Church

 

 

1. What does Paul mean when he says that if a man desires the position of a bishop, he must be blameless and must have a good testimony among those who are outside (1 Timothy 3:1-2,7)? That is to say, what’s the meaning, according to the Word of God, of these words ‘blameless’ and ‘good testimony’? Furthermore, I kindly ask you to help me to understand when a Christian really loses his blamelessness and his good report and what the Word of God says to those who, being called to the ministry, before or after they began to fulfil the ministry, lose their blamelessness and their good report.

 

 

 

When Paul says that if a man desires the position of a bishop he must be blameless, he means that anyone who wants to be elected to that specific office, which is the elder’s office (or bishop’s office), must not be considered censurable by the sheep he wants to shepherd. For if he himself is censurable because he uses a scurrilous and vulgar language, or he is violent, or he is quarrelsome, or he loves some of the pleasures of life, it is evident that he will not be able to shepherd the sheep because a bishop must exhort the sheep to be meek, to use a sound language, not to love the world, and thus the sheep will not stand him (the one who exhorts them) because he himself is to be rebuked with regard to these things. In other words, if the aspiring bishop is not self-controlled, just and holy, how can he exhort the sheep to be self-controlled, just and holy? In my opinion, he can’t. Don’t you think so? In short, it is like the fact that the aspiring bishop must rule his own house well otherwise he will not be able to rule the church of God. How can a man, who doesn’t rebuke his own children and who doesn’t make himself obeyed by his children, if he is elected to the office of bishop, rebuke the sheep and make himself obeyed by the Church?

To have a good testimony among those who are outside means that the children of this world who know him must have nothing evil to say of him, that is to say, they must not say that he is an adulterer, or a fornicator, or a thief, or a fraudulent man, or a slanderer, or a covetous person, or greedy for money, etc. I would like you to note the reason why Paul says that the bishop must have this good testimony: “lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7), Therefore, a believer who desires the position of a bishop can’t be a man about whom the people of his town says that he is a fornicator, a thief, a drunkard, a fraudulent man, etc.

However, let us suppose now that after a believer is elected to the office of a bishop – since he has the necessary qualifications – he is accused of a sin. What does the Word of God say? Paul says to Timothy: “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:19). Therefore any accusation against an elder, if it is confirmed by two or three witnesses must be accepted. And once the accusation has been accepted what does the Word of God say we must do? Paul says: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20). Therefore an elder must be rebuked before all so that others also may fear. I would like to remind you that at Antioch, Peter (Cephas), who was an elder (1 Peter 5:1), when he began to compel the Gentiles to live as Jews, was publicly rebuked by Paul; Peter was to be blamed (please note the seriousness of his sin) and Paul rebuked Peter “before them all” (Galatians 2:14).

Therefore, when those who were appointed to shepherd the sheep of the Lord behave wrongly they must be rebuked. It cannot be otherwise. Let us consider also the angels (the pastors) of the seven churches of the book of Revelation. I will speak of the angel of the Church of Ephesus, the angel of the Church of Sardis, and the angel of the Church of Laodicea. The angel of the Church of Ephesus had left his first love and the Lord told him to repent and do the first works, or else He would remove his lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:4-5). The angel of the Church of Sardis, even though he had a reputation of being alive he was dead, and the Lord told him to repent, or else He would come upon him as a thief and he would not know at what time He would come upon him (Revelation 3:1-3). The angel of the Church of the Laodiceans became lukewarm and the Lord rebuked him with the words you know and told him to be zealous and to repent (Revelation 3:19). Therefore, the Lord in His mercy gives His servants, after they have committed a sin, time to repent. But if they don’t repent, then the judgement of God will fall upon them; the judgement can be a serious disease or even death, anyway the judgement of God will fall upon them. The same thing must be said about those believers who have not received a ministry from God and they sin. They also must be rebuked and if they don’t repent they will be judged by God as they deserve.

What happens to those who, being called to ministry, lose their blamelessness? Let us take Peter as an example. Of course Peter, through that particular behaviour, which was absolutely wrong, lost his blamelessness among the brethren, nevertheless the Bible doesn’t say that from that day on he was no longer an elder or an apostle. Furthermore, we must say that the apostle Peter accepted the rebuke of Paul. Thus, he stopped compelling the Gentiles to live as Jews (therefore he lost his doctrinal blamelessness only for a certain period of time). Let us take also the pastor of the Church of Ephesus, the pastor of the Church of Sardis, and the pastor of the Church of the Laodiceans as examples; of course they also lost their blamelessness among the brethren, nevertheless they did not stop shepherding the sheep while they were in that spiritual condition (which was wrong in the Lord’s sight). God rebuked them and gave them time to repent. Did they repent? We don’t know.

Nevertheless, I am persuaded that if an elder or a pastor persists in his mistake or in his sin, surely he will not prosper and shall go from bad to worse for God will punish him as he deserves. Wisdom says: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13) and also: “He that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief [calamity]” (Proverbs 28:14).

Of course, if an elder or a pastor becomes a worker of scandals, he begins to teach damnable heresies and reject all the rebukes, the sheep that are under his care must not be indifferent but rather they must withdraw themselves from him and avoid him, as it is written: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).

God judges His servants, He is no respecter of persons, no matter what kind of ministry they have received from God.

 

 

 

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