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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

God Sets the Qualifications of His Men

Dr. Terry Basham, Sr.

From The Baptist Watchman, April 2016

God’s people in this world and these people are gathered into groups called churches; the Bible calls them the churches of Christ. We know them today as Baptistic churches. They recognize no earthly head and are ruled by the Word of God alone. In these congregations of baptized believers, Christ the Bishop of our souls appoints pastors. Men whom he calls and the church recognizes as his servants are installed or ordained to be the overseer or pastor the church.

These men are called in Ephesians chapter four “gifts” to the church. These men are given to the church “for the perfecting of the saints...for the edifying of the body of Christ”. No doubt most of the readers of this paper have experienced the blessing of this gift. A pastor is a gift and those churches that are without a pastor know that and miss it.

Now we need to ask a few questions: Who are these men? How can we know who they are? What does the Bible say?

Who these men are is obvious after they’ve been recognized by a church as being God’s servants. So we need to look and see what the Bible says so that we can know who these men are.

In the Old Testament the Lord told Moses to set apart the sons of Aaron to be his ministers. The Levites were a unique group of people among Israel’s tribes. It was the tribe of Levi alone who was not given a portion in the Land of Promise; the Lord gave them something better.

Numbers 18:20: “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.”

The LORD was their inheritance, they alone would be able to serve in the place of offering, they only would be able to enter the Holy place where the LORD said He would dwell above the mercy seat. I ask you “What could be better than the LORD himself as your inheritance?”

But, not all the Levites were allowed to serve in the Tabernacle. The servants of the House of the Lord had to meet some standards before they would be deemed acceptable to serve in the house of blood. We can see these limitations in the twenty first chapter of Leviticus. The restrictions covered who he married 21:7, 13-15, and what his physical characteristics were 21:17-21.

We point these out to show that from the first days of the Lord having ministers for His people. The corps of servants was not open to all comers, not even to all the sons of Levi! In the New Testament Churches the same principle is found! Not all Christians can serve as the pastor, and not all men in the church can labor in the pulpit; it is a limited office. The Holy Spirit gives, in 1 Timothy and Titus, the qualifications or the characteristics that a church should use to determine if a man is qualified. It is from these passages that we are taught what constitutes the candidate for the bishopric in the Lord’s church.

In this day of apostasy (which has been present since the legalist(s) descended on the Galatian churches) we need to be reminded of what the Bible says.

In these qualifications of a bishop (1 Timothy 3:1-7) God, as He did in Leviticus 21, covers all facets of His minister’s life. Paul records what kind of character God's man is to possess in relation to His:

1. His Morality– verse 2 points to his past, blameless

2. His Manner– verse 3 points to his prospects, not greedy, not covetous

3. His Marriage– verses 4, 5 point to his present, rules well his family, in love, judgment, correction, and mercy. This gives a good view of how he will lead the church

4. His Maturity– verses 6, 7 point to his principles, must have good report that he is settled in his doctrine (essential, blood atonement, inspiration, salvation, etc.), steadfast in his duty as husband, father and pastor, and surrendered to his destiny the will of God.

It is abundantly clear that the Lord expects a great deal from the men He chooses for His churches. It should be the desire of His men to live up to our Lord's expectations, or it leaves open the probability that they desire the prestige, power and praise of the position more than the holiness and humbleness that is required in it. There are many Baptist ministers who are mere hirelings. Men who are in it for what they get out of it, rather than solely for the “glory of God”.

When men are in the ministry to gratify their own selfish purposes, they will skirt or reason away God's qualifications. Sadly, this is why churches have no power with God in a real sense. And when successes are measured in numbers of members or baptisms in a year rather than absolute faithfulness to God, you’ve fallen for the devil’s lie.

An unqualified minister may be very persuasive, personable and likable to a congregation and has apparent outward success, but if he does not meet God's qualifications, no matter how it looks, he is unfit to offer the bread of God to a hungry world. These qualifications can be, and are in fact, controversial in this day. Nevertheless, they should be followed in ordaining men to the ministry and in recalling ordination of men who become disqualified.

Also, it should be remembered, in the OT the offerings were made for the priests as well as the people to cover their sins, but the blood of those offerings could not remove the blemish in the eye, crooked back or fix the flat nose. (See Lev. 21) These Levites were still disqualified to offer the bread of God. Therefore, in the NT, salvation certainly fits you for heaven, but not necessarily for the office of Bishop or deacon.

The blood of Jesus does cleanse from all sin, but the scars of some those transgressions can remain and be disqualifying from the bishopric. A qualification is a requirement that must be met. These are not options to twist to fit personal manners or moral purview.

If a man desires the office of a bishop, his character and conduct of life must be to the level of God's qualifications. And God, being sovereign, knows every thought and intent of the heart and He will only call those that meet the criteria for His church officers.

1 Timothy 1:12-13: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”

There are things, as Paul says, that a man may have done before he was saved, but there are things also that leave a blemish that cannot be removed. Such could be, a child out of wedlock, child molestation, divorce and remarriage. These can be destructive to a man's testimony and to the Lord's church he is trying to pastor.

There was a man who was a pastor that held strong convictions and a very dynamic preacher. Earlier before he was saved and married, he had an illicit affair. It produced a child. He later was saved and believed he was called to the ministry. However, this mother of his child spent years chasing him all over country to get him to take responsibility for his child. When they would locate him, he would resign from the church and move to another state. He would then become pastor of another unsuspecting church. At the least, he would be disqualified under the first qualification, blameless. 1 Timothy 3:2, “A bishop then must be blameless...” Even, though his salvation occurred after the child's birth. He never married this woman, but did marry another lady and had children with her.

The husband of one wife issue is a hot topic of today. Marriage is a sacred institution that should not be entered into lightly, no matter whether the couple is saved or unsaved. It is to be a lifelong commitment of a man and woman. “Husband of one wife” has been interpreted and reinterpreted over and over, but here are verses that should never be overlooked in connection with 1 Timothy 3:2. Romans 7:2-3:

“For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”

A man may be divorced by the law of the land but according to God's law the woman is still his wife. Therefore, if he marries another, he has two living wives rendering him disqualified to offer the bread of God to the Lord's churches.

This writer realizes this is a controversial issue and it is not his intent to run what he perceives as disqualified men out the ministry. It is his intent to teach the Lord's churches what kind of men they need for the offices of pastors and deacons. By the way, women are never qualified for either of the two offices of the church.

Finally, men of the Lord's churches and the congregation need to keep in mind:

1. The Ministry is a High Calling.

Acts 20:28: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

The Holy Ghost has placed His men in their position as overseers of His possession (church) that Christ purchased with His own Blood. That is a special calling, a serious calling and a selfless calling making it a High Calling by the most High God where there is no room for selfishness on the part of His men.

2. The Ministry is an Honorable Commitment.

1 Timothy 1:11-12 “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”

The Lord has honored His men by committing to us His GLORIOUS GOSPEL. What a privilege to be put in trust of something, so pure, so precious, so powerful it raises sinners from the dead. Therefore, as God's men, we should honor Him by being committed to this great trust, proclaiming His given truth and above all, practicing every precept that the Holy Spirit guides us into without fear, favor or fleshly motive.

3. The Ministry is a Humbling Challenge.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Someone once said, “God gives us enough success to keep us going, and enough failure to keep us humble.” It has also been put this way, “The successes belong to God and the failures belong to me.” Suffice to say, humility is the most essential quality of God's man. It keeps you quiet when you want to lash out or lay blame somewhere else. It keeps you patient when you want to react at criticism, or during seasons of opposition, obstruction or oppression.

The Apostle makes it clear in the previous verses that God intended to keep him humble. Paul gloried in his weakness for these were opportunities to experience the power of an almighty God. Every opposition by the world: government restriction or regulation, compromising influences, etc.

Every obstruction by the flesh: family disagreement, financial shortfall, female temptation, etc., and every oppression by the devil - doubt, fear, defeat or setback - are the times when God shows Himself faithful and mighty. The Bible is replete with episodes that when His men or people are in hopeless and helpless situations to where they are humbled that He gloriously reveals Himself in powerful and spectacular ways. And He alone is glorified.

That is the ministry. Meeting God's qualifications for the ministry is all about our humility and His Glory. May we His ministers fall prostrate before Him and watch as He shows himself mighty in His power to save, strengthen and sustain His people. Ephesians 3:21: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”