THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP (Pt. 1)
(The Church – God’s Masterpiece – Part 14)
by Pastor-teacher Dennis Rokser
When it comes to the issue of leadership, I believe it is safe to say that those in the U.S.A. have a dim view of authority – period! People often times look upon those in leadership positions with great distrust today. Isn’t it true that the average American distrusts our governmental authorities; seeing them as too often being self-seeking, deceitful, incompetent, and promise-breakers? Does not the normal child growing up in our country today understands so little about respecting and submitting to authority? Do not many public school teachers either ignore the importance of, or experience increased difficulty in, keeping their classes under control? And what of our homes – where chaos and confusion of roles dominates the picture?
In addition to this sad condition, almost weekly we personally hear or read in the newspaper about some religious leader or authority (like a pastor or priest) who has been arrested for sexual or financial misconduct. Then factor in each person’s sin nature and its propensity to rebel and you have a terrible recipe for anarchy.
If you have not noticed, our world is also sorely missing good leaders – people with character, convictions, and competency. Individuals who live by principle, yet who relate to people with compassion. Leaders whose lives are authentic in the public and private light. Persons who are not only skilled in their particular field, but exemplary in their lives – behaving what they believe.
This is why when it comes to the Church in general and your church in particular, the character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the leadership. Thus, having addressed in previous articles the need, names, and nature of spiritual leadership in the church, we now want to begin to examine the scriptural qualifications of those who are called by God to feed and lead His flock.
THE BIBLICAL QUALIFICATIONS FOR SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 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; 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. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
WHAT CRITERIA IS NOT INCLUDED IN THIS LIST
It may surprise some people to realize that conspicuously absent from this list of qualifications for a pastor/elder/bishop are such items as…
1) a person’s POPULARITY. Having a magnetic “personality” and “like- ability” does not qualify one for spiritual leadership. To prove this, ask Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, who was true to God yet greatly disliked in Judah. (Jer. 28, 36, 37)
2) a person’s PAST. Being on various boards reflects one’s past willingness to be involved, but not necessarily their character or effectiveness. On the positive side, Saul’s past included blasphemy to God and persecution and harm to Christians – yet God by His grace made him an apostle! (1 Timothy 1:12-14)
3) a person’s POLITICS. Becoming a spiritual leader should not include knowing the “right people,” nor voting the “right way.” Nor is nepotism (promoting blood relatives to favorable positions because they are kin) found in the Scriptures when it comes to leading the Church.
4) a person’s POCKETBOOK. Because a man is a large contributor to the church does not intrinsically qualify him to oversee the Church of God. In fact, sometimes the rich use their money to throw their weight around.
5) a person’s POSITION. Too many churches have made the drastic mistake of taking a “successful” business man and assuming therefore that he is qualified to shepherd God’s sheep. Where is that found in 1 Timothy 3?
6) one’s PREVIOUS EDUCATION. While having an appropriate education is not wrong and may be helpful in ministry, it is not included in this divinely-inspired qualification list. In fact, such godly spiritual leaders such as C.I. Scofield, D.L. Moody, H.A. Ironside, Lewis S. Chafer, etc. would have been rejected as pastoral candidates today even in many Bible churches, as they lacked the “right” or required seminary “degree.” Think of that!
7) one’s PERFORMANCE. Sometimes faithful servants of the Lord who have been “good company men” (yet who lack the needed spiritual gifts) have been promoted to positions of spiritual leadership on the mission field or in the church. This has caused them to not function in their proper sphere of ministry to their best effectiveness, let alone creating difficulty and perhaps damage to those under their authority. And while spiritual leaders need to be faithful (1 Cor. 4:2), not every faithful Christian is designed to be a spiritual leader.
These exclusions from 1 Timothy 3 are not intended to imply that pastors must be unpopular, inexperienced, ignorant, poor, unsuccessful, uneducated, and unfaithful! However, it is imperative that we distinguish biblical qualifications from unscriptural and man-made requirements for those whom God has chosen to pastor the church of Jesus Christ.
SOME GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
Before we consider the specific qualifications listed for an elder, let’s consider four general observations from this passage.
1. The qualifications for church leadership apply to MEN only.
While this requirement for the pastor is diametrically opposed to the political correctness of our day and opens up one to be labeled as “archaic” and “sexist;” what saith the Lord?
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Timothy 2:11-15)
The context of this entire section is the public assembly of the local church (note 1 Timothy 3:15). Having dealt with the need for public prayer with male involvement in the church assembly (2:1-8), Paul then addresses the adornment (2:9-10) and activities of women in the local church (2:11-15). While the role of women in the church will be examined in further detail in a later article, let’s observe the key truths in this passage.
a) A woman should LEARN THE SCRIPTURES… “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection.” (2:11)
Though discouraged by his society at the time of this writing, nor encouraged by his fellow-Jews, the apostle Paul still commanded that women be permitted to learn the Word of God (“let… learn” – present, active, imperative). Does this sound like a chauvinistic woman-hater as some portray Paul to have been?1 But how was this learning to be done? “in silence with all subjection” (a submissive attitude which recognized her role and the delegated authority over her).
b) A woman SHOULD NOT TEACH the Scriptures to MEN in the local church… “But I suffer (permit)2 not a woman to teach…” (2:12a)
“To teach” (didaskein) is the normal word for communicating biblical doctrine in the pastoral epistles.3 Being in the present tense (habitual action) has caused a number of Greek scholars and bible teachers to interpret this to mean “to be a teacher;”4 since one who continually teaches is a teacher! Please keep in mind that the context is the local church and the woman’s restriction to not teach is limited to “the man.” This does not prohibit women from personal evangelism and discipleship of men (Acts 18:25-26), teaching other women (Titus 2:3-4), teaching children (2 Timothy 3:15, 1:5), or other kinds of ministry in a local church (like singing, serving, missions, etc.). Many godly women have been greatly used by God in these ways. May their tribe increase!
c) A woman SHOULD NOT HAVE AUTHORITY OVER MEN in the local church… “nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (2:12)
“To usurp authority” (authentein) does not imply an inappropriate power takeover of a warranted leadership position, but simply means “to exercise authority” (note both the NASB and NIV translations). The word translated “man” is not the Greek word “anthropos” referring to mankind generally, but is “andros” which specifically means adult males in contrast to adult females (vs. 9). “But to be in silence” is stated twice (vs. 11, 12) in order to underscore the lack of verbal protest and the submissive attitude that is to be exhibited by a godly woman who accepts God’s design for her practical function in the local church. Submission to divinely-delegated authority by either sexes does not disregard an equal spiritual standing in Christ for both men and women (Galatians 3:28), but it does underscore the functional differences that the plan of God has determined (Ephesians 5:22-25; 6:1-4; 6:5-9; Hebrews 13:7, 17).
Therefore, this passage not only prohibits women in leadership via the office of an elder, but in the practical function of one as well.
Normally when this plain teaching of the Scriptures is disregarded or rejected, the objection goes something like this: “Well, you need to keep in mind that Paul was simply accommodating his male-dominated culture so as to not offend the believing men at Ephesus. But since the times have changed, we need not follow these instructions.” Or perhaps the justification for rejection is, “Well, you must realize that Paul was dealing with a specific problem with dominant, female, false teachers at Ephesus. This is the only reason for these restrictions.” Instead of this being sound exegesis (deriving truth from the passage), it is pure eisegesis (putting one’s ideas into the passage) as the reasons Paul gives for these instructions are not cultural, nor circumstantial; THEY ARE CREATIONAL!
· Reason #1: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” (1 Timothy 2:13)
· Reason #2: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:14)
The divinely-inspired reasons for this prohibition center around the headship of men which was established by God at Creation but which was openly disregarded in the Fall. The Holy Spirit’s explanation for these instructions via Paul are not directly stated to address a specific problem at Ephesus, but actually go back to God’s original design in the GARDEN OF EDEN! Can you imagine the confusion that would result from the man being the head in his home (Ephesians 5:22-24), yet when he steps into a church building he then needs to submit to his wife – the pastor!
Therefore, the permanent nature and present day applicability for male-only leadership in the church is indicated in this passage by the present tense of all the key verbs used in 1 Timothy 2:11 & 12 (learn, to teach, usurp authority), along with the absence of any mention of specific circumstances driving these restrictions, and the stated reasons of verses 13 & 14. This conclusion is further supported by the fact of Christ’s refusal to call any female apostles, and the Holy Spirit’s exclusive use of godly men to write the Scriptures.
Sometimes due to the chapter divisions (which were not in the original autographa) we may overlook that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 immediately precedes the stated qualifications for pastors in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Is there any indication in 1 Timothy 3 to further support the exclusion of women to spiritual leadership in the church? Three lines of scriptural support further substantiate this conclusion.
1) “This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” Though the phrase “If a man” (tis) literally means “anyone,” it is in the masculine gender in the Greek. This is why the KJV, NKJV and the NASB translate “a man,” indicating male spiritual leadership.
2) It is also amazing to recognize that all the various qualifications of the pastor such as “blameless,” “vigilant,” “sober,” “of good behaviour,” etc. are written with the masculine gender in the Greek IN EVERY INSTANCE! Are you seeing the point? There is to be male- only spiritual leadership in the church.
3) It is also obvious that certain of these qualifications would be impossible for any woman to fulfill – even a godly one, such as “the husband of one wife.” (3:2)
The biblical evidence is in and the verdict is clear: NO WOMEN PASTORS IN THE CHURCH! So why don’t churches follow this clear-cut scriptural mandate? May I suggest that it is because…
a. they reject the authority or sufficiency of the Bible.
b. they wrongly interpret the Scriptures.
c. they want to be p.c. (politically correct) more than to be b.c. (biblically-correct), as they seek to accommodate our culture instead of obeying God’s Word.
d. they belong to churches that are either officially or unofficially run by women already.
e. there is a great shortage of godly and gifted men to fill this role so women pragmatically seek to fulfill it (which is no justification to disobey the Word of God).
Thus, the qualifications for church leadership apply to men only. Resist the temptation of lowering the flag of God’s truth to gain acceptance and approval from the world.
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
2. The qualifications for church leadership are a MUST, not a maybe… “A bishop then must be blameless…” (1 Timothy 3:2a)
The word “dei” translated “must” communicates something that is essential, not optional; necessary, not suggested. If God says these qualifications are necessary, we must not disregard them or replace them with our own requirements.
3. The qualifications for church leadership stress MATURITY, not giftedness.
Of the 15 qualifications given, only one directly implies giftedness – “apt to teach” (skilled in teaching). The remaining requirements emphasize character and Christ-likeness due to spiritual growth and doctrine applied in a life. A believer may be wonderfully gifted to teach God’s Word and totally disqualified due to the sin or lack of spiritual maturity in his life.
4. The over-riding requirement is BLAMELESSNESS, not perfection. (1 Timothy 3:2a)
In a parallel passage in Titus 1, this requirement is stated twice for emphasis.
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless… (Titus 1:6-7a)
“Blamelessness” is the first and marque qualification that heads this list. It literally means, “to cannot be laid hold on” in the sense of legitimate blame. No one is to be able to point the finger with an accurate or undealt with accusation. The other fourteen qualifications in this list explain and expand what “blamelessness” consists of. However, it does not mean sinless or perfect, as no pastor could ever fulfill this. Yet, he must be an example of godliness in his marriage (vs. 2), in his personal life (vs. 3) and in his home (vs. 4, 5). His personal life must not contradict his public teaching, and instead it should provide a credible platform to proclaim the Word of God. Someone has wittingly remarked, “An unholy pastor is like a stained glass window – a religious symbol that keeps the light out.”
5. The qualifications evaluate where the pastor’s life is PRESENTLY, not where he may have been in the past… “a bishop then must be blameless…” (1 Timothy 3:2a)
The Greek verb “dei” translated “must be” is in the present tense which denotes current or continual action. It highlights that these qualifications must be a reality (indicative mood) in his life now. His past before salvation or before reaching relative spiritual maturity does not automatically disqualify him from spiritual ministry – ask before-salvation persecutor Paul (1 Timothy 1:12-16) or after-salvation thrice-denier Peter (Luke 22:34, 54-62). We must not forget the transforming power of the grace of God in all of our lives. On the other hand, if a man’s past creates a stumblingblock for others to follow his leading or listen to his teaching, his ministry will be rejected, ineffective, and paralyzed. Furthermore, his “blamelessness” could be called into question. These issues need to be carefully and prayerfully considered, when considering a man for pastoral ministry.
Dear fellow-pastors, let us all take to heart the scriptural injunction of 1 Timothy 4:16…
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
(1 Timothy 4:16) ¢
1 Liberal theologians and feminists of our day have characterized the apostle Paul in this way either due to ignorance, misunderstanding of his epistles, or rejection of divine truth.
2 George Knight III has written, “It has also been suggested that the present indicative form of evpitre,pw indicates a temporal limitation and thus limits Paul’s statement to the then and there of Ephesus. An examination of other occurrences of Paul’s use of first person singular present indicatives (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:16; 2 Cor. 5:20; Gal. 5:2, 3; Eph. 4:1; 1 Thess. 4:1, 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6; 1 Tim. 2:1, 8) demonstrates that he uses it to give universal and authoritative instruction or exhortation (cf. especially Rom. 12:1; 1 Tim. 2:8). From “New International Greek Testament Commentary, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles” by George W. Knight III.
3 See 1 Timothy 4:11, 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:11
4 This is the view of commentators Robert Gromacki, Chester McCalley, John MacArthur, etc.
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