1 Timothy3:1

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The saying [is] faithful: If anyone is reaching out toward

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inspection and oversight,

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he is longing for a good work.


This saying has been around for a while, but it merits repeating: If anyone yearns to fulfill the role of a supervisor that oversees and inspects a work, he should not be held suspect or frowned upon because it is a good thing.



This word’s root meaning is “to stretch, to reach out toward,” from there other meanings were derived such as “to aspire, to desire, to yearn for, to covet.”


This is the Greek word from which we get our English words “episcopal, episcopate,” etc. It means “an inspector who oversees a work.” We might call this person “a supervisor or overseer.” Sometimes it carries the idea that this person of leadership and authority does not reside on location but comes to visit whenever possible.

Leaders in the Early Church

From this verse I wish to draw the following points:

  1. “Supervisor” Could Mean Any Elder or a Distinguished Elder

In Titus 1:6-9 Paul gives a similar description, but he uses the term “elder” instead of “overseer.” There are two possible ways to interpret the use of these terms. The first option is that the two words were interchangeable and referred to the same person. Evidence for this positions is as follows: In Acts 20 Paul sent for the “elders” of Ephesus to come to him (Acts 20:17), and as he spoke to them, he referred to them as “overseers” (Acts 20:28). Peter referred to himself as a “fellow elder” in 1 Peter 5:1. The second option is that some of the elders were higher in authority than others, just as in the Old Testament there were elders who were simply leaders of their extended families, and others who were leaders of 50 (men and their families), of 100 (men and their families) and of 1000 (men and their families). Paul could have been singling out some of the men present in his comment in Act 20:28 (although the other interpretation is more natural), and Peter could have been minimizing his position as an Apostle (one who had been with Jesus) and purposefully bringing himself down to their level (this is very likely). Either option is viable.

The levels of leadership in the early church were not made entirely clear in the New Testament. I take this lack of clarity to mean that they did not want to make a big deal of higher levels of leadership because they did not want people seeking higher levels of authority for the wrong reasons.

  1. The Early Church Used the Same System of Leadership the Israelites Were Already Accustomed To.

Some people have looked at the New Testament and seen what they interpret as a lack of clear instructions on leadership for the early church. They go on to assume this means we are free to choose whatever type of leadership system we wish. I strongly disagree.

The New Testament does not explain all the details about the leadership of the early church because it did not have to; there was already a system of authority and a leadership structure in place in their society and most of the time it worked well, especially on the levels of families and extended families (the leadership on the national level had crawled in bed with the Romans and was therefore despised by the common people). In the leadership structure which had been handed down to them, and which they appear to have applied to the early church with a few modifications, the father was the leader of his home, and a grandfather was the leaders of his extended family. It is possible that some of those grandfathers were leaders over a handful of grandfathers.

  1. Leadership Positions Were Not Automatic in the New Testament House-Churches

What Paul says about someone desiring the position of “overseer” tells me that it was not automatic. First of all, the oldest man in the group was not automatically the leader because spiritual maturity had to be taken into consideration, as we will soon see. Also, this man had to be willing to put some extra time and effort into fulfilling that leadership role. In those days there was no salary for this position because all of them chose not to accept any payment for their leadership role.