As we continue to consider the government of the church, we come to the matter of personal integrity in the men who lead the church. It doesn’t matter how good the recipe is, you can’t make a good omelet with rotten eggs. We have already considered the need for doctrinal integrity; here we must consider the need for personal moral integrity. This is not because doctrinal and moral integrity can be separated — they cannot be. They may be distinguished, but not detached from one another. As Paul tells Timothy, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine” (1 Tim. 4: 16). Alexander Strauch did not overstate it when he said, “Proper qualification is a scriptural imperative, objective requirement, moral obligation, indispensable standard, and absolute necessity for those who would serve as leaders in the church.”
The moral requirements of the office of elder are seen in three basic passages — 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5. The requirements for the office of deacon are very similar and are found in 1 Timothy 3.
First, the requirements as given to Timothy, with brief comments interspersed:
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires [stretches for] the position of a bishop, he desires [really wants] a good work (3:1). Men should be fired with a godly ambition. A bishop then must be blameless [unrebukeable], the husband of one wife [a one-woman-man], temperate [circumspect], sober-minded [moderate], of good behavior [orderly in his life], hospitable [a real friend of strangers], able to teach [perhaps this should be rendered as “teachable,” which would make it consistent with the rest of the list, which consists of moral qualities, not of intellectual gifts]; (3:2) not given to wine [he must not be “next to the bottle,” he must not be a toper], not violent [not pugnacious], not greedy for money [one word here; he must be a “notgreed”], but gentle [mild], not quarrelsome [one word again, a notbrawler, not even if he has a web site], not covetous [repeated, a “notgreed,” with Paul clearly not wanting greedheads in the ministry]; (3:3) one who rules [presides over] his own house well, having his children in submission [subordinate] with all reverence [all gravity] (3:4) (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); (3:5) not a novice [neophyte — Tyndale rendered this as “young scholar”], lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil (3:6). Moreover he must have a good testimony [witness] among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (3:7)
The requirements as given to Titus are similar.
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you — (1:5) if a man is blameless [above reproach] , the husband of one wife [one-woman-man], having faithful children [either faithful children, or believing children] not accused of dissipation [one word, lit. notsaved] or insubordination [unsubdued] (1:6). For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed [arrogant, self-pleasing], not quick-tempered [one word], not given to wine [not next to the bottle, with bottle at his elbow], not violent [above], not greedy for money [above], (1:7) but hospitable [friend of strangers], a lover of what is good [perhaps “lover of good men”], sober-minded [above], just [equitable], holy [pious], self-controlled [strong], (1:8) holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught [a faithful conservative], that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict (1:9).
And Peter says it this way:
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: (5:1) Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion [not forced] but willingly, not for dishonest gain [here it is again!] but eagerly [with alacrity]; (5:2) nor as being lords [not domineering] over those entrusted to you, but being examples [types, or patterns] to the flock; (5:3) and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away (5:4).
One of the easiest things in the world for the Church to do is to drift into another set of requirements entirely, never quite noticing that we have replaced what the Bible requires with what we require. Nothing against Hebrew, Greek, or thorough knowledge of the patristics. Good to have, great to have, yay for having them. Nothing against an ability to take tests at a graduate school level — that’s a good thing also, and helpful in ministry. But does Paul require a man in ministry to have a healthy marriage and household? And do we often set ministerial students up for divorce court by the hard grind of seminary? How many marriages have failed or been mortally wounded in evangelical seminaries? Thus do we set aside the Word of God for the sake of our tradition.