Christian Ethics 2022

Ministry Above Reproach

May 16, 2023 9:59:07 AM / by Jared C. Wilson

This General Session was recorded live at the Shepherds 360 Church Leaders Conference in Cary, NC on October 17, 2022. For information about the next conference, please visit




This transcript was created by an automatic transcript generator, and may contain minor errors and mistakes compared to the original recording as a result.

Good morning. If you have a Bible with you, please turn to the book of Titus. Titus chapter two.


The topic I've been assigned is a ministry above reproach.


It is increasingly necessary in our day for the Christian minister to wisely navigate complex ethical issues, thus the need for resources like this conference,


We're expected more and more to navigate uncharted cultural waters to respond to social and moral challenges on multiple fronts and equip our people to do so as well. We are learning every day a little bit more what Christ meant when he said in Matthew 10:16, that we are to be as shrewd as serpents.


And yet the need of our people and the need of the world is not simply a generation of Christian ministers who hold all the right ethical positions. They do need that of course, but what they need primarily is a generation of ministers who are themselves ethical, shrewd as serpents, but also innocent as doves.


And among the biblical qualifications for pastoral ministry in First Timothy three, Paul lists in verse two that an overseer, therefore must be above reproach.


This concept is inextricable from the surrounding qualifications, of course, as the other traits of Christ-like character and gracious dispositions shaped for us what it means to be above reproach in Titus one's list of pastoral qualifications. Paul repeats this requirement. And so in Titus two to which we turn now, the instructions from Paul to his protege are derived from those qualifications. Let's begin reading Titus chapter two beginning in verse one.


But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching. Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible sound in faith, love and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent and behavior, not slanderers. Not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind and in submission to their husbands, so that God's word will not be slandered. In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach so that any opponent will be ashamed because he doesn't have anything bad to say about us. Slaves are to submit to their masters in everything and to be well-pleasing, not talking back or stealing, but demonstrating utter faithfulness so that they may adorn the teaching of God, our Savior, and everything.


For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessings, hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness, and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works. Proclaim these things, encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.


This is the word of the Lord.


Heavenly Father, we thank You for this word, we ask that You would bless our time together, press it deep into our hearts that we might cherish Your Son more than we do.


And worship Him with all that we have. And we pray all these things in his name and for His glory. Amen.


We're going to focus on the texts, the portions of this text that have a direct bearing, of course, on the life and work of pastors. So namely, verses one and two, verses six through eight, but we'll also look at verses 11 through 15 because they are controlling for the passage. I believe the entirety of Paul's letter to Titus amounts to an exhortation towards Christ-like ministry, not just for pastors, as you can see as you work through the chapter, but for Christians. For all Christians in any stage of life and situation in life. But between the direct instruction for elders and Paul's direct admonitions to Titus, we can see just how much of these short chapters, in this letter, have direct bearing on the pastoral tasks. So I hope you'll forgive me if I direct most of my message this morning to pastors to those who serve in the office of Pastor. The Lord takes the reputation of his ministers very seriously.


And we ought to as well. Elsewhere, we are told not to accept an accusation against an elder without two or three witnesses. Why? Because pastors are above ordinary laws. No, but because pastors are called to be above reproach. Pastors are called to make holiness serious business. It is serious business, therefore making an accusation against an elder is serious business.


And pastors are called to make their life one characterized by holiness unto the Lord.


But while too many of us spend our time, equating holiness purely with an attitude or a position, Paul reminds us that holiness is much more about action and posture, less of an attitude and a position and more an action and a posture. So the first thing that we see from the fleshing out of pastoral integrity in this text is this: A ministry above reproach is a ministry of good works. A ministry above reproach is a ministry of good works. The most notable thing to me about the list of biblical qualifications for pastors—we find them in First Timothy three and Titus chapter one. There's a parallel exhortation in First Peter chapter five—is how these lists aren't really lists of gifts, per se, what we usually call gifts, or skill sets. Apart from the qualification of able to teach, that's about the only qualification that kind of resembles a skill set. The other qualifications listed are more character traits, personal dispositions, pastors are to be sober minded, they're to be maritally faithful, they're to be gentle, they're not to be quarrelsome. They're not to be drunkards, etc. We do not see, for instance, things like dynamic speaker among the list of qualifications. We don't see a charismatic leader in the qualifications or anything like that. Instead, what we see is the shape of godly maturity. We see the shape of personal holiness. Paul exhorts Titus here in chapter two verse seven, make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching.


This is a parallel exhortation to First Peter chapter five, verse three, where Peter exhorts pastors to be examples to the flock.


What are we called to set an example for the flock in?


Yes, the right positions, but just as importantly, the right practice. In other words, though, we love to talk it's rare to find a pastor who doesn't love to talk. Pastoral ministry is not ultimately about doing what I say, but do what I do.


This is why Don Carson has said that personal discipleship can often be carried out under the call to “watch me.”


“Watch me,” which is just an echo of Jesus Christ's call to discipleship. Follow me. Follow me. Pastors, I'm sure that you are all killing it as it pertains to holding all the right positions and informing your church of all the right positions to hold. But how are you doing in setting an example and good works?


Are you working hard on all the right positional qualifiers, but not so much at the pastoral qualifications?


By your actions? Would your people characterize you as gentle, long tempered, peaceable?


Here's one well thought of by outsiders, brothers, or has worldliness crept into the church through more than one door?


And while we have focused over the last number of years, rightly so, on the outsized influence of sexual immorality and gender, chaos, and all manner of obvious cultural sins, I am afraid that we have not been so vigilant about the sins of lovelessness and judgmentalism, and reviling and quarrelsomeness. All things that are forbidden by scripture, and that we are told are just as much in the spirit of the world and just as much damnable as homosexuality and other sexual immorality.


All of these things are forbidden of the pastor by apostolic authority.


And we excuse these things more and more today than we please. There are times we call for them.


But what that really amounts to is an attempt to fight the world in the world's ways.


And while we've rightly rejected worldly pragmatism in our church methods and in our morality, we have embraced it in our personal witness in ministry.


Proclaim these things, encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.


The pastor's job in the present age is to make the message of Jesus Christ nonignorable in his church and beyond.


We cannot control whether people believe it.


That's the Holy Spirit's role.


But we can make it look True or False with our lives.


Will we serve and love and live in such a way that the gospel looks like good news?


Will we love and live and serve in such a way that people walk away, whether they believe it or not, thinking “he really believes this stuff”?


Will we make the redemption that is coming the blessed hope of the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ—will we make that look ugly? Or will we make it look beautiful?


We can't control what other people make of it. But we can make sure that they have to make something of it.


That's what a ministry above reproach is. It is a ministry that is all about Christ. It terminates on his glory. Let me pray for you.


Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of your son. We thank you for the gift of his cross and resurrection. Father, we don't stagger like we ought to. And I know that's not something we can just work up that we can pretend to do.


Father we ask that Your Holy Spirit would give us all that we need, to be joyful worshipers of your son and radical, devoted followers of him. Father, we know the world is going to hell. We see that very clearly. Give us eyes to see our own sin that we might be good repenters.


Give us hearts not just of clarity, but also compassion, to see as your son saw those harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Further make us more like Christ. And I thank you in advance that the commitment of Your Holy Spirit is just that, that He will make us more like your son Jesus.


What a gift that we do not deserve and so we give you all praise and glory. And we pray all these things in the name of Your Son Christ Jesus, the name above all names. Amen.

Topics: Christian Ethics, Ethics in Christian Ministry

Jared C. Wilson

Written by Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Managing Editor of For The Church (and host of the FTC Podcast), and Director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church in Kansas City, MO. Jared will be one of the featured speakers at the 2021 Shepherds 360 Conference.

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