An Overseer is Above Reproach in His Moral Character (Part2)

June 9, 2019 | Speaker: Pastor Jurem Ramos

1Timothy 3:2c

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable,

  In my walk since I became a Christian in 1981, I’ve seen many church leaders easily get carried away by every wind of doctrine that comes along. When a new teaching comes to a city by way of seminar and influential church leaders take the lead in adopting the novelty, the pastors of smaller churches follow and this becomes a trend.  
  1. In the 1990s a false teaching was introduced in Davao City by the School of Apostolic Revival (SOAR) or School of Apostolic Leadership Training (SALT). The central point of the heresy was that the Church, which is the Bride of Christ, will eventually become God with a capital "G.” They support this view with Biblical passages that teach that God hates intermarriages but approves of marrying one's own "kind." The promoters of this heresy therefore concludes that since Christ is God, His bride should also be of His kind and therefore God. That's why followers of this teaching greeted each other with, “Good morning Jesus” or "How's the God of Davao." This caused destroyed several churches in Davao City. Some of them had church splits while others closed down like what happened to the largest and fastest growing Pentecostal church in Davao City.
  1. Also in the 1990s, our church was also affiliated with one of the largest and fastest growing charismatic churches in our country. Its senior pastor introduced a false teaching which he called the New Paradigm. It was actually the heresy of Pragmatism. Pragmatism is the principle that the end justifies the means. If we want unbelievers to come to the church, the traditional approach of evangelism, biblical preaching, discipleship, etc, are no longer effective. Church members should no longer be carrying their Bibles openly and calling their pastors as such but as Values Instructors or Life Coaches. Pastors should learn lessons, not primarily from the Bible, but from successful businessmen on how to make their churches and their members succeed in life. This New Paradigm caused a major split in that church and which resulted in our local church in Davao City separating from them in 1996.
  1. Another false teaching that has become a trend in churches recently is the Jewish approach in ministry. Its promoters seem to hold the view that the more Jewish the ministry looks, the more pure and spiritual it is. And so they refer to God and to Jesus in their Hebrew names. Their prayers and their singing are in Hebrew words. They introduce traditional Jewish dancing in their services and the wearing prayer shawls when they pray. Some of the promoters of this Jewish approach are into genealogies. They go to Israel in refer to the genealogical records to find if their names are in the list and when they do, make a big deal out of it.
  1. Hypergrace is another false teaching that was imported from Singapore and has easily entered into the Philippine churches. When you use the word hyper it means “over,” “beyond,” excessive, above normal.” In the website the question "What is hyper-grace?" is asked and the answer given is this:
  The term hyper-grace has been used to describe a new wave of teaching that emphasizes the grace of God to the exclusion of other vital teachings such as repentance and confession of sin. Hyper-grace teachers maintain that all sin, past, present, and future, has already been forgiven, so there is no need for a believer to ever confess it. Hyper-grace teaching says that, when God looks at us, He sees only a holy and righteous people. The conclusion of hyper-grace teaching is that we are not bound by Jesus’ teaching, even as we are not under the Law; that believers are not responsible for their sin; and that anyone who disagrees is a pharisaical legalist. In short, hyper-grace teachers “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4) and flirt with antinomianism.  
  1. A more subtle error that is entering church today is the integration of the Bible and psychology. I’ve heard at least two pastors in Davao City who are recommending that their members who are going through depression and other serious emotional and psychological problems to go to psychologists instead of to the pastors for counseling. I even heard that one Christian Psychologist who conducted a seminar in the church began his talk by saying that the Bible does not have all the answers to man’s problems. In other words, he was saying that “the Bible is insufficient to deal with the traumas and challenges of modern life: we need something more than the counsel God gives in His Word.”
  When the pastors are the ones promoting these false teachings, it would be difficult for theologically untrained members of the church to discern and reject these errors. This is why Paul gives this list of qualifications for Overseers or Elders here in 1Timothy 3. And two of the important qualifications of overseers to be protected from false teaching is that they must be sober-minded and self-controlled. Pastors who are easily carried away by new trends and the sensational are going to be deceived and will bring great injury to the church of Jesus Christ.   I have already mentioned that the reason that Paul is taking time to discuss this issue about qualifications of Overseers is because this was the source of the problems that arose in the church of Ephesus. Certain persons were teaching a different doctrine, and devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations. This was causing confusion and division in the church. But not only that, people were also becoming worldly in their dress and their manners, unsubmissive towards their authorities, and unloving towards their family members, among other things.     In examining Paul’s list of qualifications of overseers or elders, we began by looking at the key qualification which is being “above reproach.” And I said that the rest of the qualifications in 1 Timothy 2b-7 elaborate what it means to be above reproach. Paul expounds the four areas of life in which an elder must be above reproach: his moral character, his home life, his spiritual maturity, and his public reputation.   We are still in the first area where the elder must be above reproach and that is in his moral character. Last time, we looked at the first qualification that the overseer must be the husband of one wife. We learned that this does not teach that pastors must be married or that they must marry only once. To be “the husband of one wife” means that if the man is married, he is must faithful and true to his wife only.   Among the next virtues listed, the next three words are closely related: sober-minded, self-controlled, and respectable. These words describe the self-mastery of the overseer. We are going to focus on these three characteristics today.  

1.   SOBER-MINDED (nēphalios)

  The word literally means abstinence from or moderate use of alcohol beverage. However, here it is used to mean mental sobriety. While some commentators take this word in its literal sense in this context, but it is doubtful that this is Paul’s intent. In verse 3, Paul writes that an overseer must “not be a drunkard.” Paul is not warning overseers twice about the use of wine.   Negatively, the word “sober-minded” means not given to excesses or extremes in any area of life. It means not being overly excited on the one hand, nor indifferent on the other. He is not man is easily swayed by what is sensational or sentimental. He does not turn away his ears from the truth and turn aside to the myths being more than ready to accept the nonsense which was being promoted by the false teachers at Ephesus (see on 1 Tim. 1:3, 4, 6, 7).   Positively, “sober-minded” describes a person who has a well-balance state of mind over all. He is stable, circumspect, self-restrained, clear-headed, able to make sound judgments. He is calm, steady, and sane doing one’s duty and fulfilling one’s ministry. New International Commentary says, “the term also means that the overseer is to maintain command of his reason, to be watchful and observant of things going on around him, and balanced in his assessments.”   Alexander Strauch: It is necessary that elders, who face many serious problems, pressures, and decisions, be mentally and emotionally stable. Elders who lack a balanced mental and emotional perspective can easily be snared by the devil or false teachers.”     In March 3, 2017, KAPA Kabus Padatuon (Enrich the Poor) was registered under the Secruities and Exchange Commission and began engaging in massive recruitment of members to join their religious organization and offer opportunity for earn huge profits at the rate of 30% interest of the investment monthly.   Policy and Benefits of KAPA:  
  1. to be a member of KAPA, the amount of 100 pesos membership fee must be paid.
  2. If you have given the said amount, you become a legitimate member and then you can “donate” any amount which will earn 30% interest per month.
  3. The said interest will be received the following month after his membership plus one day.
  4. The amount donated will earn 30% compounded interest every month if the member will not withdraw the “donation” for a year.
  Based on reports, in only a few months of existence, KAPA has amassed more than P7Million pesos from a hundred investors who are mostly from residents of Bislig City. Mr. Joel Apolinario, the founder has also bought a Ford Expedition car and a house and lot worth P2Million pesos only in a short period after the KAPA-Community Ministry was established.   Unknown to many, according to the Supreme Court, the investment scheme of KAPA has the characteristics of a pyramiding scheme called Ponzi scheme. In the case of the Philippines vs. Palmy Tibayan and Rico Z. Puerto, in January 14, 2015, the Supreme Court took this position regarding the Ponzi scheme:   To be sure, a Ponzi scheme is a type of investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. Its organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk. In many Ponzi schemes, the perpetrators focus on attracting new money to make promised payments to earlier-stage investors to create the false appearance that investors are profiting from a legitimate business. It is not an investment strategy but a gullibility scheme, which works only as long as there is an ever-increasing number of new investors joining the scheme. It is difficult to sustain the scheme over a long period of time because the operator needs an ever larger pool of later investors. The idea behind this type of swindle is that the “con-man” collects his money from his second or third round of investors and then absconds before anyone else shows up to collect. Necessarily, Ponzi schemes only las weeks, or months at the most. (underscoring added for emphasis).   In light of the complaints the SEC has received and the Supreme Court ruling, the SEC released a CEASE AND DESIST ORDER, dated Feb. 19, 2019.   Wherefore, premises considered, Kapa Kabus Padatuon (Enrich the Poor), and/or MR. Joel Apolinario, their partners, officers, directors, agents, representatives, conduits, assigns and ANY AND ALL PERSONS CLAIMING AND ACTING FOR AND IN THEIR BEHALF are hereby ordered to IMMEDIATELY CEASE AND DESIST UNDER PAIN OF CONTEMPT, from engaging in activities or selling and/or offering for sale securities in the form of investment contracts in the guise of a donation or any other forms of the same nature.   Many pastors lead their flock to get involved in KAPA which is a pyramiding scheme. It is illegal and will destroy the lives of many in the long run. Pastors who are not sober-minded are not watchful and observant of things going on around them, nor are they balanced in their assessments. If they were, they would not be falling into this kind of fraud.  

2.   SELF-CONTROLLED (sōphrōn)

  The Greek word translated self-controlled (is a difficult word to translate. In fact, no English word fully conveys its full meaning. It means to be reasonable, sound, rational, sensible, serious, sane, balanced, controlled in thinking.   It refers to someone who is in control of himself having ability to curb desires and impulses so as to produce a measured and orderly life.   Negatively, a self-controlled person is not rash or given to extremes. He is not under to control of passion. He is not someone who moves based on hunches only or impressions. He is not an impulsive person who simply follows his instincts.   He does not see a demon behind every bush. Extreme charismatics for example don’t catch colds; they are under the attack by the demon of colds. When they have a problem with lust, they say that that they are being controlled by the demon of lust. They always make excuses for their sin by saying, “The Devil made me do it.”   Positively, a self-controlled person is thoughtful, well-balanced, rational, and cautious in the judgments he makes. He proceeds from what is based on sound judgment, reasoning, or evidence. He is sensible and careful when making judgments and decisions, avoiding unnecessary risks. He practices a great deal of practical discretion especially in handling problems and people.   HOW TO MISREAD GOD’S WILL   F.B. Meyer, a Christian minister of the past century, was a passenger on a ship that sailed from London to Holyhead Harbor in Ireland. He was on the deck when the ship approached the harbor. Meyer knew the coast was rocky, and that the harbor itself had varying depths, so when the captain of the ship didn’t slow down, he was concerned.   He asked: “Captain, how do you know Holyhead Harbor so well?” What he meant was, “Captain, don’t you think you should slow down?”   The captain replied, “Do you see those three lights ahead?” pointing out three lights on the hill overlooking the harbor. He explained, “When those three lights all line up in a row, I know the ship is in the center of the channel.”   Recalling this experience, Meyer used to say, “When we are in God’s will, three things always concur: the Word of God, the trend of circumstances, and the inward impulse of the Holy Spirit.   Throughout the years I have observed many immature believers use this approach, but instead than benefiting them, it became detrimental to them.   I have observed that those who use it to counsel others and those who apply it are using it wrongly. Let me explain how it could be used wrongly, where we see that self-control is not applied.  
  1. The first guide is word witness. This is a valid witness if what one means is the objective word of God. If you use the Bible objectively to give direction it will be the most important instrument of God to give direction. The Bible gives direction either in a direct statement of God’s will, or principles for every direction you will have to make in life.
  In the Bible you will find many direct, specific statements on some topics such as the kind of person you marry, how to treat your parents, how to resolve conflicts with others, how to find peace of mind and what to expect in the future. But you will not find specific answers to all of the issues just raised. You will, however, find principles which give you guidance for each issue.   For example, if you check a concordance listing, you will not find the word “abortion” listed under the letter “A.” However, you will discover many statements affirming the personhood of that life in the womb, giving you direction regarding the will of God and the life you carry in your womb. The Bible will not tell you specifically that it is sinful to smoke marijuana or take shabu but it will tell you that you should submit to governing authorities that forbid it and that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.   If you use the Bible in that manner to give you direction, then this so called “word witness “ is a valid and most important instrument for guidance and decision making. Unfortunately, many Christians today don’t mean that when they are talking about the “word witness”. Let me show the contrast between objective reading of Scriptures (which is correct) and subjective reading (which is wrong).   Objective reading of the Bible is reading passages in the Bible in its proper context; it is considering carefully what the author meant when he first wrote his letter or prophecy to his original audience. We have to determine what the author meant and how its original recipients understood it. We cannot interpret the Scripture by putting into it our own view using our present context. We must always look at their context.   That is why whenever we read the bible we need to know the meaning of the words they used during their period, their culture, etc. That is called exegesis. To bring out of the text what the original author’s intent is. That is how you read the word of God objectively. That is how the Bible must be read if it is to be final authority for our beliefs and practice.   In contrast to that approach is the subjective reading of the Bible, which means, to put into the text what you think it means. To bring into the text your culture, your definition of terms according to 21st century vocabulary, your impressions upon the text. In contrast to exegesis, i.e., to bring out of the text the author’s meaning, there is eisegesis, to read into the text the present reader’s meaning. This approach in reading the Bible usually tends to the taking a text out of its context, and does violence to what the author originally meant.   In some Christian groups it is called the “rhema.” I need to explain what this means. “Word” in the NT is a translation of either of two Greek words, “logos” or “rhema”. Logos is defined roughly as the whole bible. The “rhema,” according to them means a passage that jumps out of the Bible. It is  a portion of the Bible where God’s specifically ministers to you. It is His word for a specific situation and does not have to relate to its context.   Illustration   A young adult Christian desires to court an unbeliever named Irene Divinagracia. He prays that God would guide him regarding this matter. One day, during his QT, he reads a passage says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” He paused and reflected on these words and doing a little word study he discovers that the Greek word for peace is Eirēnē and of course divine grace in Tagalog is “divinagracia.” And so he concludes that it is God’s will for him to court and eventually marry this unbeliever named Irene Divinagracia. He says, “nag-rhema ang portion na ito sa akin.”   What is the right way to use the so called “word witness”? It should mean nothing less than the clear moral will of God objectively understood. In this way others can check us using God’s word.   If you read the Bible subjectively, you will find it speaking to you favorably on any issue. You can find anything you want in the Bible if you are “creative” enough. If you say that God is speaking to you, and you call it rhema, who can check you whether you are right or wrong? No one. In the subjective approach, the Bible loses its authority. The new authority is your impression as to what the Bible is saying.  
  1. The second guide is called the inner witness.
  Again this is valid approach to knowing God’s will if it really means the inward prompting of the Holy Spirit in accord with written word of God. The Bible says,
  • Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
  • John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth
  Immature believers must however be careful in using this as a witness. The problem of the sincere seeker of God’s will is: “How can I tell whether these impressions are from God or from some other source?” Impressions could be produced by any number of sources: God, Satan, an angel, a demon, human emotions, hormonal imbalance, insomnia, medication, or an upset stomach.   Here are five questions you can ask yourself. They will help you decide whether the feeling you have in your heart are prompted by the Spirit of God, or by your own spirit, or even by an evil spirit.  
  1. Do I really want God to show me what to do in this matter?
  2. Have I honestly put aside my own will?
  3. Have I determined that I will accept God’s direction in my life even though it may be different from what I would choose to do?
  4. Is the guidance I feel in my heart in accord with the direction of the Bible?
  5. Is the guidance which I feel is prompted by the voice of God’s Spirit confirmed by godly people who are neutral in the whole matter?
  The third guide is the so-called outward witness. Again it is possible to misread circumstances. You can read anything into it if you are creative enough. You can be very selective in what you want to discover. The same questions as in the inner witness should be asked:  
  1. Do I really want God to show me what to do in this matter?
  2. Have I honestly put aside my own will?
  3. Have I determined that I will accept God’s direction in my life even though it may be different from what I would choose to do?
  4. Is the guidance I see in circumstances in accord with the direction of the Bible? (Filipinos who want to go to Japan will go to the Japanese Embassy to get a visa. Japan doesn’t specify any amount that should be in an applicant’s bank account to be approved for a tourist visa but at least they should have Php 100,000 if they plan to stay in Japan for 15 days. They borrow more or less that amount from others and deposit that in their account and then show a bank certificate to the officers in the Japan Embassy. That is deception.)
  1. Is this guidance confirmed by godly people who are neutral in the whole matter?
  Illustration #1: A young man earnestly wants to know God’s will for his life. He’s so dedicated to God that He’s even willing to be a missionary. But despite his dedication, he has some problems. He is a little headstrong. He seems to have trouble getting along with those in authority over him. His reasons for rebellion are very good, of course, at least in his eyes. Finally this young seeker-after-God’s will takes his problem to a wise old pastor. “I believe God wants me to be a missionary,” he says, “but I’m not sure whether He wants me to be a home missionary or a foreign missionary.” The pastor looks him straight in the eye. “Young man,” he says, “what you need to be first of all is a ‘submissionary.’ You need to learn what submission means.”   Illustration #2: My decision about my daughter studying at The Master’s University in USA.  

3.   RESPECTABLE (kosmios)

  • Respectable means, “modest, honorable, decent, orderly, proper, trim, adorned, decorated, organized, attractive, beautiful.” This is where we get the word “cosmetic,” like using of powder, lotions, lipstick, or other measures to make something appear better or more attractive. We also get the word “cosmos” which mean an orderly harmonious systematic universe. It is the opposite of chaos.
  • Respectable describes how people see the orderly outward life of a person. It is a reflection of an orderly inner life.
  • It can describe properness in outward demeanor and dress but it has the more general meaning of orderly, well behaved, or virtuous which causes a person to be regarded as respectable by others.
  • Respectable is the outward expression of an inward self-control.
    John Gill: neat and decent in his apparel; modest in his whole deportment and conduct, and affable and courteous to all; beautiful in his life and conversation, being adorned with every thing that is graceful and comely.  
  1. To be respectable, an overseer is neat and decent in dress and appearance.
He should not be slovenly in his dress and appearance. When someone has messy and uncombed hair and dirty clothing, this is an example of a person who would be described as slovenly. This is also the description of one who is overly casual or careless in their appearance habits, work, etc. One who is untidy in dress or appearance. Unwashed, dirty, disorderly.   Of course, one would not expect that a pastor from the mountains would have to wear a well ironed pants but he would not wear an earring. He would not have long nails coming like eagle’s claws. He would be respectable in his context.  
  1. To be respectable, an overseer is to be a gentleman in his manners. He is dignified and orderly in behavior. He is characterized by good manners and right conduct. He is polite, courteous, cordial and full of polite concern for the well-being of others.
  Stanley L. Derickson: In my first year of Bible college I went to talk to the acting president of the school. His office was always a mess. His office was a long narrow room with the door in the middle of the wall. He called to me to come in. I opened the door to a floor covered with stacks of papers and magazines. He told me that there was a path to the chair at the end of his office so I carefully negotiated my way to it. He was behind his desk which also was covered with stacks of who knows what. The floor from one end of the office to the other was covered with paper - except for this little path in and through the piles. This was not an orderly man... I might add, that he was not a leader. He made no attempt to make himself a leader - he was a teacher.  
  1. To be respectable, an overseer is to be orderly and not disorganized in the fulfillment of his duties.
  John MacArthur: The opposite of kosmos is chaos. Elders can't have a chaotic life style. That's because their work involves administration, oversight, scheduling, and establishing priorities. The ministry is no place for a man whose life is a continual confusion of unaccomplished plans and unorganized activities. Over the years I have seen many men who had difficulty ministering effectively because they couldn't get their lives into meaningful order. They couldn't concentrate on a task or systematically set and accomplish goals. Such disorder is a disqualification.   Illustration #2: Many years ago, I met this pastor of a small church in Davao City. The more I got to know him personally, the more I was convinced that he did not have self-mastery. He was not sober-minded, self-controlled, nor was he respectable. He was so disorganized in life. His stuff was always tupsy tury. His studies are scattered. He would go from one house to another and call it visitation although he has no purpose to spiritually feed the flock but to feed himself from the meriendas offered by the brethren. He was easily swayed by new teachings. His teachings were not clear and had no direction. Eventually he felt that he was not called to be a pastor. And I agreed. I even discouraged his girlfriend to continue in the relationship if he insisted to be a pastor because his personal flaws. A member of his church would be embarrassed to introduce to him to his friends or relatives and say, “this is my pastor.”   Let me close with these words:   Self-mastery is an indispensable quality of every Christian leader. An orderly life is most important for a manager of God’s flock. An elder who leads a disorderly life is unable to properly and successfully care for God’s flock. Under such a man’s leadership, the sheep will soon show the pathetic signs of neglect and mismanagement.   Leaders are often left for considerable periods unsupervised, so that they have to supervise themselves. To be sure, they are still people of flesh and blood, with the same emotions and passions as other human beings. And it is possible, with God's help: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22, 23). It is a self-mastery that comes from God. The elder must be mastered by God.   From Desiring God   True self-control is a gift from above, produced in and through us by the Holy Spirit. Until we own that it is received from outside ourselves, rather than whipped up from within, the effort we give to control our own selves will redound to our praise, rather than God’s.   But we also need to note that self-control is not a gift we receive passively, but actively. We are not the source, but we are intimately involved.   We admit the inadequacy, and emptiness, of doing it on our own. We pray for Jesus’s help, secure accountability, and craft specific strategies. We trust God’s promises to supply the power for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19) and then act in faith that he will do it in and through us (Philippians 2:12–13). And then we thank him for every Spirit-supplied strain and success and step forward in self-control.