1 Timothy 3:1-2 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach

As we begin to look at what a biblical elder or pastor looks like, it is important to remember these words from John Calvin, “In this the ancient church followed Paul’s prescription and the examples of the apostles. Their custom was, with highest reverence and with earnest calling upon God’s name, to meet to choose pastors. Moreover, they had a form of examination in which they tested by the standard of Paul the life and teaching of those to be chosen. But they sinned somewhat in their excessive severity, because they wished to require more in a bishop than Paul would require (1 Tim. 3:2-7).” [Calvin, Institutes, 4.4.10] 

If the ancient church sinned by practicing excessive severity (testing by the biblical standards and adding a bunch more), the error of the church of the 21st century is excessive leniancy. That is, the only standard that most churches examine today is found in verse 1 of 1 Tim. 3, “If anyone desires.” The only test for the candidate anymore seems to be that he is willing, so we’ll ordain him. Charles Spurgeon famously refused to be ordain because he was afraid it would be empty hands on empty heads. Spurgeon was a wise man. The first qualification for any may who desires the office of elder/overseer is that he be above reproach. The man who is going to serve as an elder in the church of God must be above criticism, beyond being able to be accused of anything by another. This does not mean he is to be perfect, nor does it disallow for those to be elders who are falsely accused. The apostle Paul is falsely accused throughout the book of Acts and was certainly not disqualified from his ministry because of it. (see Acts 25:8)

Any man who is going to serve as a pastor or elder needs to have the reputation of being a man who lives under the grace of God for the glory of God. That’s what it means to be above reproach. It doesn’t mean that you find men who “have it all together”, rather you find men who know that they don’t have it together and they throw themselves upon the mercy of Jesus Christ. That’s who you want leading your church. Up next, elders are to be the husband of one wife. And here’s a clue, this doesn’t refer to divorce. See you next week!

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