The Exemplary Character of a Pastor: Positive Character Traits

The pastor is to be an example in all ways to others (1 Pet 5:3; cf. Phil 3:17; 2 Thess 3:9; 1 Tim 4:12; Titus 2:7). So, when Paul requires a certain character of pastors in 1 Tim 3:2–3 and Titus 1:7–8, if a pastor is to have exemplary character for others, this character is in principle a character required for all Christians. What follows below is an explanation for each of the  positive character traits listed in Titus 1:7–8. I hope to follow up later with an explanation of the other positive traits from Tim 3:2–3 that are not listed here.

In both 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:7, pastors are to be “above reproach.” In 1 Tim 3:2, Paul uses the word ἀνεπίλημπτος as a headword or “overarching characteristic”[1] that is further defined by all the character, family, and ability requirements to follow.[2] ἀνεπίλημπτος is a combination of the alpha privative (ἀ-) and ἐπιλαμβάνω (ἐπιλαμβάνομαι), “to grasp,”[3] giving a clue towards its meaning, “irreproachable.”[4] In all the requirements to follow in 1 Tim 3:2–7, others should not be able to grasp upon an obvious flaw in the man’s character so as to demonstrate that he should not be a pastor.

In both Titus 1:6 and 1:7, Paul uses the word ἀνέγκλητος, a word stems from ἀνεγκλησία (“blamelessness”),[5] which itself is a combination of the alpha privative (ἀ-) and ἐγκαλέω, “accuse.”[6] As ἀνέγκλητος likewise functions as a headword for what follows in Titus 1:6 and 1:7–9,[7] a pastor must be blameless with respect to what is required of him concerning his family and children (Titus 1:6), as well as his character and ability to teach (Titus 1:7–9).

First, a pastor is sober-minded (1 Tim 3:2). Based on the historical use of this word with reference to the absence of wine,[8] “sober-minded” (νηφάλιος) could sit in direct contrast to “not a drunkard” (1 Tim 3:3) and thus mean “being very moderate in the drink of alcoholic beverage.”[9] Or νηφάλιος could generally refer to “being restrained in conduct,” whether in relation to alcohol or anything else.[10] Since Paul already says elsewhere that the pastor is to be “not a drunkard” (1 Tim 3:3; Titus 1:7), the general meaning is preferred,[11] indicating that meaning involves the pastor having “the clarity and self-control necessary for sacred ministry in God’s work.”[12]

Second, he is self-controlled. “Self-controlled” in 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:8 is translated from σώφρων, a compound word stemming from σῴζω (“to save”)[13] and φρήν (“the process of careful consideration”),[14] placing an emphasis on the mind.[15] Thus, the overseer is one who is given to careful consideration and thus makes sound decisions. Similarly, while “disciplined” (ἐγκρατής) from Titus 1:8 overlaps in meaning with σώφρων to some degree, the word family of ἐγκρατής can be used with reference to sexual desire difference (cf. ἐγκρατεύεσθαι in 1 Cor 7:9).[16] Thus, ἐγκρατής may deal more directly with the baser passions.[17] The pastor is to be “disciplined” in this area as well.

Third, he is respectable (1 Tim 3:2). “Respectable” (κόσμιος) involves a person’s “having characteristics or qualities that evoke admiration or delight.”[18] “Respectable” is used in the NT only elsewhere to describe the apparel of women, further described “with modesty and self-control” (1 Tim 2:9). A pastor, then, behaves in such a way as not to bring undue attention to himself but is “moderate” and “well-ordered.”[19]

Fourth, he is hospitable (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8). “Hospitable” is translated from φιλόξενος, a compound word from φίλος (“loving”) and ξένος (“stranger”).[20] The etymology itself gives the idea of loving strangers, and, in the context of the church, pastors are expected to help and house traveling Christians as need may be, something expected of all Christians (cf. Rom 12:13; Heb 13:2; 1 Pet 4:9; 3 John 5–10).[21]

Fifth, he is gentle (1 Tim 3:3). “Gentle” (ἐπιεικής) immediately follows “violent” and is introduced with the strong adversative “but” (ἀλλά), showing a direct contrast between the two.[22] “Gentle” is likewise contrasted with being “unjust” (1 Pet 2:18) and “quarrelsome” (ἄμαχος; Titus 3:2), the latter of which immediately follows “gentle” in 1 Tim 3:3. A contrast may be intended here as well.[23] “Gentle” is an expression of godly wisdom alongside being “peaceable… open to reason, fully of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).

Sixth, he is a lover of good (Titus 1:8). “A lover of good” is translated from φιλάγαθος, a compound word combining φίλος (“loving”) and ἀγαθός, “good.” In this case, the etymology of the word matches its meaning. [24] What is “good” should obviously be defined by Scripture (cf. Phil 4:8)[25] and could have reference to both “things and people that are virtuous, inherently good.”[26]

Seventh, he is upright (Titus 1:8). “Upright” (δίκαιος) could be translated “righteous,” but the context indicates the word’s “ethical sense of just behavior” is in view,[27] and “is used here of one who lives in accordance with God’s law.”[28] An “upright” pastor deals fairly with others.[29]

Eighth, he is holy (Titus 1:8). “Holy” (ὅσιος) is used almost seven hundred times in the NT and could also be translated “devout, pious, pleasing to God.”[30] A pastor’s “calling” is “holy” (2 Tim 1:9), and a pastor is an honorable vessel whose use is “set apart as holy” (2 Tim 2:21). Just as Paul place “upright” and “holy” together here in Titus 1:8, they are also joined to describe how believers are to live before God (Luke 1:75), the manner whereby “the new self” was “created after the likeness of God” (Eph 4:24), and Paul’s conduct among the Thessalonians (1 Thess 2:10).[31]

 

 

[1]George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 156.

[2]Gerhard Delling, “λαμβάνω, ἀναλαμβάνω, ἀνάλημψις, ἐπιλαμβάνω, ἀνεπίλημπτος, κατα-, μεταλαμβάνω, μετάλημψις, παρα-, προ-, προσλαμβάνω, πρόσλημψις, ὑπολαμβάνω,” TDNT, 4:9.

[3]BDAG, s.v., “ἐπιλαμβάνομαι,” 374.

[4]BDAG, s.v., “ἀνεπίλημπτος,” 77.

[5]BDAG, s.v., “ἀνέγκλητος,” 76.

[6]BDAG, s.v., “ἐγκαλέω,” 273.

[7]William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (WBC 46; Dallas, TX: Word, 2000), 388

[8]Otto Bauernfeind, “νήφω, νηφάλιος, ἐκνήφω,” TDNT, 4:939.

[9]BDAG, s.v., “νηφάλιος,” 672.

[10]Ibid.

[11]George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 159; Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006), 251.

[12]Bauernfeind, TDNT, 4:941. Deacons are likewise to be “not addicted to much wine” (1 Tim 3:8, μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ προσέχοντας) and to be “sober-minded” (1 Tim 3:11; νηφάλιος). With both pastors and deacons, Paul seems to require a general sobriety in addition to addressing the abuse of alcohol.

[13]John F. MacArthur, Jr. Titus (MNTC; Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 41.

[14]BDAG, s.v., “φρήν,” 1065.

[15]BDAG, s.v., “σώφρων,” 987, lists “prudent” and “thoughtful” as alternate translations.

[16]Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 391.

[17]Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 690. Attempting to find parallels between 1 Tim 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9, Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 292–93, suggests ἐγκρατής is “virtually equivalent to νηφάλιος in 1 Tim. 3:2.”

[18]BDAG, s.v., “κόσμιος,” 561.

[19] L&N, s.v., “κόσμιος,” 1:747. Hermann Sasse, “κοσμέω, κόσμος, κόσμιος, κοσμικός,” TDNT, 3:896, notes that in secular Greek, “The concept always contains the idea of control of the body and its movements and impulses.”

[20]BDAG, s.v., “φίλος,” 1059, and “ξένος” 684.

[21]Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 173–74.

[22]Ibid., 176

[23]Ibid.; Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 160.

[24]Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 391. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 292, suggests that φιλάγαθος may be analogous to Paul’s use of κόσμιος (“respectable”) in 1 Tim 3:2. If so, a love for good behavior is in view. See the explanation of “respectable” above.

[25]MacArthur, Titus, 40–41.

[26]Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 689.

[27]Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 391

[28]Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 292.

[29]Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 689–90; MacArthur, Titus, 41.

[30]BDAG, s.v., “ὅσιος,” 758.

[31] Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 391.