The Office of Bishop

I Timothy 3:1-7 “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

Within verses 1-7, Paul sets forth the description and directives for the office of bishop; these are some of the qualifications for the office. In our study of these qualifications, I noticed that these qualifications appeared to fall into five natural divisions; Spouse, Spirit, Seed, Seasoning, and Society.

I want to take a moment and look at the spirit of this man in respect to what God said in His Word. When Paul speaks of the man and his spirit he lists the following, “vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.” As a result of the study of these words, I have grown in my admiration and appreciation for such a leader! In many cases the words used to describe the spirit of this man are interwoven and overlapping. The compliance of one makes necessary the presence of another and the weakness of one means the absence of another. The man that would be qualified to fill the position of bishop must possess a cautious spirit; “vigilant.” He is a man that is alert to all that is going on around him. He is cautious with respect to self and the sheep. He monitors every situation; he must never be found asleep at his post. There is the perpetual threat of that which would bring disease to the sheep and disqualification of the servant; he must not let down his guard.

The man must possess a controlled spirit; “sober, of good behaviour, Not given to wine, not greedy of filthy lucre.” This controlled spirit can be seen in the areas of moral control and monetary control. One of the first things to be seen is the moral control with respect to his actions, “sober.” This is an individual that does not get flustered under minimal provocation. He knows how to control his emotions to the point that his actions are well defined and motivated by constructive thought and reasoning. He maintains a sound mind and a controlled spirit even under pressure. There is moral control with respect to his attitude, “of good behavior.” He is not extreme in his habits in relation to others. He is a gentleman and doesn’t have to have the preeminence. He has the ability of stepping back and placing others before himself; thus magnifying his discipline and organization. There is moral control with respect to his appetites, “Not given to wine.” He has brought under subjection the appetites of the flesh. He is an abstainer, one that is free from alcohol. Some have rendered the phrase as, “no sitter at wine.” Robert Gromacki said, “The pastor must have no affinity for wine, regardless of its age or alcoholic content. A Nazarite vowed to drink no wine in his dedication to God, (Numbers 6:3) and a pastor can do no less.” For those that would promote the idea of social drinking, the word “not” is an expression of absolute denial! Finally, the man must possess monetary control, “not greedy of filthy lucre.” The thoughts of money have been put into proper perspective. While he is aware of its necessity, he is not driven to obtain great sums of money to the point of overflow. When making money becomes a precedent, the presence of faith and love usually diminishes!

The man that would desire the office of bishop was to have a charitable spirit, “given to hospitality.” This man has a large place in his heart for the poor and needy. He is given to hospitality and entertaining strangers that are worthy of consideration. It is to be noted that in those days the ancient inns were usually places of ill repute and places to be shunned by those that professed faith in Christ. Because of persecution, most Christian travelers were poor and void of funds necessary to obtain secular lodging. Thus, it was needful to entertain such travelers that were missionaries of the cross. Christian hospitality was a means where by the influence of the church could be extended as well as the spirit of love and sympathy could be shown.

The man possesses a called spirit, “apt to teach.” He possesses some aptitude with respect to discerning and declaring the Word of God. When Paul wrote to the believers at Ephesus with respect to the work that was necessary “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12), he was specific in pointing out certain offices necessary to accomplish the task. One such office was that of bishop and he referred to it as “pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). It is a compound phrase that denotes one office and a reference to a man that possessed the ability to shepherd and teach! These men were given to the church by God! They bear the burden of great responsibility! Placed upon them was the responsibility of doctrine and discipline! The purity of the Gospel must be preserved against the rising tide of heresy.

This man must possess a calm spirit, “no striker, but patient, not a brawler.” He possessed a spirit of calmness in his head, “no striker.” The thought is more than the activity of physical anger, but he must not hurt people with his tongue or any unruly passions. He is able to maintain his head in the midst of trials and adversity; even when others are losing theirs. He possesses a spirit of calmness in his heart, “but patient.” He makes an effort to be at peace with all men. When writing to the believers at Rome, Paul said, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17-18). When you possess a spirit of calmness in your head and in your heart, you will discover that it is easier to maintain a spirit of calmness in your hand, “not a brawler.” The phrase has the idea of living peaceable or without war. The word “brawler” comes from a word that means a battle or controversy, fighting or striving. The bishop is a man that will not run from a fight, but when possible will use reason rather than retaliation.

Finally, we discover that the man possesses a content spirit, “not covetous.” He is a man that is not envious of what others possess! Speaking through the lips of His servant Moses, God said, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Exodus 20:17). He doesn’t possess the eye of envy, but rejoices at the abundant blessing of others. The man that would qualify for the office of bishop must possess a cautious, controlled, charitable, called, calm, and content spirit. The only way that he could possibly maintain that kind of spirit is that “The Spirit” maintain him!

Paul knew that the strength or weakness of the work would be in accordance to the quality of those who were placed in these scriptural positions of responsible leadership. Concerning the nature and character of the men qualified for a place in leadership, God’s standards are high and they have never been lowered!  In the words of a preacher from the past” Remember too, that much of what Paul says in applicable also to any kind of Christian life and service.”