Thursday, October 27, 2022

2022.10.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Timothy 3:3

Read 1 Timothy 3:3

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the first thing that this verse says that an overseer must not be? What is the second thing he must not be? What is the third? What positive characteristic is set over-against these first three? What is the fourth thing that he must not be? What is the fifth?

What must an overseer not be? 1 Timothy 3:3 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that overseers must not be those who are controlled by wine, force, rapacity, antagonism, or avarice.

Last week, we noted that for the “good work” to which a bishop is called in 1 Timothy 3:1, he must be qualified by the set of characteristics in 1 Timothy 3:2. Several of those characteristics (temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior) require a great deal of self-control. But if a man is to be controlled by the Spirit, controlled by good doctrine, controlled by a gold heart, then there are a number of other things that he mustn’t be controlled by. 1 Timothy 3:3 now gives us a representative (not exhaustive) list: wine, force, rapacity, antagonism, and avarice.

Not controlled by wine. Our “greedy for wine” is translating just one word from the original. The same is true of “greedy for money,” so that the original has an even more abrupt, staccato, rapid-fire feel. The first thing an overseer mustn’t be is wine-controlled—the kind of man who always has the wine in his hand, and if he doesn’t, he’s thinking about it. Any desire for pleasure may have the same effect—particularly in our entertainment-saturated, play-saturated, luxury-saturated, self-indulgent society. How can a man be devoted to good works if he’s obsessed with feeling good and enjoying himself?

Not controlled by “force.” Our translation’s “violence” describes a man who brute-forces things. He interacts with those over whom he has some controlling advantage, and he unhesitatingly uses it. It could be literal strength, in which he is physically violent. Or, it could be a position of authority or wealth. Such a man is a bully and unfit to do the work of shepherding. He probably thinks it’s best for everyone if he is in charge. He may indeed desire to be an overseer, but the church must avoid having him as one. 

Not controlled by “rapacity.” There are two “greed” words in this list. The first is one that combines the word “shameless” with the word for “gain.” This man is the ultimate pragmatist. He’s so focused on the end result that he’s willing to flex on how he gets there. What God sees or what God says to do isn’t as important to him as the profit or advantage that can be obtained (“gain” here is not limited to money). 

But an overseer is called to a work in which conscience before God is its own outcome, and he ought to be shepherding the flock to have that same mindset. This is expressed by the word “gentle” in our translation, which the text sets over-against the first three disqualifying characteristics. “Gentle” here expresses restraint of self in order to enable others. In Philippians 4:5, it was facilitated by the knowledge that the Lord is near, and that outcomes belong to Him. The eldership is no place for a pragmatist.

Not controlled by antagonism. Literally, the word is “unpeaceable.” We all know the type who just always has to raise an opposing point. The contrarian who will play devil’s advocate, even if he is in agreement. He’s not happy unless there’s debate. He thinks it’s his job in every situation to counterbalance what’s being said or done. An overseer will have to dispute at times, but “a disputer” should not be an overseer.

Not controlled by avarice. The second “greed” word is a negative form of the word “silver-lover.” The silver-lover is all about possessions. He might claim to be a lover of God and lover of people (what aspiring overseer doesn’t?), but he is exposed by his reluctance to open his hand or wallet when it’s time to help. An elder who rules well is worthy of double-honor (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17–18. He’s willing to give up lucrative time (or, in the case of the preacher/teacher, even a lucrative career) for the sake of the flock. He can’t be a money lover.

What objects or desires threaten to control you instead of love of God and love of others?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for the certainty that You both care for all our needs and work all things according to the counsel of Your will. Forgive us for being controlled by pleasure, or pragmatism, or possessions. Grant that the love of Christ would constrain us instead, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH1B “How Blest the Man”

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