1 The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now an overseer must be above reproach, a one-woman man, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way -- 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.

8 Deacons [servants] likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; 9 they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons.

11 Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.
12 Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; 13 for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, 15 if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

16 Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.

COMMENTS

General:

  • The overseer (Greek episkopos) is the leader of the church. From passages like Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5, we see that overseer, elder, and shepherd are all the same person.
  • Given the need for effective biblical leadership in Ephesus -- especially against the false teachers -- the elders needed to be spiritual men, and any new elders being appointed needed to meet the rigorous criteria for this honorable position of service (vv.2-7):
    • He must be a one-woman man. (This word appears on ancient Greek [and Latin] tombstones to honor a man who has always been faithful to his wife.)
    • He must be temperate.
    • He must be hospitable. In the Bible, hospitality is the responsibility of the leader of the family, the husband.
    • He must have a gentle manner with others.
    • He must manage his household well -- especially given that the church over which he had responsibility would have likely met in his home!
    • He must not be a recent convert, lest his position go to his head.
    • His reputation with outsiders must be sterling.
  • Similarly, the "deacons" (servants, literally) are also called to a high standard (vv.8-9,12-13). In N.T. times these men primarily served the poor. For more, click here.
  • The wives of the elders and deacons -- this is how I take "women" (v.11) -- are also to be women of character.
  • Paul realizes that only by having strong leadership can the church be led righteously, and protected against the perils of the false teachers. He will come soon (v.14), but in the meantime the church, with Timothy's able assistance, will have to fend for itself.
  • This chapter concludes with a poetic hymn to Christ (v.16). This is an example of the sort of teaching the elders and deacons must uphold. Moreover, it can be assumed that the Gnostic teachers would have rejected it.
    • Christ came in the flesh. This fundamental truth the Gnostics could never accept, since they thought the flesh was evil -- thus rejecting the incarnation. See 2 John 7.
    • He truly rose from the dead ("vindicated by the Spirit" -- see Romans 1:4), another doctrine roundly rejected by the Gnostics. He was also seen by angels.
    • Christ was proclaimed among Gentiles; Jesus was for Jews and Gentiles alike. The gates of the kingdom are open to all!
    • And after his physical resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. The Gnostics would not have rejected this, just the incarnation, crucifixion, and bodily resurrection that preceded it!

Advanced:

  • Be sure to read the excellent paper on Eldership Requirements by Ron Sawhill. For a highly recommended book on eldership, read the work by Strauch.
  • The "trap of the devil" refers to Satan's primeval rebellion against God, while the "snare" of the devil" refers to hypocrisy that undermines leadership when the man is not consistently living his faith in public (v.7).
  • Are there to be "deaconesses" in the church? Click here.
  • For a complete study of N.T. leadership (elders, evangelists, deacons, etc), click here.
  • When Paul says that the church is "the pillar and bulwark of the faith" (v.15),  he is hardly upholding the Roman Catholic view that church traditions stand on an equal level of authority with scripture. Rather, the church is the protector of the faith.
  • For a full study of the three pastoral epistles, click here.

Thought questions:

  • Do I have a positive attitude towards church leadership, as the apostle Paul did?
  • Do I aspire to leadership in the church? And if so, do I have the character to match?
  • Parents: What do we see in our parenting style that affects our leadership style?
  • In light of the fact that the church is to be the protector of the truth, "guarding the gospel," how high a priority has been placed on the teaching ministry in my local congregation?