22 April 2009

Blameless

by Frank Turk
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
There is absolutely nothing to say about this clause which will not be misunderstood or searched for a subtext, so I will say this, which has no subtext:

The demand that the elder in a church be above reproach does not end after he gets "tenure". I prefer to trust the translators and simply examine the words they give us, but in this case, the word "ἀνέγκλητος" leaves no room for doubt. It means "that which cannot be called into to account; unreproveable; unaccused; blameless."

That doesn't mean "tries real hard" or "is transparent about his flaws". It means "blameless." There's nothing to blame him for.

That's a pretty strict guideline when Paul is telling Titus to establish elders in Crete, where the men are all liars and evil beasts. "Blameless" is pretty much the opposite of the Cretan culture, opposed to the low moral standards of those around them.

And I'll leave it at that.





46 comments:

Stan McCullars said...

So you're telling us that "ἀνέγκλητος" has nothing whatsoever to do with wearing really cool glasses?

danny2 said...

too bad just teaching the Word can seem stale and unrelated to current events. ;-0

i wouldn't doubt if the comment thread fills with people who think you're trying to step on someone particular's toes. happens all the time in preaching, too. what a testament to the fact that the Word is living and active!

hurry up and finish this series (maybe 4-5 posts a day?). i'd like to print these and pass them out to our elders (who are not all technologically savvy) for edification and encouragement!

stratagem said...

"'is transparent about his flaws'"

I love that comment - wow. It is definitely in vogue in evanjelloism to continue in one's errors, as long as we admit that we have them. I have fallen into that one myself at times. But "I'm OK, you're OK" is not a Biblical principle. Thanks for reminding me of that.

JOYce ~♥~ said...

And I'll leave it at that.Crystal clear.

Mark B. Hanson said...

"Blameless" is a high standard. Since all elders still sin, it means that their level of discipline needs to be higher as well.

Elders are protected against false charges by the requirement for two or three witnesses (1 Tim 5:19), but if disciplined for continuing in sin, they are to be rebuked publicly (1 Tim 5:20). Our lives are to be an open book.

Frank Turk said...

That is -exactly- my point, Mark. That's a good word.

Boerseuntjie said...

Therein lies the difficulty with those who believe their OWN value (Pride - love of self) to be above the clear COMMAND of Scripture.

They say: But I have added so much positive amidst the fact that the World look in at the Body I have responsibility for and see MY hypocrisy that we shall call it GRACE. I am a sinner THERFORE I must CONTINUE; I CANNOT be disqualified; because I NEVER COULD be qualified as a sinner.

Oh that we would have men like Calvin and Luther who trembled with HOLY FEAR when acting as Overseers and the Oracles of YAHWEH.
That we would have men humble enough that IF and WHEN reproach falls upon them, they would esteem Christ SO VALUABLE and grace SO MERCIFUL AND UNMERRITTED; that they would sooner become nobodies serving meekly in the Body (If truly repentant), RATHER than allow the NAME of the LORD to be associated with THEIR PUBLIC INIQUITIES and His Person then RECEIVE REPROACH at the hand of UNREGERATE SINNERS.

May the example of Iscariot always be in our minds and hearts lest we become puffed up and fall into the same trap.

Job 40:11
"Disperse the rage of your wrath; Look on EVERYONE who is proud, and humble him."

1 Peter 5:1-11
"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; NOR AS BEING LORDS OVER THOSE ENTRUSTED TO YOU, BUT BEING EXAMPLES TO THE FLOCK; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

LIKEWISE you younger people, SUBMIT yourselves to your elders. Yes, ALL OF YOU BE SUBMISSIVE to one another, and BE CLOTHED WITH HUMILITY, for

“ God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”[Proverbs 3:34]

Therefore HUMBLE YOURSELVES UNDER THE MIGHTY HAND OF GOD, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith...But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. TO Him BE THE GLORY AND THE DOMINION forever and ever. Amen."

Isaiah 33:6
"Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, And the strength of salvation; The FEAR OF YAHWEH is His TREASURE."

Philippians 2:12-13
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING; for IT IS God WHO WORKS IN YOU both to will and TO DO FOR His GOOD PLEASURE."

Acts 19:17
"This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and FEAR FELL ON THEM ALL, and THE NAME of the Lord Jesus was magnified."

Malachi 1:14
"“ But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the LORD of hosts, “ And My NAME IS TO BE FEARED among the nations."

Luke 11:2
"So He[JESUS] said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, HALLOWED BE Your NAME. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN."

Your fellow bondslave for the glory, honour and praise of the Name of YAHWEH in Messiah by His Spirit of grace and truth,
W

donsands said...

Blameless since his conversion I would think is implied.

I suppose an elder needs to have a track record of being upright, and clear of any chronic sinful behavior. If he has an anger management problem, then he's disqulaified. If he evey once in a while blows his cool, and he sees his sin, and repents, but for the most part is kind and gentle, then would this be "blameless"?

pastorharold said...

This seems to be in clear opposition to: "I know that he has some issues, but look at all the good that he has done. He tries real hard. Who knows, a little responsibility might help him grow out of it."

Stefan said...

Good lesson, Frank. Amazing how much we can learn from a single word.

Solameanie said...

Strategem, did you have to make a reference to transactional analysis? I thought I had finally erased the memory of those stupid arrows, circles, and "parent -adult-child" behind long ago. AGGHHH!

David said...

I've seen an attitude that says, "I've got my MDiv, and I've never cheated on my wife, so why don't you sit there and listen while I explain these here scriptures to you."

Many pastors seem to believe that their authority proceeds from their blamelessness. But their authority proceeds from the gospel (I Thes. 2:4) So also any blamelessness is to proceed from grace, and not just a bookish disposition that shuns interaction with people, or a self-righteousness that checks off a list.

A pastor must sit under his own teaching, and the best ones do so continually.

danny2 said...

david,

A pastor must sit under his own teaching, and the best ones do so continually.a great word.

Mark B. Hanson said...

I sometimes wonder if we spent as much effort on mortifying our sin as we do on covering it up, justifying it or ignoring it, whether our level of blamelessness might be higher...

How about a post on mortification? Or have I missed one?

Frank Turk said...

Paul hasn't talked to Titus about mortification.

Yet.

But I don't want to be negative, or neutral: I want to be positive.

David said...

Hear, hear!

stratagem said...

Solameanie:

Maslow's Hierarchy!
Berne!
Ego-state!
Wham! Bang! Pow!

I'm waiting for someone to write "I'm OK; you, well... not so much"

DJP said...

How about 'Ain't neither one of us is much"?

Hayden said...

If you are looking for articles on mortification of sin go to Shepherd's Fellowship.

GrammaMack said...

I agree completely, but what is this "tenture" that you speak of? Did you mean "tenure," or are my on-line dictionaries just missing this word?
Thank you!

The Squirrel said...

what is this "tenture" that you speak of?.

I think he meant "tonsure". Just look at his and Dan's pictures...

(runs away, ducking and weaving the whole time)

Squirrel

Boerseuntjie said...

Brother David,

You are so spot on!
Always be aware of UnScriptural EXTREMES.

The humbled heart would hardly desire to Lord it over the flock; so would the humbled flock seek to build up the Elders in humility in the truths of Scripture and hold them to that same account in love...

Surely those amongst us such as me, who are a bit hot-headed and zealous like Peter still need much humbling when speaking with the Authority of the Counsel of Scripture, all the more reason to submit to the LORD BEFORE looking into being called to the office of Elder/Pastor.

That is truly the thing that distinguished the Pharisee and the Tax collector in Luke 18, and in effect is another form of SELF-righteousness (Or rather SELF-UNrigteousness).

Isaiah 64:6
"But we are all like an unclean thing, And ALL OUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES are like FILTY RAGS..."

If Salvation depends on a humble, contrite and repentant heart’s inclination GIVEN by the LORD, then we must diligently seek after this in all our life and apply ourselves to this Gift of grace. Once this is recognised by our brethren and by Elders who are qualified, communicated to us by them in earnest expectation and fulfilled by the Spirit – we must carefully consider the calling to Eldership. Prior to that much labours of the Spirit and of our obedience to the Spirit needs take us into that humility and contriteness of heart that is becoming of an Elder and expected by the Counsel and Commands of Scripture.

MDiv or not, EVERY GOOD THING is a GIFT FROM THE FATHER.

James 1:17
"EVERY good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."

Your fellow bondservant for the glory of YAHWEH our Triune LORD Alone,
W

Stefan said...

"Tenture" is "tentmaking," of course. It's a euphemism for becoming an elder, since Paul was both an Apostle and a tentmaker.

Or something like that.

Stan said...

The pastor at the church where I used to live told me, "No one actually qualifies as an elder. Look! Who is actually 'blameless'? So we just try to get people who are closest to that list of qualifications." I vehemently disagreed with the pastor.

Of course, I want my perspectives to be biblical, not worldly, so I'm trying to figure out the dividing line here. If "blameless" means "can't be blamed for anything", is there such a person? (I told my pastor there were, but I'd like someone else to explain if I had a case.) If an existing elder sins (becomes "blamed"), is that termination? Or is repentance the end of blame?

Sorry for all the questions, but sometimes answers to sticky questions in this day and age are hard to find.

Boerseuntjie said...

Stan,

I have had to contemplate the same questions and here is MY understanding:

1) Blameless - Of REPUTATION, attitude, continual (pattern) actions.

2) Qualification inplies the standard that needs to not only be met; but be maintained.

3) Enforcement of that standard is to be done LOVINGLY, Caringly and by the means of Fellow Elders and FINALLY (If necessary the Church is to publically correct an elder who continues with a PATTERN of WILFUL UNREPENTANT (Not only in words but ACTIONS) ATTITUDE and ACTIONS. When the ElderS and Church together have come to exercise the FINAL step of dicipline, that elder is DEFINATELY DISQAULIFYING HIMSELF.

If previous to the PUBLIC step of Dicipline the elder is found to be (By word and deed)TRULY repentant and the PUBLIC outside the Body has not become privvy to the disciple, the ElderS may be led prayerfully by Scripture and Prayerful consideration to re-instate that Elder.

That is MY understanding; I may be wrong.

But I know that Pastor John MacArthur has some very good expositions and commentary on these matters, that align with Scripture.

Pastor Phil may also be helpful in giving us a perspective fron the Eldrs of Grace Community Church which has a large Eldership with waht seems great Biblical accountability.
(Not to say that Frank or Dan are eny lesser in their knowledge of Scripture; but I KNOW that GCC and GTY have good resources relating to this).

http://www.gty.org.uk/Resources/Positions/GCCDD01

http://www.gty.org.uk/Resources/Positions/P11

http://www.gty.org.uk/Resources/Study+Guides/40-5187

stratagem said...

Tenture?

Clearly, that is the thing that Jael drove through Sisera's head.

I thought you guys had MDiv degrees or something? :-)

Julius Mickel said...

Sounds like you believe God has something to do with the sanctification of his ministers? :)

If only these things were upheld BEFORE these men entered seminary or internships!

There indeed seems to be a growing disconnect between confession and repentance. I think we all (maybe more 4 men but certainly not exclusive) initially display great humility when we are transparent, yet with time we can become quite comfortable with just confessing and never actually repenting (and shame on those who have been the person who has heard the confession, praises his brother or sister and doesn't lovingly hold them accountable to act on it).

Sir Aaron said...

Stan:

It occurs to me that the passage under analysis tells us what it means by "above reproach." Paul defines it as not being a polygamist, not being a drunkard, or greedy, etc. The definition seems fairly clear (although there are some who would interpret this very literally i.e. that the elder must be married or there are those who take the opposite extreme i.e. by not taking it literally means there can be women elders).

Jmv7000 said...

Sir Aaron might have beat me to the punch, but (to help us think - instead of 'playing' devil's advocate) what does "above reproach" mean?

I have an idea, but think about it. Can we just glibly apply this to any situation. (I don't think Frank is doing this AND I love this series he is doing, but this issue has been on my mind for a few years)

Say I have my neighbor over for coffee. We have a good conversation then he says, "what do you do?"

I reply, "I'm a pastor."

He says, "Oh, tell me about it?"

I then explain my role in the church (Ephesians 4:1-16; 1 Cor. 12-14, 1 / 2 Timothy, etc. . .) then give him the Gospel.

At this point, he hates me because I told him, he is a sinner in need of salvation. From that moment on, he hates me, tells all about me as a neighbor from his point of view, and convinces my other neighbors to hate me too because I am a bigot who hates homosexuals and non-like minded people.

I accidently mow two inches into his yard, so now I am seeking retribution for his slander. My looks are evil with wrong intention. So, now I am poorly viewed by my neighbor. Am I still above reproach?

Just a question?

Sir Aaron said...

Why don't you look at the passage in the post and apply it to the situation. Again, "above reproach" is defined by Paul.

It really isn't that hard.

Sing-Along Steve said...

I need to ask a serious question, one that fits within the thread here, an answer to which question would help greatly:

What about a pastor whose children were "saved" by "praying a sinner's prayer" at maybe 4/5ish, then were, all of them, rebellious and wayward teens, and are now altogether without Christian testimony? One is even publicly atheist.

This man has occupied pastoral ministry roles for over 30 years at several churches. Was he ever or is he now still in violation of the commands to have children who are believers and not debauched or insubordinate?

I live in daily, HOLY fear of failing to raise my children under the absolute authority of God's Word. I am really fighting with the temptation to challenge this man's authority as a pastor, as he not only caused me many problems when I served under him, but is also criticizing many people still in his church and around his area. Should someone like that be confronted with these Biblical admonitions? He never has been.

Thanks in advance for the counsel.

The Squirrel said...

I heard Alistair Begg preach on this. He mused that maybe the believing children thing should be taken literally, it that they must all have grown, believed and shown fruit of repentance before a man could be considered for eldership. Which would also mean that elders would be more elderly.

Something to think about.

~Squirrel

Susan said...

But Squirrel, what about Timothy? (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12)

Van said...

Jmv7000:

You asked about circumstances regarding your neighbor. There is no way you can honor God and please an unregenerate unloving neighbor. Jesus was perfect in the eyes of God, yet was crucified as a common criminal by men because they absolutely were offended by His loving teaching. In the passage of Titus we are looking at Paul actually uses the word/phrase twice... the other time it comes with a qualifier.

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.

This time it says the overseer/elder is God's steward. He is responsible to God first and foremost, not the guy down the street. You cannot please them both.

Keep in mind that all of the descriptions Paul uses merely describe what Jesus called the second commandment: to love your neighbor as yourself. In the circumstances you describe the pastor may be slandered, but if he is a humble, hospitable, loving guy then any of the other neighbors that pay any attention at all will discover the truth. If however the pastor is not filling Pauline qualifications then it may actually be the truth about him that is spread, and he will become a stumbling-block for those around him.

Frank Turk said...

OK- Let me say that after driving 10 hours across the St. Lawrence Seaway from Gaspe to Quebec because apparently you can fly a plane through a cloud but not a fog patch, I am probably cranky. So extract the cranky from this response as it is not personal.

However, all this 'what does blameless mean' talk is annoying the crackers out of me.

I know you know what this word means-- because it's one of those 'hard' words in the NT. It's one that ought to make you feel inadequate, and if you think you are called to the pastorate, it ought to make you reconsider. It is the singular condition Paul places on the pastorate which convinces me I am not qualified for eldership, and may never be.

'Blameless' is not a code word for 'tries real hard', nor is it a code word for 'legalist'. It means that no reasonable person should find fault with you. Anyone who does know what the consequences of the Gospel are ought to be able to see you are covered in those consequences.

Paul said it this way: insofar as I am an imitator of Christ, be an imitator of me.

This is not advance philosophical reasoning. This is basic stuff. It's like asking the question 'who is my neighbor?'

Mark B. Hanson said...

Good response, Frank. I would change only one thing - I would say that "no reasonable Christian should find fault with you." Of course those who do not believe can find fault all day long, as some of the comments above mentioned.

But those faults should be directly related to your beliefs, not your outward practice (i.e. no one, unbeliever or believer, should be able to cast doubt on your honesty, or sexual behavior, or your care for your neighbors).

donsands said...

Noah was blameless (Gen. 6:9; Ezk. 14:14). He would have been a good elder. He did all that the Lord commanded him.
He did get drunk that one time though.

Job was blameless as well. He's a good example I would think (Job 1:1;Ezk. 14:14).

Bill Honsberger said...

Does it then follow from your understanding of this that all the elders children are in fact elect?

Boerseuntjie said...

Frank And Mark B. Hanson,

AWESOME, TRUTHFUL and ABSOLUTELY BIBLICAL responses.

Albeit I decry the amount of men (MYSELF INCLUDED) who do not qualify for the Eledrship (And may or may not use that as a get out clause for dismissing spiritual headship responsibilities and or AT LEAST DESIRING SUCH SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND MATURITY) - I would LOVE to be enabled of the Spirit of grace and truth to one day be Qualified...

I take it from the basic principlie that we all have transgressed the Law of God, even Paul (Saul) who had been a murderer of heart at the very least and a self confessed blasphemer... (Who saw himself at the end of his earthly life as a Chief of sinners; "However, for this reason I [Paul] obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life." - 1 Timothy 1:14-16);
that each of us where in a reprobate state powerless to ever become qualified - But that through the power of the HOLY Spirit enabling and transforming our sinful hearts; IF the LORD so WILLS - And makes this evident to ALREADY truly Qualified Elders, As per the Prophets of old - we may one day receive such a Good Confession within the Body of Christ that we would be drawn of the LORD by His people to consider that most sacred and holy office of the Body of Christ, among men - Elder/Pastor/Teacher.

(I apologise for the lengthy trial of thought ;-)
But it is surey the desire of teh regenerate to GROW in Godliness and to be Sanctified throug the word by the Spirit, so that we may obtain that Confession among men of humility and servitute such as Christ exemplified - After ALL we are BEIG CONFORMED to Christ LIKENESS. Each one according to the grace given him. And the LORD wills that His flock be guarded, protected and lead wisely, with boldness, fear and reverenace for our great Shepherd - Christ who has gone before us and who has given us His righteousness to empower us through Sanctification to all life and godliness by the enabling of His Spirit.

In short we sjould be humble enough to know our sinfulness and our defilement - Yet we must NEVER say that the Spirit is not able to accomplish the desire for HOLY living within us.

For anyone who has ever read the LETTERS OF JOHN NEWTON available from Banner of Truth trust, you will know what I am referring to here - We must maintain anheavenly balance.

For anyone considering Elder ministry or considering encouraging a brother to that sacred office: I would HIGHLY Recommend reading John Newton's pastoral letters, he talks about some of these issues clearly and directly.

May we rightly FEAR and have Reverance for the Name of our Most Holy and Almighty YAHWEH; especially as His Ambasaddors - even more so as Elders.

Bound by the grace, fear and love of Christ, His bondservant for His Name's sake,
W

Boerseuntjie said...

Re:

The Children of Elders.

We must clearly define also when is a child still UNDER his father's authority, instruction and care.

Clearly when adult children turn away from the admonition, care and guidance of their fathers they act as their own persons (Ezekiel 18), outside the care or responsibility of their parents.

We must also be careful about areas where Covenant theology (I believe, with utmost respect - and as one who is neither for nor against either Dispensationalism or Covenant theology), has been overdeveloped under the guise of Church traditions.

It is evident from Scripture and experience that not ALL believer's children become believers themselves nor that there is a latent promise that they MUST.

I believe that if we act reasonably we would recognise that the father MUST act within his resposnibility and that if he cannot exercise proper loving and diciplined control of his own household, he would:

1) Be so embrioled with troubls at home that he cannot maintain his responsibilities to the Body of Christ;
2) Be in such low regard by the outside world and perhaps even the Body (Should this be a KNOWN public problem in his household) with regards to being an Undermined Oveseer in his own home;
3) His children would cause him such grief (If this is publicly a known problem in his household) that they would most likely seek even MORE opportunity toundermine and frustrate his authority even OUTSIDE of the household; esepcially as they grow into teenages.

That the Overseer cannot Publicly function in relatins to his responsibilities to his household, the LORD, the Body of Christ or the visible Church.

I think these are thought that make logical sense.
When a man's children have come out from under his care and he has been known to have done his utmost and the results where that his children where still unruly; we would (I hope) be gracious enough to console him and care for him - so that IF it be that the LORD calls him as a much more elderly Elder, he would have much positive input and experience to bear with unruly members of the Church, and be able to instruct them how to bear with their unruly children and so actually be a VERY useful Elder for the years of difficulties exeriences as a young man struggling with his chldren in all longsuffering.

Just my humble perspective.

Humbled by the Law, raised up by Christ transformed by the Spirit - because the Father set hHis love on a sinner as vile as I,
W

Stefan said...

Boerseuntjie:

Great comments, brother, especially your 9:04 a.m. comment.

Sir Aaron said...

And here I thought Frank was always cranky... ;)

Squirrel: I discussed this very issue with my Pastor. He was talking to me about needing male leadership. I told him that I was used to male leadership being, well, old precisely because of many persons' literal interpretation of that passage.

Children of elders: I concur with Boer.

Larry Geiger said...

Above reproach? Blameless?
No one is above reproach (blameless) except Christ.
Therefore some interpretation is required for each individual?

Sir Aaron said...

I feel like beating my head against a wall.

Boerseuntjie said...

Sir Aaron;
Ever get the feeling that we may skip some of the comment thread just to converse with the initial article?

lol

I am just kidding...
I know sometimes I am guilty of passing over the thread just to interact with my own thoughts so I guess I am confessing...

Frank Turk said...

I'm closing the thread for future consideration.