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SOUND DOCTRINE (9) – He Desires a Good Work

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. – 1 Timothy 3:1

This is the fifth of the trustworthy sayings we will consider. I have delayed it until now because it, logically, comes after Titus 3:8. Here, the NIV translates kalou ergou as noble task; in Titus 3:8, Paul uses the same words (except that in Titus they are plural). The NIV translates them there as doing what is good. The work of a bishop is among what is good. The words literally mean “a good or beautiful work.” In Mark 14:6, Jesus used these same words to describe what Mary did to him when she poured the perfume on him. The KJV translates it as a good work while the NIV gives it as a beautiful thing.

Why is the work of an overseer “good”? Many people look at the overseers in the church and call their work anything but good!

It is a good work because it is God’s work. “An overseer [bishop] is entrusted with God’s work” (Titus 1:7). It is good because “God’s work… is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:4). The work of bishop, then, is a work of faith and a work of God. That is why faithful men with experience of life as well as in the gospel are the ones to serve as overseers [bishops], shepherds [pastors], or elders [presbyters]. All of these terms can be applied to this work.

What is this work?

Shepherds or Pastors

As shepherds and pastors, they are to “feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28, KJV) The word feed here is the verb form of pastor or shepherd. To know what this work is, look at various descriptions of the work of a shepherd.

In John 10, Jesus describes Himself as “The Good Shepherd.” Here is just some of what He says there:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. – John 10:11-15

David, the man after God’s own heart, began his career as a shepherd. When he was brought before King Saul as one who offered to do battle with Goliath, Saul was skeptical. David told him that as a shepherd he had fought the lion and the bear – and God gave him success (see 1 Samuel 17:33-37). He put himself between the sheep and the wild beasts, thus laying down his life for his flock. He was also the author of the 23rd Psalm, one of the most widely known and loved passages of the Old Testament:

  1. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
  3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
  4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
  5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
  6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Written from the view-point of the sheep, this Psalm describes the tender care the shepherd provides for the sheep, both individually and collectively as the flock. David’s skill as a shepherd translated into skill as a leader of God’s people as well. Psalm 78 describes this:
He [God] chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. – Psalm 78:70-72.
Integrity and Skill
Unfortunately, not all shepherds have David’s integrity and skill. Jesus spoke to His chosen disciples, His apostles, about how they were to act as leaders in His kingdom:
You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. No so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:42-45
This turns carnal leadership on its head! Exercising authority and lording it over the underling has been man’s way of “leading” from almost the earliest records we have. It is still so. But Jesus said, “Not so with you!” Peter must have had this in mind when he wrote the following:
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care,
  • serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be;
  • not greedy for money, but eager to serve;
  • not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. – 1 Peter 5:1-4
Be shepherds of God’s flock. Serving willingly, eager to serve – not for greed of power or money –  not lording it over, but being examples.
How can we find men such as this?
The Holy Spirit makes them; we do not. We can hinder the Holy Spirit in His work of making such men, or we can cooperate with him by stressing the things Paul wrote of in Titus 2:11 – 3:8. When we stress these things, that is the things having to do with God’s grace and love, people will be eager to do what is good. They will not look for personal glory, but will give all praise to God who is working in them. They will not be concerned about their own dignity, any more than David was.


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