Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 3.
The church at Ephesus, where Timothy was when he received this letter from Paul, was the only church whose elders Paul summoned when he was nearby (Acts 20:17-21). In his words to them in Acts 20, Paul warned them that, “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” It seems clear that this had happened by the time 1 Timothy was written. The fact that Paul sent Timothy there to confront false teachers (1 Tim 1) and the fact that Paul laid out the qualifications for elder and deacon here in 1 Timothy 3 indicates that the leadership of the church at Ephesus was deeply compromised and needed to be rebuilt.
Notice in the list of qualifications for elder in verses 1-7 and deacon in verses 8-13 contain nothing about a man’s business success, social standing, or ability to donate lots of money to the church. Instead, the church needed men who had been changed by God’s grace in ways that showed. “Above reproach” is a broad category. It describes someone who has a strong, clean track record of honest and integrity in and out of the church. The rest of the qualifications are more specific dealing with his moral character (vv. 2-3), family life (vv. 4-5), and stability in the faith (vv. 6-7).
Were the problems in Ephesus the result of poor choices for elder or the result of elders who changed after they became leaders? We don’t know but either thing can happen. While we should look carefully at an elder’s life before and while he serves in that role, we should also remember that elders are human and subject to the same temptations and struggles that any other person has. So, we who serve the Lord need your prayers. We need you to pray for us to walk in the faith and to be strong against the temptations that all Christians face. Please take a moment and pray for the elders of our church this morning. Thank God for the ways in which you’ve seen God use them in your life or in our church, then ask God to strengthen us and protect us from doctrinal deviation and sin.