Passage 1 Timothy 3:1-13
Other passages Acts 6:1-7, Acts 20:17,28 Titus 1:5-7
Background – Bad teachers, and proper teaching
– gospel, proper use of law
– pray, and do good works
– qualifications for official roles <= today’s passage
– (false ending)
Synopsis of the passage Overseers: it is good, Qualifications
Deacons: it is good, qualifications
Message Outline Cover passage in two messages
First message: Christian Leadership
Overseers, what, qualities, role
Deacons: what, qualities, role
The need for and call to leadership
Second message: Christian maturity
Application Aspire to serve in the church
Title Leadership in the church
1 Timothy 3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2
Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable,
hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a
lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must
do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how
can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and
fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that
he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not
pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.
10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and
trustworthy in everything.
12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those
who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Titus 1:5-9 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and
appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man
whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an
overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not
given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one
who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to
the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and
refute those who oppose it.
1. Introduction (2 min)
● Series in 1 Timothy
○ Instructions by Paul to his disciple Timothy
○ On how to fix the church at Ephesus and how the church should be conducted
○ Hints to us on what a healthy church should look like
■ and therefore how we can contribute in our several roles
● The biggest problem the church had was bad leadership
○ False doctrines (gnosticism, possibly goddess cults)
○ Not focusing on the gospel, faith, good conduct, and love
● The effects were fighting and competition, both men and women in their different ways
● Today, in Chapter 3 Paul is telling Timothy what to look for in new leaders
● So, we are going to take this passage in two parts:
1. Christian leadership: what is leadership in the church
2. Christian maturity: leaders need to be mature. What does that look like?
● So today, we are going to talk about what is leadership in the church, according to the NT
2.1 What (5 min)
○ v1 Overseers aka bishops
■ (episkopoi – 4x, Greek origin)
■ The word means: superintend, oversee, see after, take care,
■ Used to refer to rulers, people in charge of subject cities, etc.
○ But there are other words used to describe church leaders:
○ Titus 1:5-9 is a parallel passage to 1 Tim 3, that calls the overseers “elders”.
○ Acts 20 introduces a new word:
Acts 20: 17 Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the
church. … 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has
appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his
○ Acts 20 calls the work of the elders as oversight and shepherding. The word shepherd is where
we get the english Pastor.
○ So we have three words to describe church leaders:
○ It seems that these three words are being used to indicate the same group of people
■ So what are the differences?.
■ Elder is a word of Jewish origin
● Synagogues have elders, and we often read of elders in the OT as well
● Refers to Jewish leadership pattern
● And also refers to maturity and dignity of the person.
● Typically, the elder would be a head of family. But as Titus 1:5 says that elders are
to be appointed, simply being a head of family does not mean you will be an elder
in the church.
■ Overseer refers to the person’s role as a leader, a ruler
■ Shepherd at root means to protect
● Shepherding sounds gentler than being managed
● But having a shepherd taking care of you makes you a sheep 🙂
○ Note also, that all the Titus and Acts passages refer to multiple elders in an area.
■ In these early days, we would expect one small group in each town, probably meeting in
■ And so Paul is telling Titus to appoint multiple elders/overseers for each new church
■ Synagogue practice
● The root model for the church was the synagogue
● Some synagogues may have become churches if most of their members believed
● Synagogues too had multiple elders (ruler – archon)
○ But not necessarily all equal
■ At the end of the 2c most churches had gone a single overseer/bishop model. The
reason was practical, to deal with factionalism and heresy. See e.g. 1 Cor 1
■ And we note that both Timothy and Titus had a role above church elders/overseers
■ It seems also in synagogues, there may be a first-among-equals leader.
○ So we can say the NT norm was multiple leaders, but they may not be of equal authority
2.2 Requirements of an overseer, in brief
○ Able to manage self
■ ‘having one woman’ : sexuality under control
■ not given to drunkenness
■ not given to greed
○ v3 Able to manage self in relationships
■ Not overbearing or quick to anger, but gentle
■ Not quarrelsome, but peaceable
○ v4-5 Able to manage their family
■ The word here for manage (収める) is ‘προΐστημι; proistēmi: be over, preside over,
protect/guard, rule, care for, maintain’
■ An overseer needs to be able to care for and manage the family so everything is running
smoothly, and the kids aren’t wild and do whatever they want
■ The church can be a pretty wild place as we see in the NT letters, so if you can’t manage
a family and your kids, then it seems unlikely you can take care of the church.
○ v6 Able to do the role without becoming conceited
○ v7 Able to have healthy relationship to people outside the church
■ v2 Hospitable ‘love of strangers’: more than just inviting people for dinner
■ And here in v7, the overseer should have a good reputation in the community outside the
■ So we can say that the overseer must also have an outward focus beyond the church.
2.3 The role of an overseer
○ So we have talked about the leadership position, and the requirements, now let’s talk about the
actual work of an overseer.
○ Q: What does oversight look like in the church?
○ The most concrete functional image here is the comparison with managing a family
○ We have a certain view of family
■ Two parents or a single mom, and 1 or 2 kids
■ At least one of the parents goes to a job during the day and makes money to support the
■ And the home is a place to come back to and relax
○ But in the ancient world:
■ Extended family, multiple generations under a single family head (usually male)
■ This was the pre-industrial era, before industrialization
● So instead of going to work, and earning money, and then spending it to buy what
you needed, most of the basic things you would make at home.
● Necessities, e.g.: Food, Fabric and Clothing
● Things for trade, e.g. tents (Paul)
■ The Family was primarily an economic unit
■ So family, in ancient times basically a micro-enterprise (零細企業)
● When you read about family in the bible, that should be the image.
● Maybe for us, easiest to understand:
○ Family businesses. We know about these in Japan 🙂
○ Rural farming families, self-sufficient.
○ Also show business, political families are like this 🙂
■ Like a company, the family needs to manage
● Complex tasks, lots of people, investment, messy relationships
● Consumes a lot of time, and crucial to economic well-being of all members
■ Unlike a big business
● Organic not bureaucratic
● Relationships and personal authority is important, not positions in an org chart
● People are tied by real, long-term bonds in a shared destiny
○ Not replaceable holders of roles
■ And this then, has some similarities with church
● Lots of people, various ministries, various gifts, talents and personalities
● Need to get things done
● Programs need to be managed, money allocated and controlled
● Lots of relationships
● Inner aspect (church life) and outer aspect (interaction with the world)
○ From this reference to overseers managing the micro-enterprise family, what does this tell us
about the role of overseer?
■ Care for
● v5 says the overseer ‘cares (世話) for the church’.
○ This word used here is also used to describe what the Good Samaritan did
for the wounded traveller in Jesus’ parable.
■ The traveller had been robbed and almost beaten to death
■ The Good Samaritan bound up the wounds that the world had
■ And so in a similar way the overseer should take care of the needs
of the church members.
■ One way the overseer cares for the church is by the word
● v2 ‘able to teach’
● This could imply a formal teaching role, but we can take it more generally as the
ability to explain the Word and use it for various purposes (ref 2 Tim 3:16)
■ Maintain Order
● Order required so that people can use their gifts in a productive way (ref 1 Cor 14)
■ The overseer must be able to maintain this, just as in his own family.
■ In these ancient families, the father had almost absolute power. But that doesn’t mean the
exercise of same should be overbearing, or angry or violent.
● To oversee a complex organism like the church, you need lots of leadership.
○ You also need a lot of people to organize and perform practical tasks
○ Which brings us to the role of Deacons.
● v8 Deacons (diakonos), meaning “servant”
○ Similar to overseers
■ Required to know the Word well and hold on to it, but not necessarily be able to use it to
■ Not required to have influence outside the church (hospitality, good rep with outsiders)
■ Women are explicitly mentioned as candidates
○ This role is only mentioned a few times, and there is no detail about what it is about
■ In comparison to the overseer/elder, this is a new role invented to meet a practical need
○ Its origin is described in Acts 6:1-7
■ Take the non-teaching task load from those who teach the Word
■ An official role
● Chosen by the church
● Recognized by the apostles laying on of hands
○ So as the name says, the role of deacon seems to be of service in practical tasks
■ Requires ‘testing’ before being appointed to the official role
● This probably means being known by the church
● Serving in some way before being appointed officially
■ The importance of the deacon role is shown in Acts 6:7, where it says that the church
grew after a divisive practical issue had been fixed by appointing these servants.
4. The need and call to leadership
4.1. The need
● We can see from the description of the role, why leadership is necessary
○ To preserve correct doctrine and faith
○ Prevent disorder and preserve peace
○ Leadership and administration help the work of the church get done
4.2. The call
● v1 Desiring to be an overseer is a noble thing
○ So to aspire to such leadership is a good thing
● v13 Serving well as a deacon is honorable
○ And will lead to strengthened faith
● But who is worthy?
○ The important thing is that the overseer and servants
■ has these qualities recently and currently.
■ relative to the group he is overseeing
● Many leaders in the early church were relatively new believers
● Same in House Church movements
● There were problems. But there are always problems.
○ To know the candidate has these qualities, they should be known by the church for some time
■ Leaders should come from inside the church
■ We need to grow leaders
■ We need to grow to be able to serve
○ The church will tell us when we are ready to serve
■ And be willing when we are asked
What is God calling you to do now in and for his church?
Let us pray.