Series on I Timothy, III Work, A Character of Leaders, Text: 3:1-13, Title: The Pursuit of Excellence.


Our text sets forth the qualifications for church officers. You might be tempted to disregard this, especially if you do not aspire to being an officer. You might think this information is only useful if it's time to vote on officers at a congregational meeting. That would be a mistake. Please note the opening trustworthy saying, If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, that is, an elder, he desires a noble task. The values set forth here are for everybody and Paul is urging everyone to seek the virtues as well as those that may be qualified to seek the offices. At the conclusion of the matter in verse 13 his advice to deacons is the same, Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. Is there anyone who doesn't or shouldn't want excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus? Let us listen carefully to Paul's words! We shall consider first the organization of the church by way of background and then the officers of the church.

I The Organization of the Church.

The Church of Christ within the lifetime of Paul came to a place of organization. Church officers are necessary, for Paul commands Timothy to ordain elders in Ephesus. To Titus he says ordain elders in every church. Paul addresses his letter to the Philippians to the elders and deacons. This was the norm. Only these two offices are mentioned in the New Testament. In ancient Israel in the time of Moses their were elders and these elders became judges in Israel. In the time of the monarchy the people selected local elders to act as their judges according to the command of God in Deuteronomy 16:18. In Deuteronomy 17 they were commanded to appoint a higher court in Jerusalem. This later became the Sanhedrin of Jesus’ day. During the exile in Babylon the synagogue system sprang up. There were elders in the synagogues, and this became a model for the early Christians. Jesus himself talks about it in Matthew 18:15, If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. We could not tell it to the church unless there was some kind of church government.  Deacons were a later addition. In the Old Testament the elders took care of all the practical matters, but in Acts 6 the Apostles decide that they need assistants. These helpers were assigned a ministry of caring for the resources of the Christian community and sharing them equitably among the needy. Thus was the organization of the Christian church formed and here is given Paul's apostolic seal of approval.

II The Officers of the Church

Consider the elders first, a ministry of charging and ruling. then the deacons a ministry of caring and sharing.       

A Charging and Ruling

The office of elder is first in the church for dignity and usefulness. The elders collectively are to watch diligently over the flock, exercise government and discipline, and oversee all the interests of the church. They are to visit, comfort, exhort, nourish, pray and set a good example. Now considering their task you would think that Paul's list of qualifications would focus on their talents, but it is not so. Let everyone take note. Ability is only a small part here. There are four things: character, concern, conduct and commission. The qualifications are listed in verses 2-7,  Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 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 Character

Each of the attributes set forth here could be studied at length, but today I only want you to see that God is more concerned with our character than anything else. Elders are to be men who are temperate, self-controlled, respectable, gentle and not quarrelsome!

2 Concern

The chief concern of elders is also important. they must be family men in the best sense of the word because they are in charge of the church family. They are to be the husband of one wife, manage their families well, and be hospitable.

3 Conduct

In their conduct elders are to not to be given to much wine and not lovers of money. In other words they must not be addicted to drugs or greed. Their lifestyle is to be different from the world which is filled with these things.

4 Commission

With regard to the actual task Paul says an elder must not be a new convert and he must be apt to teach. Conceit and ignorance are enemies of the office. Not all elders are equal in teaching ability but ruling in the Church is accomplished by teaching the Word of God, and applying it to situations. I must reiterate that the majority of what Paul has to say concerns the person's spiritual commitment. In other words, before we can take heed to the task, we must take heed to ourselves. People usually reverse this. we are more concerned with what other people think than with what God thinks.

B Caring and Sharing

The qualifications for deacons are briefer but the concern is equally personal and spiritual as listed in verses 8-12, Deacons, likewise, are to be men 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. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Consider the same four categories as with overseers. Their character is summed up as men worthy of respect, but surely implies all the things that Paul has said about the character of elders. Their concern like the elders is to be for family, the husbands of one wife and managing the children an the household well. Their conduct likewise is to be not indulging in much wine and not pursuing dishonest gain.  This accords with the fact that these are men who are to assist the elders and to carry on a part of the ministry of the elders. The standards for character are basically the same. With regard to their commission, they can't be new converts either, they must be tested. but there also seems to be a slightly different emphasis here. Because the deacons are to manage resources, Paul places a stronger emphasis on sincerity and trustworthiness. He says they are not to be double tongued meaning insincere. He also says they are to hold the mystery of faith in a good conscience. This implies that though they may not have the elders’ ability to teach yet they are men of convictions which they hold to faithfully. The mention of women here in my opinion refers to women, godly women, who assisted the deacons in their labors. These are mentioned elsewhere in the pastorals. It may refer to their wives, but the Greek is not specific. It does not refer to women deaconesses. The context is clear. Deacons are to be men and the husbands of one wife. The women are not to be gossips and they are to be temperate and trustworthy. All of this suggests in my mind that integrity is a big part of the diaconal ministry.


Reviewing Paul's requirements for these officers should teach us two things. It is not your talents that are the most important; it's your character, your concern and your conduct. Secondly it should teach us that we should all aspire to be this kind of person and remember what Paul said in Chapter 1:15.16, Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. It is only the grace of God and the means of grace that can produce these qualities in us.