It is a fine work he desires to do.
1 Timothy 3 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Overseers and Deacons
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 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. 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.
In today’s text Paul lays out the qualities or the qualifying characteristics of overseers and deacons in the church. Overseer can also be translated as bishop, elder or even pastor. Two key words we should note, in the text, are that he refers to these as offices and he says if anyone aspires to them. It is important because the word office indicates that it is a position in the church. The word aspires indicates that it is something an individual can achieve. In Ephesians 4:11-13 it says: He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Here it is Christ who gives, not man who aspires or appoints, these are gifting and callings from God. Similarly in 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul says: And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. Again here it is God who makes the appointment, not man. Romans 11:29 says: The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. In context Paul is speaking there of God’s call to the nation of Israel as His people. The principle does also apply to the spiritual gifts and callings that God gives to His people. The gifting and callings of God are upon the lives of those to whom He has given them, those whom He has called, even if they are not walking in the fullness of them, they are irrevocable.
When we go back to today’s text, we see one of the qualifications Paul sets forth is that an overseer (bishop, elder, pastor) and deacon should be: the husband of one wife. Of all the qualifications listed, this is probably the most debated within the church. There are indeed several ways which it can be interpreted, most often though, in the church today, the debate centers around divorce and remarriage. The idea of polygamy is not questioned since even though it was practiced in Paul’s time, it is not generally accepted in our culture today, yet one could argue that this was at least in part what Paul was speaking of. The idea, the literal interpretation that he must be married and not single is also not often considered, since that would have disqualified Paul himself. There were and are Greek words for divorce, which is spoken of by both Paul and Jesus. While it is clear that God does indeed hate divorce, if Paul was speaking about divorce here, he could have chosen those words. The Greek word used in the text literally can be translated: a one woman man. This connotation implies fidelity and faithfulness, perhaps beyond actual actions but even in thoughts and lustful looking at other women. Many who argue the divorce meaning, will include in their argument what Jesus says about one who divorces and remarries committing adultery. (Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18) Few though will acknowledge what Jesus says in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said to those of old,‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” If that criteria were applied, who could qualify? The fact remains that Paul is speaking of offices or positions of leadership in the church body, so it really remains that it is up to the individual body to discern, based on all of scripture, how they will interpret and apply these qualifications. I would encourage any, who like myself, have been divorced, that even if the local body will not recognize you for a position in the church, the gifts and callings of God are indeed irrevocable. Walk in them. Setting aside the one qualification from the past, which you cannot change, live today and in the future as one who is: above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity…
As for what is past, when I read scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, I see a God of restoration and redemption. I see a God who called and greatly used fallen and broken people. If we look at and study the human lineage of Christ, we see murderers, liars and cheats. We see adulterers, those born of incest and prostitution. We see those who, like ourselves, fell to temptation and sin. They are listed there, included in the line of Christ, not because God blesses the sin, but rather because through Christ, we are redeemed and restored from all sin. In today’s text Paul says: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. People may debate the qualifications for positions in the church, and that’s okay. More importantly though, the one Paul speaks of, the one who: was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior and Redeemer has also called, equipped and commissioned us for His work, to the glory of the Father. We may do more for the work and service of God, the gospel and His kingdom than people feel we are qualified to do. But I doubt anyone will stand before God and hear Him say, you did too much for Me. Rather we should live in a way, we should walk in our gifts and calling, that one day we will hear: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, thank You for the gifts and callings You have given me. Most of all thank You for the gifts of salvation, redemption and restoration. Regardless of what might be in my past that would disqualify me, through Christ and the cross I am re-qualified to do all that You have given me to do. Regardless of the opinions of people, may I be faithful to You and may I hear You say: Well done, good and faithful servant! Amen.