Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Who Is Qualified to Be an Elder? A Careful Analysis of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (Part 5 of 5)

He must not be a recent convert, or he may
 become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6-7, ESV).
Another nonnegotiable is that a congregational overseer must not be “a recent convert” or “novice” (ASV, NKJV).1 Although no particular length of time from his conversion is specified and must therefore be assessed on a case-by-case basis,2 it ought to be “obvious” or “clearly evident” (5:25) when a man is mature enough in the faith to be ready for church leadership. Otherwise, if appointed prematurely, he may become puffed up with conceit,” “lifted up with pride” (KJV), “become arrogant” (ISV).3 From the noun tûphos (“smoke”), the literal sense of the verbal tuphóō is to blow smoke and cloud up the air, used metaphorically of having a muddled mindset, moral blindness from poor judgment that obscures spiritual perception. It blinds with prideful conceit, rendering a person unwise and foolish.4 “Pride gives a false sense of altitude, making the subsequent fall seem all the greater.”5
The all-too-common aftermath of arrogant pride is to “fall into the condemnation of the devil.” The noun kríma (28 occurrences in the NT) generally applies to “a condemnatory sentence” or “a penal judgment,” so the question is whether this (and the parallel or contrasting statement in v. 7) refers to the condemnation the devil enacts (subjective genitive), or the condemnation the devil receives from God (objective genitive)? Here in v. 6 (in contrast to v. 7), the condemnatory judgment seems most likely to be that which God metes out against the devil and those who follow his lead.6
Further, the overseer “must be well thought of by outsiders,” or “have a good report” (KJV), “a good testimony” (ASV, NKJV), “a good reputation” (CSB), “with those outside the church” (NASB), “so that he may not fall into disgrace ” This is vital to protect the Lord’s body from harmful allegations and unnecessary disruptions, “for the non-Christian world has generally respected the noble ideals of Christian character, but has persistently condemned professing Christians, particularly ministers and leaders, whose practice is at variance with profession”7 (cf. 1:19-20). 
All the listed qualities in this section relevant to observable behavior serve as a commendable example for fellow believers, but also a compelling testimony to the world.Disreputable leaders damage not only their own reputation but also the influence of the church, thereby falling “into a snare of the devil,” or “into the devil’s trap” (NIV).9 “It is a trap set by the devil when the behavior of the church’s leaders is such that outsiders will be disinclined to hear the gospel.”10
As shepherds of God’s flock (Acts 20:28), congregational overseers have the solemn duty of keeping watch over precious souls and will stand accountable on the day of judgment (Heb. 13:17). Such a daunting task is less daunting when members of the church are respectful, cooperative, and peaceable (1 Thess. 5:12-13). 
--Kevin L. Moore
     1 This is the only occurrence in the NT of the adj. neóphutos (lit. “newly planted,” or “neophyte”). Contrasting the established Ephesus church with the supposedly “new work” in Crete, Robert Utley tries to explain the absence of this qualification from the corresponding list in Titus by claiming it was unnecessary where “they were all new converts” (Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey 45). However, Utley not only reads too much into the silence of a single passage, he brushes aside the detrimental pitfall when the requirement is unheeded. 
     2 The fact that elders were appointed in every church near the end of Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary campaign (Acts 14:23) is not at variance with this requirement if the length of the campaign is estimated according to biblical data rather than the unfounded guesses of commentators. The first missionary journey, like those that followed, was an extensive church-planting mission involving approx. six years of preaching the gospel, making disciples (incl. households), and establishing autonomous churches. See K. L. Moore, “The First Missionary Journey,” Moore Perspective (10 Feb. 2013), <Link>. 
     3 This verbal tuphóō occurs in the NT only three times: 1 Tim. 3:6; 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:4. Cp. phusióō, to “be puffed up” with pride (1 Cor. 4:6, 18, 18; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4; Col. 2:18). On the detrimental effects of prideful arrogance, see Prov. 11:2; 13:10; 14:3; 16:18; 29:23.  
     4 The usage of this word in antiquity seems “to show that the idea of a ‘beclouded’ and ‘stupid’ state of mind must be associated with that of pride. Obnubilation [a clouded mental state], however produced, seems the primary notion; that produced by pride or vanity …” (C. J. Ellicott, Critical and Grammatical Commentary 59, emp. in the text).
     5 D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles 82, emp. in the text.
     6 Cf. 5:11-15, 24; John 8:44; 9:39-41; 16:11; Rom. 2:2-3; Gal. 5:7-10; Jas. 3:1; 1 Pet. 4:17; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; Jude 4. See G. D. Fee, 1-2 Timothy, Titus 85; H. D. M. Spence, “First Timothy,” in NT Commentary 3:191; N. J. D. White, “First and Second Timothy and Titus,” EGT 4:114.  
     7 D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles 83.
     8 Cf. 1:16; 2:1-7; 4:15-16; 5:25; 6:1; also Matt. 5:13-16; Luke 2:52; John 13:35; 17:21; Acts 10:22; Rom. 2:24; 13:12-14; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; Tit. 2:5. 
     9 Cf. 2:14; 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:26; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; 11:3, 14; 2 Pet. 2:18-21. 
     10 G. D. Fee, 1-2 Timothy, Titus 83.
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