Online Bible Commentary
Qualifications of a Pastor
1Timothy 3:1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (NKJV)
The letter of 1 Timothy is part of what is known as the Pastoral Epistles. The other two Pastoral Epistles are 2 Timothy and Titus
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter about AD 63 to Timothy who was ministering at the church in Ephesus. It is believed that this was Paul’s first, of four, letters using a new scribe (an amanuensis), Luke.
It is believed by this writer that Paul wrote this letter from Philippi, in Macedonia. Paul previously wrote “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia – remain in Ephesus” (1 Timothy 1:3). Other possible places of writing are Spain or Hierapolis.
This letter is a personal letter from one minister to another. Ministers typically relate differently to other ministers than they would to others. Therefore, this letter is different than Paul’s previous letters to churches.
It is also different in that Luke’s style of writing is more classical Greek than that of previous amanuensis’. Luke had more and more influence on Paul’s writings, especially his last two, 2 Timothy and Hebrews.
During the time of his last two letters Paul was living in squalid conditions at Mamertine Prison in Rome. We believe that he needed to rely more heavily on Luke because of Paul’s terrible living conditions at the time.
In this passage, Paul continues with instructions for prayer and worship, just as he had done previously when addressing the roles for both men and women in worship. These instructions, in many ways, follow the instructions for Christian living addressed throughout the Bible. Proper interpretation of any verse depends on its context in the passage, in the book of the Bible, and in the teachings of the Bible on the whole.
This passage begins with the second of five “faithful sayings” found in the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus). A faithful saying is emphasized by Paul to call attention to its special significance.
Paul writes “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work” (v. 1). He states that being a “bishop” is a “good work”. It is a work of honor for he who “desires” it, through the calling of the Lord.
The word translated “bishop” is the Greek word “episkope” which means “a place of leadership”. In this case, Paul is referring to those “elders” who lead the house churches, some of whom have resorted to false teaching. So, these are qualifications for pastors and others who would lead, or shepherd a flock.
Paul continues with “A bishop then must be blameless” (v.2a). A pastor must be above reproach, regarding their integrity. This is a summarization of the specific qualifications that follow.
The first qualification is that a pastor must be “the husband of one wife” (v.2b). Paul was not married, and likely also young Timothy. So, this statement does not mean that the pastor must be married.
Also, since divorce is allowed in the Bible in the event of adultery (Mt. 19:9), abandonment (1 Cor. 7:15), or abuse (Mt. 10:23), it does not mean that the pastor must not be divorced. It means that the pastor must be a man, a reference to the previous passage, and that he should only have one wife if he is married.
Next, Paul writes that the pastor must be “temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable” (v. 2c). This has to do with the overall disposition of the pastor.
He must not be one prone to temper tantrums, or any other lack of self control. He should be well respected and friendly. The word “temperate” does not have to do with alcohol intake, as that is addressed later in the sentence.
Paul continues with “able to teach” (v. 2d). a pastor should also be able to teach, although likely his dominant spiritual gift is that of a pastor, or shepherd.
Next, Paul writes “not given to wine” (v. 3a). If a pastor drinks, he must not drink to excess, a general teaching of the Bible.
Paul continues with “not violent” (v. 3b). A pastor must not partake in aggressive behavior that damages people or property.
Next, Paul writes “not greedy for money” (v. 3c). A pastor’s goal should be to follow Christ, not the ways of the world.
Paul continues with “but gentle, not quarrelsome” (v. 3d). A pastor must be gentle and not prone to arguments.
Paul completes verse three with “not covetous” (v. 3e). A pastor must not yearn for that which belongs to others.
Paul continues with “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (vv. 4-5). Since a pastor must be able to manage his flock, he must first be able to manage those under his care at home.
The meaning of verses four and five is that a pastor must “rule” over or manage only those family members under his own roof, under his own control. Therefore, his children, who are living in his house, must be respectful and obedient.
Paul writes “not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (v. 6). A pastor must not be a recent convert, who more often falls into pride and false teaching.
In conclusion, Paul writes “Moreover, he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (v. 7). A pastor must have a good reputation outside the church, so as not to bring disgrace upon the church through his public sins. Also, he must mind his actions and behaviors so as not to fall under the influence of Satan.