This Tuesday we are reading through 1 Timothy 3. This chapter concerns the qualifications of “bishops” and “deacons.” The word “bishop” (Greek: episkopos) simply means “overseer.” During Paul’s time, a bishop was the overseer of a congregation. In the Scriptures, this term is generally used interchangeably with the word “elder” (Greek: presbuteros from where we get the word priest). For example, Luke writes: “And from Miletus [Paul] sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church. When they had come, he said to them, “ . . . Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God.” Acts 20: 17, 28. Or Peter will write “I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it.” 1 Peter 5:1-2. Therefore, when Paul writes about “bishops,” the office is more closely analogous to a priest today. Therefore, as you read through vv.2-7, see how these qualifications from 2000 years ago are still relevant.
Paul’s concern here is two-fold. First, the congregational leadership, in many ways, represents Christ to his flock. The bishop must model basic Christian attributes for his congregation. Actions always speak louder than words. Timothy is overseeing small nascent congregations. A quarrelsome, inhospitable, bad teacher will kill that congregation. Good Christian leadership is an existential requirement.
Second, Paul’s other concern is for his Gospel mission. We have also seen the damage that priests and pastors behaving badly do to everyone’s Christian witness. From Jim Bakker’s financial and sexual indiscretions to the horrors of child sex abuse in the Roman Church, immoral Christian leadership brings disrepute on, not only the Church but the Church’s gospel proclamation and Christ himself. How can we proclaim the love of God through Christ when those who proclaim it the loudest behave in such evil ways. When Paul is writing, this is doubly true for no one has heard of Jesus before. If the only thing someone knows of the Church is the misbehavior of its leadership; then the Church cannot succeed in its mission.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is a hot dog bar. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.