“Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7).
In today’s media age of religious hucksters, self-promotional spiritual “experts,” and others who make merchandise of God’s Word, the importance of having a good testimony with those outside the church is more important than ever.
As used here in 1 Timothy 3:7, the word “testimony” is synonymous with one’s reputation among others. So this passage tells us that the office of a congregational overseer should be filled by a man who is recognized as a reputable person by those outside the church. Nevertheless, we should also recognize the difference between those who possess a good reputation and others who are simply popular.
You see, a good testimony is something that is generated by Godly character. On the other hand, “popularity” may result from many things, including those that may be inappropriate or dishonorable. The problem is that it is often difficult to be a truly God-honoring person and maintain lasting popularity in a world that has little use for the God of the Bible. As Jesus said in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you…”
However, it is possible to maintain a reputation for Godly character regardless of how others may view Christianity. For instance, a neighbor or coworker might acknowledge that we display the honorable characteristics of honesty, integrity, and virtue while simultaneously holding a far less charitable view of our relationship with Jesus or Christianity in general. These characteristics help us to represent Jesus in an appropriate manner and maintain a good testimony among others regardless of how they may view our spiritual beliefs.
In light of this. the Apostle Paul counseled Timothy (and modern-day readers by extension) to look for this quality in the lives of potential church leaders. Those who fail to do so will inevitably become entangled in various types of snares that reflect poorly upon Jesus and His church. These snares originate with the devil according to the passage quoted above and help provide an excuse for others to discredit the gospel or justify their personal inconsistencies.
This has led one commentary to offer an important observation…
“Paul’s emphasis on the untarnished reputation of the potential leader suggests a concern for the public perception of the church… Paul requires that leaders maintain a positive reputation inside and outside the community of believers. If not, their actions may become the subject of criticism and discredit the gospel message…” (1)
(1) Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Ti 3:1–7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.