How do we best understand Paul's commendation to be "well thought of by outsiders?"

(Joshua Spare) #1

In 1 Timothy 3, at the end of the list of qualifications for an “overseer,” there is listed the qualification that “he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7). By my reading, “outsiders” would be people outside the church, that is non-Christians. Now, it would seem to me a bit strange that a qualification for a leader in a church is that they are well-respected by non-Christians, in light of the fact that Jesus promises that Christians will be hated because of their love for Him (Matt 10:22, 24:9), that James cautions against friendship with the world (James 4:4), and that the Gospel is said to be foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18).

My question is, as you read 1 Timothy 3:7, do you see a difficulty in understanding why Paul would commend that as a qualification for an overseer? If so, why do you think Paul included in the list of qualifications? If you don’t see a difficulty, what do you perceive to be the Biblical perspective on being respected by the world?

(Petra Griesser Stermscheg) #2

Is it the same snare as in Proverbs 29:25 that Paul warns from?

(Joshua Spare) #3

I love that connection to Proverbs, @Petra_Griesser-Stermscheg! However, it would almost seem as though they are contradictory - Proverbs suggests that the fear of man is a snare, but Paul seems to say in 1 Timothy that there is a snare to be laid if the overseer doesn’t take precautions to be well thought of by “outsiders.” What do you think? Would you read those verses the same way?

(Bob Beck) #4

Interesting question. I did some research and many people believe this verse should be considered in context with the church’s evangelism and discipleship commission. Church leaders should have a good reputation within the church (vs 2) and without the church (vs 7. When a church leader falls into disgrace it becomes harder to spread the gospel as many of us know. This verse also needs to be interpreted in light of other verses about suffering for the gospel.

(Micah Bush) #5

I would venture to guess that Paul included this criterion as a qualification for church leadership (at least in part) as a standard for verifying the other character traits listed. Even in the early Church, there were no doubt “Sunday morning Christians” whose lives looked completely different outside of church than they did within church. A man of consistent character would be known for his character by everyone who knew him (ex. customers, business partners, coworkers). It’s all too easy for communities like churches to become ingrown, ignoring legitimate criticisms from outsiders under the rationale that “haters will hate”; Paul probably wanted to prevent this attitude from taking root within congregations, as it would make them vulnerable to choosing leaders of poor character who would disgrace the whole congregation, or even Christianity in general (as we occasionally observe in modern times).