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Above Reproach

The 'second' qualification mentioned for one desiring the work of the eldership, as found in 1 Timothy 3 is that he must be “above reproach" or "blameless.” Paul also gives this 'qualification' in the list that he gives to Titus (1:6). So what does it mean for one to be “above reproach?” It seems from a first glance that this would almost require `perfection'. Some versions translate the Greek word `anenkletos' “blameless” (NIV, NKJV, KJV, ASV, RSV), while the NASB and NASB-Updated uses the phrase “above reproach.” Both would be acceptable translations, as the meaning of the word, 'anenkletos' is shown in both. The Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words defines 'anenkletos' as "that which cannot be called to account." He further explains, “It implies not merely acquittal, but the absence of even a charge or accusation against a person”(1)

What man is there who has a past that could not be called into question? Is there anyone who could meet such strict requirements? Well, as always, our first human instinct is to explain things as we first see them, but, the qualifications given are not concerned with the man's past, but with his present Christian life. Yes, the way that he has behaved since he has become a Christian does have a bearing upon whether he is found to “blameless” before the church and outsiders. But the life that he lived before he became a Christian has absolutely no bearing upon his present qualifications. For one to bring up his behavior before he became a Christian only reflects their lack of knowledge concerning the grace of the Almighty (2 Cor. 5:17).

What sins might be found upon a 'list' of what would disqualify a man for not meeting the requirement of being “above reproach?” If we have to ask that, we've missed the meaning of the phrase entirely.

It is not a list of sins, or the magnitude of the sins that he has committed in the past that is of importance in this discussion at all. (i.e. Some would say that a man that had committed adultery earlier in life would never be qualified, while a man who had been a drunkard would.) Again, the sins that he may have committed earlier in life are not under discussion, but rather, “Is his present lifestyle showing evidence of a mature Christian, and does he have the qualities given that will make him the kind of a spiritual leader that will please God?”

Some have concluded that Paul, in this instruction, intended for the term "blameless" or "above reproach" to apply to the following characteristics. In other words, they say that what follows describes one who is above reproach. This is a possible conclusion, as seen by our study of the original construction of this verse in our first lesson. However, this would not change the application, as we could readily see that one who possessed the qualities that follow would indeed be "above reproach."

In conclusion, we must say that it is of utmost importance that we do not get caught up in every 'objection' that man has against a fellow servant of God. The qualifications were given to evangelists so that THEY might assess a man's qualifications for the work of overseer. A man who has repented of his sins and has exhibited the qualities given for the eldership is undoubtedly “above reproach”!

(1) Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Edited September 1, 2005