Affiliated with the Intercontinental Church of God and the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association


Qualifications of a Minister...WRONGLY USED!!

I was doing some research the other day that had me surfing the Internet looking at accounts and alleged accounts of our church history going back several decades.  I came upon an account of a group of ministers who were up in arms about some alleged behavior of a fellow minister.  Clearly their aim was to disfellowship him and find justification for doing so in the Word of God.  One of their number took it upon himself to write a dissertation regarding the qualifications of a ministers and deacons as found in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.  His sole purpose was to use those qualifications as fodder to bring this minister down. 

Is this possible?  Can the stated qualifications for the ministry; something designed to raise a man UP, be turned around and used to bring the same man DOWN?  I tell you here and now THEY CANNOT!!  The entire Bible is a document to raise all of mankind up.  It cannot be used by third parties to bring a man down.  God Almighty can bring a human down in His own judgment.  The individual can bring himself down with unrepented sins, but the members of the flock, even ministers, cannot go about ousting people using the Word of God as their justification, especially if they are attempting to use scriptures whose sole purpose is to raise a man up into the ministry.

First, read the scriptures in question:

1 Tim 3:1-13 qualifications for ministers and deacons
3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

For what purpose did Paul write these words to the new minister, Timothy?  Clearly Paul desired that Timothy raise up ministers and deacons in the local churches.  These qualifications were designed for initial selection.  As we can see in the opening words of 1 Timothy, as well as the letters to the Corinthians, Thessalonians and others, not every individual in these local churches was initially qualified for the ministry.  That is, there was something glaring about their present character, behavior or circumstance that would make them, Timothy and/or the church a target of immediate ridicule, attack and blame.  For example, Paul would not have Timothy ordain someone who was having an obvious problem with alcohol, preaching foreign doctrines or lacking an understanding of the Law [see 1 Timothy 1:1-7].

Are we to presuppose from these qualifications that a minister was to be perfect?  Hardly.  Are we to assume that no minister would ever drink too much wine [3:3], covet something [3:3], become lifted up in pride [3:6] or blamed for something [3:2]?  Are we saying an ordained minister could NEVER sin a sin?  This would be absurd.

If we ARE to use these scriptures to disqualify a minister, why then are we given other scriptures regarding the rebuking and disfellowshiping of a minister IN THIS SAME LETTER TO TIMOTHY [1 Timothy 5:20-21]?  See our study on these scriptures at the EA site.  If these qualifications of a minister are to be used as a tool of disqualification, why do we NEVER see them used this way in all of the New Testament?  Where is the example?  Where is the instruction or admonition to use them in this way?  You won't find it.

Notice some commentary on 1 Timothy 3 and verse two.  Notice carefully the wording and how the intent here is initial selection of the man for the ministry.

1 Tim 3:2 from Adam Clarke's Commentary
This Christian Bishop must be blameless; anepileepton (NT:423), a person against whom no evil can be proved; one who is everywhere invulnerable; for the word is a metaphor, taken from the case of an expert and skillful pugilist, who so defends every part of his body that it is impossible for his antagonist to give one hit. So this Christian Bishop is one that has so conducted himself, as to put it out of the reach of any person to prove that he is either unsound in a single article of the Christian faith, or deficient in the fulfilment of any duty incumbent on a Christian. He must be irreprehensible; for how can he reprove that in others which they can reprove in him?

1 Tim 3:2 from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary
Blameless, [anepileempton (NT:423)] - 'unexceptionable:' giving no just handle for blame.

1 Tim 3:2 from Barnes' Notes
The word here used does not mean that, as a necessary qualification for office, a bishop should be "perfect;" but that he should be a man against whom no charge of immorality, or of holding false doctrine, is alleged. His conduct should be irreprehensible or irreproachable. Undoubtedly it means that if "any" charge could be brought against him implying moral obliquity, he is not fit for the office. He should be a man of irreproachable character for truth, honesty, chastity, and general uprightness. --end quote--

It is clear to me that the purpose of these qualifications is to choose someone free from obvious flaw; something that would come under immediate attack, that would undermine his effectiveness even before hands of ordination are laid on him.  Even in 1 Timothy 5:20-21, the church can only disfellowship a minister IF a sin is pointed out to the minister and he declares that a) he will not repent and/or b) will continue in the offense [obvious sin].  If the minister is a repentant individual, 1 Timothy 5:20-21 CANNOT APPLY or BE INVOKED!!

Notice two verses in these qualifications [verses 10 and 11]: And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. These itemized qualifying elements were to be considered in the initial selection of the man THEN they were to be ordained.  Notice verse 11 here.  If a minister's wife sins, are we then justified in getting rid of the minister?  God FORBID this EVER be the case.  Surely this verse was designed to alleviate immediate attacks on the man being considered for the ministry.  Imagine the problems we would have if we were considering the ordination of a man who's wife was well known in the congregation for being a public drunk or who went about slandering members of the congregation.  The effectiveness of this man's ministry would be harmed from the start.  In most every case, if the reputation of the man's wife is that of a sober, faithful woman, she will probably continue along that path. History and experience has shown this to be true.  Notice now a commentary on verse 10.

1 Tim 3:10 from Barnes' Notes
That is, tried or tested in regard to the things which were the proper qualifications for the office. This does not mean that they were to be employed as "preachers," but that they were to undergo a proper trial in regard to their fitness for the office which they were to fill. They were not to be put into it without any opportunity of knowing what they were. It should be ascertained that they were grave, serious, temperate, trustworthy men; men who were sound in the faith, and who would not dishonor the office. It is not said here that there should be a "formal" trial, as if they were candidates for this office; but the meaning is, that they should have had an opportunity of making their character known, and should have gained such respect for their piety, and their other qualifications, that there would be reason to believe that they would perform the functions of the office well. --end quote--

What could be more clear?  Those authoring these commentaries see it clearly.  These qualifications were designed to give both the man and the congregation THE BEST POSSIBLE LAUNCH into the ministry.  It was NOT designed to be a yardstick brought out each morning by third parties to see how the minister is doing, as if the duty of the congregation or other ministers was to look for any opportunity to oust the man.

The church has 1 Timothy 5:20-21 to protect itself against ministers openly sinning and refusing to repent.  The individual member has the admonition to dismiss himself from ANY minister preaching heresy and/or false doctrine.  We don't need to use the qualification of a minister to tear him down.

Going back to the church history I happened upon:  THANKS BE TO GOD this minister in question was not ultimately ousted by this damnable and wrong use of 1 Timothy 3.  My understanding is that the minister in question went on to distinguish himself in his ministry and did much to advance the Work of God and ISN'T THIS THE PROOF OF THE SITUATION?  The ministers in error were the ones misapplying the Word of God.  Ultimately, if a minister is unrepentant and openly sinning, GOD ALMIGHTY will bring the man down.  Indeed, the unrepentant minister will bring himself down.  God will not tolerate any in the church who are unrepentant and openly sinning.  They will be handled, but 1 Timothy 3 will not be the tool used.


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Portland, Oregon Church of God - part of The Intercontinental Church of God and The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association - Tyler, Texas