Biblical Qualifications of a Bishop

THE BIBLICAL QUALIFICATIONS OF A BISHOP

 

For numerous reasons, I am thankful and grateful to be a part of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. At the top of the list is the fact that our founders were intentional about making sure that our doctrine (that is what we believe) and our polity (that is how we are governed and how we operate) were established on the solid foundation of God’s word. As the Scripture says, "Heaven and earth will pass away but the word of God abides forever.” We must keep in mind that the episcopacy is a noble office and an honorable work; but it has high biblical qualifications. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 will be the scriptural foundation for this message. However, the focal point is verse 1, which says, "If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” In our text, we find four sets of biblical qualifications to be a bishop; and I want to talk about it.

First are the qualifications that pertain to reputation. Let’s look at the first part of verse 2 and at verse 7. Verse 2 says, "A bishop then must be blameless;” and verse 7 says, "Moreover, he must have a good testimony among those outside unless he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” Notice that the biblical qualifications to be a bishop begin and end with reputation. A bishop must be blameless, not perfect, but blameless, that is, above reproach. A bishop must also have a good testimony, that is, a good reputation, with people outside the church. When it comes to the episcopacy, reputation matters! It matters what people think about us. It matters what people say about us. That is why the writer of Proverbs says, "A good name is more valuable than rubies.”

Second are the qualifications that pertain to character. Look, if you will at verses 2 and 3. "A bishop then must be blameless; the husband of one wife, temperate, sober minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous.” Notice that most of the biblical qualifications to be a bishop are about character. A bishop must be self-controlled. A bishop must be well behaved. A bishop must not be addicted to alcohol or drugs. A bishop must not be violent, but gentle. A bishop must not be quarrelsome, but peaceable. A bishop must not be greedy for money or covetous. When it comes to the episcopacy reputation matters, but character is critical! It is critical that there be evidence of salvation. It is critical that there be evidence of deliverance. It is critical that there be evidence of transformation. It is critical that there be evidence of being spirit-filled, and the evidence of being spirit-filled is not found in the "gifts” of the Spirit, but are found in the "fruits” of the Spirit.

Third are the qualifications that pertain to family life. Look at a portion of verse 2 and at verses 4 and 5. Verse 2 says, "the husband of one wife.” Verses 4 and 5 say, "Who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence. For if a man does not know how to rule his own house how will he take care of the church of God?” Notice that the biblical qualifications to be a bishop stress the importance of family life. A bishop must be faithful in marriage. A bishop must be a good household manager. A bishop must have children who are in submission with all reverence. When it comes to the episcopacy reputation matters; character is critical; but family life is important! It is important that we are true to our spouses. It is important that we manage our household well, for if we do not manage our household, how can we manage the church of God? It is important that we raise our children rightly.

Fourth are the qualifications that pertain to leadership. Look at verse 2 and at verse 6. Verse 2 says, "A bishop then must be blameless” (remember, we’ve looked at that) "the husband of one wife” (we’ve looked at that also) "temperate” (that is self-controlled and we’ve looked at that as well)”sober minded; of good behavior; hospitable, and able to teach.” Now let’s turn our attention to verse 6 which says, "Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” Notice that many of the biblical qualifications to be a bishop are about leadership. Two of the qualifications are about reputation. Six of the qualifications are about character. Three of the qualifications are about family life; and five are about leadership. A bishop must be sober-minded, which means that he or she must have godly judgment. A bishop must be hospitable. A bishop must be able to teach. A bishop must be spiritually mature; and a bishop must be a proven leader. When it comes to the episcopacy reputation matters; character is critical; family life is important; but leadership is crucial! It is crucial that a Bishop be sober minded, because without godly judgment, a bishop cannot be effective in this office. It is crucial that a bishop be hospitable, because the episcopacy is no place for selfish and self-centered people. It is crucial that a bishop be able to teach, because we cannot lead those that we cannot feed. It is crucial that a bishop be spiritually mature, because the episcopacy is no place for people who have not yet been able to put away childish things. Finally, it is crucial that a bishop be a proven and experienced leader, because many things can be learned on this job, but how to lead is not one of them.

In conclusion, if the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is to be true to its heritage as a Bible-based fellowship; and if we are to have the future God wants it to have; we must elevate people to the episcopacy who meet the biblical qualifications to be a bishop. It should not matter "who is or who is not our friend?” It should not matter "who is or who is not popular?” It should not even matter "who holds this position or who holds that position?” What should matter is "who meets the biblical qualifications to be a bishop?” Therefore, I encourage you to pray for the candidates that meet these qualifications; to vote for the candidates that meet these qualifications; and to support the candidates that meet these qualifications. This will not only please our God, it will bless our church.

 

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