Overseers

When the apostle Paul addressed the elders of Ephesus, he told them in Act 20:28  Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”  From this we learn that the Holy Spirit had made the elders the overseers over the Ephesian church; they were to shepherd or be the pastors of the church.  From this we learn that elder, bishop, and pastor are descriptive titles for the same group of men; elders, because they were older leaders, bishops because they were to oversee the affairs of the church, and pastors in that they were to be the shepherds of the church.   

The apostle Paul gave Timothy the qualifications for these men.  In this instance, he calls them bishops, which would be translated as overseers.  1 Timothy 3:1-7 “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.  Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

Young men should seek to become bishops/elders/pastors because the church needs such leaders.  The apostle says that it is a good work.  As a young man, live your life so that someday you will be qualified to be a bishop/elder/pastor.  Even if you are a woman or someone who will never be an overseer, it is good to review the qualifications since many of them describe characteristics that should be the traits of each one of us as followers of Jesus Christ.

The first qualification is “blameless”.  You should have no major character flaw or incident in your life that people in the world or fellow believers would point to as a reason you should not be a church leader.  We are all forgiven sinners, but we should have a good reputation, not a bad one.  “The husband of one wife.”  God’s plan is for one man to have one woman in marriage until death parts them.  “Temperate.”  That means you should avoid behavior that goes beyond what is normal, healthy, or acceptable.  Be a true servant of God.  “Sober-minded.”  That means self-controlled and moderate in thought and action; not wild.  “Of good behavior.”  Your actions are to be good and respectable, not those that people would criticize as improper.  “Hospitable.”  You should be generous and friendly to guests or visitors.  You should be interested in other people and their welfare and not just interested in yourself and your affairs.  “Able to teach.”  The bishop/elder/pastor should have the ability to teach the members of his church the spiritual truths in Christ Jesus. 

“Not given to wine.”  You can’t be a drunkard.  The apostle states in 1 Corinthians 6:10 that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In my mind, this would include giving yourself to any kind of drug that would control you like alcohol.   “Not violent.”  You should not use physical force to cause harm or damage to someone or something; violent should not be your nature.  Instead, you should be “gentle.”  That is, you should be kind and quiet in your nature, not harsh or violent.  “Not greedy for money.”  The apostle later tells you that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).  We all use money to purchase our necessities.  But greediness implies an improper love of money that may result in money or wealth being your god.  “Not quarrelsome.”  Not contentious or argumentative, but instead, peaceable.  Be in the habit of getting along with other people.  “Not covetous.”  Covetousness is looking at what others have and wanting it.  This shows a discontent with what God has given you and therefore a lack of the proper Christian spirit.

“One who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).”  An elder/bishop/pastor should have children and demonstrate that he knows how to properly deal with those under his authority.  The family is a place where he can learn how to communicate, discipline, love, provide care and lead.  These are all skills he needs as an overseer or pastor of the church.

“Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.”  A novice is one with little experience; it could be one who is young or who was just recently converted.  One who leads and oversees the church should be experienced and appreciate the great responsibility he has.   This passage implies that the devil was filled with pride and rebelled against God.  One with longtime experience will be less likely to be proud.

“Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”  Those outside the church often look at those in the church to see if we practice what we preach.  The church overseer should be one whom those outside respect.  He should be known for such things as honest, hardworking, generous, and having integrity.

If you are a young man, seek to be an overseer/pastor/elder of the church one day; it means you need to be careful in how you live your life today.  All of us should learn from the overseer qualifications the characteristics that God values in our lives.