Choosing a Contractor

1 Timothy 3:1-7

Copyright © 2004 Jeremy Myers

I. Intro (v. 1)

II. Description (v. 2-7)

    1. Blameless

    2. Husband of One Wife

    3. Temperate

    4. Sober-minded

    5. Of Good Behavior

    6. Hospitable

    7. Able to Teach

    8. Not Given to Wine

    9. Not Violent

    10. Not Greedy for Money

    11. Gentle

    12. Not Quarrelsome

    13. Not Covetous

    14. Rules his own house well

    15. Not a new Christian

    16. Good reputation with unbelievers

What is your description of a "man's man"? If you were to describe someone who characterized all that a man was supposed to be and do, what would that kind of man look like? How would he behave? How would he act?  Maybe it would be your favorite football or baseball player. Maybe it would be some movie star like Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan or Charlton Heston. Men with good looks and charm. Or maybe successful men like the millionaires and billionaires we hear about. Or powerful men like rulers of nations.

But what would you say if I asked for a Biblical "man's man"? Could you name a man whom you are trying to be like? Maybe Caleb, who at 80 years old, was stronger and tougher and a better soldier than most younger men. Maybe David, who was Israel's greatest king, and also a man after God's own heart. Of course, there is always Jesus. He was more of a "man's man" than most of us ever imagine.  Maybe you don't have a man in the Bible that you are trying to be like. Maybe you have a list of characteristics and qualities that you are trying to live up to. You want to be a hard worker, honest in all of your business dealings, a good husband and father, and an accomplished hunter and fisherman.

And that's an okay list, but did you know that God has his own list for what He wants men to be? Everybody knows about the list for mothers. The list for God's ideal woman is found in Proverbs 31. We looked at part of this list back on Mother's day.  But most of us do not realize that there is a similar list for men. The passage we are looking at today for Father's Day tells us men how to be greatest men in the world.

This passage fits right in with what we are looking at in God's Blueprints for church growth. You see, we are talking about God's plans to build His church, and we are comparing it all the way through with a construction site.  And who is the boss on any construction site? It is the contractor. The contractor provides direction and leadership over the entire building site. He determines who gets hired and who gets fired. He makes the hard decisions and sets project priorities for the crew. When something goes wrong, he takes the heat.  God has clearly told us in 1 Timothy 3 what the qualifications are for the contractors on His building site. And remember from last week, that 1 and 2 Timothy were written by Paul to Timothy to provide instructions for what the church should be and do.

Leadership is a key element, a vital element to any church, so Paul includes a section in 1 Timothy 3 about how to pick the spiritual leaders of the church. How to select the contractors on God's Building Site.  This idea is introduced in 1 Timothy 3:1.

I. Introduction (3:1)

1This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.

The phrase If a man could also be translated, "If any man." Paul tells us that what he is about to say applies to all men. It applies to you and to me. The description Paul is about to provide is open to all men. It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter what is in your past. It doesn't matter how old you are, or how young you are. It doesn't even matter what your current spiritual maturity level is. If you are a man, what Paul is about to say applies to you.

If a man desires the position of bishop. The term bishop normally brings to mind images of the Catholic church. So I prefer to substitute the term elder, or more literally, overseer.

The word bishop is episkope in Greek, and it is made up of two words, epi which means upon or over, and skope, which is where we get our word scope, and it means to watch, to observe, or to see. Episkope then, means to watch over, or to over see. Just so as not to be confused with Catholicism then, we are going to refer to them as overseers or as elders.

Then, at the end of verse 1, Paul says that whoever desires the role of overseer, desires a good work. It is a good thing to want to be an elder. It is not coveting to wish you were an elder. If you desire it, you desire a good work. And guess what? If you want to become an elder, you can. Paul has already said that this position is open to any man. If a man, if any man desires the position of an elder, he desires a good work.

But there's a catch. You have to have what it takes. The position is open to any man, but not just any man can have the position. To become an elder, you have to have what it takes. It's just like on a construction site. Many of the people who work on the construction site want to become the contractor. Some don't. Some are happy to do the grunt labor and the basic construction. But there are many who want to be promoted, who want to have more authority and the privileges and responsibilities that come with it.

But on the construction site, not just anybody can be the contractor. The contractor must have the right qualifications and the right training, and the right knowledge and skills and character. And desire is the beginning point, the springboard, the catalyst to gaining these necessary qualifications. Similarly, any man can become an elder if he is willing to do what it takes. Men, do you want to become a contractor on God's Building site? You can, if you are willing to rise to the challenge. Sometimes, we get the idea that spiritual leadership is only open to a select few individuals and the rest of us…well, we're doing fine if we read our Bible's every once in a while, go to church a few times, and pray when we're in dire need of divine help. But Paul says here that any one of us who wants to can become an overseer, if you are willing to do what it takes.

What does it take? Well, in verses 2-7, Paul lists 16 qualifications. Before we look at the list, let me just say that none of us will ever fully achieve everything on this list. I don't. Every time I study through the list, the Holy Spirit convicted me of several weaknesses in my own life. As we go through list right now, ask the Spirit to prick your conscience too. Ask God to point out something in your life that you need to work on. Let God challenge you to become the kind of man God wants you to be. Let's begin with the first qualification.

A bishop then must be blameless.

Paul doesn't waste any time…doesn't pull any punches. We're only one qualification in, and already, he's overwhelmed us.We have to blameless? Who of us then qualifies?

Well, you must understand. Blameless does not mean perfect. Obviously, it does not mean that we have never sinned or will never sin. What it means is to be above reproach. Literally, the Greek word means "not able to be held. To provide no handles." The man who is blameless has nothing in his life for which he can be arrested or accused of. He is not involved in any illegal practices. His life is not marred by any obvious sinful defect. He is a model for the other members of the congregation to follow.

Is there anything in your life that you are hoping the authorities don't find out about? Get rid of it. Stop doing it. Make right the wrong. It brings terrible shame to the church in general and to the name of Christ when it is discovered that church leaders are involved in some sort of shady or immoral practice. So make sure first of all that you are blameless. That nobody can dig up any dirt on you. That nobody can blackmail you on anything. That there are no skeletons in your closet. Do you want to be an elder? Great. You first must be blameless.

Second, in verse 2, you must be the husband of one wife,

I could get really sidetracked on this. There are many who believe that this second qualification automatically disqualifies men who are unmarried or who have been divorced. But this is not at all what the phrase means or even implies. Literally, the Greek reads, "a one woman man." It means that a man is 100% completely devoted to his wife. This second qualification goes a lot deeper than just looking at whether a man is married or divorced or not.

If a man is unmarried, it means that you do not have a wandering eye. That you do not let yourself look at movies and magazines and pictures and women that bring lustful thoughts to your mind. Even though you may not have met the woman who will be your wife, you thoughts are only for her. And men, if you are married, all of your thoughts and energy goes only toward loving and caring for your wife. You do not flirt with other women. You do not look lustfully at other women. Men who do this, though they have never been divorced, are not a "one woman man." Even if you have a divorce in your past, this second qualification means that you are completely devoted to your present wife. Divorce is not an option with your present wife.

A one woman man, no matter what his past contains, is a man who is completely devoted in his heart and mind to the woman who is his wife. He loves, desires and thinks only of her. He maintains sexual purity both in thought life and conduct. This is a one woman man.

Third, this kind of man is temperate,

Literally, in the Greek, this word means "wineless" but Paul is not talking about drinking alcohol. He mentions drinking in verse 3, so here it refers to something else. The term "wineless" was used of drinking water that was unmixed with wine. You see, their water was very unclean, and so they would mix wine with it – a little alcohol – to help sanitize.

You also need to know that they made their wine a bit different than we do. They pressed the grapes in such a way so that some of the pulp was in the wine – which made the wine cloudy – not clear like much of ours. So, when they mixed this cloudy wine with water, it also clouded the water – like when we mix a bit of milk or orange juice with water on accident. So when Paul says temperate here, or "wineless," what he means is "clear, unclouded."And clear water, unmixed with wine, which was drinkable, was very rare and therefore very precious…very valuable. In most places in America, this kind of water comes out of our taps. You can turn on the faucet and put a glass underneath, and drink the water that comes out.

But this is not true for most of the world - even today. If you go into almost any third world country today, the first thing they tell you is to not drink the water. It is full of bacteria and germs. But since water is so important to life, in these places, you can buy purified water. It has been boiled. It has been filtered. It has been bottled. It is sealed. It is clean and pure, and therefore valuable. That is the same way it was in New Testament times. Most water was not fit for drinking, but those who drank it often mixed a little wine in with it to sanitize it or make it taste a little better.

But those who were rich could afford to buy pure water. Spring water. Clear water. Clean water. It was called "wineless" water. It was very rare, and very valuable. This is the kind of man Paul describes here. He wants us to be temperate, wineless. What Paul is calling for here is men who are alert, watchful, vigilant, clear-headed.

Nothing clouds their judgment. They don't allow emotions, people, events, popular opinion, culture or anything else, to cloud their judgment. They let the Bible alone be their guide. Do you find yourself making rash judgment in the heat of the moment, or when you are angry or stressed or when prominent people whisper in your ear, or the masses clamor for change? If so, you are probably not temperate. You have become clouded. You must purify your mind and renew your mind with the washing of the water of the Word. Then you will become temperate.

Fourth, we are to be sober-minded or self-controlled. Now again, we see that word sober and we think of drinking.

But what Paul is referring to here is seriousness. Paul doesn't mean someone who is without humor; who is cold and never laughs. Paul means someone who is able to view the world through God's eyes. There is a time for laughter and a time for crying. A time for jokes and a time for seriousness. The man who is sober-minded knows when to laugh and when to be serious.

To some men, everything is a joke. They always want to be the funny guy who makes everybody laugh. They always want to be the life of the party, even if there is no party. I've known men who try to make jokes at a funeral just to break the tension. That is not being sober-minded.  A sober-minded man knows that spiritual matters are a grave concern and there is not much time for frivolous living.

Fifth, of good behavior. This could also be translated as respectable.

The Greek word here is kosmios and is a derivative of kosmos. We speak of the universe as the cosmos, which in English also means orderly, or structured. It means the same in Greek. So, kosmios here means orderly and organized. It refers to the man who has a well-disciplined mind and a well-disciplined life. He has good behavior at work, at home and at play. Others respect him for his upright conduct in all areas of life. Is your life organized, or chaotic? Do you know where things go, and how to get things done? Do people respect your input and your opinions on decisions? If so, then you are respectable and of good behavior.

Sixth, hospitable. From the Greek, this word literally means "to love strangers."

The door of the Christian home ought to be open to all who come in need. That is especially true of the overseer. They are not to be so elevated to a place where they are unapproachable. They are to be available. They are not to be like the ivory tower figure, so far above everyone else, that they can't relate and are not accessible. Do you regularly have people into your home, or are you afraid for your nice carpet, and quiet nightly routine? The answer to that question will tell you if you are hospitable.

Seventh, able to teach.

Paul has a double meaning in mind here. He not only means that this sort of man has the ability and knowledge to teach the Word of God to others, but also that he is able to accept teaching from others. He is both able to teach others, and others are able to teach him. Many men are one or the other. Some love to be heard. They always want to be right and to get the last word and to have their opinions expressed. This kind of person may be able to teach others, but is not real teachable themselves.

On the other hand, there are those who have wonderful understanding, knowledge and insights into Scripture and the truth of God's Word, but when they try to explain these things to others, it is like listening to a scientist talk about quantum physics in another language. This type of person may be very teachable, but not really able to teach others. And men, the best place to practice this is at the home. God wants all men to be Bible teachers at home. God has commanded us to teach our wives and children at home. It is everywhere in Scripture. God wrote it by command in Deuteronomy 6, and the book of Proverbs. He wrote it by the negative example of Eli and his sons in 1 Samuel 1-2, and by the positive example of Abraham with his son Isaac.

Men who leave training and instruction of their children up to the schools and the churches are not being men according to God's standard. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that to be a man, you have to be a great hunter or fisherman. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that to be a great man, you have to make a six figure income. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that a man's worth is dependant upon the size of his house and the make of his car.But everywhere in the Bible we read that God wants men to be teaching their wives and children at home. It even appears that being a spiritual leader at home might be the biggest key to having a wonderful marriage and raising Godly children.

The man who desires to be an overseer must, seventh, be able to teach.

Eighth, in verse 3, 3not given to wine,

This has in mind excessive drinking…drunkenness. Biblically, drinking a glass of wine, or having a beer is not sin. Getting drunk is. Becoming enslaved by strong drink definitely is. Now Paul only mentions wine here, but we could throw into this the other substances which can be abused. We can add to this someone who is addicted to drugs of any sort, or even someone who is addicted to tobacco. We could maybe add in here caffeine and food.

There must be no substance which controls a man who would be a spiritual leader in the church. Instead, according to Ephesians 5:18, he must be controlled by the Spirit.

Ninth, not violent or pugnacious. The Greek literally means, "not a giver of blows," or "not a striker." We probably all have known men who try to settle everything with their fists. When a disagreement breaks out, they seem to think they’ve got five good points in each hand. A man who desires to be an overseer doesn't resort to blows, but to the Bible. With a calm head and cool words, he reasons things out with his adversaries. He is not violent.

Tenth, not greedy for money.

The word here actually includes more than just money. It means greedy for material gain. This could include houses, cars, possessions, toys.  We've all seen the bumper sticker…he who dies with the most toys wins. The person who wrote that bumper sticker was greedy for material gain. In 21st Century North America, this hits most of us right at home. Most of us want more money, and most of us think that we don't have enough money. We tell ourselves we don't want a lot of money, we just want a little bit more than we have now. We just want one more dollar.

And the money we do have, we think is ours to use the way we want. We all think, "It's my money. I worked for it. I earned it. I get to keep it. And besides I have all those bills to pay, and a family to feed." Biblically, it's not your money. Even though you did work for it, you only have the job you have and the ability and health to perform the job you do because God gave them to you. Do you want to know the simplest way to defeat the love of money? If you fear that you are greedy for money, the easiest way to defeat this wrong attitude is to start giving your money away.

It was John Wesley who said that if, when he died, you found more than $10 in his pocket, you could consider him to be a thief. Malachi 3 says that the man who does not give back to God is robbing God. There's a serious thing to think about. Robbing God is what the greedy man is doing. Do not be greedy for money. Do not be a lover of money. Instead, love to give away your money.

So let's get those offering plates back out here…

Eleventh, this kind of man must be gentle.

A gentle man is one who is considerate, forbearing, and gracious. He frequently overlooks the wrongs of others. He pardons human failure. He remembers good, but not evil. He does not keep a record of wrongs that were done to him. He does not hold a grudge. He treats everyone with respect in his words and in his actions. Being a gentleman is kind of a lost art today, but it is a requirement to be a contractor in God's building program.

Twelfth, not quarrelsome.

Earlier, we saw a violent man – who wanted to settle everything with is fists. A quarrelsome man is one who likes to argue about everything.  I had a good friend growing up who was like this. He loved to argue. He didn't care what the subject was or what his personal opinions on the subject were, he would take the opposing viewpoint from you and argue about it. He is now studying to be a lawyer.

He did it out of fun, but we have all known men who are always trying to pick a fight. Whatever comes out of their mouth is said in such a way to offend or insult or challenge. The man who is going to become an overseer avoids a fight. He does argue and debate, but only when he is defending the truth of God's Word or is defending the cause of those who cannot defend themselves.

Like with all of these, Jesus is our perfect example. He never defended himself, never quarreled, even when people insulted him and struck him, and spit on him. But He was very argumentative when he stood up for orphans and widows, the poor and the needy, and when he stood up against the Pharisees and Saducees who had perverted the Gospel.

Thirteenth, not covetous;

Number 10 was about greed. Being greedy for money. It is wanting more and more of something you already have. Being covetous is wanting what someone else has. It is trying to keep up with the Jones'. We want bigger houses, nicer lawns, a car that runs better…or another car…a waterski boat, a canoe, a bass boat and a jet ski, a top of the line computer at home with the best software and a DSL internet connection, a big screen TV with digital surround sound, digital cable and a DVD player, a new mountain bike, a riding lawn mower, a workshop to rival Bob Villa's, and on and on it goes.

And if you didn't want anything, you do now…

The man who is training himself to become an overseer is the man who wants more of God rather than more money and possessions.

Fourteenth, in verses 4-5, we look at his family life.

4one 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?);

Now this does NOT mean that his children always obey and never get into trouble. Nobody's home is perfect 24 hours a day.  I'm warning you right now, my children are going to do some things that some of you will disapprove of. They will do thing that some of you will think pastor's kids should not be doing. We will try to be good parents, but they will sin. I'm sorry for that in advance. But they are like all children and nobody has a perfect home. Nobody has a perfect child.

So what Paul means here is that the general tenor of the home is one of submission and respect and obedience. Are the kids usually respectful and is the home normally well-ordered? Are the mother and father in good relations with one another? As parents, are they attentive, involved and supportive of each other and of their children? How is the communication? Do they talk or does every conversation degenerate into yelling and name-calling and slamming of doors? Here's a big one – is there an atmosphere of spiritual development being fostered? Is Jesus Christ openly discussed? Is the Word of God studied? Does the father teach his children to pray and to read the Bible and to become Christ-like?

These are some areas for what it means to rule your own household well. It doesn't mean to rule with an iron fist and crush all opposition and lock your disobedient children in the closet. In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, there is a character named Talkative, who is described as being a saint on the road, but a devil at home. Many of us men would never behave in public, let alone at church, the way we behave at home.

But if you want to be an overseer, you need to manage your own household well. Give them a Godly role-model to follow.

Fifteenth, he must not be a new Christian.

6not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.

The role of overseer in the church calls for spiritual roots. It requires perception, experience and wisdom that comes only through time as a Christian. A brand new Christian, however old they are, may have a lot of enthusiasm. Many people will look at him and say "Wow, is he ever on fire for God. Let's get him on the elder board. That'll fire them up."

A new Christian may even learn a lot about the Bible in a very short period of time. He may even turn his life around and get rid of many old habits, while revealing many new Godly traits. Nevertheless, this person cannot be an overseer. Paul says here that placing a new Christian into leadership too soon may result in pride and arrogance -–which is the same sin the devil fell into. Such men tend to think they know better than everyone else, and they can do it better than everyone else. New Christians who are placed too soon into leadership positions in the church often fall into such pride which generally results in a split churches when they get offended that the older and more mature Christians don't want to follow their lead. We've all seen it happen. 

So how do you know when a person has matured to the point that they are no longer a new convert? I think it is relative to the congregation. In places where there are no churches, and a missionary goes in to plant a new church, the men who, after a year or two, show the most Godliness can no longer be considered a new believer – a novice. But in church that has been in existence for a long time, there are undoubtedly many very mature men of God, and so it may take a long time for a new Christian to mature to the point where they are no longer a novice.

And the respectable thing for this type of Christian to do is to be patient and learn, rather than get impatient and go off to start a ministry of their own. I think this shows the type of pride Paul is talking about here in the fifteenth qualification. Last, but not least, we come to verse 7.

Sixteenth, from verse 7, he must have a good reputation with unbelievers.

7Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

In other words, what do the people in your neighborhood think of you? What do your coworkers think of you? Do they even know you are a Christian? Do you uphold Christians standards? Or do you try to fit in and not rock the boat? Let people know and see that you are a Christian by your words and actions, and don't expect them to live up to your standards. After all, they're not Christians! This is what Paul means here. As you live among the world, do they know you are a Christian, and do you live like it among them – not damaging the name of Christ, but lifting it up as a beacon of light?


Those are the sixteen characteristics of the man who desires to become a contractor, an elder in God's church. Men, did this list convict you a bit? Going through this list stung me a few times. All of us need to encourage one another to become like the men on this list. Pick one or two items you can work on in the weeks and months ahead. Strive, with all of your might, to become the kind of man and husband and father that God wants you to be. For this is how we really become men. It is how we not only become a man's man…but how we also become God's man.