Also available as MP3: The Makings of a Pastor – 1 Timothy 3:1-3
A man must “desire” to be a spiritual leader like a pastor, which is what the word “bishop” signifies. One of the problems with saying God calls some men to the ministry and not others is that most pastors don’t know the mystery. Does it make sense that God called them? What He really does is use His Word to instill a desire in men to be a pastor, and if he doesn’t know the mystery before he enters the ministry, it is God’s will that he come to a knowledge of that truth after (ITim.2:4).
Paul calls the ministry an “office” (3:1), a position of authority, usually public. The priesthood was an office (Ex. 28:1), and Israel also had officers who ruled in civil matters (Deut.16:18). Being an apostle was considered an office (Rom.11:13), but Peter called Judas’ office a “bishoprick” (Acts 1:20). But Paul can’t be talking about desiring the office of an apostle, for apostles were chosen (Luke 6:13). From the rest of what Paul says in this passage it is obvious that the “bishops” he had in mind were pastors.
Pastors must be “blameless” (3:1), or saved, as the word is used in I Corinthians 1:8. What else would you expect to find at the top of the list of qualifications for a pastor? But in the parallel passage Paul told Pastor Titus that a pastor must be “blameless, as the steward of God” (Tit.1;7). Stewards were servants whom the master or lord put in charge of dispensing things to the other servants (Mt.20:8; Lu.12:42). Pastors are in charge of dispensing “the mysteries of God” (ICor.4:1). They must be “faithful” in this (v.2) and blameless in it.
“Husband of one wife” doesn’t mean a pastor can’t be divorced and remarried. “Wife of one man” (ITim.5:9) can’t disallow women who were widowed and remarried, it must mean she had to have been the wife of one man at a time. When a woman slept with a man she became his wife (Gen.16:3), so Paul is saying the church should help widows who weren’t married with a man on the side. And “husband of one wife” must mean the same. In saying this, Paul was announcing a dispensational change from the days of old when spiritual leaders often had a wife and a woman on the side, a concubine, or even many wives. That doesn’t mean a pastor has to be married any more than Verse 4 means he has to have kids. It means if he has kids he must rule them well and if he is married it must be to one wife.
A pastor must be “vigilant,” watchful of danger (IPe.5:8,9). Peter is talking about Antichrist in the Tribulation. Today Satan is “an angel of light” (IICor.11:14), but pastors must be vigilant of him in this lest men stray from the mysteries of God. Being “sober” helps with this (3:2), a word that just means a pastor must be serious about dispensing God’s mysteries, and not think too highly of himself (Rom.12:3).
Pastors must also be “of good behavior” 3:2, but not all are “given to hospitality.” This suggests that in the measure a man has these things, in that measure God can use him. For instance, God blesses all faithful teaching of His Word, but He can bless and use those who are “apt to teach” more (3:2). When spiritual gifts were given, some were given a gift of teaching (Rom.12:6,7), but since the gifts were gone by this time Paul said pastors must have an aptitude for teaching, an ability to give men joy by helping them understand God’s Word (Neh.8:8-10 cf. IICor.1:24).
Pastors can drink but can’t be “given to wine” (3:3), but if civil rulers shouldn’t drink (Pr.31:4,5) how much more spiritual leaders. The most sanctified people in the Bible didn’t drink (Num.6:2,3). Paul announces another dispensational change when he says pastors can’t be strikers (3:3 cf. Neh.13:25). Being “greedy of filthy lucre” (3:3) often leads to other sins (Pr.1:18,19). Pastors must be “patient” (3:3) because people are slow! There’s a reason Paul compares the ministry to the planting and watering and waiting of farming! “Brawlers” are noisy quarrelers (Pr.21:9), and pastors who are passionate about the Word must be careful not to let discussions degenerate into doctrinal brawls.
Finally, pastors can’t be “covetous” because the truth is never popular, and covetous men might stop preaching it to be paid more to buy the things they covet. May it never be so among grace pastors!