Preached at Northwest Christian Church
Sunday, Jan 11, 2009 A.M. service
by David Kautt
1 Timothy 3:1-13:
1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop,[a] he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,[b] but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
It has often been said that no group – whether that group be a company of workers, a gathering of soldiers, a collection of athletes, or, for that matter, a family or a congregation of Christians - ever rises above the level of its leaders. And…that the success of any group lies, in great part, in the hands of its leaders.
Beloved, I know that those old truisms about leadership are not inspired Scripture, that they don’t come ultimately from the mouth of God. Nevertheless, I think that there is quite a bit of truth contained in them that is worthy of one’s consideration.
LEADERSHIP – Godly leadership that begins first in the Christian home, the proving ground, so to speak, for any worthwhile endeavor. Godly leadership that, is then exercised in the context of the local church. As we delve a little further into some of the foundational truths of the Christian faith early in this new year, I find it quite interesting and, yes, quite instructive to note that one of the first ‘faithful sayings’ – one of the first of the five so-called ‘trustworthy messages’ found in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus – is one that deals with the subject of leadership – godly church leadership. Notice again 1Timothy one, and note, in particular what the apostle Paul says:
Led as he is by the Holy Spirit of God, he’s writing in an era of the early Church, when the Church and in particular, the Jesus Christ-commissioned apostle of the Church are having to address assaults on the Church from within and without. He’s writing so as to safeguard the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they [the apostles] will soon be passing off the scene, and others – like Timothy and Titus - will be leading in their places. He’s writing – aware of the fact that already false teachers and phony believers are creeping in – to men who were trying to lead the faithful away from inspired Scripture and apostolic doctrine, and into an unholy allegiance to these false brothers and their unhealthy doctrine.
Take a look at 1 Timothy 1:3-7 and you will see what I mean:
3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Paul is writing, urging Timothy to "instruct the brethren…in the words of faith, and of the GOOD doctrine," so as to be a good minister of Jesus Christ, and to reject the profane and old wives fables, the doctrines of demons that many were seeming to promote within the context of the local Church. (1 Timothy 4:1 and following). Furthermore, the Apostle Paul is writing, knowing full well the background, going all the way back to the garden of Eden, and the sin of woman and man that’s underneath it. Yes, furthermore, Paul is writing - having that Garden of Eden perspective in mine [with the realization and the complete understanding that leadership - godly male leadership – will be a struggle], whether we’re talking about in the home, or in the church. It will be a struggle between man and woman, a husband and a wife, because it has been a struggle going all the way back to the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. (Please read 1 Timothy 2:8-15 for more on this.)
LEADERSHIP. Godly leadership that begins, first, in the Christian home, at the proving ground, and then that carries over [or ought to carry over] into the life of the local church. As I said a moment ago, it is not only very interesting, but also very instructive to observe that one of the first of these faithful sayings Paul used in his letters of encouragement to his young ministry colleagues Timothy and Titus, is the subject of leadership, godly church leadership.
1 Timothy 3:1. Take note again of what Paul has to say here. He says, "This is a faithful saying:" literally, a ‘trustworthy word’… "If a man desires the position of a bishop" (an overseer, or we might use the terms ‘elder’ or ‘shepherd’)… "If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work’ – he yearns to take part in a noble task.
Brothers and Sisters, in thinking through the background for this passage [as we have already briefly laid out for you a few moments ago] and in digging a little deeper into this passage, into its message and meaning so as to teach it to you today, I couldn’t help but ask myself (and desire to urge you to ask yourselves) this question: "This is a true saying, a faithful, trustworthy word – if a man desires [sets his heart on] the position of church leader, he desires a good work. He yearns for a noble task." Beloved, in light of that statement, I couldn’t help but ask myself, "What is it about the work – the task of godly church leadership, leadership, as we noted, that begins first in the Christian home, and then that can rightfully be carried over into the local church – my loved ones, in light of this, I found myself asking the apostle Paul, "What is it about the task of church leadership that would cause Paul to say of it "It is a good work, it is a noble task"?
Think it through with me, will you? Godly church leadership – leadership, both in the home and in the church – what is it about this task that makes it worthy of the descriptions ‘good’ and ‘noble’?
Beloved, before we take a run at answering that question, allow me to again point out to you, to remind you, that is we are to answer a question like this accurately, properly and above all, Biblically, we go where for our input? Right here. Right here. God’s word. If we want to know about godly male leadership, whether it be pertaining to the home (marriage and the family), or whether it pertains to the church, we must go here, first and foremost, for input! This is our source. This is our Guide Book.
What is it about the task of church leadership that would prompt the apostle Paul to refer to it as a ‘good work,’ a ‘noble task’?
Allow me to suggest at least two or three possible answers to that question for you to consider.
How many of you ever read the ‘want ads’? You know, the classified advertisement section of the daily newspaper?
And how many of you ever read, or ever have read that part of the ‘want ads’ section we might call the ‘job listings’?
Think about those listings for a minute with me, will you? What do they tell you? What do they indicate to a newspaper reader like you or me? Well, they inform, don’t they, about who is hiring, about who is looking for employees and how to contact such and such company for more information, right?
But is that all that these ads usually carry in them? No, usually they also tell the reader – the potential employee – something of what the prospective employer is looking for, both in terms of job skills and in terms of personal qualities.
Now, hold that thought in mind for a moment, and listen now to this ‘want ad’ – this ‘job posting’:
WANTED – man who "desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."
How many of us have ever come across an ad like that one in the morning paper before? Beloved, it’s not there, is it? You simply won’t find such an ad in the paper anything like that ad. You know why that is? I think it is because the ‘job’ – if you want to call it that – the ‘task’, the ‘work’ of godly church leadership [and believe me, it is work] if it is carried out in this way. You will not find another job posting like this one found in the Bible anywhere. Why? Because it is a cut – really 3 or 4 cuts – above any other job! It is a good work, a noble task, and how do we know that? We know it by way of what Scripture says regarding the sterling qualities of godly character – real godly manhood – that are necessarily evident in those who are truly qualified to lead.
In other words, we know it because of the kind of men it takes, the kind of men God is looking for, to fulfill the task of church leadership!
Before we leave this point and move on to the next one, allow me to underline two or three other things for you right here. Sterling qualities like a solid reputation, blamelessness within the church and a good testimony to those who are outside of the church. Sterling qualities like self-control in matters pertaining to sexuality and money and, even emotions. Sterling qualities as to a track record of godly leadership in his own marriage, and over his own children – first. And yes, sterling qualities as to spiritual and even relational maturity, so as not to be susceptible to the devil’s snares and pitfalls – the snares and pitfalls of pride and arrogance. Sterling qualities therefore, that enable such a man to teach, to instruct God’s people both by word and by example.
Beloved, please note with me, that as far as this ‘Job Description’ [from God’s Word] is concerned, these qualities [qualifications] are not optional. You know, "great if you have them, but okay and acceptable if you don’t." Rather, they are a necessity, a requirement, a must! Once again, verse two: "A bishop then, must be blameless…" and so on. And, down a little further, in verses 7 and 8, and even verses 11 and 12 – the goodness of this work, the nobility of the task of godly church leadership is underscored by the fact that these qualities, these sterling characteristics are not optional. They are required!
Now, think about all of that with me for just a moment, and then – think again about the little truism with which we began our study: Remember? The saying went like this: "No group ever rises above the level of its leaders!" And, the success of any group lies, to a great degree, in the hands of its leaders!"
Yes, Beloved, the nobility of the task of church leadership is inseparably linked to the necessary qualities -–the got-to-have-them characteristics of qualified church leaders!
But then, think with me also, about this aspect of the subject. Where do men like this show up? Where are we to find men who are consistently and conscientiously displaying these kinds of qualities?
Well, ladies, you wives – you might be thinking, "The only men I ever find like that are in my dreams!" [Ha! Ha!]
You know, we may laugh at that, and perhaps even figure there is some truth to that. Hey, I am a man. A man, mind you, not God. And I know the weaknesses and frailties that we male types have, believe me! But listen. Listen, my dear Sisters. Maybe the reason you don’t find a man like that in the fellow sitting next to you is because you haven’t taken your ‘critical glasses’ off long enough to look. Or, perhaps part of the reason your man is not like this seemingly ‘ideal man’ is because you haven’t been praying for him as you should, asking the Lord to help him become this Kind of man!
But listen fellows, before I overdo it in my exhortation to your wives (and, perhaps, even your mothers and sisters an daughters), permit me to look you straight in the eye and ask you that very same question one more time: Where do men like this kind of men show up?
Well, let me tell you first of all, where they don’t show up! My Brothers, they don’t show up – for any of us fellows who think we still have the physique to flaunt it – they don’t show up in front of the mirror, flexing their muscles – oohing an aahing about how good they look! No, they don’t! No, they show up down here – down here – on their knees – before the One Who is all beauty and majesty and power! And, listen my Brothers, instead of lazing back in their recliners with a can of beer or soda in one hand, and the remote in the other – men like this show up with this Book [the Bible] on their laps, and their eyes wide open to what it says!
And you know why that is? Well, my Brothers, - and you sisters, too – Here’s why that is:
It is because of one reason and one reason only. Hear me well, would you, please? Men like this show up – godly men like this are seen and serving wherever the Holy Spirit is and has been active and at work in men’s lives! In other words, my loved ones, this ‘want ad’, this job description, full of these exceedingly lofty requirements – this ‘noble task’ can only be carried out by men who know, first and foremost, the truth of Zechariah 4:6 – the word of the Lord to a leader, a man by the name of Zerubbabel:
"Not by might (your might, my might), not by power (your power, my power), but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts!"
"This is a faithful saying, a trustworthy word: if a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good work!"