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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: June 04, 2021
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome back to HBS.
Let’s review last week’s Bible lesson.
“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; (1 Timothy 3:1-3).
“This is a true saying” - Paul has just written that women are not to hold positions of spiritual authority in the churches, but he did not want to leave the impression that just any man is qualified to be a bishop/elder/pastor. Plainly said, no man is qualified to be a spiritual leader simply because he’s a man.
“if a man desire the office of a bishop - the office Paul described is that of a bishop. An elder and a bishop were basically the same thing, but the bishop was the "office” i.e., the position of authority. The "elder" was the man. Although today’s religious culture has given us an unwarranted idea of what a bishop is, the word bishop in the N.T. Greek is episkopos which literally means an overseer.
“He desireth a good work (kalos)” - the idea isn’t good for you necessarily. The notion expressed here is more like this: “This is a good, noble, and honorable work, so Timothy, you need to look for good, noble, honorable men.” The bishops in Scripture were given general, and especially moral and spiritual oversight of the church with one of their number as their leader (Acts 20:17; 1 Timothy 1:3). But nowhere in Paul’s epistles does he assign any special titles to the office of overseer, such as archbishop, cardinal, or pope. This clearly teaches us the grace church isn’t all about obtaining titles, honor, and glory; it about “work;” the overseer is a “workman” who works closely with the other overseers in the local Church (Mark 9:35).
“A bishop then must be…” - God has specific qualifications for leaders in the Church. These men are not to be chosen at random, just because they volunteered for the office, or because they aspire to the position because they appear to be natural leaders. Clearly, what qualifies a man for spiritual leadership is godly character (godliness) and godly character established according to the criteria Paul’s about to outline. I should point out this is not a rigid list which demands perfection in all areas; they are goals the pastor-to-be is to reach for and general criteria for “the office of a bishop.”
Qualifications for A Bishop
“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;”
To save time I’m not going to explain each one of the above qualifications again. Please review last week’s Bible lesson for that information. Let’s move on to the criteria or standards yet unexplained in verses 3:4-7:
“…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 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.”
“One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; - the teaching not implied here is that the man that occupies the office of a bishop must be married and have a family. You won’t find that concept taught anywhere in Paul’s writings. Men add it to this verse, but in doing so contradict Paul’s teaching on the subject. He merely assumes that most bishops-to-be are not like him; that is, they are married men with families. This being the case, they should “ruleth” their households well, “having his children in subjection with all gravity;” that is, they are not to be constantly indulging (spoiling) their children but are to discipline them wisely, firmly, and above all lovingly. This is a basic requirement for Paul then adds a parenthetical statement, “(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (3:5).
Considering these two verses together, Paul gives the local Church a general guideline to follow in the appointment of a ruling elder or pastor. The word “ruleth” here has the idea of one who presides over his home not as a tyrant by as a God-fearing, loving parent. A husband and father who upholds his God-given responsibility in his own house demonstrates he’s a good candidate to serve the household of God for leadership begins in the home. Paul adds a caveat here saying if a man cannot manage his own family it is unlikely he will be an effective leader in the Church.
The Plurality Of The Office Of A Bishop
According to Scripture, the role of a husband/father is to serve as a household manager, and a wise household manager understands the importance of delegating authority in the home. For instance, if his wife is organized and enjoys working with the budget he may ask her to manage their financial affairs. He also takes the initiative to assign each of his children specific chores in the home not just to help ease the burden on mom and dad but also to teach them how to be responsible in the “little things,” so that later on in life they can manage “the bigger things,” to the glory of God. The same is true in the local assembly. Although some folks believe their pastor is capable of doing everything himself, I point out, again, he’s human. Ask yourself, can you do everything in your home? You might try but I assure you your shortcomings will soon be realized. The pastor, like any one of us, is not superman. He’s given to infirmities and if over-worked will soon become acquainted with bouts of exhaustion from trying to cram 28 hours of labor into a 24-hour day. It’s little wonder, then, that the most effective pastors in the ministry are adept at delegating authority to others who are suited for the task.
The consistent pattern throughout the N.T. is that each local assembly is led by a plurality of elders. Simply stated, this is the only pattern for church leadership given in the N.T. Nowhere in Scripture does one find a local church managed by a single pastor. For example, Paul left pastor Titus in Crete and instructed him to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). When Paul and Barnabas were in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, they “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, he referred to “the elders (plural) who rule well” at the church at Ephesus (1 Timothy 5:17; see also Acts 20:17 where Paul addresses “the elders of the church” at Ephesus). Again and again, in Paul’s epistles, reference is made to a plurality of elders in each of the local churches. The leading elder is not, I repeat, not to be a one-man-band, so to speak.
“Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into condemnation of the devil.”
“Not a novice” – the term “novice” does not appear anywhere else in the N.T. but here. I also want to point out up until this point Paul has discussed what the bishop should and should not be, and what he should and should not do, but here he states clearly “a novice” should not be considered for this position. That’s because the term “novice” means “newly planted,” that is, “one new to the faith.” Said differently, the office of a bishop should not be open to the very young (immature) and untested. This serves to explain why the bishop is also referred to as an “elder” in Scripture (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:5-7).
New Believers are not prepared to lead other Believers. This truth involves more than just their knowledge of God’s Word, rightly divided, it also speaks to their maturity. We live in an age where men (ill-prepared for this office) are given positions of great responsibility. The result, all too often, is that the young man becomes over-confident and, “lifted up with pride he falls into the condemnation of the devil” (3:6). That is, the same kind of “condemnation” which the devil fell into; to wit, “condemnation” on account of “pride” (Isaiah 14:12-17), and sought, successfully I might add, to instill “pride” into the human race (Genesis 3:1-5). Thus, “pride” is a devasting obstacle to one’s service or ministry in “the cause of Christ”(Philippians 1:13; Philemon 1:23). Meaning, they are acting as a faithful steward of God’s mission to reach the lost (unsaved) with “the gospel of the grace of God.” The meaning is similar to Romans 1:16 where Paul said, “ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (or Gentile nations).”
The most mature Believer wrestles with temptation (Romans 7:18–20). Even the Lord Jesus Christ faced Satan's temptations (Matthew 4:1–11), but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). The tried and tested Believer is better equipped to teach and equip members of the Church. That’s because they have practical experience (wisdom) having dealt with the temptations and stresses one is likely to encounter in life. They are also more aware of their own weaknesses, so they are less likely to become arrogant or prideful. For these reasons, a person who is “newly planted” in their faith should not be given spiritual authority over others.
“Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” – it’s a true saying that in these “last days” many people “despise those that are good” or those who prefer to live a life that pleases God (2 Timothy 3:3). But the character traits of honesty, integrity, and kindness, in one’s conduct do bear fruit. They give a man a good name, and per Scripture, “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1).
Even a mature Believer with a bad name, i.e., reputation, leaves himself open to reproach and Satanic temptations to cover-up his tarnished record. Hence the importance of living a life that will earn the respect, not only of fellow-Believers, but also “of them that are without,” that is, the unsaved.
I apologize for the shortened lesson this week, but because of health issues I am unable to take this lesson any further. When next we meet, we’ll learn what Paul has to say about the qualifications for the office of a deacon which includes their “reputation” or character. Until then, stay safe, stay in God’s Word, rightly divided, and please check my words to ensure they line-up with what God has said in this dispensation, pray for all the saints, and those who are yet unsaved for God would have everyone come to “the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
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