7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
As Paul continues his description of a sound overseer (aka deacon or bishop), we see that he gives us some contrasting qualities to get a better idea of his point. For myself, as I look at the difference between the qualities in verse 7 with those in verse 8, they don’t really seem contrasting, do they? Rather, they are just different. If we look at the groups, however, we can classify these two groups as: selfish and selfless.
A leader in the church is to be a servant. I’ve talked about the servant leader in the past; it is the leadership style Jesus exemplified for us on earth. If the church then is supposed to mimic Christ (afterall, that’s what Christian signifies), then we too should portray every essence of servant leadership, especially the appointed leaders. I believe Paul explained the same thing in his first letter to Timothy.
I’d like to focus more on verse 9 today. The biggest way an overseer leads a group of people is by teaching them how to follow in the footsteps of Christ. One cannot do this effectively without first doing it himself. We have discussed the meanings of teaching and exhortation already. We must realize, however, that our words do not hold as much meaning if we do not exemplify the very thing we are saying. Notice that Paul isn’t saying, “this way you can prove them wrong and win the argument.” No, he is saying this is so we can correct those who need it and expose others who contradict this way of teaching. These are the very hypocrites Jesus taught about when He spoke with His disciples.
If you walk righteously (the way Paul describes here), then the hypocrites will be exposed merely by your presence. By walking the walk, you can talk the talk because your walk backs it up. The difficult thing, my friends, is that everyone has the bible to reference. If you claim to be a Christian, then you must recognize that the world will hold you to the standard by which you claim to live. If your walk and the Word do not match up, then your words hold little to no weight.
Do you practice what you preach?