A Bishop Then Must Be…
Unless you are an elder in a local church, you may be tempted to sketch over as irrelevant the qualities of a ‘bishop’ (overseer) delineated in 1 Timothy 3.1-7. But consider the following. Although these qualities will be outstanding in the spiritual overseer, essentially they should characterise every believer. Now that brings a whole new light and challenge to the passage. But think further. The Lord Jesus is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (1 Pet. 2.25) and thus the qualities shine brightest in Him. That is a study worthy of a little time and occupation!
Let’s consider two to get you started. But first, notice the exceptionally high standard throughout vv.2-7. Why? Because the ‘bishop’ (episkopon, overseer) has a God-given spiritual responsibility in the local assembly, which in First Timothy is emphasised as the House of God (1 Tim. 3.15). All believers, and especially the oversight, must therefore live according to the dignity of the sphere in which they worship and serve. This is God’s house; thus they must be marked by godliness.
1. Blameless (v.2). The spiritual overseer must be ‘above reproach’. Literally, the Greek reads ‘one who cannot be laid hold upon’ or ‘accused’. Just like Daniel, ‘none occasion or fault’ can be found in such an individual (Dan. 6.4). Clearly it is incumbent upon us all to live outstanding, morally upright lives. And what a perfect example the Lord Jesus has set. No justifiable charge could be laid to His account; there was nothing in Him upon which the prince of this world could hold (John 14.30).
2. Husband of one wife (v.2). That should catch the attention! Again, the literal Greek reads ‘a one woman man’ with the emphasis falling on the word ‘one’. If the overseer is married, he is a loyal and faithful husband to his one wife. Of course this rules out polygamy and bigamy, but this was not a major issue in first century Ephesus. Rather the emphasis lies upon maintaining sexual purity in a culture where marital infidelity was common. Again, we feel the challenge in our own lives. But what about the Lord Jesus? How does this apply to Him? He is the perfect example of faithfulness and fidelity to His Father. He came to do the Father’s will (Heb. 10.7); the Lord God opened His ear, and He was not rebellious, neither turned away back (Isa. 50.5). Only He could say ‘I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do’ (John 17.4).
I submit that every one of these qualities contained within vv.2-7 can be profitably applied not just to the spiritual overseer, but also to the life of every Christian – whilst being perfectly exemplified in the life of Christ. Take up the challenge and meditate on the others!