This post begins a five-part series we first ran here in 2014. The series consists of one of C.H. Spurgeon’s lectures to his students. The idea came from a pastor friend contacted me with a link to the lecture and remarked that it was encouraging to know Spurgeon was dealing with all the same kinds of problems back then that pastors face regularly today. He suggested it would be good content for SharperIron, and I couldn’t agree more.
Depending on what collection you look at, this is Lecture 9 in Volume 3, or possibly Chapter 22, or even Lecture 22. (I believe I also saw it as Lecture 10 in one collection.) The text is available in multiple locations on the Web (such as cblibrary.net, monergism.com and reformationtheology.com), and is apparently in the public domain.
Philippians 2 is often called the Kenosis passage because it describes Jesus as emptying Himself. He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” The word kenosis means empty or nothing, and the idea is key to understanding and solving the issues of humility and anxiety in Christian ministry (See the recent How to Insult Your Pastor Creatively).
Near the beginning of this passage (Philippians 2:3), Paul says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” The word “rivalry” is “found before NT times only in Aristotle, where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means” (BDAG). In this passage, Paul is considering the improper seeking of church office. The word “conceit,” better translated “vainglory” (KJV), is κενοδοξία—from κενός (nothing) and δόξα (glory). It is nothing-glory. Paul is concerned here with people seeking church office on the basis of nothing-glory.
We’ll look at the whole chapter to understand the difference between nothing-glory and real-glory. And in doing so, we’ll see humility and anxiety and how to deal with them in our ministries.
Paul’s instructions to Timothy regarding the qualifications for leadership in the church (specifically for elders in 3:1-7) are vitally important. They are also not as simple as we might sometimes prefer. We generally prefer things to be neat and clean—objective and quantifiable. So it is not unusual to see the standards of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 received as a checklist which can be mindlessly applied as if black and white, requiring no judgment or wisdom.
However, Paul’s words are not intended to be received or applied in that manner. Instead, of the sixteen specific qualifications mentioned by Paul, all of them are decidedly subjective rather than objective. There is certainly one assumed qualification, that the elder be a he (tis, “anyone” in the masculine). That is the only objective characteristic described in the entire passage.
But as for the sixteen qualifications Paul lists, they are not so simple as is the gender issue.