An Overseer is Above Reproach in His Moral Character (Part3)
June 16, 2019 | Speaker: Pastor Jurem Ramos
1 Timothy 3:2d
Therefore an overseer must be … hospitable, able to teach,
Which of these four statements can be found in the Bible?
- God helps those who help themselves.
- Cleanliness is next to godliness.
- Honesty is the best policy.
- Money is the root of all evil.
Let me give you five seconds to answer the question. The answer is none. None of those four statements are in the Bible. I know what some of you are thinking. “Money is the root of all evil,” isn’t that in the Bible? No, it’s not! What you find in Scripture is “the love of money
(not money itself) is a root of all kinds of evil.”
You’ll see that in 1 Timothy 6:10.
Survey results reveal that Bible knowledge is decreasing in our society. But what is alarming is that even the so-called Bible believing churches are becoming increasingly biblically illiterate.
In 2016, Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, published an essay calling for the church to address the problem of biblical illiteracy. He entitled his essay, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It's Our Problem.”
Allow me to read his concerns:
Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60% of Americans can't name even five of the Ten Commandments. "No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don't know what they are," said George Barna, president of the firm.
Multiple surveys reveal the problem in stark terms. According to 82% of Americans, "God helps those who help themselves," is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better—by 1%. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one's family.
A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.
Al Mohler says that bible illiteracy is the problem of the evangelical church. He identifies several reasons for this problem bible illiteracy in the churches:
- Bible teaching is given only a fraction of the congregation’s time and attention.
- Small group ministries have increased so that there is more opportunity for fellowship but many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study.
- Many local-church youth programs provide entertainment and keep kids busy but few actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people.
- Preaching has taken a back seat to other concerns in corporate worship.
Mohler says that “it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse course. Recovery starts at home. Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God.”
And he adds, “Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy—or too distracted—to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples.”
Mohler concludes: “This generation must get deadly serious about the problem of biblical illiteracy, or a frighteningly large number of Americans--Christians included--will go on thinking that Sodom and Gomorrah lived happily ever after.”
From Mohler’s essay, we see the importance of taking heed to the words of the apostle Paul in 1Tim 3:1-7 regarding the qualifications of overseers or elders. The overseers feed the flock mainly by teaching them the word of God regularly. Mohler gives this insightful wisdom:
We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.
This is why one of the important qualifications that Paul mentions in this list must be able to teach.
This is what I am going to emphasize today but we will also look at anther qualification which is hospitable
I want us to remember why Paul wrote this section of chapter 3:1-7. When the apostle Paul wrote this list of qualifications to Timothy, his intention was to address the problem of unqualified leaders. One of the things they were doing was teaching falsehood. (1Ti 3:3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.
) Their false teachings affected the spiritual life of the congregation. And we have seen so many times the negative impact upon the congregation.
I think part of Paul’s more specific reason for this list of qualifications is to help Timothy assess who should be removed or retained among the present elders in the church. At the same this list would also give Timothy a standard to use for prospective elders or pastors.
Here is a quick review of what we have already learned from this list in after having looked at 1Ti 3:1-2:
- First, we learned that to aspire to the office of an overseer is a good desire. Though it is subjective, it could be an indicator that the Holy Spirit is calling a person to this noble task of leading, feeding, protecting the flock of Jesus Christ.
- The way to verify whether the subject desire to be an overseer is from God is to check whether objective characteristics are also present in the person.
- The overall qualification to find out if a man is truly fit to be an overseer is above reproach. This is the key qualification or overarching characteristic of an overseer or an elder.
- Under this general qualification, there are four areas in this list where an overseer should be above reproach and the first area is in his moral character.
- Under this first area we have already studied four characteristics: An overseer must be the (1) husband of one wife, (2) sober-minded, (3) self-controlled, and (4) respectable.
Today, we’ll look at the two following characteristics: hospitable and able to teach.
You may be wondering why these two characteristics are still included in the area of an overseeer being above reproach in his moral character.
When an overseer shows hospitality, it means that he is selfless, compassionate, loving. What about ability to teach? How is it connected to being above reproach in moral character?
John MacArthur: That qualification is listed with moral qualifications because teaching effectively is predicated on the character of the teacher. You cannot divorce what a teacher is from what he says when the content of his teaching is moral. He must exemplify what he teaches.
Let’s now turn to look more closely at these two characteristics.
I. HOSPITABLE (philoxenos)
The Greek word translated “hospitable” is philoxenos.
That word is a combination of two Greek words: phileō (to be friend to, to have affection for) + xenos (foreigner, stranger, guest). And so, the literal meaning of philoxenos
is “lover of strangers or a friend of strangers or kind to strangers.” That is what hospitable means.
The opposite of philoxenos
is ”xenophobia” - an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers.
Quite often I hear it said that so and so has the gift of hospitality because she is a great cook or because she likes to have friends over for a visit. As gracious and important as those virtues are, they are not examples of biblical hospitality.
Biblical hospitality is showing kindness to strangers, not friends. In Luke 14:12-14 Jesus says, “He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
The prevalence of persecution, poverty, orphans, and widows in the early church made it necessary for Christians to open their homes to others. In addition, traveling Christians were dependent on the hospitality of other Christians because most of the public inns were brothels in which lodgers were in danger of being robbed, beaten, or solicited to evil.
Commentator William Barclay wrote, "In the ancient world, inns were notoriously bad. In one of Aristophanes's plays, Heracles asks his companion where they will lodge for the night; and the answer is: `Where the fleas are fewest.' … Inns tended to be dirty and expensive and, above all, immoral.
I realize that showing love toward strangers requires vulnerability, and can even be dangerous because some may take advantage of your kindness.
Yet we need to exercise discretion in the stewardship of what we have. If a couple shows up at my door with eight little children and four new boxes of Crayons, I will be a little [cautious]! One time we had the walls of our home decorated by overzealous young artists, so we are sensitive to the problems that can arise from opening one's home to strangers. We don't want to be wasteful with the resources God has given us, but we must remember that those resources belong to Him.
While God doesn't ask us to discard wisdom and discernment in dealing with strangers (cf. Matt. 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
), He does require us to love them.
Look at the Bible’s emphasis on hospitality:
Job, the exemplary OT elder, was a model of hospitality
- Job 31:32 (the sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler),
God says in the OT that that is the kind of fasting He desires:
- Isa 58:6-7 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
The Lord Jesus Christ notes our hospitality
- Mt 25:34-39 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
The apostles commanded the whole church to practice hospitality:
- Ro 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
- 1Pe 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
The author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to be hospitable with an added motivation:
- Heb 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (This alludes to Gen 18:3; 19:2–3).
John the apostle commends Gaius for his loving, faithful hospitality.
- 3Jn 1:5-6 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6 who testified to your love before the church.
Hospitality is part of the good deeds that a widow who will be supported should be known for.
- 1Ti 5:9-10 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality...
If hospitality is expected of ordinary members of the congregation, how much more is this expected of its leaders.
- 1Ti 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be … hospitable, (cf. Tit 1:8)
Linguistic and Exegetical Key to Greek New Testament: In his official capacity he has the duty of keeping open house both for delegates traveling from church and for ordinary needy members of the congregation.
Hoist: An elder should be who loves strangers—that is, who is given to being kind to newcomers and makes them feel at home—a person whose home is open for ministry and who does not shrink back from having guests, not a secretive person.
Alexander Strauch, BIBLICAL ELDERSHIP:
A man who closes his door to God’s family cannot be an elder. Indeed, such action is symptomatic of more serious problems. Lack of hospitality among the Lord’s people is a sure sign of selfish, lifeless, loveless Christianity.
II. ABLE TO TEACH (didaktikos)
ESVSB: This is the one requirement in this list that is not necessarily required of all believers. It is also not required of deacons. Thus, it is a distinguishing skill required of the pastor/elder. It yields the only reference in this list to his actual duties.
Most of the ideas below are from John MacArthur:
Paul repeatedly reminded Timothy of the priority of teaching:
- 1 Timothy 4:6, 11, 13, 16 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. … 11 Command and teach these things. … 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. … 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
- 1Ti 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. The Greek word translated "labor" means "to work with wearisome effort."
- 2Ti 2:2 “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” As the church continued to grow and the apostles faded from the scene, there was a tremendous need for teachers. So, Paul instructed Timothy to teach men who could teach others.
- 2Ti 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. The elder must labor to interpret God's Word correctly.
Several qualities are common to all skilled Bible teachers. They also serve as criteria to measure prospective teachers by.
- He has credibility.
The most powerful driving force to effective teaching is credibility. A skilled teacher will practice what he preaches. If you teach one thing and live another, you are contradicting and undermining your teaching.
- In 1Co 11:1 Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” You are not a skilled teacher unless you can call on people to follow your example.
- 1Ti 4:12-16 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
- He must have knowledge of Scripture.
All Elders must understand and know the truths of the word of God.
- 1Ti 4:6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.
A candidate for church membership was asked, “What part of the Bible do you like best?” He said: “I like the New Testament best. Then he was asked, “What Book in the New Testament is your favorite?” He answered, the Book of the Parables, Sir.”
They then asked him to relate one of the parables to the membership committee. And a bit uncertain, he began…
“Once upon a time a man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves; and the thorns grew up and choked the man. And he went on and met the Queen of Sheba, and she gave that man, Sir, a thousand talents of silver, and a hundred changes of raiment. And he got in his chariot and drove furiously, and as he was driving along under a big tree, his hair got caught in a limb and left him hanging there! And he hung there many days and many nights. The ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink. And one night while he was hanging there asleep, his wife Delilah came along and cut off his hair, and he fell on stony ground. And it began to rain, and rained forty days and forty nights. And he hid himself in a cave. Later he went on and met a man who said, “Come in and take supper with me.” But he said, “I can’t come in, for I have married a wife.” And the man went out into the highways and hedges and compelled him to come in! He then came to Jerusalem, and saw Queen Jezebel sitting high and lifted up in a window of the wall. When she saw him she laughed, and he said, “Throw her down out of there,” and they threw her down. And he said “Throw her down again,” and they threw her down seventy-times-seven. And the fragments which they picked up filled twelve baskets full! NOW, whose wife will she be in the day of the Judgment?”
The membership committee agreed that this was indeed a knowledgeable candidate!
This funny story illustrates a leadership body that does not know Scripture. I hope we do not have that kind of elders who ignorant of Scripture.
- He has the gift of teaching
Though all believers are gifted by the Holy Spirit to minister to the Body of Christ, not all have the gift of teaching. The Holy Spirit gives the gift of teaching to those called to teach the church.
- Ro 12:6-7 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;
- 1Co 12:28-29 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers … 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
- Eph 4:11-12 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. [The shepherd and teachers are equivalent to pastors and elders.]
It is not a natural ability but a Spirit-given endowment that enables one to teach the Word of God effectively. One of the ways that you know you have the gift of teaching is your students affirm your giftedness.
All Elders will have a teaching ministry but not necessarily in a formal setting. Some Elders will be blessed by God with the gift of pulpit teaching
, doing more regular traditional teaching or preaching to large groups. Other Elders will have teaching ministry in the Sunday School class, AWANA, a small group ministry, biblical counseling or other one-on-one Bible study contexts.
- He is committed to the discipline of study
No matter how deep his reservoir of doctrinal knowledge, or how gifted in teaching, a skilled teacher must also be committed to the discipline of study.
- 2Ti 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. You must be a diligent student to avoid being ashamed of your work. You can preach and teach with confidence because you know your study has been thorough and accurate.
- He avoids false doctrine.
Many gifted young men who are called into the ministry attend secular or religious schools that overtly attempt to undermine the Christian faith. In doing so they often lose the courage of their convictions.
- 1Ti 1:4 "nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith."
- 1Ti 4:7 “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.”
- 1Ti 6:20-21 “Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.” We must avoid false doctrine because it can confuse us and lead us away from biblical truth.
- 2Ti 2:16 “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”
If you expose yourself to false teachers, you are in danger of being victimized by their errors.
This what happened to my father. When he left the evangelical church and went to reside in Zambales and manage his own business, he handled bible studies everyday. But the problem was that he also kept on listening to Eli Soriano. He did this 24/7. Later he took his lessons from him and he promoted false teachng. Eventually he denied many essential doctrines including the Trinity, the gospel of grace and other things. A true teacher will turn away from false teachers.
- He teaches God's Word.
The skilled teacher not only avoids error but also teaches the truth which is based on the Word of God. That's why Paul said to Timothy in 2Ti 4:1-4:
- “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
- He has courage and conviction.
The skilled teacher teaches with conviction, and doesn't waver from sound doctrine.
- 1Ti 1:18-20 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
- He can defend the faith.
- 2Ti 2:24-27 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Again, just to summarize, these are the qualities common to all skilled teachers:
- he has credibility
- he has knowledge of Scripture
- he has the gift of teaching
- he is committed to the discipline of study
- He avoids false doctrine
- he teaches God’s word
- he has courage and conviction
- He can defend the faith.
We should take these things seriously. So many churches choose their Elders simply because they are wealthy, influential, eloquent, educated. They are good accountants, they are board members of companies, they are administrators, they are bosses in the workplace and so they are considered qualified. But a lot of them can’t open their Bibles and teach God’s Word. Paul said, the overseer must be able to teach.
Like Israel, the Christian community is built on Holy Scripture, and those who oversee the community must be able to guide and protect its members by instruction from Scripture. Therefore all elders must be “able to teach,” which entails three basic elements: a knowledge of Scripture, the readiness to teach, and capability to communicate. Elders must be able to open their Bible and instruct others. …
It doesn’t matter how successful a man may be at his business or how eloquently he may speak, or how much education he may have. If a man cannot instruct people in the Word or protect the church from false doctrine, he does not qualify to be an elder. Only by the Word can the church grow and be protected from corruption. The failure of church leaders to know and teach the Bible is one of the chief reasons why biblical error floods our churches and drowns the power and life of the church. There, the elders must be able to teach God’s Word.