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by Al Maxey

Issue #809 -- October 26, 2020
It is generally more shameful to lose a good
reputation than never to have acquired it.

Pliny the Elder {23-79 A.D.}

A Good Outside Reputation
Reflective Study of 1 Timothy 3:7

We are reminded of the following truth in the Old Covenant Scriptures: "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold" (Proverbs 22:1, NIV). How others see us with respect to our character is often far more revealing than how we see ourselves. It is rather easy to fool some people into thinking we're something we are not; it is even easy to fool ourselves, frankly. But, if one lives in and interacts with the world around him or her long enough, one's true nature will inevitably reveal itself to others. The American novelist and newspaper editor Edgar W. Howe (1853-1937) opined, "What is said behind your back is the community's estimate of you." Whether such estimates by others are right or wrong, it is nevertheless true that these perceptions exist in the hearts and minds of those who observe us, and these estimates play a significant role in the formation of our reputation. It is generally true that those who love you will work to protect your good name, just as those who hate you will work to destroy it. The English cleric and author Charles C. Colton (1777-1832) wrote, "There are two modes of establishing our reputation: to be praised by honest men, and to be abused by rogues." Both perspectives can prove valuable to us in our self-evaluation, just as both views can prove helpful to those who may need, for whatever reason, to ascertain the true nature of our character. Thus, the testimony of both friend and foe has bearing on this quest, although the testimony of both should always be considered in light of the obvious bias of each group. Truth will generally lie somewhere in the middle.

It is with this in mind that the apostle Paul, in one of his pastoral epistles, as he was speaking of the qualities of those individuals being considered for spiritual leadership within the church, wrote that the candidate "must have a good reputation with those outside the church" (1 Timothy 3:7, NASB). Just a few verses earlier, Paul stated that these men "must be above reproach" (vs. 2). We tend to think this applies primarily to his reputation within his physical family and within the church. After all, some say, "Why should believers care what unbelievers say or think about our own spiritual leaders?!" This is especially true, one would think, of the opinion of those who are ungodly and willful dwellers in the spiritual darkness of this world. We would expect, would we not, that such people would have little that was positive to say about those who walk in the Light. So, why should we care? And why would we even seek their input? Didn't Jesus say, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me" (Matthew 5:11)? Yet, Paul seems to be suggesting that before we acknowledge a fellow believer as one of our shepherds, we must first consult these very people who are outside of the Body of Christ and prone to false testimony against believers. Notice how this phrase in 1 Timothy 3:7 is variously rendered in the following translations and versions:

  1. Amplified Bible - "He must have a good reputation and be well thought of by those outside the church."
  2. Complete Jewish Bible - "He must be well regarded by outsiders."
  3. Contemporary English Version - "They must be well-respected by people who are not followers."
  4. Easy to Read Version - "An elder must also have the respect of people who are not part of the church."
  5. Expanded Bible - "An elder must also have a good reputation among people who are not in the church."
  6. God's Word Translation - "People who are not Christians must speak well of him."
  7. J. B. Phillip's NT in Modern English - "He must have a good reputation with the outside world."
  8. King James Version - "He must have a good report of them which are without."
  9. The Message - "Outsiders must think well of him."
  10. New English Translation - "He must be well thought of by those outside the faith."
  11. The Passion Translation - "He should be respected by those who are unbelievers."
  12. Worldwide English NT - "People who are not church people must also speak well of a church leader."
  13. The Voice - "He should also be respected for his character and known as an honorable person by people outside of the church."

We could list many more renderings of this passage, but you get the idea. Regardless of phrasing, the message is really the same: those who are being considered as pastors within the church must also be reputable in the eyes of those who are outside the church. The word "must" in our English versions is the Greek word "dei," which is very emphatic in nature: it literally conveys the idea that something "must of necessity" be done. Thus, obtaining testimony from those outside of the church about a man being considered for the role of a pastor within the church is not optional; that testimony must be obtained and considered. It may seem rather strange to many believers that the testimony of unbelievers should be given any consideration here, yet "the testimony of those outside" with respect to "those inside" is not uncommon in the Scriptures, nor is our responsibility to interact with them daily in a spiritually responsible way (after all, we are called to witness to these unbelievers, in both word and deed, the beauty and blessings of the Good News). Paul urged us: "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity" (Colossians 4:5). When we are evidencing the Light in the midst of darkness, we will be given opportunities to testify about that divine Light. "Give no offence either to Jews or to Greeks" (1 Corinthians 10:32), "so that they may be saved" (vs. 33). Our interactions with those still in darkness is critical, and we must be true representations of the Light in those interactions. Although this will invite cursing, insult, and abuse from some, it will at the same time touch the hearts of others; and both responses will be testimonies as to our character. "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders" (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Those who are called to be leaders within the church, whether pastors or teachers or evangelists or any other role in which they serve visibly before the public (both spiritual and secular), must of necessity do so in a manner consistent with the character of our Lord Himself. As we reflect His character, this will speak volumes about our character. The apostle Peter wrote, "Beloved, I urge you to keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12). It is a fact that many who are ungodly and lovers of darkness will verbally and physically assault those who are seeking to be faithful ambassadors of Light. This too, however, is a positive testimony to the character of those being reviled. If you are targeted by the prince of darkness and his minions, then you must be doing something right! In this way their false statements against you, as you suffer for His sake, are in reality favorable statements as to your character. Such slanders actually affirm your righteous reputation, as do the testimonies from those outside the Faith who are drawn to the Light by your godly example. Those who desire to serve the church as spiritual leaders will have many such testimonies being made about their lives. Paul urges us to pay attention to those testimonies as we consider pastoral candidates.

Those individuals, however, who have a desire to serve as pastors, shepherds, elders, or any other role of spiritual leadership within the One Body of Christ, and who are NOT practicing in their communities what they profess in their churches, are NOT in possession of the qualities that Paul declares such leaders must of necessity possess. If such persons are placed in such positions within the church, the potential that they will fail is high, and there is the further possibility that they will find themselves within one of the many snares and traps that Satan loves to set for such "soiled saints." That is why Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:7 that such a candidate "must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." We do no such person any favors by placing them in positions of leadership when they do not possess the qualities and traits necessary for attaining and maintaining a successful and faithful ministry of service to the Lord and His church. The same is true of entrusting someone with the Family of God when they have failed miserably with their own families (1 Timothy 3:4-5) or when they are still spiritual babes themselves and thus lacking in the wisdom and maturity needed to guide the people of God (1 Timothy 3:6). In each of these cases, the local disciples of Christ must take great care in the selection of those men and women for these positions, for wrong choices can prove disastrous for all involved. "Even Confucius had before this time said, 'It is impossible that he who knows not how to govern and reform his own family should rightly govern and reform a people'" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 21, p. 64].

The qualities and characteristics Paul lists for both Timothy and Titus, to help them in the selection process, "must be evident to all, even unbelievers. The potential leader must be a good Christian outside the walls of the church" [Dr. David Guzik, Enduring Word Commentary, e-Sword]. "These are the qualities which people should look for in candidates, more than those of rhetoric, brilliance, or outward attractiveness" [Dr. F. B. Meyer, Through the Bible Day-by-Day, e-Sword]. Ordaining pastors to their work of service to the Lord and His church is not a popularity contest. It is a discerning discipleship placing a person in a position to which the Lord God has called him: a person who possesses the qualities the inspired apostle has enumerated for us. Such cautions were quite common among the Gentiles of the ancient world, by the way. This was nothing new that Paul had done. "It is a well-documented fact that similar lists of qualifications were common in Greek circles for occupations as diverse as generals and midwives. ... Such a list is also an indication of the fact that the first generation of Gentile Christians had come from a background devoid of high moral ideals or standards" [Dr. Gary W. Demarest, The Communicator's Commentary, p. 185]. The leaders of the church must not only be those who have embraced Christ Jesus, but they must also be those who sought to live in such a way that they denounced the ungodly lifestyles of the societies in which they lived. They must practice what they preach, and it must be visible to all who observe them (both inside and outside the church). "There is something blameworthy in a man's character if the consensus of outside opinion be unfavorable to him; no matter how much he may be admired and respected by his own party" [Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2 - Pastoral Epistles, p. 58].

David Lipscomb (1831-1917), one of the noted later leaders in the Stone-Campbell Movement, stated, "The man who has a reputation for dishonesty and untruthfulness, and for a love of money, is not fit for an elder of the church of God." He went on to say that those outside the church who knew of these character defects (though the church may not be aware of them), and who observed him in this other context "living a very different life, would be only too ready to attack the blameless of the congregation through the stained and scarred reputation of such an elder. ... which could cause a terrible and damaging injury to the church" [A Commentary on the NT Epistles, vol. 5, p. 148-149]. "When a leader in the church has a bad reputation in the community, it often brings irreparable damage to the local congregation and indeed to the entire cause of Christ" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 365]. Paul stated the case well when he told the brethren in Rome that our service to Christ Jesus must be of such a nature that it is both "pleasing to God and approved by men" (Romans 14:18). Okay. Fair enough. But, how do we obtain this testimony from those who are outside?!

A very dear friend and brother-in-Christ, whom we knew personally when we lived and worked in Hawaii for six years (1992-1998), wrote me recently: "Al, in 1 Timothy 3:7 Paul discusses the elder candidate's reputation in and out of the congregation. The question arose as to how one might go about finding out the reputation of this man outside of the congregation, especially in light of current social boundaries of privacy. Someone suggested the only way we could feasibly do that would be to do a Google search. None of the other suggestions seemed very good or adequate. No one really knew how to answer that question. Any thoughts?! Mahalo." That is an excellent question, and one that most disciples never even raise. Yet, it needs to be raised, for Paul declares that the church "must of necessity" obtain this information from those who are outside. Paul, however, doesn't really discuss in any depth how to do this. On the other hand, we are not left without some direction here from the text. The key is found in the phrase "good reputation" or "good report." "As a matter of practice, the Greek word used here points to more than general reputation. The 'report' (Greek: 'marturia') was 'testimony' direct and formal, from those who are the non-Christian members of the community in which the candidate for the Episcopate resided. From them, as employers, friends, neighbors, he was to obtain letters testimonial, as well as from the brethren" [A Popular Commentary on the New Testament, e-Sword].

We are all familiar with the idea of requesting and obtaining "letters of reference" from those who know a person we may be considering for a particular job, or promotion, or scholarship, etc. We want to make informed decisions on whether this person has the qualities and character needed to be successful in that position for which he/she is being considered. Even if we ourselves know this person, it is important to go through the formal process of acquiring this background information, both for his/her sake as well as ours (who are tasked with making that selection). As noted in the above reference, the Greek term could be used to denote a "direct and formal" testimony. In Acts 16:2 we find this word employed with respect to the young Timothy, whom Paul sought to take with him on his missionary journeys: "He was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium." We are not told how Paul acquired this information, but he did. He needed to know if Timothy possessed the right qualities to make him dependable on such an arduous mission (after all, Paul had been burned once already with John Mark - Acts 15:37f). Because of "the importance of character" in spiritual leaders, most Christian denominations, taking their lead from the meaning of the Greek term used here by Paul, have declared: "Letters Testimonial are required of all persons to be ordained" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 21 - 1st Timothy, p. 52]. I believe this to be an excellent idea for a number of reasons.

It shows the community at large, those who are "outside," that the people of God take very seriously the placing of any person in such a position of leadership, and that they are willing to seek the input of those "outside" their congregation to help them determine if this is the right person for that position. With the candidate's permission (I'm aware of privacy concerns), a letter from the church (on its letterhead, signed by its current leaders) could be sent to the candidate's employers, fellow workers, known associates (through clubs, organizations, etc.), simply asking for a letter of testimony with regard to his fitness for such a position. These would NOT be shared with the public; the candidate's privacy would be honored. One could also make phone calls, or even personal visits, to speak with those from whom a Letter Testimonial is sought. All with the candidate's permission, of course. Let's face it, if a person does NOT want those outside of the church to be contacted for a testimonial, that itself raises some serious questions. Most of us understand that when we seek a new position, or a promotion, or a school or scholarship, people in our circle of association and acquaintance WILL be contacted. Would such not also be appropriate for a position far more eternally significant?! Paul seemed to think so!! We should also point out that in most such situations, by the time someone among us is being considered for this position in the church, most in the congregation (and most of the leaders for sure) know him very, very well. If there is something so severe in his life that he would be disqualified by it, some in the congregation likely already know it ... and they need to come forward with that testimony. My advice to my friend in Hawaii is: have the candidate provide the church leaders with a list of references (with contact information) from several different areas of the community with whom he is involved (job, school, clubs, etc.), and request that he give you permission to contact them. I believe this will satisfy the "good report/good reputation" clause Paul included in his instructions, and it could go a long way toward opening some doors of opportunity to those "outside" who may gain a newfound respect for the Lord's church because of this openness to input by the public. This could be a win/win scenario on many levels.


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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Wyoming:

Al, I just read your article "Factional Feuding Over Frequency: Can We Remember Jesus' Offering Too Often?" (Reflections #808). Well done, my brother! Amazingly, this was my very study, thought, and conclusion this past week! I love your research and detail. May Satan's attacks on you in any form be your strength in bringing glory to the Father. "He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25, NIV).

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Greetings, Al. I was looking for one or more of your Reflections studies that would address the question, "Why the first day of the week (Sunday) and not the Sabbath?" In other words, why do Christians meet on Sunday and not on Saturday? I always find your studies so helpful.

From a Missionary in Tanzania, Africa:

"Factional Feuding Over Frequency" was a good study. I have often wondered about how we remember Jesus differently in the partaking of the Lord's Supper versus how we remember Him every day. Is there something going on here?

From an Elder in South Carolina:

Al, I enjoyed your discussion concerning the frequency of observing Communion. We have had such discussions in the congregations I have been part of over the past 60 years. In my older years, I have enjoyed supplementing the accepted, inspired canon with historical references, particularly those which occurred not long after the apostles lived. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul instructed the brothers to "stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, either by word or our epistle," which "word" might have included more insight into the frequency of observing Communion. In the First Apology of Justin Martyr (c. 150 A.D.), in section 67, he described weekly (Sunday) observance of the Eucharist (also discussed in Apologies 65 & 66). Considering this historical reference, as well as the examples noted in the NT, I would think that the frequency of the Lord's Supper was at least weekly, but it may have been observed at other times as well. It is noted that the Roman Catholic Church includes the Eucharist at other special occasions such as weddings. I am not condoning all of Catholic teaching, but I am certainly open to traditions of the apostles and the apostolic church which may have not been transcribed. My opinion is that "as often as" is another example of the freedom we as Christians have under the New Covenant, and that the love we have for our Savior compels us to examine ourselves and contemplate His supreme sacrifice often (at the very least each Sunday).

From a Minister in West Virginia:

Greetings from WV, Al. I'm still keeping an eye on you!! Your recent issue of Reflections on "Factional Feuding Over Frequency" was another well-done article. It seems to me there is another discussion that may affect frequency. There is some discussion whether the "Last Supper" of Jesus was actually the Passover meal or just a regular evening meal. I think you may have addressed this in a previous issue of your Reflections. I'm not interested in making a hard statement either way on this. However, if they were celebrating the actual Passover, then "as often as you do it" would seem to be once a year. If, however, they were sharing an evening meal, then perhaps we should be more mindful of Christ and His sacrifice "whenever" we gather around the table each evening. Remembering Jesus and what He has done for us should never be far from our minds, thoughts, and words. Have a blessed week, brother.

From a Minister in North Carolina:

I grew up in the 1950's and 1960's. As a young man I knew well the CENI system of interpretation. I did not use the acronym, but I was certain that its use was what made our group (Churches of Christ) the "one true church." I became a minister; I read all the debates; I stayed current with the leading brotherhood periodicals; I attended the Bible Lectureships at "our" Christian colleges; and I polished up my ability to make all the arguments. I had this Lord's Supper thing down! In the 1970's I preached for several years for two churches on Sunday mornings: my white church and a black church which we supported (this was during the time of racial segregation in our area). The service times were scheduled so that I could leave one church building and arrive at the other one in time to present the Sunday sermon. Usually my arrival coincided with the hymn sung just before the Lord's Supper. Each Sunday I would sit there and wait as these brothers and sisters conducted their Communion service. NEVER did I join these brothers and sisters in the Lord's Supper. Why not?! Because I had already partaken at the previous service, and I did not have "authority" to partake more than one time per Sunday. The fact that I was violating the very essence, spirit, and purpose of the Lord's Supper never occurred to me. I was fulfilling my CENI version of checklist Christianity, which did not give me "permission" to partake more than once, not even as an expression of fellowship with my African/American brethren. Which now raises the question: Did I ever really partake of the Lord's Supper because of my attitude? Or, was my segregated and exclusive partaking with my fellow white Christians something that neither Jesus nor Paul would ever have owned or approved? Al, thank you so much for this article!!

From a Reader in Washington:

I grew up hearing, "You must go to church to take Communion once a week, and the most important thing is that you do NOT miss Communion!" Which for years I took to mean: if you missed the morning service, and could only attend the evening one, you had to walk up to the front of the auditorium and sit on the first pew so you could take Communion, even if you were the only one in the entire building taking it. We were taught that you must take Communion every Sunday to stay in God's favor. I remember when it first hit me just how militant this could be. We had been attending a tiny congregation nearer to where we lived because it had become a hardship to commute 45 minutes to the only "approved" Church of Christ in the county. I had little kids and a husband in the Army, and our beliefs had been diverging from the old-school Church of Christ "pattern" for a few years. But, my parents' church was having a singing night, and our tiny congregation hadn't met that morning due to most families being away or out sick, so it was an opportunity to go sing some hymns and worship with some old friends. There were 50-100 people there: I remember it being a pretty packed auditorium. When the time came to offer Communion for those who had missed it that morning, I was sure I wouldn't be alone if I raised my hand. But, I was the only one in the entire auditorium. I had a sleeping child on my lap, so I couldn't move from the center of my row in the middle of the auditorium. Still, they did the whole rigmarole for me alone, which was SO awkward that I could barely stand it, especially since a large number of those people knew that I used to attend at their church, but had "left the church" for a more "liberal" form of worship. Anyway, in that kind of situation, the offering of Communion for those "who missed it" that morning, it can easily be turned into a mode of shaming people for not being at the bigger morning service. It can turn such a beautiful reflection into some kind of legalistic practice, and it definitely makes the person taking it alone think more about how people are judging them than about how much Jesus did for them on the cross.

From a Reader in South Carolina:

Good Morning, Al. Thanks for another outstanding Reflections ("Factional Feuding Over Frequency"). The biblical knowledge that you possess is just phenomenal. Thanks for taking the time to write these Reflections, and for the knowledge that you give us in your writings. Have a wonderful day.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Al, there is much to think about in this piece about feuding over frequency in the Lord's Supper. You are making a difference, so thank you, and please keep on writing!

From a Reader in Colorado:

In regard to your last Reflections on "Factional Feuding Over Frequency," I have recently come to grips with my actions, and have come face-to-face with myself as to why I ever came to the Lord. Was it because I was afraid of hell? Did I have some law that I had to comply with in order to have His acceptance, or did I have a respectful insight about Him that compelled me to relate to Him? We live in a land of laws, so have we searched for laws to comply with, that, if kept, justify us before Him? Have we made the New Covenant the Old Covenant all over again? Jeremiah 31:33 states, "'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts.'" Did the Holy Spirit write the same on my heart when I came to Him at age 14 as He writes on my heart now at age 85? Is not our conscience developed by learning to follow Him? Is our preaching more on how Joshua "fit the battle of Jericho" than how Jesus, on His way to some appointment, encountered someone in need and stopped to solve their problem? Are we the Rabbi who passed by on the other side or the compassionate one who made time for another? Your last Reflections, brother, really spoke to my heart. In it I see God in His infinite wisdom addressing my present needs. It is proper for me to stop any time to worship and praise Him, and not just at some rigidly regulated scheduled time allotted for that purpose. My worship and praise are appropriate at any time as I "travel through life." Did I catch your point, Al? Thanks so much for your shared insights!!

From an Author in California:

Brother Maxey, I really enjoyed this insightful article on the frequency of the Lord's Supper. More than that, it revealed your spirituality. Obviously, some will roast you for this writing, but that's nothing new to you. Keep the faith, Al.

From a Reader in Canada:

Great article, Al. Thank you for the increased understanding of the various Greek words and their meaning in regard to the frequency of the Lord's Supper. It is obvious that you have spent a great deal of time learning about the Lord's Supper, as we call it now. I personally will observe it on any day of the week, depending on who I am fellowshipping with. Once in a while I would like to do it sitting down to a real meal, as Jesus and His disciples did. It doesn't have to be a Passover meal, or even one during the Passover season, although that might be interesting. I appreciate your in-depth studies. As always, you add to my understanding of God's Word and Will for us. Your brother in the Lord Messiah.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Al, due to illness (and pure laziness), I have not written in some time. However, I never miss reading one of your Reflections, and I marvel at your wisdom! My thought on frequency of the Lord's Supper is this: If we are in Christ, then we should be remembering Him at ALL times! As for the Lord's Supper, it should always be a special time of remembrance. Yet, any time I choose to do it is fine with the Lord. He clearly said, "Whenever you do it." All He expects is that I do it with love in my heart for Him as I remember His sacrifice in my heart. Keep up the good work, my brother!

From an Author/Publisher in Nevada:

Al, that was a good essay on the time and frequency of the Lord's Supper. The Greek word "hosakis" is the whole ball game! Your study is valuable because you get into the companion word "pollakis," and you treat it properly. Thank you.

From a Reader in Hawaii:

Aloha, Al. I recall a conversation we had during the time you were here as our Minister on this very topic of frequency of the Lord's Supper. I told you then, and I still hold to it today, that we must always hold on to the sacrifice of Jesus. It is our foundation. Up to that point, I hadn't really given the idea of frequency itself much thought. But, I quickly came to realize that I thought of Jesus and His sacrifice often, sometimes several times a day, while not necessarily taking the bread and the cup. Regarding the taking of the emblems, I do not eat much wheat due to a gluten allergy, nor do I consume much juice, as I need to control my sugar intake. That said, I would have no problem eating and drinking them on a daily basis if that is what it takes to keep Jesus and what He has done for me ever present in my mind. This is my opinion from my own study, and that is the reason I enjoy studying Greek so much. Like so many things within Christianity, what is in our hearts is indicative of how we behave and teach God's principles. Again, mahalo nui loa.

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