1 Timothy 3:4-5 – “Overseers, Part 2: Qualities that Expose the Overseer”
“He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),”
It should go without say that these two verses are within the context of 3:1-3. Paul has moved from looking at the qualities that identify an overseer and is now examining the conduct that will expose an overseer. To be exposed is not necessarily a negative thing. To expose something or someone is to reveal them. Sometimes the genuine quality of an individual is not obvious to all. The only need for concern is when we’re afraid of what is actually there.
These very simple verses argue that the best way to expose an overseer/elder/pastor is to examine his home life. A man’s home and children will very quickly either confirm or deny his ability to hold the office of overseer. But either way he will be exposed, and that is a good thing.
“He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity”
There are a few things here worth taking note of. First, this man (for we are only considering men for this office) is one who must manage his own household well. The same verb (δεῖ) in v. 2 that leaves no room for debate or discussion governs this verse as well.
Second, this man is one who must manage his own household well. This is a study of conduct, not counsel, wisdom, or advice. I’ve run into so many individuals that seem to hold all of the secrets to a happy marriage and wonderful children, yet their own home is nothing short of chaos. In this verse, Paul is not interested in what this man knows so much as what he practices.
Third, this man is one who must manage his own household well. The Greek root (προΐστημι) indicates an action of leadership. To rule, direct, to be at the head. It is probably for this reason that the NKJV actually translates this word as “one who rules.” Yet this term stretches past the idea of authority to also encompass genuine interest in the subjects under his rule. This term certainly means to rule, but that rule includes the concept of showing concern, caring for, or even to give aid.
In other words, an overseer (clearly seen as the father/husband here) is the final authority within his house, but he is not an egotistical dictator. The authority that he wields is perfectly intertwined with genuine concern and interest regarding those under his rule. This is the very definition of ruling his household well. The same Greek word (καλῶς) is used here as in v. 1 (…it is a fine work that he desires…).
Keeping his children under control
I prefer the translation, “having children in submission.” While that may come off a little harsh, it is actually closer to the idea here. I have never seen, or even heard of, a three-year-old that was under control even half of the time. Presently, my nine-year-old son struggles to control himself. The idea here is not that his children are perfectly self-controlled, but that they are obedient.
Ὑποταγή describes a state of submissiveness, subjection, or subordination. This requirement asks a single question: Do his children obey him?
How many times have you seen parents give a half hearted command only to witness their children directly disobey while receiving zero consequences? The scene goes something like this:
“It’s time to clean up, sweetheart.”
Meanwhile, “sweetheart” keeps right on playing without any indication that he/she heard a word from mommy/daddy. To exasperate matters, the parent(s) purposefully turn a blind eye to the overt rebellion.
Don’t even pretend you have no idea what I just described. You’ve seen it plenty of times and have very likely been guilty of it. But understand that picture is the antithesis of a submissive family. Any man who ignores/refuses to combat rebellion within his own home has no place in the church of God.
With all dignity
This phrase is not attached to the children, but back to the man in question. His children must be submissive and obedient. But it is not permissible for him to be a tyrant. This phrase describes the manner in which he applies his authority. The word here (σεμνότης) describes behavior that is above the ordinary and is therefore worthy of special respect. We could translate it as dignity, seriousness, probity, or even holiness. The man in question does not accept sass or back talk. He has no patience for overt rebellion. He expects his orders to be obeyed. But when there is rebellion he deals with it in a manner of seriousness, dignity, and holiness.
“(But if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),”
The comparison from the lesser to the greater is obvious here. If you can’t father and husband effectively, then you can kiss the office of overseer “goodbye.” But what might not be so obvious to some is the significance of this comparison. Why did Paul choose the family to demonstrate the overseer’s ability? Why not his business acumen or his scholastic achievements? This is where we’re going to have to connect a few dots.
Connecting the Dots
It was Jonathan Edwards who is credited as saying that the family is like a little church. Unfortunately this is how many Christians view the family. But this is to look through the telescope backwards. The family is not a little church so much as the church is a large family.
Which came first, the church or the family? This answer shouldn’t be hard to arrive at (unless you’re one of those strange covenant guys) because the family was created on the sixth day of creation.
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26-28
There’s so much here to sort through, but because I’ve already written and preached on these verses several times I only what to make two observations. God created the family to represent and reproduce.
God gave the man and his wife (the first family) a job to do. They were to rule the earth and subdue it. Adam and Eve were king and queen of creation as they represented God and bore His image everywhere they went. But there were also commanded to reproduce via procreation. They were not to be content to be the only image bearers, representatives of Almighty God. They were to reproduce themselves. Guess what? The church is given the same commands.
“But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-20
Once again this is familiar territory. But understand this: if we keep coming back to the same truths, then maybe these truths are important. The only point I want to make here and now is that the mission of the family (represent and reproduce) is the exact same mission of the church.
Jesus states that all authority has been given to Him, the head, the beginning element of the church. From Him Jesus commands one single action: to make disciples. A disciple is more than a learner, more than a student. A disciple is more like an apprentice; one who learns a trade but through such close proximity to his master ends up becoming very much like his master.
The means of reproduction have changed from emphasizing procreation to emphasizing evangelism, but the mission of the church is exactly like the mission of the family: to be salt and light and to make disciples.
The church not only mirrors the family in mission/purpose, but also in her basic structure and design.
The family has a single head (man) with his designated helper (his wife) to rear, train, and equip the next generation.
“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” – Genesis 2:7-9, 15
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib, which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” – Genesis 2:18-24
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Gee, it’s almost like God intended dad to be the solitary head of the family with the responsibility of teaching his children the Word of God. It is the MAN who is charged with ruling his house and teaching his children. HIS WIFE is to aid/help him in such a way to make sure that this task is completed. Just because it is nearly impossible to find this modeled in our churches does not mean that it’s not true. It’s important to understand the command as well as its implications because the church comes with the same divine structure.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:13-19
We must notice two things here. Notice the source of the church is Christ himself. Just as man is the source of woman (Gen. 2:21), Christ is the source of His church.
Notice the language of the church’s creation. A better translation might be “upon this rock [the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God] I will fashion My church.” Jesus very purposefully used the same Greek word (οἰκοδομέω) to speak of the creation of the church as the Septuagint uses in Gen. 2:22 to describe God’s formation of woman from the man’s rib. It was Jesus’ intention to draw a strong line of comparison between His future church and the past creation of the family.
The Bible clearly teaches that the family provides the model, structure, and mission for the church. The family is not a little church. The church is a large family. And that’s Paul’s entire point!
These verses are not only looking at the perspective overseer’s leadership style or level of responsibility. Those things are certainly included, but not the main focus. The family is the core unit of the church. How does this potential overseer handle his own family?
There’s a reason that Paul focuses on the family here; not his business, not his education, not his athleticism or personality. The concept is very simple: if he is faithful with a little, then maybe he can be trusted to be faithful with much.
The family and the church are so tightly connected that we should be able to look at a man’s family and very accurately predict what kind of pastor/elder/overseer he will be.
Does he have charge over his children or do they do whatever they want to do? This is a lazy overseer who will not bring discipline into the church. Members will seldom be confronted of their overt rebellion and if they push back it is highly unlikely this man will stick to his guns.
Does this man rule as a tyrant over his children, while they tiptoe around him? This is a man who will rule over the church in a similar manner. This man cares little for those under him.
Does this man demand obedience from his children, discipline them when they fail, and teach them they why and the way of righteousness? This is a man that will shepherd the church of God.
There is nothing within these verses (or the numerous other passages) that limit this command to the leadership of the church. Literally every man should rule over his house in a manner that would expose him as an overseer. Every Christian home should be led by men who love Christ more than themselves and are willing to put a stop to rebellion.
Wives do not lead the home. The man does. The old saying “if momma ain’t happy then ain’t nobody happy” cannot be true of the Christian home. If momma ain’t happy, then momma needs to repent and learn to rejoice in all things. Husband, your wife does not rule the roost. You must take the reins and lead her in obedience.
Children do not lead the home. The father does. Christ does not care about soccer practice or band performances. Anything that is keeping your family from representing and obeying Christ must be cast off. Dad, don’t let your children dictate what obedience looks like. You take the reins and lead them in obedience.
I will never understand why so many “conservative” churches seem to understand the need for a pastor/elder/overseer who rules the church as Christ intended and yet are perfectly content to see the families within the church being ran by limp wristed men, strong willed women, and/or rebellious and self involved children.
The church is nothing but a large family. If the families that make up the church are dysfunctional, then the church is also dysfunctional. It begins with strong, loving, and obedient leadership. But that leadership must seep into every member.
The family is a single body with a single head, the man.
The church is a single body with a single head, Christ.
But Christ has set in place overseers to rule over His bride until He returns.