Forthright Magazine

The leadership of God’s people

“This saying is trustworthy: ‘If someone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work.’ The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. He must manage his own household well and keep his children in control without losing his dignity. But if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become arrogant and fall into the punishment that the devil will exact. And he must be well thought of by those outside the faith, so that he may not fall into disgrace and be caught by the devil’s trap.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7 NET)

There is very much a contrast between what we might call ‘worldly’ leadership and Biblical leadership. To be a leader of God’s people is not about positions of importance. It isn’t about authority. It isn’t about being in charge.

Keep in mind that this is what Jesus said:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

1 Timothy 3 deals not so much with what the overseer is to be doing but who can serve in this capacity. There are qualities that a person must have before they can serve this way. Although there are a list of qualities they can be broken into two broad headings: experience and character.

We see the experience this man is to have when Paul talks about him not being a recent convert and being able to manage his children and household well. After all, if he can’t lead his own household how will he be able to take care of God’s people?

We also see he has experience with God’s word. He is an able teacher. He knows and can accurately use God’s word. This person has been around the Bible a good long while and this can be seen in their lives and in what they say. When asked for advice he will direct you to God’s word. And we can see them living this out in their lives.

Most of what Paul writes about are qualities of character. This man is consistent, which can be seen is his being above reproach, temperate, self-controlled, and well thought of by those who aren’t Christians. We see his self-control in his dealings with finances, his devotion to what is good, his not being controlled by his appetites. We also see his courage in being respectable and holding firmly to faithful message.

The leaders of God’s people are to be men of character. These are men who want first and foremost to serve God. This gives them the courage to do God’s will and to love and serve God’s people no matter what might happen. Consistency, self-control, and courage are often rare character traits – but they are indispensable to be a shepherd of God’s flock.

These are qualities that all Christians should have. But these are qualities that the leaders of God’s people must have. Not that they are perfect, but that these things are what characterise them.

One of the first things Paul wrote is that this is something that a man must aspire to. It would be pointless to try to force someone into this role if they did not desire it – and the body of Christ would suffer as a result. Not every man is cut out to be in such a leadership position, nor is everyone even qualified for such a role. But should someone desire to be an overseer, what they are desiring is a good work.

Photo from lightstock. Used under licence.

Readings for next week: 1 Timothy 1-6; 2 Timothy 1-4


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