5. 1 Tim. 3:1-7 Qualifications of “Supervisors” of Local Assemblies
In the first chapter of 1 Timothy, Paul reminded Timothy of the primary reason that he stationed him at Ephesus, to rein in the current elders and to caution them not to teach anything contrary to, or in addition to, what Paul had personally taught them. Yet he also wanted Timothy to be on the lookout for other men who showed potential for holding the office of “Supervisor” in the local assembly. In his second letter, Paul told Timothy: “… the things you heard from me through many witnesses, entrust these things to trustworthy men who will be competent to teach others also.” Timothy, as a faithful disciple of Paul, was primarily charged with producing and appointing faithful elders to oversee, shepherd, and teach the growing local assembly.
The first seven verses of 1 Timothy 3 are devoted to the minimum qualifications of these leaders which Timothy was charged with training and then ordaining to the highest office of the local assembly.
1 Timothy 3:1-2a This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone desires the office of Supervisor, he desires an ideal work.” 2 [It is] necessary for a Supervisor to be …
The term used for the “office of Supervisor” (the official scope of authority) of the leaders of the Christian assembly is ἐπισκοπὴ (E-pis’-co-pay). Some Christian denominations transliterate the Greek word and thus refer to this primary office as the “Episcopate.” The Episcopal Church denomination in America takes its name from this Greek word. It is feminine in gender because in Greek the feminine gender is used for abstract things (such as an office). The underlined words above – “office of Supervisor” – are translated from ἐπισκοπὴ.
However, those officials holding this office are referred to as ἐπισκόπος (Episcopos) which is always masculine. Many English translations (and some denominations) use the English word “Bishop” as a title to refer to such men. The LGV uses “Supervisor” because that is the true meaning of the term rather than “Bishop” which may carry denominational baggage for many readers.
While the most accurate title for ordained “Supervisors” is ἐπισκόπος, the New Testament also uses two other descriptive nouns to refer to these men: πρεσβύτερος (pres-bu’-ter-os) which means “elder” (the Presbyterian denomination takes its name from this word) and ποιμὴν (poi-main’) which means “shepherd” (which in Latin is “pastor”). Any of these terms can be used of those holding the office of Supervisor, since all of them refer to the same persons in the New Testament. However, the term “elder” implies that the office was given to older, experienced men, and the term “shepherd” (pastor) implies the manner in which he is to lead the assembly (as a shepherd leads a flock of sheep). All three (or their verb forms) are used of the same group in the following passage:
1 Peter 5:1-4 (LGV) I urge the elders among you, [being] the fellow-elder and eye-witness of the sufferings of Christ and a participant in the glory that is about to be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God among you, supervising [them], not from obligation, but willingly; not for dishonest financial gain, but eagerly; 3 not even as having dominion over the lots, but become patterns for the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd is made to appear, you will be provided the undiminished wreath of honor.
It is clear that the “elders” are the “supervisors.” It is equally clear that the manner in which they execute their office is by “shepherding,” which is to lead by example, to teach the flock to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd, and to follow you as you faithfully follow Him. The same idea is found in the following passage:
Acts 20:17-18a, 17 (LGV) 17 Yet from Miletus, having sent [messengers] into Ephesus, he summoned the elders of the assembly. 18 So as they came to him he said to them, … 28 Take heed then to yourselves and to the entire flock among whom the holy Breath appointed you supervisors, to shepherd the assembly of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Consequently, the role of a Supervisor, an “elder,” is to supervise the local assembly, shepherding (pastoring) them by leading the flock through humble leadership and sound teaching. It also requires recognizing that the flock over which one is placed belongs to God who purchased it with “His own blood,” by first giving His only-begotten Son to become human and capable of death, and then to become the only sacrifice which satisfies the condition under which God will forgive sin, the shedding of His own blood which He gave by sacrificing His Son.
That “teaching” is the primary responsibility of these leaders is shown by Paul’s description of them as “shepherd-teachers” in the following passage:
Ephesians 4:11-12 (LGV) 11 And He indeed gave the emissaries, also the prophets, also the evangelists, also the shepherds and teachers 12 for the equipping of the saints for the performance of service, for building the Body of the Anointed,
The construction of the clause “the shepherds and teachers” indicates a single group. Thus the “shepherds” are the “teachers” of the flock. Paul mentioned this again in the following verse:
1 Timothy 5:17 (LGV) 17 Consider the elders who have supervised well [to be] worthy of double compensation, particularly those toiling in the Word and teaching.
All supervisors (elders – shepherds) are to be the teachers of the local assembly, both teaching and modeling proper Christian conduct in all aspects of life. However some are especially charged with teaching and faithfully maintaining the apostolic doctrines. In the above verse, Paul wanted to make sure that these specially-gifted men are taken care of financially so that this critical role can be maintained and the apostolic Christian Faith can be reproduced generationally without corruption. Paul’s concern that supervisors be skilled in the field of apologetics is also clear from his instructions regarding elders given to Titus:
Titus 1:5,7,9 (LGV) 5 I left you in Crete for this favor, so that you might set in order what is lacking and might designate Elders according to city, just as I appointed you. … 7 for a Supervisor must be unindictable, as an administrator of God, … 9 upholding the faithful word according to the Teaching so that he may be able also to implore in sound teaching, and to refute those who are contradicting.
In both Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 Paul laid out the other personal qualifications of these supervisors – elders – shepherds as follows:
1 Timothy 3:2-7 (LGV) 2 [It is] necessary for a Supervisor to be without indictment a man of one woman, serious, sensible, orderly, hospitable, competent to teach, 3 a non-drinker, non-violent, not greedy, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not fond of silver, 4 presiding over his own household well, having children in subjection with all sincerity, 5 (but if someone has not discovered [how] to preside over his own household, how will he attend to the congregation of God?) 6 not a novice, otherwise, becoming ego-inflated, he may fall into the judgment of the Adversary. 7 It is necessary for him to have a good reputation from those outside so that he may not fall into reproach and the trap of the Adversary.
It is a given from the term “elder” that only older and experienced men are to be considered for the office of a supervisor of the local assembly.
While Paul gave a list of personal attributes for such candidates, he qualified the entire list by saying that he must be ”without indictment” regarding all of the following qualifications. That is, no one can rightly accuse him as failing to live up to the following strict standards. Implicit in this statement is that a man should judge himself as being without indictment regarding this list, and if he is deficient, he should immediately disqualify himself.
The very first personal qualification is that he must be “a man of one woman.” While many Christian denominations and groups automatically disqualify men who have been divorced based on this statement, in doing so they go beyond what the Greek actually says and means. It is important to notice that the entire list begins with the following words: δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι (“It is necessary for a Supervisor to be …”) The word εἶναι (“to be”) is a present, active, infinitive verb. The present tense with the active voice only refers to his current state. It does not refer to his entire history. The list which follows only refers to his current demonstrated qualities. If Paul had intended to refer to someone’s entire past, he would have used the perfect tense verb not the present tense. In other words, “having been a man of one woman, etc.” While the present tense does indeed point to continuous and ongoing action or state, (thus implying a period of time), the continuous nature of the present tense does not go back or forward indefinitely. It is limited by context. The present tense participle is also used in verse 4 in the clause, “having children in subjection with all sincerity.” All of the qualifications refer to the present qualities of the candidate, not to their entire history. For example, a man who became a Christian and then changed his behavior so that he currently meets these qualifications as a Christian is not disqualified by his former life as a non-Christian, or even as formerly being a nominal or untaught Christian. All of the qualifications listed refer to his present ongoing state. Of course, knowing his true present state requires observing him over a significant period of time to be sure that he does not go back to his old ways and that what is apparent presently is his true redeemed and repentant state which is expected to continue in his new office.
The clause, “a man of one woman,” means that he is, without indictment, a man of one woman. This is essentially what the English expression “a one-woman man” refers to. It means a man devoted to one woman, his wife, a man who does not flirt or be improperly friendly with other women. He does not have a wandering eye or a problem with lust, and his wife is absolutely confident that he has eyes and affections for her alone. (Of course, the words “one woman” also ruled out polygamy). One of the reasons for this primary qualification is because a supervisor must model proper behavior since he teaches both by word and example. Having a proper model of husband and wife provides a visible allegory for the congregation regarding Christ and the assembly (as Paul stated in Ephesians 5:22-33) and is the same reason that wives must submit to their own husbands as unto Christ Himself.
After this, Paul then gave the following list: “serious, sensible, orderly, hospitable, competent to teach, a non-drinker, non-violent, not greedy, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not fond of silver…”
These are self-explanatory, and correspond with what he wrote to Titus. Most of these deal with personal qualities. “Competent to teach” refers to a specific gift or skill, which can be either natural or learned.
Paul then stated this: presiding over his own household well, having children in subjection with all sincerity, …” The verb “presiding” is closely related to the noun “supervisor.” Thus Paul stated that whether a man would make a good “supervisor” over the assembly should be first judged by his supervision of his own household. It is noteworthy that neither in this passage nor in Titus did Paul mention the supervisor’s wife’s behavior as possibly disqualifying him. He did not say that both his wife and minor children living under his authority must be “in subjection with all sincerity.” This is because a man is required by God to love and be devoted to his wife alone, but he is nowhere told to discipline and put his wife in submission as he is to do with his children. She is responsible herself to God to place herself in submission to him. He has no right to force her to do so. If she is obstinate, this does not disqualify him. Only his minor children who are living under his roof and thus under his authority can disqualify him in this regard.
Paul then excluded certain men from being considered: “not a novice, otherwise, becoming ego-inflated, he may fall into the judgment of the Adversary.” Ego is a very destructive flaw. It can lay dormant for a long time, and only rear its ugly head under certain circumstances when it is bruised. People who are ego-driven are often outgoing, charismatic, and very likable. Yet eagerness to be out front and be recognized, to hold respected positions, are often indicators of a deep-seated problem with ego. Obviously, the problem addressed here is an ego which betrays self-seeking rather than demonstrating humble self-sacrifice which the “Chief Shepherd” Jesus Himself demonstrated. While Paul did not get into specifics regarding how to determine whether a man has an over-inflated and over-sensitive ego, this was clearly his concern. This was Satan’s downfall and men with an ego-problem being given an office of authority and respect can easily lead to behavior that is extremely destructive to both themselves and to the assembly that they lead. Here Paul sought to at least head off a potential problem of giving authority to a “novice.” This term can refer to someone who is untested regarding certain things, who does not have a track-record which can be observed of humility and self-sacrifice as opposed to self-promotion.
Paul then gave the following very important qualification: “It is necessary for him to have a good reputation from those outside so that he may not fall into reproach and the trap of the Adversary.” This qualification refers to his reputation among his acquaintances outside of the Christian community, including his business associates, clients, and the governing officials. He must be known for using honest and godly practices in all such relationships and dealings, including paying his taxes and honoring and obeying civil regulations and governing officials.
Romans 13:1-8 (LGV) 1 Every soul, subject yourselves to the higher authorities. For there is no authority except from God. And the authorities that do exist have been set under God. 2 Therefore, the one resisting has defied the authority prescribed by God. And those who have defied [the authority] shall receive judgment to themselves. 3 For governors are not a terror for good deeds, but for evil [deeds]. Yet, you are not meant to fear the authority. Do good and you will have praise from it. 4 For it is God’s servant for your good. Yet, if you should do evil, be afraid. For it does not wear the sword for nothing. For it is God’s servant, a dispenser of punishment to the one who practices evil. 5 Because of this, it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of punishment, but also because of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes. For they are officials of God performing for this same [purpose]. 7 Therefore, give to all what is owed: to the one [owed] tax, [pay] the tax; to the one [owed] a sum, [pay] the sum; to the one [owed] reverence, [give] reverence; to the one [owed] honor, give [honor]. 8 Do not owe anything to anyone, except to love one another. For the one loving the other has fulfilled the Law.
Consequently, a man who does not have a consistently good reputation with his boss, with all of his business associates, clients, customers, or who does not pay his taxes and/or owes back taxes, or one who is not consistently submissive to the governing authorities, is necessarily disqualified from holding the primary office of the assembly.
It should also be noted that supervisors (elders/pastors) were ordained in special ceremony which included laying on of hands. This is evident from his instruction to Titus: “I left you in Crete for this favor, so that you might set in order what is lacking and might designate Elders according to city, just as I appointed you” (Titus 1:5 LGV). Some translations have “ordain elders” and others have “appoint elders.” Paul had previously designated, ordained, or appointed Timothy himself in a public ceremony which involved laying on both his own hands and that of the elders. In 1 Timothy 5:22 Paul also warned Timothy not to “lay hands hastily” on any candidates because the one who ordains is partly responsible for the repercussions if that person is not living righteously. In any case, supervisors were publicly ordained and carried that honor for life, not merely installed in a temporary or rotating office by election. This also shows that appointment of such men was not a matter of popular vote, but of being analyzed and appointed by current biblical leadership. The common modern practice of filling temporary offices by popular vote is neither biblical nor beneficial, since popularity is not one of the qualifications, nor is the congregation alone qualified to make such appointments, especially given Paul’s warning in 2 Timothy 3-4 which we will deal with later in this series. The congregation is, however, important in bringing forward any possible reasons why someone should be disqualified from consideration.
Finally, it is obvious from the first qualification — that a supervisor must be “a man of one woman” — that women are excluded from holding the office of a supervisor, elder, shepherd (pastor). While Paul did not go into this topic in this passage, his teaching in the verses which immediately precede this section regarding women provides all of the reasons necessary. Women are forbidden from teaching in a mixed gathering. “Have the women learn in quietness with all subjection. I do not permit a woman to teach or be independent of man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived. But the woman, having been deceived, has become in violation.” The original order of man and woman, with the wife as helper, and the curse placed upon all of Eve’s daughters until the resurrection (that the husband is to rule over her), becomes completely undone in the local assembly if a woman is placed in an office of authority which extends to the whole congregation, including all of the men, and even over her own husband. The order and rank that was established by God in all of the institutions which He has ordained, the family, the local assembly, and human government, must be faithfully maintained by all Christians, especially the leaders of the local assembly. When one of these is disturbed or overturned, permission is implicitly given to overturn all God-ordained order. For these reasons supervisors / elders / shepherds must continue the original order established in Genesis and must demonstrate by their behavior faithfulness to all God-ordained order in the family, the local assembly, and civil government. When appointed leaders or local assemblies fail to do so, apostolic Christianity is severely undermined, Christ is blasphemed among unbelievers, and His appointed leaders will be reproached.
Go to: 6. Qualifications of “Servants” of the Local Assembly
 1 Tim. 1:3,19-20
 2 Tim. 2:2
 All of the qualifications listed are dependent clauses relying on the present infinitive verb of being “einai” (to be). This verb refers exclusively to his present circumstances. It does not refer to his entire life history. Otherwise the verbs would necessarily be in the perfect tense (having been…). Obviously, his present circumstance must be judged by some degree of history, but only enough to prove the genuineness of his present character.
 This is the American branch of the Anglican Church (Church of England).
 See: Acts 1:20
 The noun “Shepherd” (Pastor) as a title is only used once in the New Testament (Eph. 4:11).
 If Paul meant to restrict the office of supervisor to men who had been married once, he would have said, “having been a man of one woman” (perfect tense). The clause, “to be … a man of one woman,” indicates that his present character is one of being devoted to his wife alone, not a flirt, not having a wandering eye, not a womanizer, etc. It also requires that he be currently married and not a polygamist.
 Titus 1:9 further explains that a Supervisor must be a good apologist for the Christian Faith in order to successfully counter external attacks as well as correct internal false teaching.
 Literally, “not near to wine,” probably implying not being fond of wine. It does not prohibit light use of wine since Timothy was instructed to use “a little wine” (1 Tim. 5:23).
 Elders are not required to have perfect children. However, the primary concern is that they must be submissive and respectful to their father. The positive characteristics listed here, (in subjection with all sincerity) are amplified by negating the negative counterparts in Titus 1:6 – “faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.”
 Someone young, new to the faith, unskilled in handling the Scriptures, or inexperienced in administering a household and raising children
 This warning requires a careful assessment of a man’s ego. Humility can be faked to some degree, but subtle clues often betray an inner need for personal recognition. Those who display signs of seeking attention for themselves are not good candidates for leadership.
 Satan’s downfall was self-exaltation, pride, seeking fame, parading himself, desiring glory and honor for himself. Big egos have no place among the leaders of God’s congregations.
 In 1 Timothy 5:22,24-25 Paul warned Timothy not too hastily ordain anyone until they are thoroughly observed and vetted, because some faults can be concealed. Ordaining such men to the office of Supervisor would make the one ordaining them responsible for the damage they will cause to the local assembly and the cause of Christ.
 See also Eph. 3:9-11 where the order, submission, and proper role-modeling in the assembly is also a testimony to the angelic realm.
 1 Tim. 3:7; 1 Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:5; 2 Pet. 2:1-2
12 thoughts on “5. 1 Tim. 3:1-7 Qualifications of “Supervisors” of Local Assemblies”
Concerning the phrase, “His own blood“, it seems that when the referent of the phrase “of his own ”, the adjective “ἴδιος” is inflected as to agree with the possessed noun as adjective normally should. But, having looked at many examples of the construction article-adjective-noun, where the adjective is “ἴδιος”, it seems that Acts 20.28 is an anomaly, as its usage of “ἴδιος” (being masculine in this case) does not agree with the noun τοῦ αἵματος, which is neuter.
Since we know that the adjective must agree with the noun it modifies, but here it does not, perhaps it is trying to say something other than “God’s own blood?” Perhaps it is saying something like ‘the blood of God’s own,’ where ‘own’ is a substantive, standing in the place of some other noun, perhaps like, ‘the blood of His own Son’?
We see this adjective being used as a substantive in other places such as John 1.11. It would make more sense, as it agrees with 4 other passages, that the blood being spoken of here is the blood of God’s own Son (Heb. 9.12; 13.12; Col. 1.14; Rev. 1.5). This is how the NRSV has interpreted it anyway, just a thought.
This is not really a translation issue but rather a textual issue. The reason that some translations have “the blood of His own” rather than “His own blood” is because they are following the critical text which has τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου (the blood of the own). The Majority Text and Textus Receptus have τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος (His own blood) without the second article. This is the correct translation of τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος because there is one definite article governing the entire clause and it is neuter not masculine. So the question is not really a grammatical one, but rather which manuscript tradition one is going to follow. If one is convinced that the Critical Text is accurate here, then “the blood of His own” is the correct translation. I tend to take the shorter reading as original because it more clearly shows the truth that the weight of our sin was born in large part by the Father Himself, as opposed by the Son alone. By referring to the assembly as “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood,” the emphasis is placed upon God’s sacrifice, just as in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son …,” and 1 Jn. 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” IMO, Paul’s point in this verse was to impress upon the elders the cost to God Himself (not only to His Son) of reconciling the assembly to Himself, and that this consideration ought to weigh heavily upon the elders as they manage the charge they have been given by the holy Breath of God to tend His flock.
One of the rules in textual criticism is that the more difficult reading is more likely to be the original, especially when it is very widespread. It is easier to explain how the reading “His [God’s] own blood” which is the difficult reading theologically might have been changed to “the blood of His own” (by adding the second article) to make it less difficult theologically, rather than a mistake made by a copyist (omitting the second article) which then creates a theological difficulty, yet it is copied to the point that it becomes by far the majority and accepted reading. Of course one could argue that rising Trinitarianism is the cause of the shorter reading, which is certainly a possibility.
I must concede that “τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος” is all neuter. As I read it, I mistook the fact that the Genitive Masculine and Neuter share the same case, and I read the adjective as masculine. Thanks for the correction.
Concerning the Critical Text (NA28/UBS5), though it reads, “τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου”, many interpreters still agree that this can be read as “of His own blood” (attributive) or “of the blood of His own” (possessive) [See note 115 of the NET Bible Online]. The point is that the addition of the definite article to the adjective adds little to nothing to the translation or interpretation. As we see in John 5.43 which has the additional definite article, “τῷ ὀνόματι τῷ ἰδίῳ”, meaning “his own name”. Here, the meaning of “in his own name” versus the “name of his own” would show no interpretive distinction at all, IMO. The same can be seen in John 7.18, Acts 1.25 & Mark 15.20. What it comes down to is whether the adjective is an attributive or possessive genitive, and there is simply no way to tell.
On this topic, I will give my opinion knowing that I add nothing to the work of “the masters of the past (C.F. Devine, the Blood of God in Acts 20.28).” But I have so enjoyed our conversations in the past as they always force me to be both contemplative and humble before the Scriptures, so thank you.
I think that the correct interpretation of this verse depends less on the phrase “τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος”, but on the previous phrase, “την εκκλησιαν του θεου”. This phrase is the result of a much argued textual variant where the NA28, 01(Sinaiticus), 03 (Vaticanus), 614, 1175 & 1505 read, “the church of God”, and P41 P74 02 04* 05 08 044 33 945 1739 read “the church of the Lord”, while 04C3 020 18 323 424C 1241 read differently with “the church of the Lord and God”. If the “church of God” is maintained, then this reading can certainly be explained as expressing the sacrifice of the Father in giving His only-begotten, but this would be better clarified by “of the blood of His own”, accepting “τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος” as the possessive genitive.
I am forced (at least for now) to adopt the reading “the church of the Lord” as argued by Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregellas (though it saddens me that Alford argued against), understanding that this would be the only existence of such a phrase in the NT, though Rom. 16.16, “the churches of Christ” would be conceptually similar. This reading has double the manuscript support, and makes the most sense theologically when reading Heb. 9.12; 13.12; Col. 1.14; Rev. 1.5. I also appreciate Chrysostom’s understanding here, apparently knowing of both readings, but explaining “His own blood” as belonging to the Lord, not God.
And, I do agree with you that the reading you have adopted may have been maintained due to the presupposition of the Trinity.
This will be my final comment on this topic, not because it disinterests me, nor because your opinion carries little weight with me, but quite the opposite! To say more would only appear argumentative. Thanks for the conversation!
The addition of the second article is what allows for a alternate meaning — “the blood of HIs own.” The clause διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος can be read only one way, as His (God’s) own blood. It is genitive case because it is the object of the preposition διὰ. However, in the clause διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου, the second articular genitive can be read either as attributive or a genitive series. So the second article is a factor. IMO, adding it was one way to try to avoid the theological difficulty of God having blood.
While it is true that there are some variants regarding “God,” some mss. (& marginal notes) have “Lord” and some have “Lord and God,” these also appear to be attempts to remedy the theological problem. Yet the critical texts as well as the TR have “God” (not Lord) based on following the norms of textual criticism, (explaining how a difficult reading led to the all of the other variants) . IMO, this is the original reading, and the attempts to get around the problem using various modifications to the text simply show that the scribes were struggling with the sense of the text as it stood in their exemplars. There is a reason why nearly all of the English versions have “church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
Concerning your comment in the same paragraph where you state of “His own blood”, that it became “the only sacrifice which satisfies the condition under which God will forgive sin,” I wonder if this comment is fully correct? The Bible tells us that the character of God is one which is, “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Exodus 34.6)…” And again, “You are a God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness (Nehemiah 9.17)…” And again, “You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness; One who relents from doing harm (Jonah 4.2).”
My only point is that I do not think that God’s character needs no impetus or condition to be forgiving, for it was man who needed to be reconciled to God, not the other way around. God has been “pleading” with mankind (2 Cor. 5.20), for we were enemies of God (Rom. 5.10), but it is through Christ’s blood that “we” are reconciled to God (Rom. 5.10; 2 Cor. 5.20).
Our Father is merciful and ready to pardon, only if man will truly repent and trust in Him. This is what the “blood” has done: it has changed the hearts of men so that we might see the beauty and love of the Father through the work of the Son on the Cross! God did not need a reason to forgive; man needed a clearer vision of God! “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Romans 2.4)?”
It is a nuanced view, but one points out a character deficiency in God, while the other in man. Just thinking, thanks for the article.
While it is true that God is unfathomably merciful and willing to forgive, having this understanding without balancing it with His justice and His hatred for sin is a dangerous position. It leads to cheap grace. Hebrews 9:22 states: “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (NKJV). This is what the Law, with all of the blood that flowed in those sacrifices, proved. The NT reveals that no one is forgiven except on the basis of the blood of God’s own Son, which in a manner of speaking is God’s own blood. According to Heb. 9:15, this includes even the Old Testament saints. “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (NKJV).
One of the most important concepts in the Bible is how to reconcile God’s justice with His grace and mercy. IMO, the correct view is NOT to exalt His grace and thereby diminish His righteousness and justice. Rather, it is to exalt BOTH without diminishing either. The only way this can be done is by showing just how appalling sin is to God illustrated by His seemingly excessive wrath against those who are disobedient. At the same time, He is abundant in mercy. The crux of the matter is the cross. As the Epistle of Diognetus to Mathetes states, that God Himself took on Himself the price that He had established necessary before He will forgive sins. That price was: (1) to beget a “Son” in His own likeness, then (2) for that immortal Son to become flesh “for the suffering of death” (Heb. 2:9). The COST of our redemption to God Himself (John 3:16) is the pivot whereby God’s justice and righteousness can be balanced by His grace and mercy. If we focus on His mercy at the expense of the COST to God Himself we make His grace cheap, IMO.
So God has designed a system and conditions for His forgiveness whereby He grants immortality. These conditions are two-fold. The blood sacrifice of His own Son was the condition that God placed upon Himself. The condition that He placed upon man is HUMILITY, since God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. This humility is demonstrated in repentance and obedience to the revealed knowledge of God, which since Christ is the Gospel.
And while Heb. 9.22 says “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”, Heb. 10.4 goes on to say of those OT sacrifices that “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin.” And yet, there were many under the Old Covenant who were forgiven. The question remains: were they forgiven because the blood of bulls and goats ameliorated God’s anger, allowing Him to forgive (propitiation), or did it remove the sin of wicked men (expiation), causing humility towards God, the blood of bulls and goats and now the Lamb of God impressing upon them the level of hatred God has for sin, and His great mercy of sending a payment in their stead?
Neither grace nor justice is diminished in my mind. The removal of sin was provided by God through His own Son, and the wages will be paid out by God in the destruction of the unrepentant and those who do not endure until the end. The mere accusation that I diminish one, simply because we see something differently, does not make it true.
Concerning “cheap grace”, this is a cudgel that can be wielded in many ways. I do not see how grace can be cheapened by its elevation! Now, one may accuse me of a cheap view of justice, but through my admitting that the price of justice is the very blood of the Son of God, this would be a high bar, in my opinion.
Again, my main point is this: did the blood of Jesus allow God to be forgiving (something both the OT and NT show as being in His very nature and desire), or did it pay for sin in the sense that our own deaths would no longer be required if we would recognize the abundant mercy and love of God (John 3.16), humble ourselves and repent of our wickedness, praising Him with a good conscience knowing that He is the provider of our salvation?
I am not accusing you of making God’s grace cheap. I was stating that exalting grace at the expense of his justice and righteousness (judging rightly) tends towards cheap grace.
You wrote: “…And yet, there were many under the Old Covenant who were forgiven. The question remains: were they forgiven because the blood of bulls and goats ameliorated God’s anger, allowing Him to forgive (propitiation), or did it remove the sin of wicked men (expiation), causing humility towards God, the blood of bulls and goats and now the Lamb of God impressing upon them the level of hatred God has for sin, and His great mercy of sending a payment in their stead?”
I do not see how that question remains at all since Heb. 10:3 states that those blood sacrifices only served as a “reminder of sins every year,” verse 11 states that they “could never take away sins”, and verse 12 states that Christ “offered one sacrifice for sins forever,” and Heb. 9:15 claims that the blood of Christ retroactively satisfies the “blood” requirement whereby God forgave the sins of those in the OT. The blood of animals cannot satisfy this requirement, only God’s blood, via His only-begotten Son. The OT saints were forgiven and promised immortality by God on the basis of the fact that He would send His Son in the future to atone for their sins. The animal sacrifices were merely reminders and allegories of the only once-for-all sacrifice yet to come. The Law was a tutor to point Israel to Christ. The blood of animals only demonstrated God’s hatred of sin, and prophesied in allegory of Christ.
You wrote: ” … did the blood of Jesus allow God to be forgiving (something both the OT and NT show as being in His very nature and desire), or did it pay for sin in the sense that our own deaths would no longer be required …”
It is in God’s nature to be gracious and forgiving, since “God is love.” But He is no less just. Rom. 11:22 states, “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” My position is this: Having known in advance that the outcome of giving mankind free-will would necessarily mean that all mankind would sin and therefore be condemned to death, God devised a plan whereby both His severe hatred for sin and His abundant love for man could be exercised. He set the condition whereby He could pardon sin which was to accept the death penalty Himself (via His only-begotten Son). He chose to extend His grace only to the humble, and extend His wrath upon the proud. This leaves man’s free will intact because humility and pride are choices. It leaves God’s justice and punishment of sin intact, and it demonstrates His love for man. So when you ask, “Did the blood of Jesus ALLOW God to be forgiving?” I would have to say no, since God is not restricted by anything except what He chooses to be restricted by. He is the one who set the condition of a once-for-all blood sacrifice, and He is the one who orchestrated the death of His own Son to satisfy His own requirement. On the individual human basis, God highly values humility which is what David described in his Psalm of repentance as “You desire truth in the inward parts.” (Ps. 51:6 NKJ). Humility is the outcome of HONESTY, a correct evaluation of ourselves and God, and realizing the chasm between His goodness and our wickedness. It is viewing ourselves as God sees us. It comes from right judgement and evaluation. Pride is the result of having an extremely distorted and exalted view of ourselves and consequently devaluing God and His goodness. “Faith” enters into the equation because having rightly judged ourselves as worthy of death and unworthy of God’s mercy, God has thrown us a “life-preserver,” and our only options are to grasp it by faith or drown. True “faith” in God is the product of humbling ourselves.
Unfortunately, it seems that I moved on to a point tangential to my purpose in commenting. I will leave it here: I believe that the efficacy of the blood of the Son of God was toward mankind, and not toward God, the Father. I have heard many sermons in the past (and likely have so taught myself) that God found Himself in a bind between His love and sense of justice, and that the work of Jesus alleviated God’s problem, “allowing” Him to forgive and maintain justice.
But I do not believe that the blessed Potentate has found Himself in such a bind due to our behavior, and perhaps you would not express it so. But, I find the statement that the Son’s shed blood did “become the only sacrifice which satisfies the condition under which God will forgive sin”, puts God in some strait, where the blood of Christ satisfied some need of God as much as it satisfied the need of man.
But again, perhaps you were not saying this at all, only that God has a standard that respects both grace and justice, and Christ met that initial burden for mankind. I only say “initial burden”, as mankind is responsible for his/her own behavior (though grace still abounds) after having his sins expiated by the blood of Jesus.
I have yet to read your comments on deacons (servants), but look forward to it.
Thanks again for the conversation,
Finally, concerning the main point of your article, the requirements of a man to supervise God’s heritage. I agree that the requirement, “εἶναι μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα” does not exclude a previous marriage, but as it states presently that the man has “one woman”, it does speak more towards monogamy, opposing polygamous relationships. While you are right to expound upon this man’s devotion to this “one woman”, as this would fulfill Ephesian 5.25, 28, previous marriages, though not automatically disqualifying, should be a part of the consideration. Just as we are to consider the devotion of this man to his “one wife” because of Ephesians, we must consider the man’s behavior concerning marriage by the commandment and guidance given in 1 Corinthians 7.
If the man was previously married but became a widower, he fulfills the requirements of being blameless. If his wife was an unbeliever and chose not to remain in the marriage, he is blameless, not being under bondage in such a case. If the man was previously married when an unbeliever, and divorced his wife, this too may be allowed as long as the man has shown many years of faithful behavior since that time. But, if both claimed Christ and divorce occurred, this is a consideration for sure. The Lord commanded that a man not divorce his wife (1 Cor. 7.10-11), and if a believing wife departs, he should remain unmarried just as the departing wife, else how could reconciliation be possible (1 Cor. 7.11)? This goes to both blamelessness and testimony.
And, while it is true that the Scriptures do not command a man to rule his wife as it does his children, the behavior of the wife is germane. If she is a believer, is he unable to persuade the good and honorable behavior of his wife as he would be responsible for doing in the church? If she is a troublemaker, this would be a matter of discernment, knowing that her behavior could be a divisive influence on her husband and upon the church.
Just some more thoughts! Thanks again,
I agree that the primary concern is how appointing a particular man will impact the congregation, and that the public behavior of his wife ought to be considered. But my point was that Paul did not address this issue, not that it should not be considered. I also agree that previous marriages do not automatically disqualify a man. I also agree that in this case the reasons why a man might have been divorced are germane to whether he is qualified. While the requirements are guidelines, it takes wisdom of the current leadership to evaluate both a man’s character and his teaching and leadership abilities in making these judgements. I also agree that a widower who has been a faithful husband is not disqualified because his wife died, just as a man whose children are grown and no longer under his authority are not disqualifying for him if they behave improperly as adults. What is important is what these things reveal about his character (determination to be faithful and obedient to God) and his proven ability to handle the responsibilities of authority.