We use the term “gift” in many ways today. We may say that a high school student is “gifted” at playing basketball. What we mean to say is that he plays basketball well. Or we may say that a musician is “gifted” at playing his instrument when we mean to say that a person has practiced hard and has mastered his instrument. This is not the way the Bible uses the word “gift.” Rather, by “gift,” what the Bible means is that the Spirit gives to the Christian certain strengths and abilities to edify the church in the position in which Christ has placed that Christian.
The Spirit does this even with those men that he has called into special offices in the church: pastors, elders, and deacons. The lists of gifts (or qualifications) are found in 1 Timothy 3:2–12 and Titus 1:6–9. If a man desires to be a pastor, elder, or deacon, he must fit all of these qualifications, showing that he has been called by Jesus himself to serve in this office of the church.
Many of the qualifications that are found in these two passages fall under the general category of godly living. Therefore, all young men, not only the ones who feel called to serve in the church, ought to examine themselves to see how these characteristics apply in their own daily lives.
In both passages, the qualification “blameless” is used to introduce all the other qualifications (1 Tim. 3:2, Titus 1:6–7). This is because all the characteristics that follow in this list of qualifications are the description of what the Bible means when it says, “A bishop must be blameless.” Blamelessness involves every aspect of a man’s life: his general mindset, his family life, his social life, and his spiritual life. John Calvin, in his commentary on the pastoral epistles, says concerning the word blameless, “[the bishop] must not be marked by any infamy that would lessen his authority. There will be no one found among men that is free from every vice; but it is one thing to be blemished with ordinary vices…and another thing to have a disgraceful name or to be stained with any baseness.” Blamelessness means that no one should be able to find fault in the young man’s life and accuse him of intentional sin. This is not to say that he is sinless, but a person should be able to look deeply into all aspects of the young man’s life and see evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification.
First and foremost, the qualifications in these two passages apply to officebearers. These are the characteristics that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write down for the men aspiring to serve in the special offices of the church. A man with these characteristics, at least in seed form, ought seriously to consider whether God is calling him into the ministry.
Still, many of these qualifications also describe godly life in general and therefore apply to all young men in the church in some way. Though young men who are aspiring to the ministry ought to examine themselves with this list more seriously than most, all young men in the church must examine their lives because all young men are called to live godly.
“The husband of one wife” does not only mean that a man is married to only one woman. It does not only mean that he has not remarried after a divorce. It means much more than that. This qualification means that the young man is living a sexually pure lifestyle so that he intimately knows only his future wife.
“Sober” does not simply mean “not drunk.” “Not given to wine” addresses the man’s relationship with alcohol. Rather, “sober” means that the young man is able to think clearly and live wisely, knowing the word of God and allowing it to dictate his decisions throughout life.
“Lover of hospitality” does not only mean that he enjoys the company of others. It goes much deeper than being a “people person.” To love hospitality means, principally, that the man loves his local church and wants to talk to and know his fellow members. He wants to know their current life situations. He wants to know how to pray for them. The man who loves hospitality loves the people of God.
These are just a few examples of how many of the qualifications apply to every young man. One still may ask why he should care to live blamelessly. The young man should care to live blamelessly because God’s name is on the line. In Exodus 20:7, the third commandment, God says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” God’s name is his reputation. He is holy, perfectly good, and unchanging. To take the name of the Lord in vain is not only the heinous sin of using his name irreverently, but it is not to live according to the calling which we have received (Eph. 4:1).
How does one examine himself? In our churches, we have a week-long self-examination before communion. This is a wonderful time to reflect on the work of the Spirit in your life. If, while you are in prayer, the Holy Spirit reveals to you a besetting sin, repent and ask for forgiveness. Remember that you have been forgiven in Christ and that God is forming you more and more to the image of his Son. As his children, be encouraged, knowing that God is working in you. Pray to live according to the will and commandments of God.
We are beloved of God in Christ. Therefore, in gratitude, let us all live according to these standards in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Jeremy is a first-year student in our churches’ seminary. Jeremy graduated from Kuyper College, where he met his wife Hailey, in December 2018. He and Hailey are members of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church.
Originally published March 2020, Vol 79 No 3
 John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 76.