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1 Timothy 3:115comment (0)

February 7, 2013

By Michael Wilson

Related Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:115

Bible Studies for Life 
Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University


1 Timothy 3:1–15
Our nation lost a respected former military leader a few weeks ago. General Norman Schwarzkopf was renowned for his effective, decisive leadership in several armed conflicts involving the United States in recent decades. He will be remembered primarily for his tactical thinking and strategic planning in the Persian Gulf War. Among his many memorable statements about leadership is this: “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.”

This week’s lesson invites us to consider another of Paul’s “trustworthy statements” to his young apprentice Timothy. In Paul’s thinking, one who aspires to be an effective leader in the church must possess a particular kind of character.

Above Reproach (1–7)
Not too many years ago, people in positions of leadership in government, corporations, social service organizations and churches typically enjoyed “built in” respect that came as a result of their positions. Regrettably far too many of these leaders’ actions caused a breakdown in respect and trust as they engaged in dishonest, deceptive and downright evil practices for purposes of their own personal gain. Our society has lost its innocence. Now we are much less likely to trust leaders and more likely to hold them in suspicion even as they prove themselves. Once lost, trust is rarely restored free of at least a measure of suspicion. Like the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Paul reminds Timothy that leaders in the church must possess character that is consistently above reproach. The honorable, noble, life-changing work of ministry — both lay and clergy — deserves nothing less. Those outside the church are watching and their skepticism and cynicism make it easy for them to have low expectations. After all, they have been fooled before. 

Worthy of Respect (8–13)
Next Paul affirms a desirable character trait in another group of congregational leaders: deacons. He counsels Timothy that these servant leaders should be people whose conscientious stewardship of life earns them the respect of those they serve. These persons are respected because they unselfishly and willingly give of themselves to help others in the community of faith. Sadly the ministry potential of deacons is not fully realized in many congregations. Their role may be misunderstood or may lack credibility due to the loss of a sense of value and purpose within the community of faith. Paul challenges Timothy to hold deacons to a high standard of Christlike behavior. This manner of behavior is focused on care and compassion, healing and wholeness in the lives of those being served.

And Not Just the Leaders (14–15)
Though Paul identified desirable character traits for persons in roles of pastoral leadership and deacon ministry, in reality these traits are desirable in all disciples of Christ. Baptists have historically emphasized the priesthood of every believer. In other words, all who profess Christ as Lord are called to be ministers of the gospel. While some fulfill a sense of call to a vocational ministry role such as pastor or missionary, all Christians have a ministry calling to fulfill. Paul encouraged Timothy by giving him a clear description of how folks in the church should behave as they live out their call to minister to one another. Character traits of sincerity, generosity, service, self-control, gentleness and honesty are but a few he names. With these words of counsel in Paul’s letter to Timothy and other scriptural resources, we have ample knowledge of how we should act as we share life together in our churches. What was true for Timothy and his community of faith is true today for us: our ongoing challenge is moving from knowledge to practice.

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