Friday, March 15, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 8, Qualified To Serve

We might tend to think this passage doesn't apply to us if we aren't interested in holding a position in the church, but the qualifications for leadership apply to us too. We who are believers are all to be serving the Lord at all times, wherever we go and whatever we do. Paul describes the attributes of men and women who can be good examples to others. The things qualifications Paul will list today can serve as a checklist for our own character. If we find ourselves lacking in one of these areas, this will tell us where we need to make improvements.

"Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task." (1 Timothy 3:1) A person who feels called by the Lord to take on a leadership role in the church, and who desires to be obedient to the Lord in this matter, is to be commended.

When choosing leaders from among the church congregation, there are certain qualifications that must be met, so Paul tells Timothy how these leaders are to be selected. "Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money." (1 Timothy 3:2-3)

This man must have no skeletons in the closet, so to speak. At least, he must have none since he came to Christ. Before he was in the Lord, he may have lived in opposition to the laws of God, but this is not to be held against him now that he is a new creature in Christ. As we previously learned in our studies of Paul's letters, if what we did before we came to Christ disqualifies us to work for Christ, then Paul himself would be disqualified. In my own church we have men and women in leadership positions who had pretty shady pasts before they came to Christ, but instead of feeling like this disqualifies them for service, instead we praise the Lord for the miraculous changes He's made in them. We have people holding offices in our church who have been drug addicts, who have committed crimes, who have been adulterers, who have served prison sentences for things like vehicular manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter....and I could go on and on. But now they are a living testimony to the transforming power of Christ.

To prove he is capable of helping to run the church, this man must be able to run his household well. If he doesn't have the respect and obedience of his own children, he can hardly be expected to command respect and obedience in the church. "He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?" (1 Timothy 2:4-5)

Although a person's past does not disqualify him or her for leadership, it's important that a person elected to leadership is not a new convert to Christ. This person needs experience in the faith and the church needs to be certain this person is not going to fall back into his or her old ways. In order to be a leader, he must have already learned how to be a follower. It's important not to give anyone too much authority too soon, for this can lead to a prideful attitude.  "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap." (1 Timothy 3:6-7) Pride was Satan's sin. Pride is what led to his fall. In fact, I think pride is at the core of every sin, for pride says, "I'm going to do what I want to do. I know what's best for me. Yes, God says not to do this, but I feel this is right for me." It's interesting that Paul says the person seeking leadership needs to have a good reputation even among unbelievers, because this is important for at least two reasons I can think of. First, if a person isn't respected by those outside the church, his testimony isn't going to help lead anyone to Christ. Second, if this person joins with unbelievers in sin when he interacts with them, then he isn't cut out for church leadership. We must all interact with unbelievers in our daily lives, but we have to be strong enough in the faith not to get pulled into sin with them.

"In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons." (1 Timothy 3:8-10) Careful consideration is to be made when choosing people for any office in the church. In my opinion, this goes for volunteers as well. At my church we have greeters posted at every door, and we have people to man the information booth, and we have people who clean the church, and we have people who work on cooking committees, and we have people who hand out food to the needy, and we have people who help out in the community. All these people should have a character that represents Christ well, so that those they interact with have a good impression of Christians and of Christ.

The character of women in the church is just as important as the character of the men. In my church we don't have female preachers or female deacons, but the church would have trouble functioning without women. We have female teachers, female singers, females who play instruments, females who visit the sick and needy, females who volunteer at church and out in the community, females who cook for bereaved families, females who are prayer warriors, females who call church members on their birthdays and who perform a greeting card ministry to those who are grieving and to those who are celebrating various milestones in life. If all the women in the church stopped doing what they are doing, we'd notice a difference on the very first day. The work women perform in the church is very visible, so Paul says their character matters very much. "In the same way, women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything." (1 Timothy 3:11) When Paul says "in the same way" I think he's saying "everything I've already said and also this". In other words, women should be all the same things he's already said the men should be and "worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything".

He now says the deacon should be all he's already said about overseers and deacons, plus this: "A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well." (1 Timothy 3:12) A man who isn't faithful to his wife won't be faithful to the church. Indeed, he's already being unfaithful to the Lord by being unfaithful to his wife. The Lord has commanded us not to commit adultery, so a believer who can't obey this commandment isn't qualified to be a leader in the Lord's church. Also, a man who isn't responsible at home can't be counted on to be responsible at church, so if he isn't managing his money well or if he doesn't behave at home in a way his children can respect, he won't be able to manage church funds well and he won't be able to command the respect of those who hold offices under him at church.

Paul now concludes this passage. "Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 3:13) As the saying goes, "The proof is in the pudding." If we perform tasks for our Lord well, while maintaining good character, we are going to feel reassured about our faith. We are going to trust the Lord more because He has enabled us to serve Him in honorable ways. We will also enhance the faith of fellow believers because they will see us standing strong even when the going gets tough. Our lives will be a testimony not only to believers but to unbelievers. Those outside the church won't be able to help respecting us for being the "real deal" as they see us not only talking the talk but also walking the walk. If they see the love and the righteousness of Christ in us, they will be more likely to listen to us when we talk about our faith. They may open their hearts to the gospel and end up coming to faith in Christ themselves. If you think about it, we who are in Christ are to be serving Christ twenty-four hours a day. We may not hold an office in the church, but we are holding an office in the church as a whole because we are representing our Lord at all times. Let's make sure we are meeting the qualifications to be good servants of our Lord.

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