Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday, February 14th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Exodus 39-40; Psalm 33; Mark 5
Today's scripture focus is Titus 1:5-9

Titus 1:5-9

English Standard Version (ESV)

Qualifications for Elders

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: Elders
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: The Moral Characters of a PastorThe Required Character for a Pastor: Family LeadershipThe Qualifications for a Pastor, Part 1: Noble CharacterPart 2Part 3: Teaching Skill

Titus had a tough job to do and a short time in which to do it: strengthening believers, establishing effective ministry in the homes and the churches, opposing false teachers and their errors, teaching sound doctrine.
And 3:12 tells us that Titus was supposed to return to Paul once Artemas or Tychicus arrived.  And he was supposed to appoint elders in cities throughout the islands of Crete.  A tall order indeed!

Our passage today gives us the required character and qualifications for elders of the church.

He was supposed to be above reproach or blameless.  This doesn't mean sinless, because no one is sinless.  But he had to consistently live according to his profession of faith.  He had to be a man of integrity, a man whose reputation as a man of God would be inarguable.

He was to be the husband of one wife.  This doesn't mean he couldn't remarry if he was a widower.  A more literal translation of the Greek would be a one-woman man.  It's not marital status that's the issue, it's moral characters.  He has to be faithful to his wife and his wife alone, totally loyal to her, with a reputation of being sexually pure, with no past mistresses, illegitimate children, or current adulteries.  A one-woman man.

He also needs to have proven his spiritual leadership capabilities within his own home.  This is controversial, and may seem harsh.  But the truth remains that there is a direct connection between a man's faithfulness and success in raising his own children, and his ability to nurture a church.
MacArthur: The fact of the matter is God saves people through the means of godliness in the lives of others. And if I in my home am committed to living a godly life and a virtuous life and the proclaiming saving gospel truth that is lived out in integrity, there is every reason to believe God in His grace will use that to redeem my children. It may not always happen, but for a man who stands in the pulpit to be the model and who will not be scandalized by some activity on the part of his children, it is necessary... The Scripture says people are converted as a result of how we live and what we preach. And a godly life proclaiming truth, living with integrity is going to have a tremendous impact on the conversion of other people and you're going to see it in the family, in the home.  
A pastor must have children who believe and who live what they believe.  No, we are not held personally responsible for our children's coming to faith - that is between them and God. But it is a requirement for pastoral leadership, because it is the proof of his spiritual leadership capabilities.

V7-8 talk about the noble character necessary in a pastor.
v7 talks about what a pastor should NOT be, and the reverse would tell us what he should be.  He should not be arrogant or self-absorbed or self-seeking, rather he should be humble and unselfish.  He should not be quick-tempered, but rather patient.  He should not be a drunkard or indulge in anything that might dull his senses or decision making abilities, he should be clear headed.  He should not be violent, but rather peaceful, meek, and humble.  He must not be greedy or a lover of money, but rather a man of integrity and honesty.

V8 gives us the positives, and they're all pretty self-explanatory.  He must be hospitable (loving strangers generously), loves what is good, self-controlled (in thought, word, and deed), upright, holy, and disciplined.

These are some high standards.  Very high standards.  Why so high?
Because that's how God wants you to live..and that's why He wants your leaders to be that because how are you going to get to that point if you don't have somebody to follow? It isn't that these people are to be different than everybody else, they are to be what everybody else is to be. That's what leadership is all about. Luke 6:40, "And when a man is fully discipled, he will be like his teacher." The standard is high because God wants his flock to be holy even as He is holy.

And, finally, the pastor needs to be a good preacher and teacher.  That's the only skillset that's in this list.
preach and teach the Word of God to strengthen believers and to bring them to obedience to God and then to convince people of error and show them the path of truth. Sound doctrine does both. If a man has the necessary foundation, that is he holds loyally and exclusively to the Word of God as the source, then he can do the necessary duty with power and blessing.

A pastor needs to be skilled in preaching and teaching, but he needs to have the life and character to back it up.

The character of the man is the foundation of his preaching and teaching because the pattern of his life is the platform for his proclamation. We are preachers and we are teachers, we are articulators of truth, but at the same time that is done from the platform of a virtuous life. Leadership primarily is example. We are called to live what we preach and teach. We are to set a pattern for others to follow in our own lives, as well as what we say.

Note that these are not optional.  He MUST be all these things.  And if he is not, he cannot be a pastor. If a pastor commits adultery and repents of his sin, he can and must be forgiven, he can and must be restored to fellowship - but he can no longer pastor a church.  The Bible is clear on this.
Where do people get the idea that a year or a few months or few weeks can somehow restore integrity to a man who has squandered his reputation, who has stained the pulpit with his sin, who has destroyed people's trust and most heinously, sinned against the gracious God who called him to preach? Once purity is sacrificed the privilege of leadership by example and proclamation is gone....

Now by all means if a man is truly repentant we should embrace that man and love that man and forgive him seventy times seven and let him share in the joy of Christian fellowship when his repentance is real. But that does not mean that he should be put back into the place of spiritual ruling and teaching. We cannot erase the consequences of sin by a simple prayer or an elaborate recommissioning service. We have to measure every man who seeks to minister by the scriptural standard. But sin is so pervasive in our world, it's so pervasive even in the church that there is a tolerance for sin that I don't think certainly in my life time we've ever seen. And there are many, I suppose you could call them casual Christians, or carnal Christians, or professing Christians who want to lower the level of holiness in their leaders because it makes them feel much more comfortable about their own sin....

Evangelical Christianity for the most of this century has focused on the battle for doctrinal purity and it's right that we have, but we're losing the battle for moral purity. So we have people with the right theology living an impure life. And the worse defeats the church is experiencing may be coming at the very hands of its leadership. We cannot lower God's standard for the sake of sympathy. We don't need to. We can be loving and forgiving and gracious and merciful and kind without lowering God's standard. We have to hold it higher so that purity can be regained. In fact, all of the battles that we have fought for orthodoxy, all the battles for the integrity of Scripture fall uselessly by the wayside if preachers of it are corrupt and if their people no longer follow their shepherds as models of holiness.

I think Rayburn sums it up well....
the same character that is to be found to an eminent degree in an elder is precisely that same character that ought to be found in an increasing degree in every Christian.

Perhaps you noticed this as we read Paul’s description of the man who ought to be an elder in Christ’s church. It is nothing but a description of Christian godliness and of the virtues to which we are all summoned and of the vices which we are all commanded to put to death. It is not only elders who are to be blameless, hospitable, self-controlled, and holy. It is not only church officers who ought not to be quick-tempered, given to too much drink, or greedy.

So fundamental to God’s interest in our lives is a holy character, so crucial to what Christ is wanting to accomplish in us by the Holy Spirit is personal godliness, purity, and love, that such a life becomes the measure of man’s fitness to lead the church. We might have thought it otherwise. We might have thought that the wealthy and powerful, or the smartest, or the most commanding personalities, or the best speakers, or the most interesting teachers might be chosen for the church’s leaders. But it is not so. It is to be the holiest men and they only; those who have gone ahead in the things of God and have put on the full man in Christ Jesus.

Do you see the point? It is for us as it must be for them: our lives are our ministries; our lives are the proof of the gospel of Christ; our lives are what invest our words with authority and persuasiveness; our lives embody, express, and represent our faith in Christ. It is holy Scripture that teaches us times without number that Christ gave himself for us to make us holy; God sent his Son to die for us that we might be conformed to the image of his Son; that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. To make a godly life our great interest, to make a Christ-like life the great goal of our efforts day and night, is to think God’s thoughts after him; it is to honor the love and sacrifice of Christ; and it is to seek to fulfill God’s will in our lives. All of this is confirmed in this attention paid to a man’s character in the qualifications for the eldership....

If we all aspire to be what elders must be, we will not only be happier and more useful to Christ ourselves, but will together produce a church that must be greatly favored to have so many holy men from which to choose her officers.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Titus 1:10-16
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Leviticus 1-2
Sunday's passage: Leviticus 3-4
Monday's passage: Leviticus 5-6, Psalm 34, Mark 6

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