What Does 1 Timothy 3:2 Mean?

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

1 Timothy 3:2(NASB)
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia - by Daderot

Verse Thoughts

Being an "elder" or an "overseer" in the Church is an honourable position and those discharging this duty have to be men of integrity, who demonstrate certain attributes; skills; gifts and grace, together with a character in line with Paul's instructions, in this letter to Timothy.

Paul places much emphasis on the quality of leaders in the Church and begins to list the character traits that should be evident in the life of every man who takes on a responsibility in Church eldership: - "An elder - or overseer must be above reproach. He must be the husband of one wife, temperate; prudent; respectable; hospitable and able to teach".

Although there are many more qualities that Paul lists in later verses, connected with his spiritual maturity; his reputation in the community; his behaviour at home; his relationship with his family and his ability to act with self-restraint, whether alone or in company.. this verse deals specifically with the important issues of a man's moral attitude, ethical behaviour and spiritual maturity.

The great emphasis Paul places on the responsibility of eldership and the integrity of each elder, dictates that only trustworthy men with the highest principles should be permitted to become an overseer in a church community. It is not surprising that Paul lays such emphasis on the character and integrity of church elders, when they have such an influence on the spiritual development and eternal destiny of other Christian men and women.

A similar list of instructions about the character, responsibilities and biblical soundness of elders was given to Titus, and both lists stipulate that as well as being "above reproach", an elder - or overseer, must be "the husband of one wife". It is not saying that only married men can be appointed as elders, but that if a man is married, he must show he is loyal; constant; faithful and true to his wife, and not be a weak-willed man, who is tempted by the lust of the flesh or a roving eye.

This requirement does not exclude single men, widowers or those that have been divorced from eldership opportunities but is emphasising the exemplary character required in such men. He is to be "temperate" or "disciplined" by demonstrating a certain self-restraint or balanced behaviour. He is to be "prudent" by giving godly wisdom, offering good advice  or showing careful forethought and far-sightedness.

He is to be "respectable" and "hospitable" - an upright man of good repute; a gracious, warm-hearted person, who is sociable, helpful, welcoming and accommodating. And he is to be a man who is "able to teach". This does not mean he must have the gift of 'pastor-teacher', but that he is a good communicator to those in his charge, and is able to provide biblical answers for the hope he has in Christ. All men in eldership position should use the gifts and graces with which they has been endowed, for the edification of the Body and for the glory of God.

Although the characteristics of an overseer, which are clearly laid out in this verse and the essential qualities Paul lists in this passage, are of the highest ethical, moral and spiritual standard possible, they are, in reality, the qualities and characteristics towards which we should all strive.

God is holy, and He is perfect and as His children we are called to be both holy and perfect - not in our own strength, but by the power and wisdom of the indwelling Holy Spirit. May we each take to heart the need to be above reproach in our words and actions; faithful in all of our relationships and interactions with others and temperate, prudent, respectable and hospitable, at home and in the wider community. And may we study to show ourselves approved unto God; be willing to share the good news of the gospel of Christ with others and be ready and able to give a biblical answer to anyone who asks us about  the hope we have in Christ.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, we pray for the elders and overseers in our churches and communities and ask that the characteristics and qualities that Paul lists in his letter to Timothy are taken to heart by all who have positions of responsibility in our own church and wider afield. We pray that You would establish godly men in eldership positions, who are above reproach and pray that each one would be ready and willing to examine their heart, to see if there are areas in their life that need to be addressed. I pray that in my own life I may strive to attain to the many qualities that You expect from all Your children. Thank You that in Christ I have all I need for life and godliness - and I pray that from this day forward I take to heart the need to be above reproach, in word, in deed and in my relationship with others. I pray that I may become approved unto God; be willing to share the good news of the gospel of Christ with others and be ready to give a biblical answer to anyone for the hope we have in Christ - this I ask in His precious name, AMEN

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia - by Daderot

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