10 June 2009

Must be 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.
I know you're shocked that I am taking such a big chunk of this passage this week, but to unpack "blameless" again seems somewhat fruitless for me to do when Paul and the Holy Spirit went ahead and did it for us.

Here's the thing: I know you get this already, but Paul is lining out for Titus what he should do to pick men to be "elders" for the church in order to "set things right". And in doing that, Paul is ultimately saying in this list, "not this, but that" -- giving Titus (and us, and specifically you, dear pastor reader) not just a list of disqualifications but a list of qualifications which point to a certain kind of man.

And to see what kind of man this is, we should see the similarities of that list to this list:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [Gal 5 for the verse wonks]
For Paul, the question of "impeccability" wasn't even a question -- but for the rest of us, apparently, it is because we want to immediately dive into the "yeah but nobody's perfect but Christ" routine and thereby make this passage a lot of big ideas with no practical use.

But Paul was giving Titus practical instructions. If these were the things Titus was supposed to look for, why would Paul give him a list of unattainable attributes? So Paul is not looking for the male version of the Catholic ideal of the virgin Mary: he's looking for someone who has demonstrated a repentance from the sin of this world and also a meaningful, fruitful relationship with Christ. That is, he's telling Titus to find men who have a faith that is working in them.

I think Paul didn't see the list as unattainable. I think he saw it as the consequences of real, mature faith. Indeed, if we take Paul seriously as he gives essentially the same list to the Galatians, we see this kind of life as one which has received grace and lives by faith.

What we want -- us, the people reading Paul and liking him as an example in the faith -- I think, is for everyone to be qualified to be an elder if they want to be; what Paul wants is for everyone who wants to be an elder to attain some kind of maturity in the faith first. It's a good thing to want to be an elder. But it's a better thing -- and the right thing -- to be qualified as "blameless".

This'll get a part 2 next week, but mull that over a while.







41 comments:

Ben Cheney said...

A good word... thanks Frank. I think the "nobody's perfect but Christ defence" is largely due to a tendency to believe simply that Christ died for me, while ignoring the reality that our old nature has died with Christ. As such, exhorting other Christians to aspire to the sort of things on Paul's list can sometimes get you written up as a legalist.

Frank Turk said...

Exactly.

There's also the problem that we want to see Grace the wrong way. Grace justifies us before God, and is the basis for our sanctification -- but the Bible tells us that we ought to be sanctified in practice in order to lead the church.

Being justified before God gets you into the church, and into heaven. But by itself, it does not qualify you for eldership.

John said...

Yes, good post.

We have come up with too many ways to explain Paul's qualifications away. But elders and pastors are held to a higher standard, and we ought to understand that.

I want my children to be able to look up to our pastor and to see him as an example. And I want the people in the community to see that he is, indeed, someone who is different.

How can unbelievers think that Christ changes us, or that we have anything, when even our pastors live just like the rest of the world? And how can we trust the council of our pastors to be godly if they don't live godly lives?

Is it pride that drives men to be in the ministry when they know that they are not "above reproach?"

By the way, this is a popular topic. I interviewed my hermeneutics professor a while back on my blog about the meaning of "above reproach." I now get more hits through people searching those words than through anything else.

donsands said...

Nice post.

Spiritually mature men are rare these days. m
May our Lord raise up a multitude of blameless men to rule, lead, and be ensamples for His Church. Amen.

You know, I really always liked the KJV of "..not given to filthy lucre". That would elminate a lot of pastors we see on TV.

Gary said...

'I think the "nobody's perfect but Christ defence" is largely due to a tendency to believe simply that Christ died for me, while ignoring the reality that our old nature has died with Christ.'

I disagree -- I think it's mostly that as American's we are told that we can realize our dreams from day one. Paul is telling us that even if you dream to be an elder, you may not be ready. We do not like hearing "No" and so make excuses.

Frank Turk said...

Don --

There are good reasons to like the KJV, and I'd list that as one of them.

:-)

Frank Turk said...

John --

Link?

stratagem said...

Frank - what exactly do you think the phrase "relationship with Christ" means, as you are using it here? In my charismatic days I used to think of it as we talk to God and he talks back, but now that I know better about the whole pentecostal thing, the phrase strikes me a bit odd for some reason. What's your take on this? Is this just one of those evanjello phrases that we ought to abandon, or is there some validity to it?

Rick Frueh said...

Everything already posted and said were excellent. I do wonder if blameless also includes sins of omission as well.

(prayer, Word study, gospel preaching, etc.)

Blank Slate said...

Hey Frank:

Loving these posts! We are dealing with this whole area in our church with some issues with the pastors, as far as I can see all the issues we are dealing with comes back to these qualifications... we hired these people from "outside" and did not use the same qualifications as we would use for our board elders as we should have... anyways, thanks for the discussion everyone

Terry

Dusty Chris said...

Could it be relative? Perhaps blameless in this context is less blameless than the rest of the people in church. Paul may be wanting someone to lead the church that is more even tempered, more self controlled, exhibiting more spiritual maturity than newer Christians. I think it is attainable to strive for more and, over time, conform to the human manifestation of the image of Christ.

Strong Tower said...

No man takes this calling upon himself.

Two thin(k)s: We are all called toward maturity, Ephesians 4, not everyone will make it to Ephesians 6.

One of the tragic bleeds of the "priesthood of all believers" is the sense that there is no particularity in God's regard of individuals in the church. That is such a blind approach to the obvious. In Eph 4:7 cf. 1 Cor 12., we find the divisions of labor and just as with Moses in the wilderness God gave some to be prophets some to be workers of metal. The unfortunate thing in our day is that everyone thinks that everyone can be the top dog and thus make the Miriam/Aaron mistake: Num 12. Moses was not without fault but was blameless before God. Just as Paul says he was not judged by any man, the proof was in the pudding so to speak with power and not weakness. Paul was unaware of any charge against him yet he was not without guilt. He wasn't innocent, but his conscience was clear. How is that? What makes some fallible men "blameless" while others are not?

This is not without the reasoned examination of men's lives. Paul who is teaching Timothy and Titus well knows his own weaknesses and that God does not necessarily take the failings away. Yet, there is the sense that the standards of behavior and the demonstrable grace of God resting upon the applicant are evidently different.

We then need to revisit the choosing of the seven and just who was it that chose them. My quess is that it was not the immature members of congregational mob rule.

And before someone says I am making an excuses for some to skate on the commandment to holiness, i.e., perfection- don't.

The reality is that the office of elder like the Armor is fitted for the mature. And as Cent has already said, those who can put on the office without it falling down around their ankles are few. Lambs don't stand in the place of the rams and children don't go to war. Rams have horns and and warriors weild the sword, if you get my meaning.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him...When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. Or, when the children rule the people mourn.

Not all are graced equally with the purity (maturity) necessary to rule, that is obvious. However, we all have to put the neck to the yoke.

I can hear the howls. Let the dogs fight over the fresh meat.

But before you do consider this: But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

Paul also says that he beat his body into submission... well that is not what all do, now is it?

And of course Dusty, that is true, yet it is God who works in you the willing and the doing of his good pleasure. What is being looked for then is where God is working the greater measure of grace according to the standard which is Christ.

Before I thin the ice of my welcome let me rewrite Cent's quote: For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach (colon) 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.

I put in the colon because, I believe witout reproach is referring to what follows, not the man, but the attributes he should exhibit. I say that because the attributes of blameless then are listed: "upright, holy, and disciplined." Paul is teaching that the integrated, i.e., mature man is the man who is fitted for the office and he will demonstrate these things.

Frank Turk said...

Strategem:

The lost have a relationship with Christ -- it is both conscious and unconscious enmity where they resist the Holy Spirit and are dead in sin and under the condemantion of the law.

Those who believe (have faith), repent and are forgiven have another relationship with Christ -- including the condition of being regenerate in nature and spirit, the position of being justified, the benefit of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the voice of God as communicated in the Scriptures, and (if they listen to their conscience as it is renewed by all of the above) a healthy conscience and the fellowship and edification of other believers (the benefits of being in and of the church). Among other things, in case I left someone's pet theological project off the list.

Clearly, that relationship is active and living, and ought to render some kind of fruit. Those in whom God has produced great fruit, it seems to me, are the ones the church should seek out for its leaders.

That's what I'm talking about.

Blue Collar Todd said...

I have been thinking about how this ought to apply to what the Christian supports as well.

Ought we qualify this as that such a leader in the Church ought not support such things in society as well via their politics? Can someone claim to be a Christian and yet openly advocate for legislating and tolerating sin? Can a christian be pro-choice and for gay rights and be in leadership? I think the answer is no.

I raised this just this week in repononse to the news that President Obama is invoking the name of Jesus more than George W. Bush did. You can view the relevant Scriptures here.

philness said...

Thanks Cent for these series. Although I am not an elder I want to exhibit these same attributes as a "joe" verses a "pro".

I would like to note that Titus was under Pauls tutelage in service during the second & third missionary journeys having put in hard time hard learning from Paul of various false teachings. And Paul didn't just dump Titus in Crete but rather Paul stayed a while before leaving him (Titus 1:5), indicating that Paul was continually teaching and training Titus like a good discipler would.

With the increasing influx of church plants going on these days I think wisdom is deformed from lack of long mentoring experience.

An athlete is gifted and can easily learn but unless he/she puts in the hard work and time in experience before being released to the show the spectators get cheated and a lesser standard sets in and all of a sudden you have people saying, "that's easy, I can do that".

Todd said...

Would a pastor riding in a speeding vehicle be considered blameless, or is he responsible for admonishing the driver on obedience to authority as layed out in Scripture?

mike said...

Todd,

depends,
up hill or down?
front seat or back?
pregnant lady or ambulance?
city or country?
to work or from?

sorry, but really. is that a serius question?

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Excellent Post. How needful that leaders be sanctified in their practice as well as positionally in Christ.

Everything rises or falls on leadership. We need men, who truly are men of God, beyond reproach, married once, apt to teach, filled with the Holy Ghost and gifted by God.

Todd said...

Really serious. If you are a pastor and neglecting laws of government, anything you say after that is just blah, blah, blah.

Legalist?

mike said...

Todd,
if you are serious, and you say you are so OK, and not just continuing the process where we find any reason to demonize a messenger and therefore discard his message then,
it is the job of the pastor to proclaim the truth of God, in season and out.......
(we actually have traffic police for that instance as well)
Frank has a very interesting post at his site right now regarding a couple of different "ministers".
we as people have differant callings, and different strengths, when we find it within ourselves to condemn our sin as equal to our brothers', and our strengths as no better than his, we begin to gain some semblance of balance to what we do. Frank is right to point out weaknesses in others, as others may be to point out Frank's (if we find them).
back to your question, i was serious in my response as well then, how can anyone be dogmatic in response to your first question with no more information than was given.
should a pastor disregard the law? NO. should he condone sin? NO. but...

stratagem said...

Thank you Frank - I think that definition makes a lot of sense to my formerly-charismatic-leaning mind. God communicates to His own through the scriptures and through a renewed conscience, rather than the "relationship" that entails words of knowledge, blessed handkerchiefs, and other mumbo-jumbo. Because the term "relationship" seems so touchy-feely, it probably is prone to being misunderstood. Thanks for clearing that up, sir.

Todd said...

Mike said.."Todd,
if you are serious, and you say you are so OK, and not just continuing the process where we find any reason to demonize a messenger and therefore discard his message then,"

Is this Biblical? We are talking about being blameless as it applies to pastors. The trouble seems to be that we sometimes do not consider the small transgressions something we can be blamed for, but I am saying that we can.

Mike said..."it is the job of the pastor to proclaim the truth of God, in season and out.......
(we actually have traffic police for that instance as well)
Frank has a very interesting post at his site right now regarding a couple of different "ministers".
we as people have differant callings, and different strengths, when we find it within ourselves to condemn our sin as equal to our brothers', and our strengths as no better than his, we begin to gain some semblance of balance to what we do. Frank is right to point out weaknesses in others, as others may be to point out Frank's (if we find them).
back to your question, i was serious in my response as well then, how can anyone be dogmatic in response to your first question with no more information than was given.
should a pastor disregard the law? NO. should he condone sin? NO. but..."

This would have worked for me if you would have left the (but...) off.

mike said...

Todd,
i meant that if we are saying that any pastor seen riding in a car on the freeway going x miles over the speed limit cannot be excluded from ministry without far more knowledge and information than we have at this time.
yes, even the tiniest sin is too great to be ignored. the puritans said "even our repentance needs repentance, and we should weep for our weeping" we do no good in the site of God, except Christ in us. however, i read your question as a potential summons for pastor police, if i was wrong, apologies.
your question came across to me as a sledgehammer on a fly, too indiscriminate to be real.
otherwise see earlier posts by John and Strong Tower.

Frank Turk said...

Todd --

No.

Sir Aaron said...

Todd:

The men at my church are actually going through a book called "Respectable Sins" by Jerry Bridges. The theme of the book is essentially that we become complacent with what we might deem as lesser sins. These are sins nonetheless and as such, deserve careful attention.

All believers, including Pastors, sin. The question is whether it becomes a lifestyle that exposes an elder to public criticism.

John said...

Frank,

Sorry; I've been at work. Here's the link to the "Above Reproach" interview.

http://whilewesojourn.blogspot.com/2009/04/dr-paul-wolfe-on-above-reproach.html

Thanks,

Frank Turk said...

The question is:

|| Would a pastor riding in a
|| speeding vehicle be considered
|| blameless, or is he responsible for
|| admonishing the driver on
|| obedience to authority as layed
|| out in Scripture?

I feel like Cyrano de Bergerac about to do 20 insults for his own nose -- that is, because you certainly could have done better than this.

What you should have asked is whether an elder who doesn't discipline those in his own church is therefore blameless or to be blamed -- because the answer there is obvious. In a situation where he has authority it is his obligation to use it. In a car, he's just another citizen -- and even the law recognizes that the passengers are not responsible for the driver. If the car gets pulled over, only the driver gets the ticket.

As DJP would say, NEXT!

Zaphon said...

How blameless is blameless? I know some people who have sinned sexually in the Church, or done something less than holy. Yet they are serving as missionaries and leaders in various ministries.

Seems to me, this is almost calling for sinless perfection, or a nigh impossible standard.

Can a Christian be qualified even if he backslid into immorality temporarily,or other vice in his past, and repented of it, and persisted in a holy walk for a long time?

donsands said...

"I know some people who have sinned sexually in the Church, or done something less than holy. Yet they are serving as missionaries and leaders in various ministries."

That's some serious sin, and needs to be taken very serious: For the name sake of our Lord, and for the purity of His Church.

I would think if they love Christ, then they would step down, or step aside, and serve the Body of Christ in a different way.

But that's an wide open statement, and there's really no way to answer it, unless you give more details I would think.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Asexual sin, disqualifia man or a woman from service as missionaries, just as it disqualifies a man from being a preacher, elder or deacon. It's as narrow as the book says.

to disregard What the bible sayys is to become a servant of unrighteousnness., of the devil.

The Squirrel said...

"The men at my church are actually going through a book called "Respectable Sins" by Jerry Bridges."

Excellent book. I'm a couple of chapters into it, myself.

~Squirrel

Frank Turk said...

While I agree with Dr. Foltz, we don't live in Israel where you stone the adulterer or the disobedient child. We live in the light of grace.

What that DOES NOT mean is this: it DOES NOT mean that we have complete moral license to do whatever it is we think we want to do whenever we what to do it. Grace DOES NOT mean "no rules anymore".

What it does mean is this: true repentance yields forgiveness -- and sometimes the road of repentance is long and difficult. So in the example of someone in church leadership who sins sexually, there is NO QUESTION that they should step down or be removed. NO ONE SHOULD QUESTION THAT THIS ACTION DISQUALIFIES A PERSON FROM CHURCH LEADDERSHIP.

But, for example, consider a man who, 15 years ago, was unfaithful to his wife. After being removed from ministry, he spends months -- perhaps years -- in care and discipline with elders and spiritual mentors, and is reconciled with his wife. Today he has been 15 years in repentance and showing the fruit of repentance.

It seems to me that there is forgiveness in repentance, and that this man can be forgiven by the church since he has been forgiven by God and his wife, and he has show the fruit of repentance.

Your opinion may vary.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Frank,

I am not sure that certain sexual sins don't disqualify a man permanently from eldership. For instance, once he has committed adultery, how can he ever again be a "one woman man"?

Blank Slate said...

At our church we have a worship "pastor" that was in a "relational" sin with some one other than her husband, she left that church and was hired on as our worship pastor, how should I deal with that (if at all...)?

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

BLANK SLATE;
First of all,no woman is to be in a place of leadership, where she exercises authority over the man.
THIS IS A BIBLICAL COMMAND.

Women can teach other women, and children, but never the man. it's best to have a vacancy then have to violate God's word.

2. if you mean by worship the contemporary stuff, going on, it entertains the flesh, and as such is to be discarded.

The Holy Spirit leads in worship not a man.

you may call me old fashioned, but if a practice is not in the Bible, I don't do it.

stratagem said...

Asexual sin, disqualifia man or a woman from service as missionaries, just as it disqualifies a man from being a preacher, elder or deacon. It's as narrow as the book says.

Sorry, only humans can be Elders or missionaries. No amoebas or other protozoans need apply!

Frank Turk said...

Mark --

I think adultery would be a good example of a sin where the bar is so high for repentance that it's hard to come back from it. But, like our "yeah but" friends, I'd say this:

If a 21-yr-old man gets married and commits adultery on his wife early on, but repents and is reconciled to her, if he stays the course for 20 years, when he's 40 or 45 it'd be hard to say that he hasn't proven to be a one-woman man as his repentance and sanctification have played out.

Because he did repent, right? As far as an man can measure?

Frank Turk said...

Blank Slate:

read this post, and then begin a long, hard march to tell your church the truth in love.

Sir Aaron said...

Zaphon:

Calvin's commentary (came to mind only because of a recent conversation I had with Frank about this particular commentary): "But both in this passage and in Titus 1:6, the words of the apostle are, “Who is,” and not “Who hath been;” and in this very Epistle, where he treats of widows, (1Ti 3:10,) he expressly makes use of the participle of the past tense." Calvin was actaually arguing against the belief that a one woman man must mean that a man could not have been widowed and remarried, but I think the principle still applies. A one woman man refers to the present condition (especially since many of us sinned in this area before coming to the Lord).

That doesn't mean I think you can commit adultery today and be an elder tomorrow. Adultery is a serious sin and shows a lack of maturity in the faith (among other things). Adultery often involves other sins such as lying and hypocrisy (pretenting to be blameless while engaging in a very serious sin.) It's rare that adultery is merely a momentary lapse in judgement. Because of these factors, it makes it very difficult to be certain of an adulterer's repentance without many years of visible fruit. I think this is much more true with leaders because leaders are supposed to be those spiritually mature Christians who represented themselves as being as such. We put a lot of trust there and due to the lying, that trust is often brutally destroyed. Earning that trust back and proving that your repentance is genuine is therefore, that much harded for former leaders.

So I agree with Frank. This is a difficult one to bounce back from but it is theoretically possible (per the example given by Frank).

Zaphon said...

The details I meant did not concern adultery per se, but fornication. If a single Christian man committed fornication, but repented of it, even confessed it to his pastor, and continued to live a holy life after, then later, maybe after years, wanted to serve as a pastor, or other position in ministry, would that man be considered blameless, or of good repute so as to meet the qualifications?

Sir Aaron said...

Zaphon:

The short answer is yes, mostly for the same reasons stated in my last post. One woman man is a present condition. Blameless is not blameless from conception.

In sexual sins, I believe you have two issues to overcome. First, is the person of genuine faith, genuine repentance, spiritually mature, and currently meets the qualifications? Is so, I think there is no problem.

The second issue is whether his being an elder or other leader is hampered by public accusations or criticisms of past misconduct. What I mean is that sometimes a person's sin is so notorious that the person can never really be blameless because people remain suspicious no matter how many years have passed or how remorseful that person may actually be. I'm not certain that this last issue is one that disqualifies a person from being an elder, but it would certainly give me great pause.

Hope that helps.