The Future Care Of Assemblies Part 2
W. E. Vine, Bath
There are evidences that here and there God is raising up young men who are manifesting qualifications for the deeply responsible work of the spiritual care of assemblies. This calls for thankfulness, for constant prayer for all such, and for the provision of others. Only thus can the testimony of assemblies on Scriptural lines be really effective, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The work of such men is called “a good work” (1 Tim. 3. 1). The word kalos, “good,” signifies that which is honourable, goodly, noble. The character of the work is determined by the character of those who do it. It will be well therefore to observe what this chapter in 1st Timothy says in this respect.
The overseer is, firstly, to be “without reproach”: his life, past and present, must be entirely free from anything inconsistent with the responsibility of spiritual leadership. Secondly, his married life (if married; it does not say he must have a wife) must be exemplary. While the avoidance of polygamy was enjoined in a general condition when it was common, what is laid down involves the necessity for the strictest purity in regard to the opposite sex, and complete abstention from anything of a unholy nature in this respect. Thirdly, he must be “temperate” (R.V.), i.e., self-restrained; the word implies that watchfulness which guards against any kind of excess. Fourthly, “sober-minded,” a word which, in the original, suggests that discretion of mind which avoids mere levity on the one hand and a gravity which is characterized by moroseness on the other hand. Fifthly, “orderly,” decent, not merely in outward demeanour, but in temper and spirit, avoiding that pride and self- will which make for disorder in temperament and habit.
These five, have to do more especially with the inner self; the following ten relate to effects on others. Sixthly, he is to be “given to hospitality ’’; the word literally means love of strangers, and suggests a readiness to entertain others than friends and acquaintances (cp. Rom. 12. 13; Heb. 13. 2; 1 Tim. 5. 10). Seventhly, “apt to teach,” skilled in imparting instruction , he may not have the gift of public speaking, but he must have such a knowledge of God and of the Scriptures that he is able to impart instruction to children of God, whether young in the faith or those of maturer spiritual life. Eighthly, no brawler,” the word literally mean; “given to wine”; as, however, that condition leads to fierce and abusive language, the overseer is to be entirely free from that kind of speech. Ninthly, “no striker”; he who is given to abuse in speech is liable to violence of act
Tenthly, he is to be “gentle”; the word suggests that combination of forbearance and considerateness that deals with facts and deeds in a humane and kindly spirit, and does not easily take offence. The eleventh quality puts this negatively: “not contentious,” i.e., free from a quarrelsome spirit, from a readiness to dispute, which so often leads to loss of temper (cp. 2 Tim. 2.24). The twelfth is also negative: he must be “no lover of money.” There ire two aspects of this (which represents a single word in the original), one, that of freedom from covetousness, whether in the matter of money or anything else, the other that of generosity and liberality.
The thirteenth relates to one who has a household or family: he must be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity,” that is, with seemliness of demeanour. This indicates that combination of authority, kindliness and benevolence which helps children to find a delight in honouring their parents. The presence of children so trained makes a true home. The character of his family has an important bearing upon his service and influence as an overseer. “If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” The change of verb is significant (though “rule” is used in 5. 17 regarding the church), A well-ordered house is a test of a married man’s fitness to care for God’s children. The fourteenth is again negative: “not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the Devil”; he must have had years of experience in the things of God, in the truths relating to Christian life and to those of a local church. Otherwise there is a danger of pride and ambition and their condemnation. The fifteenth and last relates to the world, “them that are without.” They are shrewdly observant of the moral life of believers, and ever ready to remark upon evil living, slackness and unreliability.
These qualifications have this in view, that the testimony of the life of those in responsibility in an assembly may be consistent with the Name of the Lord and with doctrines of the faith. All this should not deter young men from seeking the guidance of God as to the high and holy privileges of overseership and its consequent rewards.