1Ti 3:6-7 “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
In the first five verses of this chapter, Paul has laid out a list of things that a bishop must, and must not, be. He is here drawing that instruction for the qualities of bishop to a close. Since Timothy was apparently a very young man (1Tim. 4:12), it would be reasonable for us to wonder about Paul’s counsel here. At first glance, it might seem to us that he is disqualifying Timothy.
While being young and being a novice might seem to go hand-in-hand, this is not always the case. It may please God to call a very young person into His service so that, by the time they reach late teen to young adult years, they have already been well grounded in His service. We find examples of this with Samuel, David, and Joseph to name a few. Being young, chronologically speaking, does not necessarily imply being a novice in the study and application of the things of God.
Considering that Paul is giving all this instruction to Timothy to prepare him to face the rigors of being a bishop (1Tim. 4:6), it is safe to conclude that Timothy himself was not a novice (new convert). However, it was obviously important that Timothy (and us) be reminded that a novice was to never be set in this office of service. A man who is not able (or willing) to declare the whole counsel of God, rightly dividing the word of truth, is still a novice regardless of how many birthdays he has celebrated. For the brother’s sake, the church’s sake, and the cause of Christ, we should never ordain such a one to the office of bishop.
The ministers of the gospel of Christ need the encouragement of God’s people. As we become seasoned in our ministry, this encouragement both helps and humbles us. However, those same words of encouragement may cause a novice to think more highly of himself than he ought (Rom. 12:3). Being lifted up with pride, the novice may fall into condemnation.
This does not indicate that our accuser has any authority to judge us, even when we become prideful. Rather, it is a caution to us that in becoming lifted up with pride by the craftiness of the devil, there is certain to be a fall, or condemnation, to follow. This is a lesson that believer must learn as they enter into His service. There is simply no room for human pride in the service of our great God.
Finally, anyone who desires the office a bishop must not only have a good report within his church, but also within the community. He must be known as a man with integrity, compassion, and kindness. We never want to be that person who causes the community around us to doubt the love and concern of the church. The impact of the office of a bishop, both in the church and in the community, should never be underestimated.
May we be blessed to live our lives in a way that always glorifies Jesus and His Bride both inside and outside the walls of the meeting house!