“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;” (1 Timothy 3:2).
1 Timothy 3:2 begins a detailed list of qualifications for those who aspire to positions of spiritual oversight within the church. The first step in that process often begins with a desire to pursue such a work (1 Timothy 3:1). The distinguishing characteristics given to us in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 then go on to measure one’s fitness to act upon that desire.
In the words of one commentary, these qualities “…stress four main prerequisites: personal character, the witness of the home, teaching aptitude, and a measure of experience. These are God’s standards for any who would exercise spiritual leadership in the local church.” (1)
While things like education, experience, and communication proficiency are important, we should note that the qualifications given to us within this passage are primarily ethical in nature. We should also recognize that these attributes are not necessarily limited to those who are seeking leadership positions. Instead, all Christians should prayerfully strive to reflect these qualities.
So a person who aspires to the office of an overseer is someone who must first be above reproach (NIV). The Living Bible renders this passage in the following manner: “…a pastor must be a good man whose life cannot be spoken against.” This serves to identify the type of person who leads a life that cannot be justifiably criticized.
This does not mean that those who led sinful lives prior to coming to Christ are automatically disqualified from holding leadership positions. On the contrary, some of God’s greatest and most influential leaders were guilty of serious transgressions in their early years. For instance, Moses was guilty of murder while Paul the Apostle was an accessory to murder. Nevertheless, God transformed these men and enabled them to accomplish many great things despite the seriousness of their earlier crimes.
Instead, the context of this passage conveys the image of a lifestyle that offers “nothing that can be taken hold of.” In other words, a congregational leader’s way of life should not provide others with a “handle” that might allow them to make a legitimate accusation of wrongdoing or attack the church.
While the personality and temperament of a leader may limit or enhance his ability to minister to others, there should be no obvious character flaws, emotional issues, or other negative characteristics in his life that might potentially discredit Jesus or His church.
(1) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, C. Regarding Elders And Deacons (3-1-13) (3:2) pg.2150