Proofs of the Resurrection

Proofs of the Resurrection

Resurrection Sunday, April 20, 2014


I would commend five resources to you for study on the resurrection of Jesus.


N.T. Wright. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.


William Lane Craig. The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus during the Deist Controversy.

Lewiston, ID: Edwin Mellen, 1985.


William Lane Craig. Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of

Jesus. Lewiston, ID: Edwin Mellen, 1989.


Lee Strobel. The Case for the Real Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.


Edwin Yamauchi. Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History? Christianity Today, March 15, 1974 and March

29, 1974, 4-7, 12-16.


Here is a link to Yamauchi’s article:


What is resurrection?

First, resurrection is not revival to life. Understand that the ancient world and the bible itself speak of people who died and came back to life. Dying and coming back to life is revival not resurrection. The hard thing about revival is that the revived person has to die again.


When the bible speaks of resurrection it speaks about being resurrected to life that is different and supernatural and life that will never taste death again.


Resurrection is unique to Christianity

Resurrection is completely unique to Christianity. Resurrection is not life after death. As Christians we believe that when a person dies as a follower of Jesus Christ having placed their trust in his justifying death in their place for their sin and having repented of their rebellion, and thus by the work of God, and Jesus having exchanged their guilt for his perfection, the believer is ushered directly to be with Christ. This intermediate state is a “spiritual” state in which the person is with Christ while their body decays in the ground. This is life after death. Their body is dead but their soul is alive and well with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).


If a person dies without having trusted in the rescue and missionary work of Jesus, Christians believe that person’s body will be buried to decay and their soul will go directly to a hell that was created for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41).


As Christians we believe that there will be a resurrection of all men in which followers of Jesus Christ will be reunited with a new body, in a recognizable way (Jesus was resurrected and recognizable), a body that will never die, a supernatural body, an immortal body, and they/we will dwell with Father, Son and Spirit forever in creation regained (See Rev. 20-22).


Those not following Jesus will be resurrected, reunited with their non-redeemed body and cast into the Lake of fire with Satan and his angels (Revelation 20:11-15) for an eternal conscious punishment for the rebellion that was started in the Garden in Genesis 3 and inherited from Adam as God warned would happen.


Life after death simply states that there is something after a person dies. Resurrection is different. Resurrection states that there is life after life after death.


“Resurrection is death’s reversal.”[1]


Let me give you some contrast to help us see the uniqueness. Many ancient cultures believed in life after death and sought to prepare the departed loved one with things they would need in the afterlife, but these cultures denied resurrection, life after life after death.


According to Wright, “The idea of resurrection is denied in ancient paganism from Homer all the way to the Athenian dramatist Aeschylus, who wrote, ‘Once a man has died, and the dust has soaked up his blood, there is no resurrection.’…Christianity was born into a world where its central claim was known (believed to be)[2] to be false. Many believed that the dead were non-existent; outside Judaism, nobody believed in resurrection.”[3]


To take it a step further, the idea that a system of belief’s central figure, particularly Jesus, who claimed to be God, dying and rising to die no more is even more unique. Some have claimed that Christianity borrowed the concept of resurrection from other belief systems. This could not be more inaccurate.


According to Edwin Yamauchi, “…there is no possibility that the idea of a resurrection was borrowed because there is no definitive evidence for the teaching of a deity resurrection in any of the mystery religions prior to the second century. In fact, it seems that other religions and spiritualties stole the idea of a resurrection from Christians!”[4]


Yet here is what the author’s of Scripture do, they put forward Jesus’ resurrection not only as the climax of his work, but they proclaim the resurrection as a historical fact in time and space with eyewitnesses.


“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:1-4


The mission is that in offering evidence for the resurrection of Jesus that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.


Biblical, Circumstantial and Historical Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection[5]


1. Jesus’ tomb was not enshrined

The Pharisees would care for the tombs of prophets, and Jesus even rebuked them for their enshrinement of the tombs because they were recognizing them as prophets yet it was their fathers who killed them, thus condemning their father’s actions (See Matthew 23).


They would enshrine a tomb because the bones of the prophet were there and the enshrinement would give the burial site religious value.


Of the major world’s religions based on a founder, only Christianity claims that the tomb of its founder is empty. Judaism looks back to Abraham who died four thousand years ago and preserves his grave at Hebron. Buddhists visit the tomb of Buddha in India. Millions of Muslims make the Haj to Mecca and also to Medina to visit the tomb of Mohammed.


Yet there is no trace of any enshrinement of a tomb for Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is alive!


2. Jesus’ predicted his own resurrection (Matt. 12:38-40; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; John 2:18-22)

In Matthew 12:38-40 Jesus is asked for a sign to prove his identity. Jesus tells them no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah was three days and nights in the fish so the Son of Man would be three days and nights in the earth.


Note this: Jonah was dead. Jonah was not alive. Why? How could he live? He’s been swallowed by a fish big enough to swallow him. He’s wallowed for three days and nights. At best he drowned. At worst he was chomped to death. Either way, he was revived after three days. It was a miracle. No wonder the Ninevites repented. This strange looking and haggled dude is telling us about judgment. Don’t want to look like him, so they repented.


Jesus understands this. So, Jesus draws the parallel between Jonah’s death and revival and his death and superior resurrection. Jonah, a man, dies and is revived to go preach repentance. Jesus, God incarnate, dies and is resurrected in order to send his church to go preach repentance (gospel work in the Old Testament).


Jesus predicted this would happen. Heck, he gave us Jonah as a forerunner of what he would do. If Jesus’ predicted his own resurrection and he was not raised, then he would be a false prophet. Yet, the tomb is empty, and Jesus predicted it would be so. Jesus is alive!


3. Jesus actually died (John 19:34-35)

“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.”


Jesus was dead. Jesus was not “passed out”. There are entire books dedicated to the thesis that Jesus was in a comatose state and that in the coolness of the tomb he revived. Jesus was dead. This Roman insurance of death was the equivalent of a special operator putting a double tap in a down combatant’s chest just to insure he is dispatched and could not further hinder the mission. This soldier was insuring Jesus was dispatched.


Not only that, John is claiming here to be the eye witness to this event. Jesus was dead. But Jesus was raised from the dead. John testifies to this as an eyewitness. Jesus is alive!


4. Jesus was buried in a tomb that everyone knew of (location) (Matt. 27:57-60)

“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.”


Why is this important? A known location of Jesus’ burial is vital because it removes the argument that somehow Jesus’ body was buried in a secret place so that the disciples could claim he was raised when in fact he was not.


Jesus was dead and buried in the tomb of a wealthy man, Joseph of Arimathea, where even the Mary’s knew of its location.


Therefore, for Jesus’ body to be removed by any other way than the supernatural resurrection would be virtually impossible without someone knowing. Jesus body was not removed. Jesus was resurrected. Jesus is alive!


5. Jesus appeared physically, and recognizable, only resurrected (immortal and supernatural) (Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:17; John 20:20-28; Acts 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:6; Luke 24:31; John 21:7, 12; John 20:16; John 20:14, 15; 21:12; John 20:19; Luke 24:31, 36; 1 Cor. 15; Col. 1:18)

“And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.” – Luke 24:31


“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” – Colossians 1:18


This point is important. What if someone came claiming to be Jesus, but was not Jesus, and his argument was that he just looked different now due to the resurrection? This could be deceptive, obviously. But this is not what happened.


These eyewitnesses recognize Jesus as Jesus. In other words it was Jesus, who was dead, who was now appearing to his disciples, and Jesus is appearing in such a way that it was astonishing.


Jesus resurrected body was real and physical, and it was Jesus, but Jesus’ body was a new kind of no sin, no perishing, immortal and powerful, new heaven and earth kind of flow. You know? It was legit, too legit to quit.


Paul affirms for us in Colossians that Jesus’ status in resurrection is the “prototokos” (Col. 1:18), the prototype, of what is to come for all of his elect who will be raised to life after life after death. John affirms in 1 John 3:2 that we will be like him. Jesus is alive!


And one day we, as his people, will be raised up to be like him in his resurrection.


6. Jesus’ resurrection was recorded soon after the resurrection occurred (1 Tim 5:18 quotes Luke 10:7, showing Luke to be in circulation before AD 70)


This is a vital point. Some would argue that the resurrection of Jesus is the folklore created by the early church and that this folklore was captured in the gospels as second century documents. This theologically left position has many problems with it. The most vital flaw is the fact that history just does not lie.


Paul quotes Jesus from Luke 10:7 in 1 Timothy 5:18 meaning that at least Luke was in circulation prior to the mid 60’s AD. Paul was executed in the mid 60’s AD. And if Luke is post Mark in his writing and research, then Mark was even earlier. Since these gospel writers did not record the date they wrote, we must locate their writing based on close reading and attention to literary and historical details. For easy numbers, lets say Luke wrote in 60 AD, to be generous, then we are looking at 25-27 years since the event that Luke is writing his history (Luke 1:1-4). If Mark is earlier, and most believe it is, and I would agree that it is, then Mark is earlier than this.


You may ask, “What does this mean”? This means that in that span of time, folklore, particularly in the midst of persecution (see Acts 8), is not developing. Survival is happening, and the reason these folks have to survive is that they keep preaching Jesus as the resurrected King of the universe.


Jesus’ resurrection was recorded soon after his resurrection because he was raised. Jesus is alive!


7. The earliest creeds of the church celebrated the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ dies according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” – 1 Cor. 15:3-4


This passage is believed to be the earliest creed of Christianity. It at least dates to 53-54 AD when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. In this creed the church celebrates that Jesus has been raised! Jesus is alive!


8. The resurrection convinced Jesus’ unbelieving family to worship him as God (Matt. 12:46 – mother and brothers come to have a word with Jesus in their unbelief; John 7:5; 1 Cor. 15:7; James 1:1; Jude 1:1)

“For not even his brothers believed in him.” – John 7:5


On occasion Jesus family would show up and demand a word with him in order to talk some sense into this carpenter claiming to be God. In Matthew 12:46 Jesus mom and brothers come to have a word with him. Jesus makes an astounding statement as he looks around the table telling his disciples that they are his mother and brothers. In other words, those believing and following him are his family.


The next thing we notice Jesus’ brother James is an elder at the Jerusalem church, writes a letter in the New Testament bearing his name and is martyred preaching the resurrection of his bro as the Son of God.


Jesus’ brother Jude is the same thing. Jude was in the gang trying to talk some sense into Brother Jesus. Next thing you know Jude is writing a book bearing his name and says this, “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” – Jude 5


Why would James and Jude do such a thing for a dead brother? They wouldn’t. Jesus was raised and they, along with old doubting Thomas believed and began to proclaim Jesus as the Christ. Jesus is alive!


9. Jesus’ resurrection was confirmed by his enemies turned evangelist, like Paul, then affirmed by later by contemporary historians such as Josephus (Phil. 3:4-6; Acts 7:54-60; Acts 9)

Paul spent his life in zealous fury seeking to extinguish the church. We learn in Luke’s history of the early church that it was Saul (Paul) who was in charge of putting Stephen to death (Acts 8:1). This Saul (Paul) heads out to arrest and crush when the resurrected Jesus appears to him, saves him in his elected purpose and glory and sends him to preach the gospel to the gentiles. The enemy of the cross becomes the proclaimer of the cross. Why? Jesus is alive!


Josephus, a contemporary of the New Testament writers and Jewish historian writes:

“Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, hand condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”[6]


Jesus is alive!


Results of the Resurrection[7]

1. A savior who will never die again (Romans 6:9)

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”


2. Repentance (Acts 5:31)

“God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”


3. New Birth (1 Peter 1:3)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…”


4. Forgiveness of sin (1 Cor. 15:17-19)

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”



5. The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:32-33)

“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”


6. All things work for our good and a multitude of other graces (Romans 8:28-34)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”


7. We have Jesus’ personal fellowship and protection (Matt. 28:19-20)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


8. Rescue from the coming wrath of the Father (1 Thess. 1:9-10)

“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”


9. Our future resurrection from the dead (Romans 6:4; 8:11; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:20; 2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:4-6)

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”


Be of good cheer. Jesus is alive!


Let’s worship the risen Jesus Christ who is present even now.



[1] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 83.

[2] Parenthesis mine to add clarity to Wright’s comment

[3] Ibid. p. 35.

[4] Edwin Yamauchi, “Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?” Christianity Today, March 15, 1974 and March 29, 1974.

[5] The evidences supplied here are compilations from scriptural evidence and summary from multiple authors over centuries. These are not unique to this sermon and belong to the many scholars and students who have faithfully defended the resurrection since the first century.

[6] Flavius Josephus, “Jewish Antiquities,” in “The New Complete Works of Josephus, Trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1999), 18.63-64.

[7] Adapted from Jonathan Parnell at commentary is the exposition of the author. Points are added by the author and some of Parnell’s are removed. Some are elaborated upon and some are completely the work of the author.

Working for us even in the details

During my first systematic theology class of the day we were entering chapter 47 on church government and discussing the offices of the church. While covering the office of apostle during the early days of the church we were led by our chapter to Acts 1:21-26. The apostles are replacing Judas according to the instructions in the Scriptures. Note how they replace Judas. Here is the passage:

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:21-26 ESV)

Now, the Holy Spirit had not yet been sent by the Lord Jesus to indwell the Lord’s people, and this is the final time in the Scriptures where the casting of lots was used to determine the Lord’s will. The reason is that the church would then have the Holy Spirit to give discernment and direction to his people, therefore, no longer needing lots.

Think with me for a minute. Did these people really believe that the Lord would be so specific as to give direction through the throwing of some kind of dice? Does the Lord actually have power over how dice land? Really? My naturalistic, fallen and skeptical mind wants to think that just a tool of lesser evolved people who just didn’t quite get it and used religion as their way of making decisions they didn’t have the courage to make themselves. Sin, I know. But my mind wants to go there. I’m still being sanctified. Pardon my questions. Pardon my unbelief.

But here is the really cool thing. They did believe that. And they were not wrong. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap but its every decision is from the Lord.” These guys knew the story of Joseph and the “chance” of Joseph showing back up to rescue them. The writers of Scripture tell that Joseph story in Psalm 105:16-22 as the Lord sending Joseph to Egypt. Joseph himself says in Genesis 50:20 that what his brothers meant for evil that God meant it for good. Could it be that the Lord cares about all the little details of our lives down to how dice land, and how we get to locations in order to rescue some people some years later? You bet he does!

This gives me great hope. There are no coincidences or chances with Father. There is no “lucking out”. Father promises to work for our good down to how dice land. Even better, he has given us Holy Spirit to know his way right down to the last letter. Father cares for the details and is working for our good in the details. So, “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:5). “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-30). Do what is right, rest in the Lord, trust him for the ends. He really does rule the dice.

God’s good order for leadership in the church: Part 3: Qualifications

1 Timothy 3:1-7

God’s good order for leadership in the church: Part 3: Qualifications


How does the Father maintain church-planting movements globally among unreached people groups that then make the UPG a reached people group?


Well, the Lord of the harvest raises up people to go to a people group with the Gospel. The Gospel powerfully transforms people and then the Lord Jesus, by his Spirit, begins to do his work of building his church. This is an amazing thing to behold in reading church and missions history but also with the naked eye as we engage the globe with the Gospel and watch the church being constructed, one soul at a time rescued from darkness. You can even begin to see whom the Lord may put a desire in to be a shepherd someday.


In building his church the Lord Jesus then begins to gather the people he saves and then he either puts the desire in the hearts of men to lead them and they learn with the Scriptures how to lead or savvy missionaries instruct with the Scriptures in culturally appropriate ways how to shepherd the Lord’s people and then the missionary backs off and watches the Chief Shepherd multiply and raise up men to under-shepherd the movement.


We see this happening at gloriously rapid rates on the frontiers of the Gospel today.


These qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are not hindrances to a movement. They are not barriers to the work. These qualifications were in place in one of the most exciting times in church history for the rapid advance of the gospel.


These qualifications are holy ongoing and long-term moral characteristics of men seeking to follow the Lord Jesus who have, by supernatural means, developed a desire to shepherd Jesus’ people under Jesus’ leadership.


These qualifications are not momentary statuses. These qualifications are long-term moral characteristics. If these qualifications were statuses no man could qualify to be a pastor.


For example, back in October when the man sought to invade my home (he, the bad guy) thinking that the man of the home was gone, met me to his great chagrin. I, in force and yea much violence sent this man packing while threatening to part his skull with a hollow point. At that moment and for quite a few days my level of hospitality in welcoming strangers was not real good. One might say that I was disqualified for pastoral ministry because I was not hospitable to outsiders for a time. My status at that moment made me appear to be hostile to outsiders. I was also not gentle, but rather quite violent.


However, the long-term evidence of my life is contrary to that isolated incident of which I was and my family was innocent victims. We are, by God’s grace, quite hospitable to outsiders. Look at my children. I also don’t default to violent means to solve problems as the first option.

The long-term and ongoing moral characteristic of hospitality and gentleness is quite in tact.


Therefore, as we come to these qualifications some may seek to make statuses out of them and turn them into battering rams to beat men up and repel them from pastoral ministry. If these qualifications were statuses there would be no church led by pastors anywhere and the gospel’s influence would be lacking.


To take it a step further, if these were statuses there would be many men and women constantly in the third step of church discipline due to momentary sin.


A question to you: Are these qualifications only for the pastor/elder/overseer? Can the men and women in the church be the opposite of these while expecting the pastor/elder/overseer to keep them? NO! These qualifications are for everyone. They are specifically applied to the leaders because they will be most visible and therefore the first to represent the King and his Kingdom. But these qualifications are not lost on the congregation.


However, these are not statuses. These qualifications are moral characteristics that are the fiber of a man’s being in his transformation by the gospel lived out in public over the long haul (nouns / adjectives / very few verbs but the verbs are present indicative or future infinitive, indicating this truth of long-term characteristics rather than statuses.). Combine these moral characteristics with a God-given desire and you have a pastor/elder/overseer.


Take pastors who live out these moral characteristics, preach the bible, seek to make disciples and you may just find yourself in the midst of a Spirit driven movement to multiply the Kingdom of God by raising up men to lead, plant and multiply the church locally and globally.


What does Paul tell us about selecting these pastor/elder/overseers?


A Most Trustworthy Saying

Anyone (v.1)

Paul starts out the qualifications with a very encouraging statement. If anyone…


Pastoral ministry is not for the seminary graduate or the good looking and chiseled television or Internet hunk. Pastoral ministry is not for the podcast super star. Pastoral ministry is not for the man who has his books ghost written to the appearance that he writes them all and puts them out like Pez. Pastoral ministry is not for the man who pays a research company to do all of his research. Pastoral ministry is not for the exceptionally good communicator. Pastoral ministry is for the man who exhibits the requirements along with a God-generated desire for shepherding.


What are these requirements?


A word to the ladies: we have already covered 1 Timothy 2:11-15. The biblical role of woman is not less and is no less vital. Don’t let a culture’s lies rob you of good order. The text will address the role of ladies whether single or married soon enough. But lets let the text speak. Lets follow God’s good order and see what he has for us.


Aspiration (v.1)

Any man who aspires may put himself under the microscope of the qualifications of pastor/elder/overseer. What is aspiration here? The word used by Paul means “to stretch out one’s hand”. In other words, any man who sets his efforts on shepherding the people of God is aspiring. It is no sin to aspire to be an under shepherd of Jesus. If that aspiration is in place it may be the stirring of the man’s soul by the Spirit. It is no sin to aspire for this.


Do not, however, confuse this with aspiring to be a CEO and leader according to a system of hierarchical governing. We have been clear. The text has been clear. This aspiration is to be like Christ in all the wins and the suffering. That is why this aspiration is no sin. This aspiration involves no self-glory or status of greater. This aspiration leads one to joyfully make themselves a target for the glory of Jesus.


For the men in the church at Ephesus, to aspire to the office of overseer was to aspire to be the first to die when persecution came. To aspire to the office of overseer now is to aspire to be the one to go first in the advance of the gospel. This is no easy task, and it is no sin to aspire to it.


Desire (v.1)

Paul says that if one aspires to this that the desire is noble. Two words to note here: Desire means, “to have an affection toward” and noble means, “good”. Paul says that if one has the aspiration to overseer that the affection is a good one.


Men, it is not considered noble to shepherd the church in our culture. Being pastor may be considered by some as what con men do. What I would argue is that, regardless of what others have sold pastoral ministry to be, it is the noblest task on the planet to shepherd the people that will inherit the earth!


Paul now moves to some specifics beyond the open invitation to any man who has the desire to go first. There are overarching descriptions given here for your help. The specific qualification Paul gives is in italics under the bold description.


He Must Be Qualified (requirements continued: his reputation; his marriage and family; his self-mastery; his temperament; his maturity; his ministry)[1]


His Reputation

Above reproach (v. 2)

Above reproach stands as the banner over all of these qualifications, and as the banner it sets the stage for understanding all of these qualifications not as statuses or skills but rather as moral qualifications.


The word used here carries the idea of not able to be seized. The man cannot be rightly convicted of a moral wrong.


This is not being sinless. This is sinful man seeking to be right and repentant when they do sin.


Well thought of by outsiders (v. 7)

The aspiring man must have a reputation among those outside of the church that is stellar. It is vital to have a vehicle for being connected to the outside world for the advance of the gospel and for being salt and light to one’s location in seeking it’s good, and in doing so to keep a strong reputation.


His Marriage and Family

Husband of one wife (v. 2)

This is the most debated qualification among some scholars. However, my observation is that the majority of evangelical Christianity leans the direction I’m about to share with you. I have not been that way in the past, and the text has convinced me. Teaching I had received in the past and poor exposition by others and myself has often poorly influenced the exegesis of this qualification.


The pastor must be above reproach in relation to women. He must be the husband of one wife. The Greek text literally reads “one woman man”. Paul is not referring to a leader’s marital status, as the absence of the definite article in the original indicates. Rather, the issue is his moral, sexual (carnal) behavior.[2] Many men married only once are not one-woman men. Many with one wife are unfaithful to that wife. While remaining married to one woman is commendable, it is no indication or guarantee of moral purity.


Why begin this list of qualifications with this quality? Paul does this because this area may be the most targeted among godly men. The failure to be a one-woman man has put many a man out of the ministry and wrecked many marriages inside the church of Jesus Christ.


Various interpretations have been offered that truly skirt around the real issue here. To simply state that a man who would be pastor must never have had another wife for any reason is to miss the point and make this a shallow issue that never confronts the real sin.


Some argue that the intent is to forbid polygamy. I don’t believe this is the case here. A man could not even be a member of the church if that were the case much less a leader. As it stands, polygamy was not an issue in Ephesus and was uncommon in Roman society because sexual encounters and no cause divorce were so easily available in Roman culture.


Some argue that Paul is forbidding remarriage after the death of a spouse. Remember, this standard, like the rest of them, is about moral character not marital status. To take it further, the bible permits and honors second marriages under the correct circumstances. Paul expected younger widows to remarry and raise a family (1 Timothy 5:14), and in this case widows could still be described as “one-man women” (1 Tim 5:9). 1 Corinthians 7:39 permits the woman or man whose spouse has died to remarry if they remarry a Christian.


Some have held, and I used to be one of them, cultural assumptions and textual assumptions that had no base in the text that this qualification excluded divorced men from spiritual leadership or service. This position, again, ignores the fact that Paul is not referring to marital status. Nor does the bible forbid all remarriage after divorce. In Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:9, Jesus permitted remarriage when a divorce was caused by adultery for the innocent party. Paul gave a second occasion when remarriage is permitted, when the unbelieving spouse initiates the divorce (1 Corinthians 7:15). While God hates all divorce (Malachi 2:16), he is gracious to the innocent part in those two situations. Therefore, since remarriage in and of itself is not a sin, it is not necessarily a blight on a man’s character. If divorce resulted from a man’s inability to lead his family or reproachable behavior on the man’s part, then it would be a disqualification. But if he were the innocent party then it would not be a blight on his character since he has sought to obey the Scriptures and the other party’s efforts were contrary.


Had Paul clearly meant to prohibit divorce, he could have said it unmistakably by using the Greek word for divorce (apolyō, cf. Matt 1:19).[3]


A final expositional point here, in 5:9, Paul says that a window is not to be enrolled for help unless she is less than 60 years old and having been the “wife of one husband”. Paul uses the exact same phrase for the widow’s relief as he does for the qualification of pastors. If Paul means marital status rather than moral character, and if her husband divorced her unjustly and she is innocent of wrongdoing, then the phrase “one-man woman” means the church is to let her starve for no wrong done on her part. I’m quite certain that is not what Paul means. I’ve become convinced that Paul is not addressing status but moral character. In other words, the widow cannot be blamed for anything her husband did wrong that caused her any harm. She has been blameless and her moral character is in tact and should be enrolled to help.


Some have held that Paul excluded single men from the ministry. If that were the case then Paul would have been disqualifying himself since he was single (1 Cor. 7:8).


Finally, a “one-woman man” is a man completely devoted not just in his body but also in his entire being (thinking, feeling, the entirety of the soul) to his wife. This man loves, desires and thinks only of her. He is pure in both his thought life and conduct.


So, if you want to be a pastor/elder/overseer expect some hard questions about what you think and see. (I’ve adopted that practice with all pre-marital counseling too.)


Much of the congregation had at one time, due to the nature of the city of Ephesus and its history, fallen prey to immorality. If that was before a man became a Christian, it was not a problem (see 2 Cor. 5:17). If this happened after he became a Christian it would be a problem. If it happened after he assumed a leadership role it would definitely be a disqualification. These same standards of moral purity apply still today.


Proverbs 6:32-33 says it well, “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.”


Manage his household well (v. 4)

The pastor/elder/overseer must be the overseer of a well ran home. That does not mean he does everything, but it does mean he makes sure all things are pointed in the right direction.


His Self-Mastery (he has mastery over himself; self-disciplined)

Sober-minded (v. 2)

Sober-minded means “watchful” it also means, “limiting his freedom”. This man keeps a reign on his thinking and fights the war in the mind well.


Self-controlled (v. 2)

Self-controlled means the pastor is self-disciplined. This man can self-start and complete a task. This man rules himself well.


Respectable (v. 2)

Respectable means “orderly”. The idea here is that his life and direction is not identified by confusion bur rather with a clear vision and purpose creating order.


Not a drunkard (v. 3)

Drunkard here literally means “always near wine”. In other words, the pastor can control his consumption of alcohol. This is not a command to abstain, but rather a command to be in control.


Not a lover of money (v. 3)

The pastor can’t be in love with “stuff” and getting money to get “stuff”. The pastor recognizes that his use of God’s resources is vital and as a manager of God’s resources he will be held accountable.


His Temperament

Not violent but gentle (v. 3)

Literally Paul says here, “not a striker”. I failed this one in October with the potential home invasion. However, as we have said, these are long-term moral characteristics not statuses. The man of God must display an ability to be gentle and not seeking to strike everyone who comes his way. Sometimes Nehemiah 13:25 may be needed, but it’s not the default.


Not quarrelsome (v. 3)

The man of God will not battle with people. He is quick to let a verbal fight pass on by.


His Maturity

Not a recent convert (v. 6)

There must be some spiritual maturity. As we noted last week that there are some instances where the spiritual maturity may not be measured in years but rather in knowledge and capacity due to the advance of the gospel in new places.


His Ministry

Hospitable (v. 2)

The pastor welcomes strangers. This is the missionary component. The moral standing of the pastor must be one that delights in the inclusion of outsiders in the Kingdom.


Able to teach (v. 2)

Literally, this qualification reads “skilled at teaching”. How is this a moral qualification? I would argue that many men are great communicators but are not skilled at teaching. Someone may be able to hold people’s attentions and wow them with his ability to speak, but he does not teach truth. This qualification is moral because the mandate from chapter 1 is that the pastor must teach in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.


This means that the pastor is not just a good communicator, but he is a communicator of right things and the right application of things.


It is a shallow qualification if it is simply the ability to talk good. It is shallow on the part of the believer to not be able to hear past the style or the physical appearance of the man of God


I remember the moment that the Lord broke that in me. It was Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Craig Blomberg was on campus to lecture on the false theology of the prosperity gospel. I was required to attend. I had not deemed Blomberg’s style or appearance worthy of the more entertaining speakers of the Christian world so I was not happy to be required to go. I went with arms folded and bitterness in my soul at being made to attend. When Dr. Blomberg began to speak the Spirit moved to break me up in a way that he has not had to do since. He broke that sin in me in an instant. Dr. Blomberg became to me a hero that day not because he was pretty or a good talker but because his teaching was in moral rightness and therefore full of the Spirit. Don’t confuse smooth talking with Spirit-filled. Rightly recognize Spirit in broken men filled with power (see Moses).


Samuel Logan Brengle, one of the early leaders of the Salvation Army said, “Spiritual leadership is not won by promotion, but by many prayers and tears. It is attained by confessions of sin, and much heart searching and humbling before God; by self-surrender, a courageous sacrifice of every idol, a bold, deathless, uncompromising and uncomplaining embracing of the cross, and by an eternal, unfaltering looking unto Jesus crucified. It is not gained by seeking great things for ourselves, but rather, like Paul, by counting those things that are gain to us as loss for Christ. That is a great price, but it must be unflinchingly paid by him who would not merely be a nominal but a real spiritual leader of men, a leader whose power is recognized and felt in heaven, on earth and in hell.”[4]


Father has made men like that here in this fellowship. We will install them on May 18.




Do you think you have that trustworthy aspiration that is a good and noble desire? Is the trajectory of your life pointed in the direction of these qualifications? I would ask you to make yourself known and see if you might want to enter into learning if you really want to be a pastor/elder/overseer.


How cool it would be to be an Acts 13 church with what my seminary president called “The Antioch Affect”, raising up qualified men and filling the cities and communities with fellowships on mission.





[1] The over-arching descriptions in bold are barrowed from Kent Hughes organization of the qualifications in his commentary on 1 Timothy.

[2] John MacArthur, 1 Timothy, Chicago: Moody Press,1995, p. 104.

[3] Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 110.

[4] Samuel Logan Brengle, The Soul Winner’s Secret, London: The Salvation Army, 1918, p. 22.