Sermon: The Character Of A Spiritual Leader

1 Timothy 3:1-7



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. (1 Timothy 3:1–7)




On Father’s day, we discussed the need for fathers to be Spiritual Leaders in their families, churches, and communities. That was a Call for Spiritual Leaders.


But to be a spiritual leader, it requires more than just being called, it requires a person to have a certain kind character. The Bible has much to teach us about the Character of Spiritual Leaders. 


And it’s important that we get our idea of character from the Bible, because our culture today is twisting the idea of moral character on it’s head. 


Immoral things are called moral. Moral beliefs are called immoral, evil, and outdated. Those who do this should be warned:


20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)


One glaring example of this in our time is the issue of same-sex marriage. If you read the news you will find the idea that same-sex marriage is moral, and to be against same-sex marriage is immoral.


Another is that abortion is moral because it protects the reproductive rights of women. 


The rush to bury the morals of the Bible and erect a human-centered society (a modern Tower of Babel) gains speed and ground with each passing year. 


Our culture needs spiritual leaders, leaders who are willing to stand for the principles and the morals that God has outlined for humanity in his Word.


Our culture needs spiritual leaders who can do what a leader is supposed to do: influence people to follow them as they follow God. 


We have prophets who stand and declare God’s truth, in one way or another, but people walk by and ignore them. We need leaders who will come alongside, gain the respect of people and lead them.


Now, that’s a tall order, and will require spiritual leaders with a strong backbone of moral character that comes from the Bible.


What will these spiritual leaders look like? The Bible gives a description in a passage that is directed at pastors and elders and deacons in a local church. You can be sure, though, this is a description of any spiritual leader anywhere.


What kind of person is the spiritual leader? What kind of character should he have?




1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 

2 δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίληπτον εἶναι, μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, νηφάλιον, σώφρονα, κόσμιον, φιλόξενον, διδακτικόν·


The word for “blameless” (ἀνεπίλημπτος) literally means “not able to lay hold on.” (λαμβανω + ἐπι + the alpha to negate it). Someone else should not be able to lay hold of you (like a policeman arresting someone) and accuse you of wrong-doing that would cast a blemish on the Lord Jesus. 


The spiritual leader will be blameless. Now, does this mean that one has to be perfect? No, even the apostle Paul was a man that could be blamed for things done in his past. 


12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:12–15)


Based on Paul’s testimony, I don’t think he means to hold anyone to everything that they did before they became a Christian and maybe not even in their younger days as a Christian. 


I think what he is getting at is that the person is mature enough as a Christian that they will be unlikely to do anything that someone could use against them and against the Lord. 


I think that the idea of being blameless means that no one in your family or church or congregation should get the idea from your example that a Christian can live in sin and it be okay.


Tami and I watched a show that depicted several priests playing poker together. Then later, two of the priests were drinking in a bar. It was all depicted as a normal lifestyle, it is according to the world. 


But spiritual leaders, and all Christians, must live above the world’s standards so that no one can get the idea from us that unholy living is okay with God.


Now, We are not perfect. We will fail. But that’s what the gospel is all about, right? Jesus died for our sins. Jesus died, so that when we trust in him, he can not only save us from going to Hell, but also set us on a road of change. He died to make us, one day, to be the spitting image of himself (2 Corinthians 3:18).


I know some Christians who will hold a grudge against another Christian for years. So and so did drugs, or did that. When? Twenty or thirty years ago! 


Folks, you can’t hold a Christian to what they did twenty years ago, because Christ is changing us every day. Give them room to mature and grow. The fact that you are holding a grudge shows that you are the one who hasn’t matured.


Blameless doesn’t mean flawless, but blameless certainly means mature. This idea of maturity is picked up again in verse 6.


1 Timothy 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 

6 μὴ νεόφυτον, ἵνα μὴ τυφωθεὶς εἰς κρίμα ἐμπέσῃ τοῦ διαβόλου. 


A spiritual leader in a church cannot be a novice to spiritual matters. He must be mature. 


The reason is that he might be “lifted up with pride” and thus “fall into the condemnation of the devil.” In other words, the rush of responsibility and authority might give him a big head because he wouldn’t be mature enough to handle it in a godly manner. [pastor who required all to rise when he entered]


Instead of acting in a mature manner, the person might act out in a way that would bring blame on him and shame on the Lord Jesus. 


So, a mature Christian is less likely to do something that others could cast blame on him for.





1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 

2 δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίληπτον εἶναι, μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, νηφάλιον, σώφρονα, κόσμιον, φιλόξενον, διδακτικόν·


“the husband of one wife” The Greek text here is μιᾶς [one] γυναικὸς [woman] ἄνδρα [man]. (Sounds like a country song). This phrase says a lot. 


First, it tells us that spiritual leadership in the church and the family is supposed to fall on the man’s shoulders. He is a one woman man. 


Certainly women can lead and do lead in many ways. A mother, for example, leads her children. But her husband should be at the forefront, leading the family.


Second, this phrase speaks to our culture today in that this man is not a homosexual. He is a one woman man. 


Third, it speaks to the rising tide of polygamy (now that gay marriage has been approved, polygamists want equal rights) saying that a spiritual leader is a one woman man.


It does not say anything about being married to another woman previously, because it speaks the man’s present state, not his past state. He is committed to his wife now.


It also does not mean that he necessarily has to be married. Jesus was not married; Paul was not married.


What it does mean is, that if he is married, he manages his marriage well. He is faithful to this one wife that God has given him at this particular time in his life. 


The character of a spiritual leader does not stop at being a faithful, one-woman man; he is also manages his home and children well.


1 Timothy 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 

1 Timothy 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 

4 τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου καλῶς προϊστάμενον, τέκνα ἔχοντα ἐν ὑποταγῇ μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος· 5 (εἰ δέ τις τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου προστῆναι οὐκ οἶδε, πῶς ἐκκλησίας Θεοῦ ἐπιμελήσεται)· 


It makes sense that a spiritual leader over a church, or other large body, must demonstrate spiritual leadership over the smaller body of his own family. The Puritans even called families, “little churches.”


The word for “ruleth” and “rule” in these verses (προί̈στημι) means “direct, be at the head of, manage; care for” (EDNT). 


The implication here is how he manages his family and his home. That includes caring for his wife, training his children, how he manages his finances, if he can keep a job, etc.


The spiritual leader must be able to manage and care for his home life before he can expect to lead in broader circles.




Throughout this passage Paul lists several character traits of the spiritual leader that might be all placed under one umbrella. They are all about self-mastery. How well can he control the various emotions, attitudes, and desires that surge through every human being?


First, we find that…




In verse two, we read that he is to be “vigilant, sober, of good behaviour” Together these words describe a disciplined, organized life. 


He is vigilant in the sense of being not given to excesses. He is temperate and moderate in his life.  He is sober in that he is self-controlled. The “good behavior” (κόσμιος) referred to here has to do with order in his life.


His life will not be so busy or disorganized that he would be unable to find time for the things that are most important: the worship of the Lord and the relationships with family and friends.


The spiritual leader will have an order and discipline to his life that allows him to do what he needs to be doing at the time that it should be done.


The spiritual leader will not just keep his time in order and disciplined. He will be ordered and disciplined in other areas of his life: what is his health like? Does he overeat? Does he fail to keep in shape?


The spiritual leader will be “vigilant, sober, of good behaviour” in every aspect of his living. He will be a master of his self. Paul continues this same theme in verse 3.


1 Timothy 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 

3 μὴ πάροινον, μὴ πλήκτην, μὴ αἰσχροκερδῆ, ἀλλʼ ἐπιεικῆ, ἄμαχον, ἀφιλάργυρον·




“Not given to wine” There’s debate among Christians about wine and whether or not the Bible allows social drinking versus complete abstinence. 


I would just like to point out the danger of drinking any alcoholic drink as a spiritual leader: your example could cause harm to someone else. 


Someone may drink because they see you drinking, but they end up not being able to control it. Or they use alcohol to help them through a tough time instead of relying on God.


Someone might say “I can’t be held responsible for what they do!” The Bible is very clear that if our actions (even those we believe to be right) might harm someone else, we can be responsible. 


In a passage where Paul refers to meat offered to idols, he gives us a principle that can be applied to many situations:


9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9)


If you do, it’s a sin:


12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:12)


We should be willing to limit ourselves for the sake of others, especially brothers and sisters in the faith.


13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. (1 Corinthians 8:13)


One of the biggest challenges in our culture is that many people are now narcissistic, that is, they care mainly about themselves. 


You see this in how people will take drugs without concern for their family, or even how they’ll wear a obscene shirt without considering that even children will see it. The cry is always, “I have a right to do this!”


The spiritual leader masters himself for the benefit of others. So even if you think drinking alcohol in moderation is fine for a Christian to do (and I don’t), please consider what it might do to others.




“no striker” and “not a brawler” — A spiritual leader doesn’t solve problems with others with physical violence. A spiritual leader does not try to be quarrelsome with others, whether it’s physical or with words.


In the church, if the leadership has a quarrelsome man—a pastor or deacon—it makes for some very long and unspiritual Deacon meetings.


How should the spiritual leader respond to problems? He is “patient” (ἐπιεικής) which means that he is gentle or courteous; tolerant. Paul expands on the idea:


24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, (2 Timothy 2:24)


The spiritual leader doesn’t try to stir up arguments, but seeks to gently, patiently teach the right way.




“not greedy of filthy lucre” and “not covetous” — Both these phrases are talking about being free from the love of money. For a pastor, that’s obvious. We shouldn’t be charging people so supposedly they can have a huge blessing from the Lord.


Yet pastors should also be paid for the work that we do so that we can focus on doing it, and not trying to provide a living for our family.


17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. (1 Timothy 5:17–18)


This principle not loving money applies to any spiritual leader. Loving money is a trap in many ways. It might be that you work so much to make money to live at a higher standard of living that you don’t have time for worship or for family. 


It might be that you become so attached to money that you have a hard time sharing it with others. By the way, you do not have to be rich to love money. But it’s been documented that poorer people are often more generous than richer people.


In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income…


Last year, Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior: “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff later told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people.” (


Piff pointed out that there are possibly other factors involved, but his first point matches with scripture (although that probably wasn’t his intention):


10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10)


The spiritual leader will not allow himself to fall into the trap of loving money. He will master that aspect of his life.


A. He Masters Himself To Be Disciplined And Organized

B. He Masters Himself For The Benefit Of Others 

C. He Masters How He Responds To Problems

D. He Masters His Love For Money And Possessions


He is a master of his self.




1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 

2 δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίληπτον εἶναι, μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, νηφάλιον, σώφρονα, κόσμιον, φιλόξενον, διδακτικόν·


Every spiritual leader has a duty to minister to others. Paul brings out two ministries in this passage.




“given to hospitality” (φιλόξενος) has to do with showing kindness to others. We tend to think of it in terms of having someone over to eat, or bringing a hot dish to a bereaved family. 


But hospitality is showing kindness in many ways: fixing someone’s car or plumbing, giving someone a place to stay, lending a few bucks…all those things are hospitable.


Hospitality isn’t just something you show to friends, but also to strangers. In Biblical days, it was difficult and dangerous for travelers to find places to stay. As a result, the Middle East culture developed a code of hospitality. If even a stranger stopped and asked for help, you gave it to him. You understood that one day you might be the stranger at someone’s door.


American culture is vastly more self-centered, especially in these last days. Yet, we cannot allow culture to define our character. Jesus tells us:


12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. 13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:12–14)


Jesus tells us to be unselfish, not expecting even a thank you for the services that we give to someone else. He says to look out for the truly needy—show them hospitality.




“apt to teach” (διδακτικός) is used only one other time in the New Testament, in 2 Timothy 2:24. It has to do with being skilled in teaching (BDAG).


A pastor especially needs to be able to teach, but there is also a sense in which any spiritual leader ought to be able to teach, and especially teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Just think of a father or a mother: he needs to be teaching and discipling his children day in and day out. And anyone who is in a position where they can influence people (which is all that leadership is) should be able to teach to some degree.





1 Timothy 3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 

7 δεῖ δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ μαρτυρίαν καλὴν ἔχειν ἀπὸ τῶν ἔξωθεν, ἵνα μὴ εἰς ὀνειδισμὸν ἐμπέσῃ καὶ παγίδα τοῦ διαβόλου. 


A spiritual leader “must have a good report of them which are without;” Who are “them which are without”? It refers to those who are not Christians. We are supposed to have a good report with the world!


Naturally, the world will not agree with a spiritual leader’s theology or even his moral convictions. That is not the issue here. It is his character. How does he handle himself in front of unbelievers? Do they respect him for his convictions, even while disagreeing with them?


I see a great failure in Christianity today in this regard.


On the one hand are the Christians who drop any convictions or theology that might offend an unbeliever, supposedly to have a good reputation with them and perhaps one day get them to come to Jesus. 


Rarely does that work. We do not win people to Jesus by being like the world; we win people to Jesus by being like Jesus…and being like the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus of our culture’s imagination.


On the other hand are the Christians who angrily attack every moral deviation that they can find. They attack homosexuals, abortionists, Democrats, and anyone else that crosses their moral compass.


The general feeling among unbelievers towards Christians today is either they don’t realize that some people are Christians because they are so much like them or they hate others who are Christians because they are so antagonistic about their moral convictions.


The Bible says that spiritual leaders especially must have a “good report” among unbelievers. They must know that we are Christians and yet respect us for our convictions. That doesn’t come from hateful attitudes, it comes from being loving people.


How could he “fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” by not having a good report among unbelievers?


I immediately think of Westboro Baptist Church, which is infamous for their hatred of homosexuality. Their website is, which of course isn’t garner any good reports among unbelievers. 


There are also sister websites that don’t don’t help Christianity’s witness among unbelievers. Here’s a few:;;;; Yep, I’m sure the converts are just lining up because of those websites.


There will be those who hate Christians because of our convictions and our stand on the truth. But, as one person wrote, “If the church is to be offensive to society, then it must be for the sake of the cross—not our hypocrisy, misuse of liberty, or bad behavior” (Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary [Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000], 186)


The spiritual leader will be a testimony to unbelievers. The only thing about us that should offend the unbeliever should be our insistence that a person can only be saved by trusting in the death and resurrection of one Jesus Christ, the very Son of God.




What this country desperately needs is solid spiritual leaders. 


But for that to happen there has to be solid spiritual leaders in our local communities. 


And for that to happen there has to be solid spiritual leaders in our churches. 


But for that to happen there has to be solid spiritual leaders in our families. 


And for that to happen there has to be men and women of the kind of character that we just saw in this passage.


We complain about our country sliding down a moral slope, but are we being the sort of spiritual leaders we just saw in this passage?


In other words—our country, our community, our church, our families need you.

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