Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sexual sin and the Pastor/Elder

When considering the qualification of a Pastor/Elder, it amazes me the different approaches some people take. Some treat them as absolutes while others treat them as suggestions or goals to be reached at some point during his life. The later would allow for clearly unqualified men in this office while hopefully striving to one day meet the standard. I do not see this as the purpose the Holy Spirit wrote through Paul.

First and foremost is the admonition of being above reproach. Both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 lead with this character trait. It is in fact what the Pastor/Elder is to be first and foremost. What follows are the different ways this blameless character can be verified or witnessed. The word used for above reproach or blameless does not mean a sinless man. There was only one sinless man, and if this is what was meant we would never have Elders. The word anegklêtos literally means “not to be called to account”. That a charge cannot be brought against the man.

In our poll this week, I ask if a man can or should be restored to the Pastorate if he has fallen into sexual sin or immorality? I believe he cannot! Once a man falls into immorality he may certainly upon confession and repentance be restored to God and to the fellowship of believers. However he has disqualified himself as a pastor. A charge can now be leveled against him in this and he has lost (or should have lost) a sense of moral leadership with his flock. The Pastor/Elder is to set the highest standard for his flock in every area mentioned in the passages listed above. He is the moral compass if you will. This has been lost in a case of such a sin. Again this should never be the unforgivable sin and should never stand in the way of restored fellowship. But it can never be that the man can function in the highest and most visible role Christ instituted for church leadership. Cast your vote.


  1. John,
    I voted "over time", only because I feel there may be more to the question that is needed. Is he still in the sin? Or did he just commit a sin and start over? If he is still in the sin then he should be removed from the pastorate. But that should be with any sin. If he stole money could he be restored? Well, did he pay it back and his dues of the crime? Sexual sin is in extreme in today's world but it is still no larger sin than stealing and such. If the man has been forgiven by God due to true repentence then trust has to be rebuilt by him with his flock. If trust can not happen then he has to move on. If trust is rebuilt and restitution has been made towards his "victim"/"cohort" then do we still judge? Truely, a sticky situation, and a sad case as well.

  2. I appreciate your response. However we have all been forgiven sin in ouur lives but this does not negate the qualifications for Pastor/Elder does it? The man is no longer a one woman man by Gods standard.

    As I said the man may certainly be restored into fellowship with God and the church but to remain a pastor? based then on what? where is the above reproach (not being able to be called on)?

    I think we have cheapened the position and made the qualifications either suggestions or only for the immediate present rather then a man of character who cannot be called into question.

  3. Is there anyone who can fit that list perfectly? Is anyone seriously "above reproach"? We all have imperfection and have to deal with it. I stepped down as an elder once because I felt no longer worthy of the position and I rightly should have based on my own feeling but just because I stepped down once does that mean I will never be worthy of the position again? I mean, I see what you're trying to say about cheapening the title and position and character, but if we really looked at the men who are in these positions with the strictest of interpretation of the passage on elders then I would be afraid there would not be many leaders. No offense since I do not know you completely nor your past and personal life. So I am not aiming anything at you (and you should know that given our past conversations). But as Paul told us we all fall short.

  4. You ask an interesting question, is anyone above reproach? So why would Paul make such a qualification if it were not possible? I know a question with a question. But seriously, the actual word or text does not imply sinlessness. It requires a solid moral character. The qualifications that follow are how we determine if one is above repraoch in three different areas. Sexual, family and personal/ministry.

    Notice that while the two lists we have (1 Tim and Titus) differ a bit in the particulars, both begin with "above reproach". how many would have followed Jesus had he had even one indiscretion? We know Peter denied knowing Jesus and Paul calls himself the chief of sinners and both were Pastors. but during their ministry or Pastorate they could not be called before any offense and that is the point.

    A moral character that one can follow and submit to is the essence of Pastoral ministry. if I cannot be faithful to one woman how on earth can I be faithful to the one true God and then how can others be expected to listen to any teaching I may give on obedience or faithfulness?

    I do have to agree with one thing you said. that perhaps we would have less men in leadership and quite frankly that may not be a bad thing if the fewer we have are truely above repraoch

  5. The word anegklêtos literally means “not to be called to account”. That a charge cannot be brought against the man.

    You are correct in what the word means. However, are you correct in what it implies? I think if you ask any Greek Scholar, they would say that the word anegklêtos is used when applied to unconfessed crimes or secrets. Also, is the person committing the offense on a present and continuous basis without remorse?

    I also have to include the one sexual sin that precludes all candidates if performed after they have been saved and that is adultery. I'm not saying that they can't serve in one capacity of another, but not in leadership.

  6. Isn’t it interesting that while Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy and Titus differ in a few ways the idea of above reproach is immediately followed in both by “husband of one wife’ (one woman man).

    While Paul uses anegklêtos (not called in) in Titus (v6, 7) he uses anepilêmptos in 1 Timothy 3:2. Anepilemptos is taken from two words. A = without and epilambánō to seize. The man cannot be captured or overtaken by any behavior past or present. One who has nothing which an adversary could seize upon with which to base a charge. It is used exactly this way in 1 Timothy 6:14 (NASB) 14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

    Anégklētos - legally unaccused. Anepílēptos demonstrates a higher morality on which no blame can be found to base an accusation, while anégklētos indicates that one cannot be legally charged. Synonyms are ámōmos, without blemish; amómētos, unblamable; ámemptos, one in whom no fault can be found; eúphēmos, of good report; anaítios, guiltless; akatákritos, uncondemned; áspilos, unspotted; dókimos, approved; áxios, worthy.

    Both are translated as “above reproach or blameless”. It talks of a high and mature standard that speaks of a consistent example or standard. It is God demand that his under shepherd live in such a way that his preaching or teaching never come into contradiction based on his life style. That the Pastors indiscretions never bring shame on his ministry and that his hypocrisy not undermine the flocks confidence in the ministry of God.

    Having no cause to bring a charge, call in or bring accusation is the overreaching quality of the pastor and everything that follows is built upon that.

  7. John,

    I was reading today 1 Corinthians 5 where it says we should expel the man who has sexual sin. And I was reading a commentary by David Stern and he brought up a good point and I thought of you and this posting. Why should we expel him? David gave two good points. One if we expel him then he can not spread his sin within the body of the church as much. His influence over others may dissipate. And two, he might come to his senses so later he can be brought back into the fold per se which perhaps is the reasoning behind 2 Corinthians 2:5-10, like a follow up to this man whom Paul menions in the letter.

    This is just to give us more to think about. How far do we cast the man out? Beyond our reach? Beyond his conscience? Or just enough to get him to come back to where he needs to be?

    Oh well. Talk to you soon my friend.

  8. John and Gozreht,

    1 Corinthians 5 speaks of continual sexual sin. By all means, he is to be approach and chastised as by Biblical standards and indeed cast out if he doesn't stop. Our standard on how far is found in:

    "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    1 Cor 6:9-10

    "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

    1 Cor 15:50

    "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

    Gal 5:19-21

    " But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

    Eph 5:3-7

    If he is continually sinning in this manner, he is not part of the Kingdom of G-d and does not belong in the body not does he belong behind the pulpit.

    I think the bottom line is the last part of Ephesians 5:6-7.

    "Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them"

    However, if he has but is no longer sinning in this manner, has repented and is walking worthy of G-d, then who are we to say he or she cannot be used of G-d?

    "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory."

    1Th 2:12

    Isn't that what it's all about? Have we forgotten about the mercy of G-d?

    Shalom, My Brothers