Passage: 1 Timothy 3:1-13
Speaker: Mitch Kim
Series: Truth Over Spin
Character Of Leaders
What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you want to be a doctor or police officer, a writer or an artist, a mom or dad, teacher or a musician? Our jobs or vocations don’t always line up with childhood dreams or any degrees we may have. Yet we have God-given callings that are just as important, if not more so, than the flavor of our daily work. As we turn to 1 Timothy chapter 3, we’ll see Paul describe the character needed to serve as an elder or deacon in the church, not as a self-serving desire to stratify the church between super-Christians and normal Christians, but to remind all of us what sorts of people we ought to become in order to care for one another as members of the household of God. Through this passage we’ll see that we are called to growth in our UPWARD, INWARD, and OUTWARD relationship with God (1 Tim. 3:1-3; 8-10) that we might care for the household of God (3:4-5; 11-12) with maturity and mission-mindedness (3:6-7).
First, we are called to grow in our UPWARD, INWARD, and OUTWARD relationship with God (3:1-3; 8-10). While not everyone in the church serves as an elder or deacon, it is good for all of us to pursue the character that would qualify us for these positions. Paul mostly outlines these positions not in terms of skill proficiencies, but character qualities across the spectrum of our relationship with God. We are called to the UPWARD glorification of God as we hear that we must be so grounded in his truth that we would be “able to teach” and to “hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience”. We need the INWARD work of the Holy Spirit to transform us from addictions like drunkenness or the love of money, to the self-controlled gentleness he provides. And we are called to the OUTWARD relationship God builds between us and others, offering hospitality, demonstrating the love of God to the strangers around us instead of greedily caring only about our own gain.
God calls us to growth in all these areas, not as a prerequisite to our relationship with him (that has been secured by Jesus’s death and resurrection on our behalf), but that we might care for the household of God (3:4-5; 11-12). Without these character traits our own households will implode in quarrelling, unfaithfulness, and a cold, lack of love. But as we cultivate the character Christ is growing in us, our households are transformed and we become ever more capable of blessing others as well. Paul describes the relationship of the elder with the church in terms of “managing” and “caring” for God’s household. So we too pursue God’s calling to grow in responsibility, faithfulness, gentleness, and love for the sake of God’s church.
Finally, we pursue these things not just for our own sake, nor even the church itself, but that the world might know Jesus. We are called to grow therefore also in maturity and mission-mindedness (3:6-7). Paul warns the church not to call a new Christian to the office of elder—despite whatever impressive beginnings they may have— because rocketing a new believer into a position of leadership sets them up for temptations to become conceited that will be difficult to defeat. The path of growth in Christ involves patience and time as he enables us to better deal with these temptations and others. Furthermore, we aim to be well thought of by outsiders (3:7), not as people pleasers nor emulating only character traits the world already affirms, but realizing that we are representatives of Christ in the world, and that our lives will serve as testimonies that either affirm or discredit the message we share about Jesus. It is an old, yet effective strategy of our enemy to bring down Christian leaders in order to discredit the church in the world. May we remember as we pursue the work of Christ in us that this is not just about harmony and peace in our homes for our comfort, nor even for the church community’s internal peace, but that the message of Christ would be received by those who do not yet trust him.
So what? Our childhood dreams or college diplomas may or may not line up with our present realities. But as long as we live we have growing to do in Christ, which will transform our homes, bless our church, and aid in reaching the world for Christ. As we serve our Lord faithfully, he blesses us superabundantly in standing and confidence with him (3:13). May we hear the call of our Lord and aspire to the transformation he is ready to do in us.