At the end of his instructions to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3 on biblical qualifications for elders and deacons, Paul writes:

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

If we do not integrate these verses into our understanding of the biblical qualifications for leadership in the local church, then we will end up with a sterile list of check-boxes instead of indicators of vibrant gospel vitality. Paul’s conclusion to the list shows us that he is concerned for right behaviour in the household (oikos) of God, which, as in all households of the time depended to a great extent on those who led the households. He is concerned that this household, led by these leaders be, and be seen to be, the gathered people (ekklesia) of the living God, whose life shines forth as the church lives out her vocation of being a strongly founded, proudly erect bastion and clarion of the truth. And the truth in question is the mystery of godliness, which is the gospel which Paul rehearses from Jesus’ incarnation, through his death and resurrection by the Spirit, to his ascension and heavenly rule, the universal preaching of his Lordship and the faith of the universal church all the way through to the consummation of all things in glory. In other words, the biblical qualification for an elder par excellence is to love the Jesus of the gospel with all his heart and to live out the ramifications of that gospel in all of his life. And if we look at Titus, or Acts 20, or 1 Peter 5, we see exactly the same inner logic at work.

With this in mind, we can list the qualifications that Paul and Peter mention – not as an exhaustive list, I think, but as particular examples of how the gospel will be seen in their lives. A man is qualified for biblical leadership if…

1. …he lives out the gospel by seeing eldership as a noble task

1 Tim 3:1

The word translated as noble by the ESV (kalos) means good, beautiful. What could make the onerous, dangerous, tiring, stressful, difficult task of feeding and protecting God’s flock attractive so that it is to be desired? It is when we understand that it is a noble task, in the same way that Jesus considered it a noble task to give himself for his people as a ransom. For the joy set before him, he went to the cross. It is a task, but a noble one.

The elder or pastor must do nothing which contradicts the gospel, and must do everything which commends the gospel.

2. …he lives out the gospel by being above reproach

Titus 1:6, 7; 1 Tim 3:2

The elder or pastor in the church of the living God which is the pillar and foundation of the truth must not bring the gospel into disrepute. His life must be above reproach when considered from the point of view of the story of the gospel. He must do nothing which contradicts the gospel, and must do everything which commends the gospel. This idea is teased out in the examples that follow.

3. …he lives out the gospel in his marriage

For those that are married, a man’s fidelity to and love for his wife is a clear outworking of the gospel. As a husband, which is to say a servant leader (Mark 10:42-45) he gives his life for his bride as Christ does (Eph 5:22ff) and he cares for her as Christ cares for his body (Eph 5).  He knows about his wife’s progress in holiness and struggles with sins and is able to pastor her effectively towards joy in Christ. He is as faithful to the one he married as God is to his people. His love is as exclusive as God’s is for his people. He is as committed to her total well-being and flourishing as God is to his people.

4. …he lives out the gospel in his family

1 Tim 3:4; Titus 1:6

As parents submit to God as their heavenly Father, so children learn about God’s gospel initiative and responsibility for us from their parents and from their father in particular. As God orders and cares for the world, so fathers are called to order and care for their first realm of responsibility, their households. By the gospel, the church is the household of the living God, and as they live out the gospel, biblical elders model that at the scale of the family. For those that are fathers, a sign that this is happening is the obvious submission of the children who are still under his authority. This submission is lived out in the faithful observance of the gospel appropriate to their age and status, in response to the faithful gospel-teaching of the their father (Eph 6:4).

5. …he lives out the gospel as a steward of God’s resources

Titus 1:7

The gospel teaches us that everything is from God, to God and for God! What do we have that we did not receive? My gifts, my office, my function and my responsibilities in God’s economy are all from him, for him and to him and I am simply to steward them as resources that he has given me for his glory and the growth of his kingdom on earth.

6. …he lives out the gospel in all humility

Titus 1:7

The gospel excludes all arrogance, because we are saved by grace through faith, so that no-one can boast.

The gospel excludes all arrogance, because we are saved by grace through faith, so that no-one can boast. Humility characterises the life of a biblical leader both as he is before God, and as he is in himself and in relation to other people. Humility needs to be displayed. His gentleness should be obvious to all. He shows this humility by listening well, by repenting well, by seeking to restore people and relationships gently, by taking responsibility and refusing to shift blame. His humility reminds him daily that it is a noble task he has shouldered.

7. …he lives out the gospel in all gentleness

Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3

Calvin reminds us that if we seek gentleness, we should look in the crib where Jesus lay. The gospel leader is gentle because Jesus was gentle and he draws his gentleness from the gospel. What is there in common between quick-temperedness and the gospel? Does not the patience of God towards us teach us a deep patience towards others?

8. …he lives out the gospel in his independence of substances

Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3

Our joy comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit, not the exuberance of alcohol. We are free, which means free to say yes, in moderation, and free to say no. If the expression of our liberty in Christ consists only ever in saying yes to alcohol, for example, or any other luxury, then we are a slave of indulgence just as much as those who legalistically refrain are a slave of asceticism. Any and all addictive behaviours are acts of unbelief in the gospel as the source of abundant life.

9. …he lives out the gospel through actively pursuing peace

Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3

Jesus is our peace, he came to make peace, he came to preach peace, and his ministers fold their personal and public lives into the perfect example of the Prince of Peace.

10. …he lives out the gospel through financial integrity and generosity

Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3

When we understand that Jesus, though infinitely rich, yet for our sakes became poor, then financial gain cannot be our motivation in ministry. Integrity is a minimum, but generous investment in the kingdom of God is much more in the spirit of the gospel. It is also the only sure demonstration that we are not pursuing financial gain.

11. …he lives out the gospel through radical hospitality

Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2

Generosity and freedom with money follows through to an open home, hospitable and welcoming. Not only for those who are like us, but for those who are strangers in every way, and especially strangers to the gospel and the household of God. Because God has welcomed me into his home and given me a place at his table through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, then as I preach that gospel I surely can’t do the opposite!

12. …he lives out the gospel through pursuing the good

Titus 1:8

If Jesus came and died to crush the serpent and all his works; if he came and lived to fulfil all righteousness; if he rose again to restore all thing to their original created goodness and beauty – and to surpass it – then gospel-saturated leaders love what is good, because that is at the centre of the rescue plan that God has put into motion in the gospel.

13. …he lives out the gospel through self-control

Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2

Believing the gospel is death to self and sin. To use a sporting image, believing the gospel fully and moment-by-moment, gives us that extra split-second ‘on the ball’: where other players rush and miss-time, gospel leaders are expected to be self-controlled through the gospel. To the extent that we are daily conscious of the gospel in our lives, the Holy Spirit is at work in us, and to that extent, we are self-controlled because we control the selfish self.

14. …he lives out the gospel through integrity

Titus 1:8

The gospel restores wholeness, which is what integrity is. It joins together what sin has rent asunder, namely our reason and our will, and unites both under the Lordship of Jesus. He gives us to will and to do what is pleasing in a constant, consistent manner, so that we are dependable, poised and predictable in the good sense of the word. Integrity is a gospel characteristic.

15. …he lives out the gospel through holiness

Titus 1:8

Without holiness we will not see God.

Without holiness we will not see God. In the gospel God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Jesus came because we were not – either as Israel, or as the nations – holy. He was holy and he came to make us holy – set apart for God, distinctive and salty. Holy is not a random idea disconnected from the gospel of grace in Jesus, but right at the heart of our story of redemption.

16. …he lives out the gospel through increasing maturity

1 Tim 3:6

Immaturity is seen by conceit and arrogance. The Devil is the epitome of immaturity and pride. Maturity is seen in increasing humility, and is an ongoing affair. The more the gospel of God’s electing grace and undeserved mercy penetrates my heart, the more I grow into maturity and humility. In general, this will mean the younger the convert, the less qualified he is, because he will see eldership or the pastorate, not as a noble task, but as a badge of honour.  But older converts, alas, can be immature & conceited and younger converts can be mature and humble beyond their years.

17. …he lives out the gospel through a disciplined approach to life

Titus 1:8

Discipline, details, forward-planning, strategies, tactics, projects, objectives, logistics, organisation – what has the gospel got to do with all that? The gospel is the most detailed, strategic plan ever put into action. Eternity itself was needed for the conception and execution of this plan. And the fact that it was planned does not make it unspiritual, because the application of the plan to the life of the church was the Holy Spirit’s remit. Yes, life can be messy, and spiritual life can start out messy, but it is not intended to stay that way – we are still called to cultivate and guard the garden.

18. …he lives out the gospel everywhere

1 Tim 3:7

Like the early church, the man who lives out the gospel in day-to-day life as we have described, will receive the favour of the people, he will be well-thought of and respected as a general rule, because of his good deeds springing from a good attitude and a good heart. Of course, there will be calumny and persecution, and men will call evil good and good evil as society declines: but where he is known for who he is, the gospel leader will have a good reputation.

19. …he lives out the gospel in the church

1 Peter 5:3

Gospel-exemplarity is how Peter sums up how under-shepherds are to behave in his letter. This wonderful catch-all phrase corresponds to Paul’s above reproach. Think of an area of life. The leaders of God’s church are to show gospel exemplarity in that area. And in all the others. They have become experts at applying the gospel to all areas of life. Do we doubt that Peter’s logic is as gospel centered as Paul’s in 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 2 and 3? Listen to how he introduces his teaching on elders: So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed… The exhortation to the elders is an explicitly gospel-fuelled exhortation!

20. …he lives out the gospel through making it plain

Titus 1:9; 1 Tim 3:2; Acts 20.1-38; Ephesians 4.11; 1 Peter 5.1-14

He who lives according to the gospel, who has the gospel coursing through his veins as it were, and lives it out in all the ways we have seen is uniquely equipped to teach it to others, to feed the flock, to urge and correct, to equip all members of the church to serve and to speak the truth in love to each other so that the gospel runs and is glorified, so that the church is built up in love. But this teaching is never merely informational and theoretical. It is deeply embedded in a life of gospel practice, as we have seen. The one who is called to lay down his life for the church as Jesus did learns day by day how the gospel transforms daily life in community and mission, and passes it on passionately and transformationally. He is aware of his need to repent and repent and repent again; to believe again in the great mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

Written by: on fevereiro 16, 2016