The word of the day is “rule.” In our reading of 1 Timothy 3:1-13, St. Paul continues his directives for good order in the church. Today’s passage was written before the clarification of St. Ignatius (died c. 110 AD) on the distinction three-fold office of bishop, priest, and deacon. But in our reading, we find the elements of the bishop (episcopos) (vs. 1-7), the priest or elder (presbyter) (vs. 5:17), and the deacon (diakonos) (vs. 8-10, 12) and his wife (vs. 11) and their qualifications for office.
When we review the qualifications for each type of ministry, we find they have one thing in common. Those who fill these essential roles in the church are to “rule” their households well (vs. 4, vs. 12, 4:17). The Greek word has the basic sense of “standing before” (Strong’s #2476, 122). We might say that the term refers to having a “good standing.” But this term also combines that meaning with the sense of taking the lead or managing (Strong’s #4291, 211). The complete thought is that the leader must have a respectable reputation in the management of his affairs. In this way, he should set an example for others.
A Good Testimony
Paul also says that a leader “must have a good testimony among those who are outside the church” (vs. 7). The original Greek word for “testimony” means “a good witness.” It is the same word that is used for “martyr” (Strong’s #3141, 157). The point is that the leader’s public standing should give a strong witness to the church’s honesty, goodness, hospitality, and charity. By no means should the leader bring disgrace to himself or discredit to his congregation by a soiled reputation.
This qualification of a good character also extends to the wives of church leaders. For example, the apostle teaches that the wives of deacons must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things” (v. 11). While The Orthodox Study Bible translates that a deacon’s wife must be “reverent,” the original Greek word suggests that a better translation is that they must be “dignified.” (Strong’s #4586, 225-26). We can presume that what pertains to the deacon’s wife applies to all wives of the clergy.
No Distinction Between the Public and Private Spheres
Thus, in Paul’s view, the leader’s respectable management of his household and his honorable standing in society are related. Our modern society makes a distinction between our public and private lives. Except for those who hold public office, we do not evaluate workers on how they manage their private life. Our society sets the bar quite low, even for public officials.
However, Paul shows that he does not recognize the difference between the public and private spheres. His standards apply to the leader’s conduct and reputation outside as well as inside the church
In summary, Paul directs that church leaders be above reproach. Both believers and citizens of the larger society should respect them. Thus, the result of their honorable lives should be the advancement of the mission of the church and the proclamation of the Gospel.
Today we have read Paul’s instructions about church leaders. But though church leaders bear the burden of care for their entire flock, there is no substantial difference between the clergy and laity in the manner of life to which both are called.
Hastening the Day
Thus, in 2 Peter, the apostle writes, “Therefore since all these things [of this world] are to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God because of which the heavens will be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:11). The apostle’s question should prompt us to reconsider our way of life during this Nativity Fast. How can we align the way that we live with our hope in the coming of Christ?