Into our world where the ends always justify the means, 1 Timothy 3 shouts, “Not so fast!” We may be tempted to read 1 Timothy 3 and apply it to somebody else–namely pastors and deacons–but Paul’s words here aren’t just instructive for some but all who are members of the household of God. It is good for each of us to know that one isn’t qualified for leadership in the church based on gifting and ability but by consistently Christ-like character–faithfulness, sobriety, self-control, respectability, hospitality, gentleness, dignity, integrity, and a clear conscience. The only major difference in Paul’s lists for pastors and deacons and the only item pointing to ability is the ability of pastors to teach the word of God, but even that is not a call for charisma but a call to faithfulness.
Why is Paul so focused on the character of those leading the church? Because while the ends don’t always justify the means, the means ultimately determine the end. If the church is going to stand as “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (v. 15), then integrity matters–the way we live must testify to the truth of our confession,
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
If we believe that, then can’t we also believe that God can work through our faithful, ordinary lives of integrity? And if we can believe that, then we can leave aside the ethics of expediency, outrage, self-promotion, and self-seeking that falsely promise a better result. We know how we ought to behave in the household of God, and we know that God delivers on His promises, so let’s live as Paul describes here. And may the power of our confession be clearly seen to belong not to us but to the God we confess.