Not Pugnacious - But Gentle And Uncontentious
AN ELDER MUST NOT BE “PUGNACIOUS, BUT (MUST BE) GENTLE” AND “UNCONTENTIOUS.”
The word translated “pugnacious” here in the NAS could perhaps be best defined as quarrelsome. Therefore one of the qualifications for the overseer is that he not be quarrelsome in nature. The Vine's Expository Of New Testament Words defines “not pugnacious” (translated “not a striker” in the KJV) as, “not fighting" (a, negative, nache, "a fight"), came to denote, metaphorically, "not contentious," 1 Tim 3:3, and Titus 3:2, RV, for KJV, "not a brawler," "not brawlers” (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers).
This of course would “portray” a man who would not be quick to argue or disagree. Again, it points to his nature, his character. Many a man is hampered with the contrary characteristic of being argumentative and quarrelsome. It is a “natural” reaction for them to seek a skirmish with every matter that seems disagreeable. Many of these men are Christians, and deal with this 'fleshly temptation' their entire Christian lives. However, one who “aspires” to be an overseer must not possess this characteristic.
(We must understand that although an elder is not to be a “fighter,” he will encounter many a “skirmish” as he holds to the truth of God's Word. It is often worth noting that a spiritual man's true nature may be misunderstood by many a “church member.”)
Paul also points out that instead of being “pugnacious,” this man is to be “gentle, uncontentious” (KJV: “patient, not a brawler”). Obviously Paul is simply saying that the elder is not to be one way, but the other. It would be the same as me telling one of my children, “Don't be selfish! Share!”
The elder is to be a “patient” man. God is patient (2 Pet. 3:9), yet He does not always `agree' or even `tolerate' disobedience (Lev. 10:1-2). So also an overseer will often be found “correcting” or perhaps even “rebuking” incorrect or false teaching. To some, he may appear disagreeable, as though he must have his own way, but an elder must see to it that his flock is receiving the truth from God's Word.
His patience does not conflict with his faithfulness, but rather leads to the wise and prudent handling of certain matters. Neither does God's patience conflict with His righteousness.
Indeed an overseer must be uncontentious. A man involved in the work of the elder that is found “disagreeable” and “quarrelsome” in nature will have a difficult time “leading” a congregation of 'closely watching' sheep. An impatient man (“quick to anger,” James 1:19-20) cannot achieve the purpose for which God has called the overseer to do but will find that unrest and division follow.