, but the patient youth gave the right reply and was dismissed.  Matthew Wilks at the committee meeting said, “I cordially recommend that young man; his testimonials and character I have duly examined, and besides that, I have given him a rare personal trial such as few could bear.  I tried his self-denial, he was up in the morning early; I tried his temper, and I tried his humility; he can spell ‘cat’ and ‘dog,’ and can tell that ‘twice two make four,’ and he will do for a missionary exceedingly well.”
I don’t know of many of us who could have handled something as frustrating and humiliating as that interview.  And though I wouldn’t recommend that we “test” people that way, it has some merits, doesn’t it?

:3 Not given to wine, not greedy of filthy lucre …not covetous

greedy of filthy lucreaischrokerdes (“filthy” + “gain”) – eager for base gain, greedy for money

covetousaphilarguros – not loving money, not avaricious


A mature Christian isn’t living for money

They have other things on their mind other than how to take advantage of you.

:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

houseoikos – a house; an inhabited house, home; the inmates of a house, all the persons forming one family, a household

wellkalos – beautifully, finely, excellently, well; rightly, so that there shall be no room for blame, well, truly; excellently, nobly, commendably

rulethproistemi – to set or place before; to set over; to be over, to superintend, preside over; to be a protector or guardian

subjectionhupotage – the act of subjecting; obedience, subjection

gravitysemnotes – the characteristic of a thing or person which entitles to reverence and respect (NIV), dignity (NAS), majesty, sanctity; honour, purity


A mature Christian has his family in order

I’ve seen some people look at this as if the dad ought to be tough and always be cracking the whip at home.  But I don’t see that being a good description of the word “well” (kalos) here.  Instead, I think this requires a balance of love and discipline.

:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

careepimeleomai – to take care of a person or thing


The church should be like a family

Ideally, we ought to be getting along like one big family.  A healthy, happy family that is.
If you can get the knack of taking care of your family, you ought to be able to handle taking care of the church.


Faithfulness starts where you’re at

It’s easy to want to skip a couple of steps along the way.  We can see the goal where we want to be and feel like we can just skip the step we’re on.
The danger at skipping steps.  I’ve learned the hard way that it pays to stop and read the instructions.  We’re not too far away from Christmas, when some of us will be spending Christmas day assembling all the new toys our kids have received.  I used to rush and just snap pieces together to look like the pictures on the boxes, until one year I started snapping the wrong pieces in place, and I couldn’t undo what I had done without breaking the toy.  It pays to take the little bit of time to read the instructions and do things one step at a time.
We might think that we can handle certain responsibilities in positions we would like to have.  But the question first is, am I handling the responsibilities I already have?  Am I demonstrating that I can be responsible with what I’m already entrusted with?
Jesus said,
(Luke 16:10-12 NLT)  "Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won't be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities. {11} And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? {12} And if you are not faithful with other people's money, why should you be trusted with money of your own?

:6 Not a novice

noviceneophutos – newly planted; a new convert, neophyte (one who has recently become a Christian)


A mature Christian has stood the test of time

Maturity takes time.
I know that some people mature faster than others, but even with “fast growers”, maturity doesn’t happen overnight.
A mature Christian is one who has withstood the test of time.
The test isn’t whether or not you’ve withstood temptation for ten days, but whether you’ve withstood it for ten years.

:6  lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

lifted up with pridetuphoo – to raise a smoke, to wrap in a mist; metaph.  to make proud, puff up with pride, render insolent; to be puffed up with haughtiness or pride; to blind with pride or conceit, to render foolish or stupid

fall intoempipto – to fall into; to fall among robbers; fall into one’s power

condemnationkrima – a decree, judgments; condemnation of wrong, the decision (whether severe or mild) which one passes on the faults of others


A mature Christian stays humble

Paul is suggesting that when we lift up a person too quickly, they run a greater risk of becoming arrogant and proud.  And that will lead to disaster.
A mature Christian will keep a finger on his own pride and work to keep it in check.  A mature Christian is one who probably has had to be humbled quite a few times in order to learn to make humility a priority.

:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

reportmarturia – a testifying; what one testifies, testimony, i.e. before a judge

goodkalos – beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious

reproachoneidismos – a reproach; from oneidizo – to reproach, upbraid, revile

fall intoempipto – to fall into; to fall among robbers; fall into one’s power

snarepagis – snare, trap, noose; of snares in which birds are entangled and caught; implies unexpectedly, suddenly, because birds and beasts are caught unawares; a snare, i.e. whatever brings peril, loss, destruction; of a sudden and unexpected deadly peril; of the allurements and seductions of sin; the allurements to sin by which the devil holds one bound; the snares of love


A mature Christian has a good reputation in the world

One of the truest tests of your maturity is not how you act in church, but how you act away from church.
Sometimes we can fall into the trap of only being a “good Christian” when we’re at church, or with other Christians.  But a mature Christian is one who does the right thing no matter who he’s with, not because he’s trying to impress people, but because God is at work in his life.