Study Notes

1Timothy 3:1-13

3:1 Aspires

The word translated "aspire" here means, "to stretch one's self out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something." Men are always aspiring after something. They want the big house, the better job, the pretty woman, the good friends, the bigger church, etc. Some aspirations are godly, others are not.

In aspiring to lead the church, Paul says, "This is a good aspiration, it is a fine work." If you as a man desire to become part of the spiritual leadership in the church, analyze these verses with your own life in mind.

The Office Of Overseer

The term "Overseers" is synonymous with Elders and Bishops in Scripture. Here at Calvary Chapel, we call them Elders. This is simply because, in my opinion, "overseer" sounds too authoritarian, and "bishop" sounds too religious.

Now, many churches hold elections for elders. They are usually based on a man's popularity, friendships, and networking within the church. But as we've seen over and over again in the Scriptures, a democratically-run, majority-ruled body almost always makes a carnal, wrong decision.

No, Scripturally, in the New Testament church, overseers are appointed either by the men who planted (Acts 14:23) or the man who pastored the church (Titus 1:5).

Overseers are in the church for specific reasons. They are to:

Guard the flock (Acts 20); Shepherd the church (Acts 20, 1Pet. 5); Work hard to help the weak (Acts 20); Be an example to the sheep (1Pet. 5); and go to the sick and pray over them, anointing them with oil (James 5).

They are also to:

Be dedicated to God and to the Word of His grace (Acts 20); Discuss and come to conclusions regarding church doctrine (Acts 15); Preach and teach (1Tim. 5)

As well as: Choose men for the work of missions and ministry (Acts 15); Meet to hear the status of the church and ministries (Acts 15, 21); Have stewardship over what to do with church finances (Acts 11:30, Titus 1); Take care of the church (1Tim. 3); and Rule what goes on in the church (1Tim. 5:17).

Because of all this responsibility, the position must be held by godly men that meet certain specific qualifications.

3:2-7 Qualifications

The qualifications for an overseer make up a good description of a godly Christian. Each of us, in leadership or not, can benefit from comparing ourselves to this list and seeing where the Lord may want to do some work in us.

Above Reproach

The first thing listed is that the overseer must be above reproach. There shouldn't be anything in his life that, if discovered, would cause people to reproach the man and the Lord Jesus Christ whom he serves.

One Wife

What does it mean to be the husband of one wife? Is this simply a prohibition against having elders who were polygamists? Does it mean that they can never have been divorced? Do they have to be currently married to the only woman they've ever been married to?

We could slog through all these issues Scripturally to address each one individually, but I'll save us some time here. A godly, spiritual leader is a man who is completely devoted to the woman he's married to right now. If one of our elders was divorced ten years ago, I'm not going to hold past sins against him, because the Lord has forgiven him. However, if he is divorcing his wife now, it is an indication of his hardened heart, and I would immediately remove him from leadership.

Marriage is a sanctified, holy union, a lifetime commitment and covenant, in God's eyes.

Temperate, Prudent, Respectable

To be temperate and prudent means to be sober and free from self-indulgence, whether you're talking about alcohol or being restrained in your actions and speech. To have an even keel, or to be moderate in behavior and personality.

If your behavior is marked by temperance and prudence, you will be a respectable man - one who others can look at to emulate.


Most people think of hospitality as opening up your home to people for dinner or to spend the night. But to be hospitable is to be friendly and showing care and concern for people. That certainly includes providing shelter and food, but it is so much more than that. Caring where people are at - talking to them, finding out where they're at with the Lord, praying for them, giving them tangible evidence that you love them and so does God. That is being hospitable.

Able To Teach

An overseer must be able to teach the Word of God. Now, that doesn't mean he'll have a special gift of teaching, or that he'll be a dynamic preacher. It means that he knows the Word, and is able to tell others what it says.

The world has a lot of preachers today, but we are sorely lacking in men who are able to teach.

Not Addicted To Wine

The word translated "addicted to" is "para" which simply means, "with" or "near to." The clear admonition here is that overseers in the church are to completely abstain from all alcohol.

We don't have time this morning to get into all the dangers of drinking and drunkenness. I chose long ago, when I first entered the worship ministry, that I would never partake of alcohol again for two reasons - I never wanted to stumble any other Christian, and I never wanted to give unbelievers an excuse to blaspheme God.

Not Pugnacious, But Gentle And Uncontentious

Someone who is pugnacious is looking for a fight, any excuse to punch somebody or get into an argument with them. Certainly, this has no place in a Christian's life, especially not an overseer of the church.

Free From The Love Of Money

The writer of Hebrews said,

Hebr. 13:5 Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have...

Loving money will turn you into a Judas before you know it. You'll forsake God for the dollar, and betray every one of your values on the road to riches. A godly man has no love of money.

Manages His Own Household Well

Paul also points out that the pastor must look at the household of a man to determine whether or not he will be able to take care of the church. This doesn't mean his children would be perfect (I've never met a perfect child yet), but it does mean that he will consistently discipline rebellion in his children with the proper seriousness, and raise them in a godly home.

Not A New Convert

Of course, we would never want a baby Christian in charge of the church. Too often, we've seen celebrities saved and immediately put into ministry because they're famous. This is a usually a death sentence to a new believer. When people begin to exalt and look up to a new Christian, there is a real danger of becoming conceited and falling into the same sin that the devil fell into - pride and self-exaltation.

Good Reputation

Finally, an overseer must have a good reputation - that doesn't mean he'll be popular, for as Jesus said,

Luke 6:26 "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets.

But your reputation must be that of being a good man, a good Christian, a good employee, and a good neighbor. If you're not, and you fall into reproach, that's exactly the trap that the devil wants you to get caught in.

3:8-13 Deacons

As we saw, overseers in the church are responsible for spiritual ministry in the church. The next office in the church, deacons, have to do with physical ministry in the church.

The word "deacon" comes from the Greek root "diakon." Diakoneo is a verb meaning "to serve, to minister." Diakonos is a noun meaning "a servant, a minister." We see the first deacons appointed in the church back in Acts chapter 6.

Acts 6:1-6 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, PROKH-or-os, Nik-AN-ore, TEE-mone, Par-men-AS and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

We see four things happen here: 1) There was a physical need. 2) The pastors/overseers couldn't meet the need. 3) Men were selected who met certain guidelines. 4) The apostles prayed and laid their hands on them.

Although deacons are not in charge of spiritual matters such as determining church doctrine, ruling what goes on in the church, or praying for the sick, God has made personal prerequisites for men who would serve as deacons. Paul outlines them here.

Again, whether you plan on becoming a deacon or not, these are things that God desires from any Christian who would serve Him.

Man Of Dignity

The word "dignity" means "having a composed or serious manner." Not to be humorless and stiff, but showing the proper seriousness in matters is important as we seek to minister to people's needs. Paul instructed us,

Rom. 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

A servant of God is in tune with God and with the situation he is facing.

Not Double-Tongued

A double-tongued man is one who uses his tongue in a manner like James describes,

James 3:9-10 With it we bless {our} Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come {both} blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

It is so incredibly hypocritical to speak spiritually at church and carnally at work. To praise God around Christians, and curse around heathen. Many Christians have great need to repent in this area.

Not Addicted To Much Wine

The word translated "addicted" here is "pros-EKH-o," which means "holding on to." Unlike pastors and elders, deacons are permitted to partake of alcohol, but not in quantity or to the point of dependency or need. They are, of course, not allowed to get drunk, which is forbidden to all Christians (Eph. 5:18).

Not Fond Of Sordid Gain

A true servant of God would never accept or pursue dirty money. Money won by gambling, taken by theft or deception, or even earned in a manner that isn't completely on the "up and up." We can deceive ourselves into believing, "Well if I just fudge the numbers on my taxes, then I'll have more money to give to the church." But that is sordid gain. The church doesn't want it, and you shouldn't pursue it.

Holding To The Mystery Of the Faith

This is interesting, because while Paul said that servants of God are not to be pros-EKH-o, holding onto, much wine, they are to be EKH-o, holding onto, the mystery of the faith.

With A Clear Conscience

The word conscience comes from con and science: "with knowledge." As we learn what God requires of us, as we find out God's heart, we are under obligation to walk in that knowledge.

Let Them First Be Tested

It's easy to be fooled by someone talking the right talk and acting the right act. But when you're choosing men in the church to hold an office, even the office of a servant, you can't afford to be wrong. So Paul says that they must pass the test: the test of time, the testing of their faith, the test of their very lives. Then they may serve as deacons if they are above reproach.


Now it is up for debate as to whether Paul is talking about deacons' wives, or additional requirements for deaconesses. Regardless, these are three good standards for all Christian women: not being a malicious gossip, being temperate, and being faithful in all things.

One Wife

Just as elders were required to be, a deacon must be a one-woman man, esteeming marriage as highly as God does.

Good Managers Of Children And Households

And of course, a leader in the church, or any godly man, must manage his family well.

High Standing

Men who serve well as deacons obtain a high standing in the faith. I'll tell you what, there are few people that I respect more in the church than our deacons who serve so selflessly. Practically, they do a lot of manual labor. They set up chairs, clean toilets, vacuum carpets, and shovel snow. They show up early and stay late with a single thought: to serve without earthly reward. Their hope is that you can come to church and not have to think about anything besides worshipping, fellowshipping, and receiving the teaching.

And what amazes me is the high standing that these men leave in the secular world in order to become servants and janitors to you. Among our deacons are a doctor, an engineer, a business owner, and a master sergeant. They receive no respectful greetings, no pay, and no recognition. But their position in my heart and in God's kingdom is exalted.

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