The Scriptorium

A Good Work

A good church needs a proper structure. 1 Timothy 3.1

The Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy 3 (1)

Pray 102.1, 2.

Hear my prayer, O LORD,
And let my cry come to You.
Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble;
Incline Your ear to me;
In the day that I call, answer me speedily.

Read and meditate on 1 Timothy 3.1.


1. What is an “overseer” (“bishop”)? Why do churches need them?

2. What makes serving as an overseer a “beautiful” or “good” work?

God has an order for His churches. That order begins in sound teaching. It requires men who pray and women who bear witness in godliness and good works. All church members – men and women alike – must learn to love God and their neighbors, so that the church, which is the Body of Christ and the new garden of Eden, can bear the fruit of Christ’s resurrection and reign in the world.

For this to occur, churches need structure. Paul continues in 1 Timothy 3 to outline the structure Christ intends for His churches. Overseers (NKJV: “bishops”) have a vital role to play in growing the local church. The office of overseer – or bishop or elder (cf. Tit. 1.5-7) – is borrowed from the Old Testament office of judge. The people of Israel were to appoint judges to rule over their cities. The judges met in the gates of the city to discuss matters relative to the common weal, handle issues of judgment, and teach the people the Law of God (cf. Ruth 4). Paul believed every church needed to have overseers, or elders (cf. Acts 14.23). A church that does not have overseers is a church that is not set in order as God intends (cf. Tit. 1.5).

The work of an elder is a “beautiful” or “good” work, according to Paul. It is beautiful as it is carried out, because it embodies the shepherding work of Jesus; and it is good because it issues in good works in the lives of God’s people and the congregation as a whole – as God originally intended for His garden (cf. Gen. 1.31). 

The work of overseers is to watch over the congregation of God’s people. Their work is likened to the work of a shepherd, both in the Old Testament (cf. Ezek. 34.1-4) and in the New Testament (cf. Acts 20.28; 1 Pet. 5.1-3). They are to work hard to know the condition of their flock and the individual members thereof (Prov. 27.23); to watch over their souls for good (Heb. 13.17); and to interpret the Word of God for the life of the church (1 Tim.3.2), so that the Lord’s garden and all its plants might bear much fruit.

This is an office to which men may aspire (cf. v. 2). Elders or overseers are the primary disciple-makers in the local church. They are the “pastors and teachers” whose calling is to equip God’s people for works of ministry (Eph. 4.11, 12). This is a beautiful and good and necessary office, indeed. And, as we shall see, it takes a special kind of man to perform it.

1. In what ways is the work of an elder like the work of a shepherd?

2. How does the work of elders mirror the work of Jesus, the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10)?

3. What makes the office of elder beautiful and good? What is the responsibility of church members toward the elders of their church?

The office of a bishop is a good work, dearest brethren, as the blessed apostle says, “Whoever wants to be a bishop aspires to a noble task.” Now when “task” is heard, labor is understood. Therefore whoever desires the office of bishop with this understanding wants it without the arrogance of ambition. To express this more clearly, if a man wants not so much to be in authority over the people of God as to help them, he aspires to be a bishop in the true spirit. Caesarius of Arles (470-543), Sermons 230.1

Lord, as I would learn to love more, so give me a heart to pray more, specifically to pray…

Pray Psalm 102.1-11.

Can you identify with the psalmist’s state of mind and soul? Why are we all like this in some ways? Ask the Lord to help you search your soul, and be honest with Him about what He shows you there.

Sing Psalm 102.1-11.
Psalm 102.1-11 (Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
Lord, hear my prayer and cry; hide not Your face from me!
In my distress and tears I sigh – Lord, hear my earnest plea!
My days like smoke blow past; my bones are scorched with sin.
My heart, like wilted, withered grass bends low to earth again.

With loudest groans and cries, and leanness in my soul,
no shelt’ring place arrests my eyes, no rest to make me whole.
My enemies grow strong; I weep with bitter tears.
My days are like a shadow, long; God’s face is no more near.

T. M. Moore

Men, we encourage you to follow Paul’s exhortation and to join our Men’s Prayer Movement. Watch this brief video (click here), then download the brochure that accompanies it. Get started praying more consistently, and enlisting other men to pray, by ordering two copies of If Men Will Pray, a fuller exposition of 1 Timothy 2. 1-8, by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.