Study 7 TEN QUALIFICATIONS FOR LEADERSHIP
PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 1 Timothy 3:1-13
It is not surprising that in this letter specific instructions are given concerning the kind of men who may hold positions of responsibility in the local Church. Paul was writing about Church leadership, as 1 Timothy 3:15 makes clear, and it is important that we secure the right leadership for God’s work. If the leaders are right the work will be blessed, but if the leaders are wrong the work will be hindered. God’s work is weak or strong according to the quality of those who are in positions of responsibility. If these things are true then not everyone is qualified to be in a position of leadership in spiritual work. What are the qualifications for leadership? What is God’s standard in this matter? In 1 Timothy 3:1-13 we are told about the qualifications for an “overseer” – verse 1, and a deacon – verses 8,10 and 12:-
1. A MAN WHO IS ABOVE REPROACH
Verse 2 says “An overseer…must be above reproach”. This does not mean ‘perfect’, otherwise there would be no overseers! Verse 7 explains that “he must have a good reputation with outsiders”. How important it is for a minister, a deacon, or any Church leader to have a clear testimony before the Church and the world – look up Romans 14:7!
2. A MAN OF UNQUESTIONED MORAL INTEGRITY
Verse 2 says, an “overseer…must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife…” Does this mean that a leader must be married only once? No. That he must not be a widower? No. That he must not be a polygamist? Yes. But it means more than this. It means that he must be a man of unquestioned morality, especially in regard to his relations with the opposite sex. There must be no immoral relationships of any kind. No-one whose marriage relationship is questionable, or whose attitude towards the opposite sex is careless should ever be given a position of responsibility in any part of God’s work.
3. A MAN OF CHRISTIAN GRACE AND SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE
Here we note the seven virtues or graces mentioned in verses 2 and 3:-
- (1) The word “temperate” (verse 2) means “disciplined”. Compare Ephesians 5:15.
- (2) The word “self-controlled” (verse 2) means living an orderly life.
- (3) The word “respectable” (verse 2) means “modest”.
- (4) The words “not given to drunkenness” (verse 3) mean literally “not one who lingers by the wine”. Paul does not say a leader must be a total abstainer, because wine was extensively used in those days, but he must be temperate. Today it is essential for all leaders to be men of firm convictions and of Christ-glorifying habits with regard to the matter of alcohol.
- (5) The words “not violent” (verse 3) mean “not quarrelsome or contentious”, a person who is very easily upset and who easily loses his temper.
- (6) The word “gentle” (verse 3) means “kind”, “peaceful”.
- (7) The words “not quarrelsome” (verse 3) mean “not contentious”, “not a controversialist”.
4. A MAN WHO IS GENEROUS-HEARTED AND HOSPITABLE
Verse 2 – “hospitable”. In the early Church this had a very special significance (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2). In those days Christians had to keep together, for they lived in a very hostile world. How necessary was the gift of hospitality! But a leader should not only have an open house but an open heart. He should be large-hearted, generous-hearted, like Onesiphorus – look up 2 Timothy 1:16; and like Barnabas – look up Acts 9:26-27.
5. A MAN WHO IS ABLE TO TEACH
Verse 2 – “able to teach” – that is, an overseer or a pastor must have a gift in preaching and teaching and be able to feed the flock!
6. A MAN WITH A RIGHT ATTITUDE TO MONEY
Verse 3 says, “not a lover of money”. A man’s character can often be judged by his attitude towards money and earthly possessions. Is he irrepressibly acquisitive? Has he a Judas-like attitude (look up John 12:6)? Is there any suspicion of sharp practice or dishonesty in his business affairs? – then do not even consider him for a position of responsibility in the Church.
7. A MAN WHO MANAGES HIS OWN FAMILY WELL
Verses 4 and 5 make this very clear, and what a powerful argument the apostle gives in verse 5! If a man is unable to manage his own domestic affairs how can he be expected to manage the affairs of the Church? (Galatians 6:1).
8. A MAN WHO IS SPIRITUALLY TAUGHT AND MATURE
Notice verses 6, 9 and 10. In verse 6 we are told that a recent convert should not be given a position of responsibility. This could do harm to the convert and to the work of God. Leaders need to be spiritually strong and not too young. Verse 9 indicates that a leader must have a firm hold on the truths of the faith. Verse 10 says that leaders should first be tested so that their gifts and qualities may be assessed. Only spiritually mature men are qualified for leadership.
9. A MAN OF OBVIOUS HUMILITY
We underline the words in verse 6, “or he may become conceited”, as a separate qualification because of its importance. The leader must not become proud. The Devil fell through pride, and how easy it is for any one of us to fall in the same way! – look up Micah 6:8; Matthew 18:4; Philippians 2:8; and 1 Peter 3:4 and 5:5-6.
10. A MAN WHO HAS THE RIGHT KIND OF WIFE
Notice carefully verse 11. A man’s wife can make him ineligible as an overseer or deacon. What kind of wife must a leader have? She must be: “worthy of respect, not a malicious talker, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”
These are the ten qualifications for leadership, and this is not our standard, nor that of Paul, but it is God’s. What an incentive there is to faithfulness in verse 13! – every faithful leader will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ.