The Qualities of Shepherds (2)

The Qualities of Shepherds (2)

3:2, Shepherds must be “temperate.” The Greek word nephalion is defined as one “not given to excess.” It describes moderation all areas of life–food, television, hobbies, any activity prone to a loss of self-control. An elder must be a man of restraint, who knows how to live in the world without being enslaved by any worldly thing (2 Pet. 2:19). Since he will often counsel those whose passions are getting out of check, it is helpful to be able to share practical advice on how to master one’s choices and circumstances.

3:2, He must be “prudent.” Several Greek dictionaries say that the word sophron means literally “of sound mind; possessing inner self-government.” It is basically a synonym for “having self-control,” and overlaps the previous word “temperate.”

3:2, He must be “respectable.” The Greek adjective kosmion hints at the cosmos; it can mean literally “well-arranged, in an orderly fashion,” like the disciplined motion of the stars. When applied to people, it refers to a life that is attractive because it is organized according to spiritual priorities. An elder needs to demonstrate how to put the kingdom first in a world full of distractions; how to worship regularly and work in God’s kingdom without allowing salary, lawn care, the sniffles, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and the like, to encroach. Having one’s life in godly order is respectable in the world and the church alike.

3:2, He must be “hospitable.” It’s a struggle to open one’s home to visiting preachers, to invite the brethren in for supper (or, in Paul’s day, to host the congregation), or to ask a struggling member to come over and talk. Hospitality is an inconvenience in this age of privacy, and is a great measure of a man’s love of the brethren. Hospitality takes lots of time, effort, and vacuuming, and few are willing to devote themselves to it (1 Peter 4:9, Heb. 13:2, Rom. 12:13). Since an elder must be in contact with the saints, having them over to his house will be helpful. It’s easy to hang out with friends; it’s a praiseworthy effort to broaden the circle and reach out to others.

3:2, He must be “able to teach.” This phrase is one adjective in Greek, didaktikon. This phrase (KJV, “apt to teach”) has often been misunderstood as “I could if I had to.” Actually, the phrase is one adjective in Greek, didaktikon, and means “skilled at teaching.” It refers to one’s willingness and ability to proclaim the details of the gospel. This should not be something he resolves to do; it should be something he already does. In fact, the only other places this word is found in the Bible is 2 Timothy 2:24, where it refers to Timothy the evangelist. Ideally, the shepherd makes it his business to know the New Testament as well as the preacher does.

Paul says more in Titus 1:9, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” Obviously, there is no shortcut around this. Bible knowledge takes time to accumulate, and the ability to communicate the truth takes practice. An elder must devote time to God’s word, and be able to fill in the pulpit, regularly teach a Bible class, and confidently explain the gospel to a seeker. See 1 Timothy 5:17. The shepherd’s role as a guardian is on display here too, because “those who contradict” usually arise from within rather than from without. He must be able to spot falsehood and refute it in a firm yet loving manner.

3:3, He must not be “addicted to wine.” The Greek phrase me paroinon means literally, by the roots, “one who does not sit long at wine.” Intoxication is utterly incompatible with the example of an elder. Many rush to point out that drinking a little wine with dinner is not prohibited here. But in today’s America, I would hope that a man who desires to lead the church would be willing to abstain for the sake of his example. I hope that of every Christian.

3:3, He must not be “pugnacious.” In dealings with the brethren, there will be many opportunities for rancor, grudge-bearing, anger, and lashing out. An elder cannot have a quick temper or rash tongue; he must calmly handle these situations, having first in his mind the health of the church, and first in his heart the fate of the person who causes his blood pressure to rise (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

3:3, He must be “gentle” and “uncontentious.” These subtle qualities separate those leaders who promote happy cooperation and those who cause friction and spite. He must be approachable. A good elder must have learned from raising his own family how to balance firmness with gentleness, discipline with love, frowns with smiles. He must know how to pick his battles. He must, like Jesus, absorb insults aimed at him personally, but speak out boldly when insults are aimed at God.

John Guzzetta