ASPIRE TO THE OFFICE
1 Tim 3:1-2, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” NAS
The first thing that we read in this third chapter of Timothy, is the qualifications for one who "aspires" to be an elder. But the man who is to be considered for the service of elder must first of all “aspire” to the office. He must “desire” the office. And while the “desire” for the office brings obvious conclusions to the reader of the scripture, we are going to take a brief moment to consider the importance of his aspiration.
1) You will notice that both the words "aspire" and "desire" are used in this passage. One may be led to ask, "Are they both from the same Greek word?"
The answer is, "No." They are two different words. The word translated "aspire" (NASB) is translated differently in some of our other popular translations. The NKJV translated both words "desires," while the NIV translates the first word "sets his heart." The King James translates the first word "desire" and the second word in the first "desireth." There is consistency in the translation of the Greek word for "desire" at the end of the verse, but various translations of the word for "aspire," "desire" or "desires," and "sets his heart" in these four versions alone. So let's take a moment to examine the meaning of these two words more closely.
epithumeo: "to desire earnestly." Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words points out that the word "stresses the inward impulse rather than the object desired."(1) The word is translated "lust" in James 4:2 and "coveting" in Romans 7:7. The idea used by one who penned these words is that the person with this "desire" had a strong "passion or longing." And that is why Vine's says that the emphasis is on the strong desire or impulse of the one possessing this attitude. It would be as though we were having a conversation about a mutual friend, and you might say, "He wants that job so badly that he just can't stand it! Well, he does want the job, but you are emphasizing his "desire" to obtain the job. I believe that is exactly what Paul has written here. If a man "has his heart set" upon the work of the overseer . . . . . . . . .
The second term, generally translated "desire" in this verse is from the Greek "orego," and of this word, Vine's has this to say, "to reach or stretch out," is used only in the middle voice, signifying the mental effort of stretching oneself out for a thing, of longing after it, with stress upon the object desired (cf. No. 2); it is translated "desire" in Heb 11:16; in 1 Tim 3:1, RV, "seeketh," for KJV, "desireth"; in 1 Tim 6:10, RV, "reached after," for KJV, "coveted after." In Heb 11:16, a suitable rendering would be "reach after."(2)
So when we understand the meaning of these two words, we might explain the first verse of 1 Timothy 3 like this, "It is a trustworthy statement, if any man strongly desires the office of overseer, it is a fine work that he is reaching for." Incidentally, the term used in the phrase "he desires to do," indicates a continuos desire. He should continually strive to do this work to the best of his ability.
NOTE: The word translated "work" here is from the Greek "ergon," meaning "employment, task, . . . . . . act of faith, deed . . . . ." I think that because the word is translated "work" or "office," here, we often misunderstand the emphasis of Paul's instruction. Indeed, the term "office" should not appear in the text in the mind of this author. For it is the service of the "eldership" that he desires, not an "office" or "position." The term "office" seems to be nowhere indicated in the Greek text.
I believe that it is also important to point out that the original form of this text was not exactly as we see it in our modern versions today. That is not to say that our translations are in error, but to be honest and fair in our studies. An interlinear Bible has the words in this order:
"true This is a saying, if a man the office of a bishop, desire (orego) good a work. he desireth (epithumeo) must then A bishop blameless, be of one wife . . . . . ."(3) You will notice that though "orego" appears earlier in the sentence, there can be no argument over the intended meaning of the writer. However, "epithumeo" appears much later in the sentence, and it is argued by some that it points to the "longing" of the man to be a "blameless" bishop. In other words, he may stand up to these characteristics or qualities as well as we believe that he should.
Whichever form of the sentence that you want to use, you can come to the same conclusion. Of course any man that "desires earnestly" to serve as an overseer must also desire to be a "blameless" elder (See "Above Reproach"). If he is satisfied with any less, then he doesn't have the kind of desire of which Paul speaks.
No man will be found "perfect" as we examine their qualities or qualifications. But any man that truly "aspires" to fulfill the scriptural task of the eldership will be found possessing the qualities that are found in the remaining verses of this text. If not, he has not prepared himself to serve.
One who “desires” serving as an elder should:
Understand the importance of this work of `shepherding'.
Long for the salvation of souls.
Love the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Enjoy” serving the Lord.
Realize his accountability as an overseer.
Be aware of the qualifications and responsibilities of an elder.
Enjoy his work.
While we could be much more extensive in our list, it is my desire to cover these subjects on some of our other pages. But a man who does not fulfill the list above should NEVER even consider seeking the position or work of an elder in light of the responsibilty and accountability involved. Unfortunately, many times those who seek the wor of elder (for that is what they are seeking) seek the leadership "position", not realizing that they must also continue to seek the attitude of Christ:
Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." NAS
It is a desire to SERVE and put one's own will aside that will make a man truly qualified for the WORK of overseer. Not until then can a man fulfill the unselfish duties of an elder!
(1) Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
(2) Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
(3) Copyright 1994 by Biblesoft
Randy J. McClure
May 11, 2002
Edited: September 1, 2005