1Ti 3:3-5 “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)”
In verse two of this chapter, Paul states that “a bishop then must be,” and begins to elaborate on the things a bishop must be. These verses are a continuation of that list. It is readily apparent that the things a bishop must be are often contrary to what our carnal nature loves and desires. We can be these things only by the grace of God.
A bishop must be sober in the sense of having a sound mind. He must also be sober in the sense of not being drunken (on wine or anything else). As a bishop, we must not be in a condition of surrendering our self-control (keeping our body under subjection) to any outside substance. Being “given to wine” could lead to the next point Paul makes.
As a bishop, men must not be strikers. The meaning behind this Greek word can mean to physically hit another, or it can mean to be quarrelsome. We may, in standing for the truth, be called upon to present our argument for the cause of Christ. However, our argument is to be of the type that sets forth our reasons for our faith in a Godly manner: it is not a license to be belligerent to others.
A bishop cannot set himself up for sale. This office is not to be sought out of any notion of personal aspirations. True bishops are not after the accolades of men. The gospel is not for sale to the highest bidder. These are not the good works of a man who desires the office of a bishop.
As bishops, we are expected to be patient (gentle) with God’s people. We must keep in mind that our families are also God’s people. It is not good for us to show patience to others and have none for our own households. We must also be able to be patient when dealing with those to whom the Spirit has not yet revealed the beauty of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
As bishops, we need to be peaceable (not brawlers). Paul again warns us against covetousness (greed). We need to guard against not only coveting reputation or material gain. It is not good for us to covet (in a jealous sense) the gifts that God gives to other ministers. We need to be thankful for them and to remember that God is the giver of all the gifts that honor Him.
The injunction to rule our own houses will and have our children in subjection with all gravity is a weighty matter. Paul is not telling us here that we are to be tyrants at home, ruling with an iron fist and demanding perfection from our children. The word rule here means to “stand before or preside over” his own family with honesty and love. This word “gravity” means venerableness, and to be venerable means to be deserving of honor or respect, or being consecrated to God and to His worship.
Bishops are not little kings set up to rule over the church of God. We are called by God to live a life of patient and gentle service to Him and His children. He has given us our gifts for the purpose of teaching, by word and example, the truth and power of His grace. To stand before our own house in honesty and see the children in subjection to God, we must live our lives in a manner that shows us consecrated to Him.
May He remind us daily that our place of service is according to His will and calling, and not something that we are deserving of in the flesh!