Welcome to our latest HTS blog series entitled “Officer Qualifications By Way of Catechism” by Dr. Patrick Morgan.
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
(1 Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV)
Reformed and Presbyterian folks like to talk about our “offices” – no, I don’t mean the room our desks are in, I mean the function of our calling in the church, in terms we usually use such as Ministers of the Word, Elders, and Deacons. These are what the Scripture teaches as the special perpetual offices of the church.
Every office has duties and work assigned to it. For example, as a minister, I have a pastoral duty to ensure the continuity of the apostolic teaching and life as the years pass after the apostolic age. I am called to preach the Gospel, lead worship, and care for souls in the context of the visible body of Christ. That is my part of the work of the church – to share the Gospel, build up the body of Christ and live a life centered on the glory of my Lord and Savior, and helping others to do the same – that’s why God gave the gifts he has given. (Cf. Ephesians 4)
I am also supposed to remind people of the meaning and practical implications of the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ which led them into the body of Christ in the first place. My office has a lot to do with promoting Orthodoxy and Piety. I was once asked by a mentor to compose a ‘mission statement’ for my own calling. Here’s what I came up with:
I seek to obey Christ (Acts 1:8) by personally living and actively promoting authentic Christian discipleship to the Glory of the Triune God in my life, with my wife and family, then in the Church, in our Community and to the extent of His Creation.
It’s important to see that such as a statement is not particular to being a holder of the office of minister or pastor, but is a statement of what it is simply to live day to day in the common office (which all people in Christ have) of ‘Christian.’ Have you thought about whether you have an office? Are you fulfilling God’s calling to your office? Don’t think you have an office? You do.
It is really sad that the pastoral office, with its concern for guarding orthodoxy and helping people on the narrow path, has in many places tended to convey a message that the only offices of concern are pastor, elder and deacon; moreover, also that the only kind of leadership we are concerned about is the leadership in the sphere of the special offices in the church. It seems that some believe that only certain people are to do the work of shepherding, evangelizing and worshipping and the rest are spectators.
Fact is, all believers are rightly to be said to have an “office,” in that they have a duty to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in his church. We are called to follow Him, the Good Shepherd, called to hear his voice and obey Him.
Do you know what the primary feature of the image and character of the Good Shepherd is?
It’s Jesus’ self-sacrificial love for his sheep, in the accomplished work of His (the cross and resurrection) which calls for an unfettered response from every one of His followers — that’s your office, that’s my office. This is sometimes called the general or common office of all believers. “Common” here has a special meaning. There really isn’t anything common (in the mundane sense) about the office; ‘common’ is used to indicate the glorious truth that each and every soul of the elect people of God is to be involved in the kingdom.
In this common’ office, the serving, governing and teaching officers of the church have no special privilege, but are accountable to all, and ultimately to the Chief Shepherd Himself.
The Good Shepherd’s self-sacrificial love is a call we must all learn to answer in the exploration of the shepherd-hood of all believers. (I AM NOT SAYING EVERYONE IS A PASTOR, but that everyone is TO pastor (i.e., to shepherd, tend, care for and encourage in the Hebrews 10:19-25 sense).
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:19-25 NKJV)
All of us are to be keeping our nose in the Word and our feet moving and carrying the Gospel, for our mission on earth is promoting and extending the awesome reality that each person has a call to lead in this special way – the Way of the Good Shepherd.
This aims to be the first in a series of lessons/meditations/exhortations from a catechism written to reflect the content of 1 Timothy 3:1-7, commonly the main text seen to list the qualifications for the teaching and governing special offices (minister and elder – i.e., overseers). While this is the main import of the passage, the passage’s applications are not limited to the special offices but reach to all the members of the body of Christ.
Therefore it is in the spirit of this that the following journey through the qualifications for the office of overseer as set down in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are offered – the immediate context of the text may be for officers in the church, but the matters concern everyone, if only because those in the church are to elect their own leaders and ought to be able to judge a candidate rightly.
Moreover, the qualifications here are not for some exalted special class of “highly motivated super elect” people called elders or ministers – what is contained in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is simply the portrait of a normal (though, unfortunately not common) picture of Christian maturity for all to see.
(Some thoughts prompted from a reading of Alistair Campbell, Rediscovering Pastoral Care)
Dr. Patrick Morgan resides in Sioux Falls, SD, serving as Heidelberg’s Director of International Studies.