A Pastor/Elder and Deacon - Qualities of First Timothy Chapter Three
The Apostle Paul writes to a young elder that we know as Timothy. Who, it is believed, was the pastor of the church at Ephesus. And his father in the ministry, the Apostle Paul, desired to give him; as well as all of the churches here today many good and beneficial instructions on how that we ought “to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). One extremely important bit of understanding that he brought forth for this young Brother Timothy and, as I have already said, we who are in the here and now, and these things are found in 1st Timothy chapter three.
Paul opens his letter to Timothy with these words, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” Did you notice that he said something about the qualities of a bishop? What…we don’t use that term in the Old Baptist church do we? Okay so what's a bishop? How does this bishop fit into our understanding of the Old Line Primitive Baptist Church? Do we have any bishops in the churches today…well do we? Right now you may be thinking to yourself “But Brother Thomas, I thought that we were going to be talking about the qualities of a deacon, so what about these qualities for a bishop that is mentioned here?” In answer to the first question, I can resoundingly say YES we most certainly DO have bishops in our churches, but we usually refer to them as our pastors. In answer to the second question there are two separate offices. The office of elder/pastor and deacon are forever intertwined offices in the church. As I have already written earlier showing that the office of deacon was given to the church to support the ministry and to serve the membership of the body of the Church.
So, as we consider the office of deacon we must of necessity also consider the office of a bishop/elder. Why? Again, as I have already stated the answer to that question is that these two offices are interconnected. We see that Paul opens his letter by saying that “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” Again, what about this little used term bishop? Well that’s a phrase that we don’t really hear too much in the Old Baptist Church today, mainly because it has been high jacked, distorted and misused by the religious orders of the world!
We will start with the bishop or pastor first because it is the first in order, both in office and scripturally. A Bishop or pastor is defined as the principal officer or pastor of the local church. Oh, and before I get off in to this too far, you may be asking your self “if these are the qualities that we ought to have in our pastor, then why do we as Old Line Primitive Baptists usually turn here and use these passages when we are considering ordaining an elder?” And the simple answer to that question must be that when we set aside a man to preach the gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ, we must remember that he most like will someday be called to pastor a congregation of the Lord’s people. So we must be watching for these qualities that Paul has set forth for us today. An elder/pastor and deacon should have the good desire to measure themselves against these qualities that are found in 1 Timothy chapter three.
Lets read now from 1 Tim 3:2-7, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
As we take out time to consider these passages lets not lose sight of the subject of deacon’s…remember they are interconnected by God the Holy Ghost. So I’ll try to keep them as brief as is possible; a bishop or elder “must be blameless.” By the word blameless we mean several things, first, he must not be guilty of some crime. He must be above any real suspicion of evil and wicked conduct. Second, he ought to be without guile, or deceit, open and honest in his conduct and speech. His life must be one of unblemished, wholesome, clean living. And lastly, he must be harmless to God’s people.
Next, he must be “the husband of one wife.” Now I must point out something concerning the office of both the pastor/elder and the deacon, they both must be “the husband of one wife” which excludes any woman from these offices. I know that it has become popular these days to attempt to do just the opposite, but to do so is in direct violation of the word of God. Okay, that being said lets continue. He must only have ONE LEGAL, SCRIPTURAL WIFE! He cannot have two or more living wives. If he has put away or divorced his wife it must be on scriptural grounds, of which Jesus Himself has very well defined for us in Mat 5:32, “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication,’ (that is to say sexual sin) ‘causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
He must be “vigilant,” which means that he must be watchful for the enemy, who comes into the fold in sheep’s clothing and would do the flock great harm, and who would bring in unsound doctrines and practices, causing disharmony among God’s people.
He must be “sober,” which means that he is to have good, sound judgment. He must be a person who is restrained, clear-headed and orderly in his counsel. He must not be self-possessed or selfish with his time and resources.
He must be “of good behaviour,” which means that his public and private manners or conduct must be morally good and upright.
He must be “given to hospitality,” which means a lover of strangers, to those who come in and visit the churches. He must be the person who is the first person to express the love of God to those who at first are strange and unfamiliar to us. And let me add something here too. This quality has often been misapplied by the world to mean that we are to love all of humanity. But, the scriptures abundantly teach that this love is to be only for those to whom God has ordained to eternal life, i.e. the living children of God, even if they are at times considered as being our enemies. We read in both Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27, we are to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
He must be “apt to teach.” Oh, and how important is this quality? With God’s people praying for him and with the guidance and blessings of the Holy Ghost he must be quick to learn and quick to teach. His teaching ought to be sound in doctrine, and given in a timely and suitable manner.
He must be “not given to wine.” This means that he must not be a drunkard. This does not mean that he is not to drink alcohol, but that he must be moderate, and have self-control. If we find any man who cannot control his drinking and is known to be a drunkard he ought not to be considered to fill any office in the church, and must be dealt with by the body of the church to exercise discipline for such a one.
He must not be “striker,” which means that he must not be quarrelsome. He must not be apt to become violent. For just as the Lord told Peter in Matthew 26:52, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
He must not be “greedy of filthy lucre.” What is “lucre?” Lucre is an old English term for money, riches, wealth and gain. His service must not be one that is measured by how much he will get for his service. He must be willing to serve equally to the poor as well as the wealthy. Basically he must not be guilty of being covetous or selfish.
He must be “patient,” which means that he seeks to persevere, always moving forward in and through all of the work that God has set before him in the Church Kingdom of Heaven. He must be steadfast, forbearing and diligent in his calling before the Lord and His people, which he serves.
He must not be a “brawler,” which means that he must be a peace maker! He lives his life in accordance to the Master’s words in Matthew 5:9 saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” When there are disagreements and hurt feelings within the body of the church, he must be the first, but NOT the only person who seeks to restore peace. As we have already said he must no be a “striker.” He will be the first who will invoke the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:23 and 24: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
He must not be “covetous,” which means that he must be generous, and not selfishly indulging of his own appetites for the gifts that God has blessed other with. He does not desire to have what another has received. He will rejoice in the blessings that God has given to others as much as he does for the blessings that He has received from His hand.
May God bless you with the grace to “stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”