A Good Reputation Outside the Church
AN ELDER MUST HAVE A GOOD REPUTATION
WITH THOSE OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
1 Timothy 3:7 says, concerning a man desiring the work of overseer, “And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (NAS).
Back in verse 2 we read that the overseer must be “above reproach” (Titus 1:6). This characteristic seems to point to the man's “reputation” as well. But here in verse 6 Paul deals specifically with his “reputation with those outside the church.” A man who is to do the work of elder and overseer is to then have a “blameless reputation” before both those who are within and without. There are at least two reasons that we can quickly conclude that this is important.
One reason is that although his primary function will be 'shepherding' those who are of the flock, he will as well be dealing with those who are not Christians. It is of great importance that the church is able to 'put its best foot forward' as she attempts to reach those who are outside of the church. Every single nonchristian is a prospective convert. Every lost soul is a potential saint. Leaders that do not have a good reputation (i.e. good character, an example of Christ-like behavior) with those who the church is attempting to reach will have little or no success in soul winning. However, one who exemplifies the nature of Christ and His church will have much greater success in reaching those who are seeking the Lord.
Another reason that this man's “reputation with those outside the church” is important is that this characteristic shows his consistent behavior as a saint whether among saints or among sinners. One who lives the devoted Christian life lives his life for God at all times.
Does the man who aspires to the office of overseer have a tarnished reputation with those whom he associates with outside of the church? If so, and if their complaint is legitimate, the one who seeks this work needs to examine his own heart and give ALL of his being to the Lord. He is certainly in danger of becoming a hypocrite!
C. Michael Moss writes, “Finally Paul concludes by turning to the “reputation” of the elder “with outsiders.” Outsiders may work side by side with a prospective overseer. His demeanor and lifestyle can easily be read by them. His reputation with the world affects the influence of the church for good in the world. One who lacks this favorable testimony from outside the church “will fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.” (The College Press NIV Commentary, 1, 2 Timothy & Titus, Copyright 1994, College Press Publishing Company).
I totally agree with Mr. Moss, but also am inclined to conclude that Paul had a more certain point to make in the latter part of this verse (“so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil”). How would his reputation with outsiders cause him to fall into the reproach and the snare of the devil? I believe that the next paragraph, which I quote, says it well.
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary reads, “Reproach (of men) and (consequently) the snare of the devil (1 Tim 5:14; 6:9; 2 Tim 2:26). The reproach surrounding him for former sins might lead him into the snare of becoming as bad as his reputation. Despair of recovering reputation might lead into recklessness (Jer 18:12). Only general moral qualities are specified, because he presupposes in candidates for a bishopric the special gifts of the Spirit (1 Tim 4:14) and faith, which he desires to be evidenced outwardly: also he requires qualifications in a bishop not so indispensable in others.” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft).
This seems to be a valid point, taken in the context of overseer and the tremendous examination that he is to undergo. If one were to later bring before the congregation (either in a constructive or destructive manner) a pronouncement of this man's (now an overseer) past sins, the burden that he might face before those who would further scrutinize and even condemn him could perhaps be more than he would be willing to face. He could be led, not only to give up the work of elder, but his Christian life altogether. (Paul deals with this kind of a problem with a repentant sinner in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. And although the one of whom Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians is not a leader or one who would soon aspire to leadership, it shows the damage that the attacks of condemning saints can incur.)
Therefore Paul refers to the man's reputation with those within the church in verse 2, as those who would judge him according to the Word of God, while he specifically mentions his reputation with outsiders as those who judge according to the world!
Perhaps those who run for President of the United States or Supreme Court Judge might understand what Paul is talking about?