Character Counts

 Jumping into 1 Timothy 3, Paul takes a bit of a turn in the focus on the epistle. In the first couple of chapters, Paul explains to Timothy the structure of the church, opposing false teachings and provides instructions about how to worship. Here in Chapter 3, we move from external to internal character. 

And though this chapter focuses on overseers (also known as elders) and deacons, the characteristics that Paul lists are really characteristics all of us as Christ followers should be striving toward through time in the Word and time in prayer. In our teaching, we were encouraged to let these characteristics soak in, to think about which ones resonate with us as individuals. In what areas am I struggling or being challenged? How do these apply to me? How am I doing in these areas? And then take those thoughts to God in prayer.

We were also reminded that Paul is not looking for perfection when it comes to these characteristics. He’s looking for me who are on this path—devoted to God and allowing the Holy Spirit to direct him. While this chapter is about overseers and elders, who are charged with ensuring the church is on the right path spiritually, it’s also about the the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we are to witness and that is to be reflected in us.

It’s about directing people to Christ—not as people who are perfect, who know it all, who have it all together—but people who are devoted, who need God, who lean on God, who know their faults.

In outlying these characteristics, Paul hits on three spheres when men live: Church, family and work. These are three distinct spheres, yet interconnected, and Paul is letting Timothy—and us—know that whether at church, at home or in the world, we need to live that consistent life that’s based on and led by God’s word.

Chapter 3 begins with Paul’s second trustworthy statement of the epistle: “Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”

Looking at the words aspire, desire and noble, we can get a good sense of the importance of these positions of overseers—and why the bar regarding characteristics of these men is so high:

  • Aspire: To direct one’s hopes or ambitions toward achieving something.
  • Desire: A strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.
  • Noble: Having, showing or coming from personal qualities that people admire (such as honesty, generosity, courage, etc.)

The ambition and desire Paul speaks of isn’t rooted in selfishness; rather these are men who, through their time in the Word and through prayer, have a calling to serve in this capacity.

From here, Paul launches into the characteristics, which, at first glance would make us want to throw up your hands and say, “No way. I can’t do this.” And we’d be right. None of us are able to perfectly demonstrate these qualifications. It’s only through patience, effort and disciple, and through the Holy Spirit working in and through us, as we strive toward these.