Archive for December 25th, 2006

Ministers and Elders Must Have a Good Report of the Church and the World

Monday, December 25th, 2006

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 behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

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 the 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. (1 Timothy 3:1-7) (Emphasis added)

There are some who insist that ministers and elders are not subject to “the court of public opinion.” The Bible tells us, however, that the elders must be blameless, not only before the church, but also before “them which are without”, society in general. It is not scandalous to make known the words and deeds of elders. The Christian church is not a secret society whose leaders must be sheltered from the public eye. Matters of doctrine, subordinate standards, and church business such as excommunications – All of these ecclesiastical matters are public, and should be able to sustain public scrutiny.

Matthew Henry, in his Commentary on the above verses, writes:

II. In order to the discharge of this office, the doing of this work, the workman must be qualified.

1. A minister must be blameless, he must not lie under any scandal; he must give as little occasion for blame as can be, because this would be a prejudice to his ministry and would reflect reproach upon his office. (Emphasis added.)

2. He must be the husband of one wife; not having given a bill of divorce to one, and then taken another, or not having many wives at once, as at that time was too common both among Jews and Gentiles, especially among the Gentiles.

3. He must be vigilant and watchful against Satan, that subtle enemy; he must watch over himself, and the souls of those who are committed to his charge, of whom having taken the oversight, he must improve all opportunities of doing them good. A minister ought to be vigilant, because our adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, 1 Pt. 5:8.

4. He must be sober, temperate, moderate in all his actions, and in the use of all creature-comforts. Sobriety and watchfulness are often in scripture put together, because they mutually befriend one another: Be sober, be vigilant.

5. He must be of good behaviour, composed and solid, and not light, vain, and frothy.

6. He must be given to hospitality, open-handed to strangers, and ready to entertain them according to his ability, as one who does not set his heart upon the wealth of the world and who is a true lover of his brethren.

7. Apt to teach. Therefore this is a preaching bishop whom Paul describes, one who is both able and willing to communicate to others the knowledge which God has given him, one who is fit to teach and ready to take all opportunities of giving instructions, who is himself well instructed in the things of the kingdom of heaven, and is communicative of what he knows to others.

8. No drunkard: Not given to wine. The priests were not to drink wine when they went in to minister (Lev. 10:8, 9), lest they should drink and pervert the law.

9. No striker; one who is not quarrelsome, nor apt to use violence to any, but does every thing with mildness, love, and gentleness. The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle towards all, etc., 2 Tim. 2:24.

10. One who is not greedy of filthy lucre, who does not make his ministry to truckle to any secular design or interest, who uses no mean, base, sordid ways of getting money, who is dead to the wealth of this world, lives above it, and makes it appear he is so.

11. He must be patient, and not a brawler, of a mild disposition. Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, is so. Not apt to be angry or quarrelsome; as not a striker with his hands, so not a brawler with his tongue; for how shall men teach others to govern their tongues who do not make conscience of keeping them under good government themselves?

12. Not covetous. Covetousness is bad in any, but it is worst in a minister, whose calling leads him to converse so much with another world.

13. He must be one who keeps his family in good order: That rules well his own house, that he may set a good example to other masters of families to do so too, and that he may thereby give a proof of his ability to take care of the church of God: For, if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God. Observe, The families of ministers ought to be examples of good to all others families. Ministers must have their children in subjection; then it is the duty of ministers’ children to submit to the instructions that are given them.—With all gravity. The best way to keep inferiors in subjection, is to be grave with them. Not having his children in subjection with all austerity, but with all gravity.

14. He must not be a novice, not one newly brought to the Christian religion, or not one who is but meanly instructed in it, who knows no more of religion than the surface of it, for such a one is apt to be lifted up with pride: the more ignorant men are the more proud they are: Lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil. The devils fell through pride, which is a good reason why we should take heed of pride, because it is a sin that turned angels into devils.

15. He must be of good reputation among his neighbours, and under no reproach from former conversation; for the devil will make use of that to ensnare others, and work in them an aversion to the doctrine of Christ preached by those who have not had a good report. (Emphasis added.)