Above Reproach And Well Thought Of
1 Timothy 3:2
What has gone before...
Paul exalts the "office of overseer", which means spiritual health inspector.
"Office of overseer" is often translated as "visitation".
The first "episcopate", or group of church overseers, were probably the apostles, called by Jesus.
Paul commended those who "aspire" or stretch out after and set their hearts upon the office of overseer, describing the work as a "noble task", something "beautifully good".
Paul describes the the ideal overseer. The passage reads like a job-hunter's resume, listing knowledge, skills and abilities essential for the "noble task" of inspecting and protecting Christian churches.
"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil." 1 Timothy 3:2-7 (ESV)
We will study each term in detail, but to begin, look at the first and last descriptors:
ABOVE REPROACH: anepilemptos (not arrested, inculpable); from a (not) and epilambanomai (to seize); from lambano (to take, to get hold of)
"Inculpable" may be unfamiliar to some. It means to not be deserving blame, from culpare (to blame).
A good example of someone being "seized for arrest" is seen in Luke's description of the religious rulers in Jerusalem:
"The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor." Luke 20:19-20 (ESV)
"Catch" and "above reproach" share the same root: epilambanomai (to seize).
To be "above reproach" means having no reason for arrest, no reason for punishment, no cause for social shunning.
WELL THOUGHT OF: kalos (beautifully good, valuable or virtuous for appearance or use) and martyria (evidence given); from martus (a witness or "martyr")
Paul used "kalos" in the previous verse, describing the office of overseer as a "beautifully good" task. Here, Paul is asking the church to look closely at a candidate for leadership, evaluating their reputation with those outside of the church.
It seems that Paul began this "job description" with a general heading: Above Reproach, and ended it with a summary: "Beautifully Good Reputation".
Having a "beautifully good reputation" is important in order to avoid falling into "disgrace":
DISGRACE: oneidismos (contumely, insolent or insulting language or treatment); from oneidizo (to defame; to rail at, chide or taunt); from oneidos (notoriety, a taunt of disgrace); related to ginosko (to "know" absolutely)
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Paul's "job description" for the office of overseer seems to depend upon a person having a good reputation with the unbelieving community as well as with Christians. If Jesus was "above reproach", why was He crucified? What Christian ethics might offend unbelievers? How can a Christian be "well thought of" by unbelievers yet still support biblical ideals? Is the world's definition of "disgrace" the same as that of God's? If we all struggle with our sin nature, how can any of us hope to be "above reproach"?