Leading with Character
When people read 1 Timothy 3, they often feel one of two ways; they either feel discouraged because they see the qualities as unattainable or missing in their life, or they feel relief because they see the qualities as applicable only to elders or deacons, and not the average christian. Both of these responses reveal a hidden deceit in our hearts. The first response shows our struggle in understanding the gospel of grace and our tendency to resort to a works-based salvation and sanctification. The second reveals our desire to live in the comfort of our sin and our struggle to submit our lives to the Lord.
Both common responses to this passage show a fundamental misunderstanding of the text. Too often, this chapter is viewed as a character checklist to categorize people into the “haves” and the “have nots” (of godly character), usually to appoint someone to leadership. But, that’s not the point of this chapter. While we see these examples of godly character applied to those in church leadership, the underlying point is that these are elements of godly character which God desires for all us. And, in contrast to the two common misperceptions, the only way to rightly approach this passage is through the gospel of grace and the understanding that God calls all christians to display these character traits. So how then, do people come to 1 Timothy 3 and not feel discouraged or disconnected? The answer is transformation. It’s here in this chapter on character that who you are and how you live collide. The only way to live in these characteristics, is to live in a close relationship with God who embodies them perfectly. How a person lives is built on their identity. When someone comes to faith in Jesus, their identity changes and over their life, God transforms that person, conforming them to the image of Christ, which is perfectly reflected here in 1 Timothy 3.
You see, character transformation is only accomplished through gospel transformation. When we rest in the gospel and look to the perfect sufficiency of Jesus, by grace, we are transformed to reflect Jesus as we become more like Him. It is in a God informed identity that our core is transformed, conformed, renewed, and recreated into His image. Only then will we see the beauty of character in 1 Timothy 3 grow in us. Peace be with you.
- In what ways do you find yourself trusting in a gospel of works rather than a gospel of grace? In what ways do you struggle to submit to the Lordship of Jesus in your life? How has the gospel confronted you and brought transformation in these areas?
- What does the collision between your identity and your life look like?
- Why did God give us this description of character in 1 Timothy 3?
- How can we encourage this character in each other?
- How is Jesus’ sufficiency and supremacy shown in 1 Timothy 3?
by Pastor Scott Hambrick