Remember from chapter one there were some pastors of the Ephesian church that were teaching wrong things. That negatively affected public worship, so Paul gave instructions regarding that in chapter two. Here in chapter three Paul then directs Timothy’s attention to the necessary requirements for church leadership (pastors and deacons), the very ones involved in wrong teaching. In the NT pastors are also called elders and overseers/bishops (see how these three titles are used interchangeably for the same man in Acts 20:17, 29; 1 Pet 5:1-2).
Overseers must be godly men who can teach and care for the church (vv. 1-7). Note that the requirements to be a pastor nearly all deal with Christ-likeness in character and home relations. The only requirement that is not character-related is being able to teach (v. 2). While every Christian should be able to teach truth to others (Heb 5:12), teaching here (v. 2) is a spiritual gift from God enabling a man to publicly explain the Word so others can understand it.
Deacons must be godly men and good managers (vv. 8-13). Though deacons’ primary ministry deals with the church’s physical needs (cf. Acts 6:1-6), that still requires Christ-like character in every aspect of life. It is best to understand verse 11 as referring to the wives of deacons rather than female deacons, as before and after verse 11 deacons’ characteristics are addressed.
Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On
- Pastors must be men, not women. This is clearly specified in 2:12 and 3:1-2. Just because some women could do the work of a pastor doesn’t mean they should. God gives Christians gifts and abilities to use in the areas he ordains them to be used in.
- Every Christian should strive to have the Christ-like characteristics of godliness necessary for pastors and deacons. You don’t need a position to be Christ-like! In fact, if someone doesn’t have Christ-like character he shouldn’t have a position of leadership.
- The character and purpose of the church demands proper conduct in the church (3:15). “Pillar and ground of the truth” points to the purpose of the church, to declare and defend Christian truth. Christians must be serious about the house of the living God!