Paul says, fine then, you covet the role of leadership in the church; that’s a good thing. Let’s see if you qualify. It’s very much like wanting a new house or car, and you ask for the price and your jaw drops. Then gulping, you proceed hat in hand to apply for the loan anyway.
Out of the gate, Paul’s first criterion is that the aspiring leader be “above reproach,” meaning there is nothing that would cause him to be seized, arrested, apprehended, brought up on charges, on grounds of moral failure. Another way to say this is that there are no rungs on your moral ladder to stand on, no issues that do not square with behavior becoming a “man of the cloth.”
Above reproach here means “a higher morality on which no blame can be found to base an allegation.” Daniel was characterized as having such an exemplary life in Daniel 6:3-5:
4Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.5Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”
Now no one’s perfect, and every man seems to have his Achilles heel, but a man chosen to shepherd the body of Christ should do so with no skeletons in his closet. An indictment along these lines would be akin to what is often said in the letters to the churches in Revelation 2: “But I have this against you… .” A would-be leader of the stature of an elder/pastor/overseer/bishop should be squeaky clean. That’s the way it is.
Who is our grand jury? Wives, parents, kids, friends, co-workers, next-door neighbors, check-out clerks, Department of Motor Vehicle workers, waitresses, guys on the fence at the ballpark, classmates, frat brothers, teammates, fishing and hunting buddies, etc. 1 Timothy 3:7 speaks to this court of public opinion:
7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Now, can we proceed to the next qualification on the list, or do you want to withdraw your application?
Thanks for taking the time to reestablish your point. You are a “useful” man yourself
Just a word on the idea of being “above reproach.” The process of becoming qualified to lead in the church at the “elder” level requires the passage of time in the Lord. In fact, the word implies that the one who holds the office of overseer/elder/pastor/bishop is an older man. We know from reading further that this man is not to be a new convert, and that the new convert must over time be tested and proven to be–again–“above reproach.” There is plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles and knock off the rough edges. Remember, Paul had something against John Mark–in his mind he was quitter. Paul relaxed his opinion over the years, and John Mark obviously resolved his issues to the point of becoming “useful” to his mentor.