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Good Men Doing Good Work (1 Timothy 3:1-13) – Mark Ottaway

Good Men Doing a Good Work

1 Timothy 3:1-13


Turn to 1 Timothy 3. When we study a book such as 1 Timothy we will come across several topics and we may think these are somewhat random. But they are not as Paul has made known his primary purpose in writing 1 Timothy. And it is in our chapter here this morning.

“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you soon, but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

1 Tim 3:14-15 (LSB)


In our text this morning, Paul will give the qualifications of an overseer (vs 1-7), or some of your Bibles will say bishop or elder. And then similar qualifications, but not exact, for a deacon (vs 8-13). Now if the church is “the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth,” then it goes without saying that those who take leadership within the church are paramount. So, it is interesting that Paul says that if a man desires the office of an overseer he desires a good work, and he concludes with this statement regarding deacons.

“For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

1 Tim 3:13 (LSB)


And just as last week, we asked that the men not check out as the challenge to the women has so much to do with our spirit and our obedience, I would ask this morning, that both women, and men who may not ever see themselves as elders would not check out. Again, this truth is so vital to church ministry and good that everyone within the church is fully aware of what the qualifications are for church leadership. I would say to all men that elder qualifications are character qualities that we need to strive for and that all Dads are to be elders in their own homes. And I also notice in our passage that Paul says that if a man desires the office of an overseer, he desires a good thing. In other words, whether he becomes one officially in the church or not, it is good to desire such a role and to strive for such a role. I also thought about how to present these verses, as there are a few ways we could go. One was to teach the different roles of the elder versus the deacon. Yet this passage actually focuses more on the character qualities. In fact, we will notice that these character qualifications are the primary focus more than the skill or role of the office. So, I have chosen to address the character qualities of both offices as given here by Paul.


However, to help us keep the offices clear, I want to give you these general definitions at the start. Overseers or I will call them elders this morning could be described as those who spiritually watch over the flock; they must nurture and feed the flock; they must be able to teach the flock; and they are to provide leadership and to guard the flock against error. Whereas the deacon is known as the minister or servant. Deacons were more proactive in the physical care of the flock, as well as the material needs of the flock, though their qualifications were very similar.


So, let’s look at these qualifications together for both elders and deacons, we need to state first of all that this does not determine the personality or exact giftedness, as elders and deacons can be very different in their personalities and their giftedness. I am really glad I am not like the other elders/deacons, as their personalities are really weird. Kidding aside, we are also very differently gifted. And this is to be expected, as the Bible teaches that all believers have many various gifts, but not all the gifts. This is important as I certainly do not possess all the gifts of the Spirit. And none of us do, as we are working together and all offer what we can. Kevin Mahon from Peoples Church used to say about elders, that all together we make one really good Christian. In other words, as Christ embodied all the gifts of the Spirit, so too, a multi-person board of leaders is much more effective in ministering to the whole body. Any church is in danger if it is led by one man who possesses only some of the gifts and who has no accountability with a group of other men. We as a board of elders here, though we enjoy a great unity do not always have the same thought, for we talk through matters and gain from each other’s wisdom.


Yet though personalities are different and though giftedness is different, there are character qualities that must be part of all elders and deacons. Verse 2, regarding elders “An overseer, then, must be above reproach.” End of verse 10, regarding deacons “then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach,” So, what are the qualifications?


  1. A Man Above Reproach (vs 2, 10)


This term tells us that the qualifications of elders and deacons are not negotiable. In fact, the only way in which a man is capable of possessing the remaining qualities in Paul’s lists is that he must first have this quality, though imperfect, he must not have any obvious defect in his character. It is interesting that Paul in his address to Timothy writes that it is good to desire the office of elder, yet quickly states that he must be above reproach. In other words, his desire is conditional on his character, something that he presently possesses, or something that he must work towards to qualify him in the future. Daniel Doriani reminds us that “‘An elder must be…’ not, ‘An elder must do…’ So, Paul emphasizes the character of an elder or deacon more than his skills. Therefore, most of the list refers to character or personal qualifications, not tasks. And finally, Paul says in Titus 1:8 that he must be “a lover of good.” So, we are talking here about a man of character to qualify as an elder or a deacon. A man above reproach. Secondly:


  1. A Man of Purity (vs 2, 12)


The man who desires the office of an elder must also be pure. Verse 2, an elder, the husband of one wife. Verse 12, a deacon, the husband of only one wife. This is demonstrated if he is married, in his relationship with his spouse. And notice firstly, that the assumption is that the elder must be a man. Now regarding this reference to the statement “husband of one wife,” it is interesting that this passage is translated a few ways. NLT, faithful to his wife. NRSV, married only once. To begin, it would seem reasonable that though Paul says that an elder must be the husband of one wife, it does not mean that he must be married, as this would have eliminated Paul himself. and his encouragement to forgo getting married to better devote oneself to the ministry (1 Cor 7).


Some may see this as prohibiting a widower who has remarried to be eligible to be an elder, yet the Scripture is clear that a widower is free to marry again (1 Cor 7:8-9). But where the difficulty arises in understanding this passage is the question of whether a man who is divorced qualifies as an elder. Some believe that the divorced man qualifies for eldership, even if he had sinned in receiving his divorce if time has passed and he is fully repentant for his actions. Then some would say that he would be eligible. So, some have emphasized here that he is to be a “one-woman man.”


However, others would differ considering the responsibility of elders to be above reproach and the fact that they are to be an example to the flock. Robert Saucy writes that a one-wife husband “requires that a man be a loyal husband living in a pure marriage relationship without adulterous relationships or attitudes.” Admittedly, it is difficult to understand what freedom a divorced person has in being remarried as a Christian and then to consider whether that person is eligible to be an elder, knowing his example is paramount. Yet there may be situations where someone is fully repentant for his divorce and over a long period has proven his sincere character. This is a deeper topic than what we can look at this morning, but I believe we can agree that a man is eligible to be an elder, and if he is married is to be a “one-woman man.” In other words, he is committed to his wife. He understands that he cannot look at other women. Therefore, he is extremely careful in what he watches and thinks about. And it would be silly to ever dismiss this character quality as only applicable to elders and deacons, for a Christian man to struggle in this area is a huge problem. And it will ultimately steal from him confidence and depth of spiritual growth, let alone the damage he will be doing openly or secretly to his wife and family. A man of purity.


  1. A Disciplined Man (vs 2-3, 8)


In Titus 1:8, Paul states that the elder must be “self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” He must be a good manager of his time, disciplined in his studies, and organized in his workplace and home if he is going to be a benefit to the church family. And discipline is a massive problem in our day and age. Time that the Lord has given to us, instead of being used for His glory and our good is being used wastefully as the minutes and hours are used for games and needless information and many wasteful interests. Verse 2, it says that he must be sensible, translated as self-controlled in the ESV. Thomas Lea sees this as the ability not to chase after excesses in life, describing this type of person as “trustworthy and balanced in judgment, not flighty or unstable … orderliness in behavior … inner stability.” Respected men whom the congregation are confident in and who will make sound decisions. Men who think things through, and who react to all circumstances with sound judgment.


Going along with this is the use of alcohol. Elders (vs 3) are not addicted to wine, and deacons (vs 8) do not indulge in much wine. Certainly, the Scriptures are full of verses that give warnings about the consumption of alcohol. And though it may be a choice for the Christian, is it the best choice? It would seem that Timothy, whom Paul was writing to was an abstainer, as Paul had to tell him to take a little wine for his illness. Though it is difficult to be dogmatic, there is wisdom in the choice to forgo the freedom of alcohol, especially for the one who is to be an example to those within the body. A disciplined man.


  1. A Man of Good Reputation (vs 7)


Interesting here that Paul says that the elder (vs 7) “should have a good reputation with those outside the church.” It may seem strange that part of the qualifications of an elder is dependent upon the reaction to him by outsiders, as here we discover the importance of the Christian being salt and light in the world. William Mounce explains that the “leadership of the church should bring no unnecessary disrepute upon the church through improper and immoral actions.” Therefore, church elders and deacons must “work at becoming gentle, hospitable, and above reproach.”


Certainly, someone like Paul had his fair share of enemies outside of the church as he found himself in and out of prison. However, this means that the elder or deacon would not bring this upon himself and that hardship may happen to him only for unjust treatment, not for something he deserved. The danger according to the Scriptures is that this possible disgrace is the trap of Satan, that the leadership of the church may bring reproach upon themselves or the church or to the name of Christ through dishonesty, sexual misconduct, or many things that unfortunately have been the case within many churches and Christian schools. A man of good reputation. A very important quality.


  1. A Kind Man (vs 2)


Though this seems to be such an insignificant and simple qualification, there is much wisdom in Paul’s insistence that the qualified man must be (vs 2) “respectable” and “hospitable.” We see this in many characters in the Scriptures who were very influential in a godly way because of their kindness. The Bible says that Joseph found favor with man because of his demeanor as he dealt with pagan leaders. This was also true of Christ, as Luke writes that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Certainly, part of the maturing of the qualified man is the skill to be able to associate well with people and to be known as a man of kindness. There is also the need to be hospitable, a quality that is likely overlooked. This marks the leader as one who displays servant leadership, having a willingness to do that which is often the most inconvenient for people. This character quality is also seen in the home. A man who is extremely kind to his wife and family, he is not a yeller and not impatient, but a kind man.


  1. A Capable Teacher (vs 2)


This quality is unique to the elder alone as Paul tells Timothy that the elder must be “able to teach” (vs 2). Later in 1 Timothy 5, Paul writes:

“The elders who lead well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor at preaching the word and teaching.”

1 Tim 5:17 (LSB)

It is interesting that this is one of the few qualifications given to elders that have more concerning what they do as opposed to their character. However, it could be said that those with such character as an elder are therefore qualified to teach, as teaching is also shown through their example as much as through their words. The New Testament gives warnings to guard against false teaching and this is a primary role of the elder, as this is vital in protecting the flock. Alexander Strauch notes it “also includes seeking lost, straying sheep—a critical aspect of shepherding that many church shepherds totally neglect.” Of trying to help someone who may be getting off track regarding their understanding of the Bible and protecting the flock involves disciplining sin, admonishing improper behavior and attitudes, and stopping conflict within the body. And all these things require teaching, therefore, the importance that the man of God is equipped himself, and can instill the truth of the Scriptures in others.

  1. A Gentleman (vs 3)


Paul also instructed that the elder must not be (vs 3) pugnacious, or quick to argue, but considerate and peaceable. He wrote to Titus that they are not to be “arrogant or quick-tempered.” And this gentleness is to be displayed not only by the positive trait of kindness, as mentioned earlier, but also, without arrogance, temper, and violence. Though the text does not mention a humble spirit, this seems to be the closest display of such character. Often on a board of men, where humility is high, tension is low. This is where a group of men can discuss and even disagree at times with various views, yet without arrogance, temper, and violence, but with respect. This type of atmosphere enables men to listen to each other and therefore be able to come to a consensus. William Mounce notes, “An overseer who is gracious does not insist on his full rights but rather is willing to rise above injury and injustice.” Therefore, elders are to be peaceable, gracious, forbearing, and can stay clear of needless quarrels, a gentleman.


  1. A Contented Man (vs 3, 8)


Contentment is a word that is becoming foreign in our culture today, as we are raised with the understanding that we should strive for that which is bigger and better. This is ingrained in us. My Granddad did not own a home or a car. My Dad had two weeks of holidays when I was at home as a kid. We sort of assume that what we enjoy will be nicer than what they enjoyed. When I was a child growing up in Stoney Creek, it was only a few rich folks that ever went to Florida. And though the Christian is to be characterized by a constant striving towards spiritual growth, he is to be content in what the Lord has provided for him, whether that is more or less than what his parents enjoyed or what others enjoy. Paul states that the elder (vs 3) is “free from the love of money,” and that the deacon (vs 8) is not fond of dishonest gain. The desire of the spiritual leader, demands that a man’s focus must be on spiritual things, whereas a passion for material wealth can only take away that godly desire. This quality is also important for the congregation to be able to trust their leaders, knowing that their heart is in the right place in ministry. Strauch writes:

“Like a powerful drug, the love of money can delude the judgment of even the best men … Such men have distorted spiritual values and set the wrong example for the church. They will inevitably fall into unethical financial dealings that will publicly disgrace the Lord’s name.”

Alexander Strauch


The writer of Hebrews said, “Make sure that your way of life is free from the love of money, being content with what you have.” Discontent can cause havoc in the home, and though the elder may live with seemingly biblical principles because a lack of contentment will also soon be displayed in the hearts of his wife and children, as it is important to understand that though there may be contentment on the part of the elder. There also needs to be contentment on the part of his family, in other words, they too need to be content with his calling and where the Lord has them, a contented man.


  1. A Man of Integrity (vs 4, 8-9, 12)


Paul stated to Timothy (vs 4) that the man who qualified to be an elder must lead “his own household well, having his children in submission with all dignity.” And that deacons (vs 12) must lead “their children and their own households well.” This means that a man must be able to possess integrity, and therefore lives within his home, in the same manner in which he presents himself before others in the church and the workplace. This integrity is also shown here saying that the deacon cannot be (vs 8) double-tongued, and (vs 9) he must have a clear conscience. Daniel Doriani states the importance of obedience and submission as showing the seriousness of this qualification and that his children must respect him. In other words, children within the home of the elder and deacon will love and respect their father. He also writes that concerning leadership in his home and the church, saying that “church and family are so similar that if you do not know how to lead the family, you do not know how to lead the church either.” The leading of the church and its people requires much of the same skills as leading a home. Skills such as love, forgiveness, joy, thanksgiving, and forbearance. Donald Guthrie wrote:

“A most important principle, which has not always had the prominence it deserves … Any man unable to govern his children graciously and gravely by maintaining good discipline, is not a man for governance in the Church.”

Donald Guthrie


The difficulty with this qualification is the words used by Paul in the Titus passage in some translations that his “children are believers,” but many translate this as he has “faithful children.” Kevin Smith says that his children should not be “misbehaved or rebellious.” It would be difficult in the situation of a man who has eldered for several years when his children are younger, and yet at a later time disqualify him because his children have yet to receive Christ. It would seem more reasonable that he would continue to elder if his children were well-behaved and loved and respected him, and yet if he went through a season where his children were rebellious, it would likely be in the best interest of the church and the elder, for him to step down. If the children had to all be believing then this would teach that a man could not be an elder if his children were still young and had never yet been saved. Most agree that he is to have “behaving” children. Alexander Strauch summarizes this well:

“He must be a responsible Christian father, husband, and household manager. He must have a reputation for providing for his family, financially, emotionally, and spiritually … A well- managed family means that the children obey and submit to the father’s leadership … The father is not to be a spirit-crushing tyrant who gains submission by harsh punishment … Even the best Christian fathers and mothers have child-rearing problems, but these parents resolve the problems and are involved with their children in responsible, caring ways. They guide their children through the many storms of life.”

Alexander Strauch


A man of integrity. Finally:


  1. A Mature Man in the Faith (vs 6, 10, 13)


The elder and deacon need to be men who are mature in the faith. Paul states this concerning an elder:

“… and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

1 Tim 3:6 (LSB)


He also told Titus that the elder must hold “fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to reprove those who contradict.” And that the deacon as well (vs 10) must be tested. And notice (vs 13) regarding deacons:

“For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

1 Tim 3:13 (LSB)


A mature man in the faith. This qualification shows the importance of at least some years of ministry and considerable study in the Word. There is no substitute for reading and study, as a greater understanding of the Scriptures makes the elder and deacon more effective in his teaching, counseling, and direction in decision-making, as well as giving him greater wisdom in his home life. Maturing as a believer does not really have an age attached to it. Maturity is something that must be noticed by his family and the church, though there is this warning that he is not a new convert. This is the value of younger men or even younger converts who may be older. In watching and learning from the more mature in the faith. This has certainly been the case in my life, as I have had many examples before me.


There is also the grave warning of a leader acting in a way that would become a stumbling block to younger believers. I fortunately have not had that experience but have for the most part had older men who were a tremendous help to me. And it is true that even in the big, known picture of Christianity, outside of our church or outside of our circles, there have been men who have mightily fallen or completely gone off the rails in their understanding of the Bible who have caused tremendous damage to the name of Christ. But never lose sight of the many who have been faithful, who have been the real deal, and who have obtained for themselves (vs 13) “a high standing and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”


Well, this is a big list. What does this mean for us today? It would seem that Paul had every intention that these guidelines be ongoing for the church today. Much of these qualifications deal with godly character, and therefore would still be expected of the existing church elder or deacon. And considering the culture in which we live, the need for these men to live above reproach is every bit as important as in New Testament days. Living above reproach today would mean having high integrity, good morals, a clear conscience, and honesty in the workplace. And certainly, in our culture which has an increasing disdain for traditional marriage, there is a great need for the elder and deacon to be the “husband of one wife.” Elders and deacons today need to be studiers of the Word of God and have a willingness to warn, discipline, study, live above reproach, sacrifice time, and live pure lives so that they can be a blessing to our church family. And though the office of elder and deacon consists of those who vary in their giftedness, the Bible is clear regarding the high character of elders and deacons. In fact, the qualifications of an elder and deacon have far more to say about a man’s character than about his giftedness, in other words, it is more about being than doing.


We have great leadership here at Elim. Five elders, along with Derrick, who is an elder emeritus, an honorary elder, and two deacons. Francis Schaeffer wrote, “The church has no right to diminish these standards for the officers of the Church, nor does it have any right to elevate any other as though they are then equal to these which are commanded by God himself. These and only these stand as absolute.” Let’s pray. Lord, we pray for the elders and deacons here at Elim. We thank you for Larry, Steve, Stewart, Ian, Michael, Craig, and Derrick. Men of this kind of godly character. And we thank You for their love for Christ and their desire that Christ would be served here and loved in this place. And Lord, we pray for all our men here, some who may be elders and deacons in the future, and many who desire to be good spiritual leaders in their homes. And I also pray for the women here, wives who have such an influence on their husbands in their encouragement to them. As Paul here writes that “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.” And that all women of the church would be an encouragement and blessing to our leadership. So, help each of us with this great task, as it is vital to how all of us conduct ourselves in the household of God. And all God’s people said, amen.