Ezekiel, Jonah, and Pastoral Epistles by Patrick Fairbairn - 1 Timothy 3:7 - 3:7

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Ezekiel, Jonah, and Pastoral Epistles by Patrick Fairbairn - 1 Timothy 3:7 - 3:7

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Ver. 7. But he must also have a good testimony from those that are without. Here, too, we have something that is not only additional, and to be connected with the preceding by a moreover, but this coupled with a sort of counter element, and fitly introduced by the adversative äå ́ : the person chosen to the pastorate must not be a neophyte, lest he prove unequal to the difficulties and dangers connected with the office; but, more than that, he must be well reported of by those who stand without the pale of the religious community, as well as known to be of approved Christian worth by those who are within. The one cannot be dispensed with, though he should have the other. The expression those without ( ïé ̔ ἔîùèåí or å ̓́ îù , often used, as at 1Co_5:12, 1Co 5:19; Col_4:5; 1Th_4:12) is a natural mode of designating such as, in regard to the church of God, are extra fores, not of the household of faith. Directly, persons of this description have no right to interfere with the appointment of a Christian pastor; but it is of importance that they have nothing to object—that the person raised to such an office be in good repute even among them, so that no occasion may be given them by his appointment to think lightly of the Christian church, or to encourage them in the hope of marring the success of his ministry. Where the minister of the gospel does not enjoy the esteem of the world, it becomes comparatively easy for the instruments of the wicked one to stir up prejudices against him, and involve him in trouble. This seems to be what is meant in the reason assigned by the apostle for the requirement—lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. It is disputed whether only snare here should be coupled with the devil, or reproach also should be included. The question is scarcely worth raising. The devil, as the general head and representative of all evil agencies, may well enough be associated with any mischief or disaster befalling a servant of God—reproach as well as anything else. But in the usual style of Scripture, it is with crafty wiles and moral embroilments that his agency is more commonly connected, rather than outward obloquy or shame; and the related passage in 2Ti_2:26, where snare alone is mentioned, still further favours this view. The most natural explanation, then, of the apostle’s fear regarding the appointment of pastors who were not in good repute with the world, is that they would in such a case be exposed to the taunts of ungodly men, disparaged as unworthy of their position, and, conscious of this, would probably be tempted to do things which would entangle them in Satan’s net of unseemly wranglings or dangerous relationships. No one who has much experience in life can be at a loss for examples of this nature.

Thus ends the apostle’s list of qualifications, which he desired to see meeting in every one who might be placed in the responsible position of an overseer of Christ’s flock. They are, as already stated, predominantly moral, and consist of attributes of character rather than of gifts and endowments of mind. The latter also to some extent are included, in so far especially as they might be required to form clear perceptions of truth and duty, to distinguish between things that differ, and in difficult or perplexing circumstances to discern the right, and know how to maintain and vindicate it. Yet, withal, it is the characteristics which go to constitute the living, practical Christian, which together make the man of God, that in this delineation of pastoral equipments are alone brought prominently into view. And whatever else the church may, in the changeful circumstances of her position and history, find it necessary to add to the number, in order to render her responsible heads fit for the varied work and service to which they are called, the grand moral characteristics here specified must still be regarded as the primary and more essential elements in the qualifications of a true spiritual overseer.