“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2 ESV).
1 Timothy 3:2 continues with two additional qualities that should identify the life of a church overseer: temperance and self-control. The word “temperance” conveys the following idea: “abstaining from wine, either entirely or at least from its immoderate use.” (1) This first-century counsel makes good sense from a 21st century perspective for alcohol is widely recognized today as a depressant. As such, it serves to depress one’s capacity to make wise decisions and demonstrate good judgment.
With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why a pastoral leader should exercise temperance. Although the Scriptures do not mandate complete abstinence from alcohol (John 2:1-11, 1 Timothy 5:23), a decision to voluntarily limit one’s freedom in this area will place a congregational leader in an appropriate position to minister to others.
In fact, we can apply this guidance to more than just alcohol. You see, this word is also used to describe those who are vigilant and circumspect. In light of this, we can expand these parameters to include anything that may potentially hinder, impair, or cloud an overseer’s judgment.
Next comes self-controlled. This phrase refers to the act of “…curbing one’s desires and impulses.” (2) The implication is that a pastor should exercise discretion when interacting with others or airing his opinions, feelings, or views.
That brings us to the next quality of an overseer: respectable. This word is associated with the idea of order and decorum in one’s behavior and appearance. So much like the links in a chain, these characteristics present the image of a person who possesses the internal and external qualities of discipline, propriety, and composure in seeking to lead the people of God.
The next characteristic involves hospitality. One commentator explains what this meant in a first-century context…
“…the hospitality referred to here is not of the kind which says, ‘Come over for dinner and let us have a good time. Some day you will return the favor and I will enjoy your hospitality.’ The hospitality spoken of here found its occasion in the fact that in the days of the great Roman persecutions, Christians were banished and persecuted, and rendered homeless.
Or, in the case of travelling preachers and teachers, ministering from church to church, these servants of God were to be received and cared for by the bishop. Or, because in the early centuries, the local churches had no church edifice in which to worship, the church met in the home of an individual. The bishop should be glad to thus open his home for this purpose.” (3)
(1) G3524 nephalios Thayer’s Greek Definitions https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g3524
(2) G4998 sophron Thayer’s Greek Definitions https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g4998
(3) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (1 Timothy 3:2) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.