Aspiring to Office

1 Timothy 3:1-7

Number of translations: “if anyone aspires to be an overseer” or “to the office of overseer”. Aspirations are good, encourage our young people to have high aspirations. Some by virtue of age or circumstances don’t aspire to anything beyond what they’re doing – John Marr: faithful, dependable, boring job, scrapped only one part, wanted nothing more; no interest whatever in changing step on corporate ladder. Need people like John.

However,… Lord Jesus did not intend his church to remain in Jerusalem. Expected it to propagate, spread from there to the province around, Judea, north to Samaria, then to rest of world. Only one way that would happen and outlive first generation of leaders, apostles: more leaders must be raised up in the church to carry on the work, to carry out the work into new territory. Vital part of fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to build his church is new leaders, even today. Must be some, unlike John, who do aspire to leadership roles in Christ’s church.

Apparently a saying going around during Paul and Timothy’s day: “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” ESV Inspired Word tells us that’s a good thing. In fact, part of Christ’s plan – he gives particular people a desire to serve him and his church in particular ways. So who are those people and what is the “noble task”? That’s where it gets confusing. To help provide clarity, need to focus more than usual on specific words and grammar, a task some Bible versions make more difficult than others. Also means we’ll be moving around NT little more this morning.

Let me reinforce once again: if we as people of God want blessing of God on what we do, must understand God’s expectations to best of our ability. Especially true when it comes to the church, the body of Christ; since Head of the Church has spoken to us about his church, we must listen and follow his direction, the Holy Spirit enabling us.

If taking notes, these are primary passages pertinent to topic: Acts 20:17-31; Ephesians 4:11-14; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11; 1 Peter 5:1-5; be considering at least small portion of all 5.

A. what office – terminology

ἐπίσκοπος – bishop, overseer (responsibility) – 1 Timothy 3:1-2, Titus 1:7

protective care – oversight of family or group under ultimate authority of another; connected in v.4 with husband/father management of family under God’s authority

equated with role of steward in Titus – in NT sense, steward one chosen by master to manage use of master’s resources entrusted to his care

steward delegates and distributes

in church family context, overseer doesn’t do everything; delegates wherever/whenever it is right

overseer distributes what is entrusted directly to him by master for good of family – in church family, foremost the treasures of the Gospel (1 Cor. 4:1-2), will be held accountable by master: has he been a faithful steward?

remember what just said: steward chosen by the master, not self-appointed, is accountable to master, Christ, head of the body, the church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18)

πρεσβυτερος – elder (respect) – Titus 1:5

wise counsel

when Moses, overwhelmed, called for help, God’s instruction:

Num. 11:16“Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.

recognized and acknowledged as leaders by the people

one who sat “in the gate” – position of honor and respect

Boaz conducted weighty business of kinsman-redeemer to Ruth with 10 elders at the city gate (Ruth 4:1-12)

ideal woman of Prov. 31 has husband “known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land” (Prov. 31:23)

like overseer, elder not self-appointed – one of those, usually older/seasoned, with track record of providing good and godly counsel, acknowledged to be so by others, sought out and heeded

ποιμην – shepherd, pastor (relationship) – 1 Peter 5:1-3; reminiscent of John 21:16

tender nourishing

from one elder (commissioned by Christ) to another, “I’m passing along the charge – shepherd the sheep.”

compassionate understanding care of the hurting, equipping others to do the same

one who leads, not drives, one whom people follow; provides medicine for the heart that enters through ears and eyes – supplied by the Chief Shepherd, taken regularly by the under-shepherd and distributed liberally among the sheep

all three – Acts 20:17, 28 and 1 Peter 5

“he …called the elders of the church”, “take heed …to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God”

those called must meet qualifications, be gifted to fill the role regardless of specific label

it’s one office within the church, various designations emphasize different facets of office

B. what task – function

spiritual guardians – Acts 20:28-31

maintaining true doctrine, guard against error – “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock” HCSB

elders, hold one another accountable in both doctrine and practice; watch you don’t fall into error

elders, watch out for those in your care – protect them from those both outside and inside who would do spiritual harm

biblical teachers and trainers – Ephesians 4:11-13

Pastor/teachers through the ministry of the Word equip the saints within the local church; they in turn, through service to one another, stimulate the development of godly character and behavior one another; in this way the church is built up and strengthened.

vital part of pastoral ministry – preaching of the Word, teaching biblical truth and principle by both word and deed

goal is faithful followers of Christ who minister to one another, growing in love for Christ and his body

additional goal – to see body grow in size and fitness, “measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13, NLT)

means the body has to do its exercises! stretches, reaches, training to be effective ambassadors to lost world

not the coach who wins the game, it’s the team on the field; not the pastors who win the world, it’s body of believers equipped for godliness

experienced practical guides – 1 Timothy 3:4-5

connection again between human and church family, parallel roles

guiding by both precept and practice, in matters temporal and spiritual, proven over time

believers should have confidence their pastors capable to provide godly counsel in matters of family, finance, relationships, etc.

important principle: like shepherd, like sheep (Hos. 4:9); if body is to be fitting complement to Christ, her head, must be led by shepherds who are Christ-like

C. what conditions – plurality with help

examples multiply: Acts 14:23 “they appointed elders in every church”, Acts 20:17 “he …called the elders”; Titus 1:5 “appoint elders in every town”; James 5:14 “call for the elders of the church”; Phil. 1:1 – “to the saints …at Philippi …with the overseers and deacons”

focus on these 2

Acts 20:28 “take heed (pl.) …to …the flock (sing.), among which the Holy Spirit has made you (pl.) overseers (pl.), to shepherd the church (sing.)”

1 Peter 5:2 “shepherd (pl.) the flock (sing.) …among you (pl.), …serving as overseers (pl.)”

is crystal clear early church model was: one church, multiple overseers/elders/shepherds (in today’s language, pastors); only way to reach another conclusion about 1st century church is by making words mean something other than plain sense

also clear from Jesus’ own words – Matt. 16:18 – it is Christ’s church, he is both architect and builder; nowhere in NT has he granted liberty to his followers to monkey with the building plans

so,… example communicated to us by divine inspiration: local church pastored by qualified and called men (plural) as Lord of the church supplied

and these 2

Phili. 1:1 “the saints …in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons”

1 Tim. 3:1 “the position of a bishop” plus1 Tim. 3:8 “Likewise deacons”

separate office from that of pastor with own justification for existence, list of qualifications

Acts 6:1-3 makes plain general division of labor between pastors or elders and deacons; more on that when we get to that portion of text in 1 Timothy

D. what qualifications – next week!

why the need for qualifications? God said so, and for good of the church

John 14:18, Jesus promised to not leave his followers orphans. Number of times in same Gospel Jesus spoke of his sheep, himself as the Good Shepherd. Has not left his sheep without shepherds; had he done so, they would have scattered (Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:27). Instead, given shepherds to serve under Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4) – men called by Christ, equipped by Christ, instilled with desire to serve by Christ, given to church by Christ.

Just one of many blessings that come through Christ to his church here on earth – blessings that we should count as treasures for which to praise the Lord of the Church.


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