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Eldership – A Good Work. – 1 Timothy 3:1-16


Eldership: A Good Work

Text: 1st Timothy 3:1
In this passage Paul instructs Timothy about eldership.

1. The Office of a Bishop.  The office of a bishop
Now, what do we think of when we think of a bishop? The Bible tells us what a bishop is…

a) A Bishop is a Shepherd. The Greek word used here is επίσκοπος. A shepherd. Now this is a function within the church, – the’Biblical motif for ministry.’ What does that mean? It means that this person, the bishop is to be a pastor, a shepherd who will care for the sheep, lead the sheep, who will protect the flock from wolves, who will spiritually feed the flock. Some of the more modern translations render the term as ‘overseer.’ Probably quite close to the intention of the original text. But:-

b) A Bishop is an Elder! Now this is the other term used for leadership: in the early church. A πρεσβύτερος in Judaism an elder was a governor in the synagogue, and his office would have been quite familiar to the first Christians. He was responsible for the spiritual government of the people of God. Now, the interesting point is that the two terms were entirely interchangeable in the New Testament Acts 20:17, cf v28. The elders were also the bishops! They are one and the same!

Why then are these terms interchangeable? Well, the Jews knew exactly what an elder was. The Greeks were well used to the work of an overseer, a ‘bishop’ in the local towns and assemblies. So, in the New Testament Church, a `bishop’ is simply what we would describe today as a minister — a pastor!

2. The Ordination of a Bishop. If a man desire the of of a bishop
Now, according to Paul, the office of a bishop is to be desired. Such service must be a definite, all-consuming call in a man’s life before he can ever be considered for such a position. So how will the church assess the suitability of a bishop/shepherd? Paul now gives criteria which might form the basis of the interview of a candidate for the office:-
a) He must be faithful in his marriage. the husband of one wife. Fairly clear instruction. To be an elder, (whether a minister or a ruling leader m the church) the man must have only one wife! Now that certainly rules out people with ‘partners.’
b) He must have good self-control. vigilant, sober, of good behaviour He must keep a clear head, be sensible and self disciplined! How can a man govern the church if he cannot even control himself?
c) He must be hospitable. Given to hospitality Literally, he will have a love for strangers! Titus 1:7-8.
d) He must be able to teach. apt to teach Now this is important. Essentially, the Christian pastor is, first and foremost a teacher! His office is not ceremonial or sacramental, he is to be an instructor in righteousness! A man who cannot preach and teach and who has no love for preaching has no right whatsoever to be in Christian ministry. Furthermore…
e) His attitude to alcohol must be correct. Paul writes, Not given to wine Wine makes the mind befuddled, and a Christian teacher needs a clear mind! Christian leaders are to be examples to others!
f) His temperament must be suitable. no striker but patient, not a brawler, not covetous A gentle pastor will never be violent or a bully! His patience may be sorely tried, but he will not retaliate!
g) His attitude to money. not greedy of filthy lucre – 1 Tim 6;10 Acts 20:32-34.
h) His home and family life. One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity For if a man brow. not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? A minister must always be the head of his own home. When selecting a candidate for a pastoral vacancy, the church would get a great insight into the suitability of the man by examining his home life. Again we see an argument here for restricting ministry to men. Cor. 11:3
i) His spiritual maturity. Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. The danger here is that if a man is appointed to the ministry too soon after his conversion, he may well fall into the sin of pride.
j) His reputation. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fail into reproach and the snare of the devil An outward reputation with unbelievers. Remember that the world is watching how Christians live their lives, and the bishop therefore must lead by example in his life.
Having then fulfilled all these criteria, the bishop must be formally set apart for his duties. Paul told Titus that he was to ordain elders IN EVERY CHURCH. (1:5)

3. The Obligations of a Bishop. He desireth a good work.
Paul now tells us that to be a Bishop is a GOOD WORK. 2:18 James 2:20 For a bishop, everything is taken the extra mile! If every Christian is to be engaged in Good Works, then more so the Bishop!
a) The Bishop’s task is LABOUR! It is not a profession, nor a respectable living, nor is it sacrament and it is not a saving ordinance! It is hard work, and it is labour for the Lord!
b) The Bishop’s task is GOOD LABOUR! The church does not draft its leaders, they volunteer? They do a good work! It is a witness for the Saviour. Matthew 5: 16
c) The Bishop’s Task is GOD’S LABOUR! A minister’s conscience must be bound up with the Word of God! We must obey God rather then man!
So, to be in service in His church, a man must be saved and called and equipped!

© Bob McEvoy

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