A bishop then must be blameless….
— 1 Timothy 3:2
Many Christians who are called to a leadership position in the Church feel excited about their new role until they read First Timothy 3:2, which says, “A bishop then must be blameless….” The moment their eyes fall on the word “blameless,” they feel disqualified because it seems to imply that they must be “perfect.” However, this is a misinterpretation of that scripture. No man or woman is perfect except for Jesus; therefore, no one would qualify to be a spiritual leader if that were really God’s requirement to be called and to function in ministry. So what then does the word “blameless” mean?
The word “blameless” in this verse is the Greek word anepilemptos, which is a combination of the Greek prefix a and the words epi and lambano. In the context of this verse, the word epi means against, and the word lambano means to receive or to take something into one’s possession. Finally, the addition of the prefix a to the beginning of the word has a canceling effect that essentially gives the word the opposite meaning.
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To better understand this word anepilemptos, we must first look at its meaning without the prefix a. If only the words epi and lambano are compounded to form the word epilemptos, the new word describes a person whose character is so wrong that others have lodged a charge or accusation against him. Because of that person’s nefarious behavior, other people have a legitimate complaint against him and cannot receive him as a leader. Perhaps it was a past crime, a sin, or bad behavior that tarnished his reputation. Whatever the case may be, in the minds of those who know him, that person is guilty. In fact, the word epilemptos can describe a person who has so much wrong in his life that others can reach out, take hold of it, and use it to accuse him. The obvious sin in that person’s life disqualifies him from leadership.
It is simply a fact that if a person is living a blatant life of sin or disobedience to the Word of God and the Christian community knows about it, that behavior will disqualify him from leadership in the Church. Or if an individual’s actions don’t correspond with the Bible’s requirements for spiritual leadership and he does nothing to self-correct, he shouldn’t be considered for a leadership position. The Word of God makes this perfectly clear.
However, what if an individual who was once living in sin repents and experiences a genuine transformation of character? Is he forever disqualified from leadership in the Church because of actions in his past that in no way reflect on his character today? The answer to these questions is found in the prefix a in the Greek word anepilemptos used in First Timothy 3:2. That little a totally reverses the meaning of this word, and it is good news for the person who has brought correction to his or her life!
When the prefix a is added to the front of the Greek word epilemptos, it has a canceling effect. The resultant word carries the idea that if a person truly repents and undergoes a transformation of character, his old sins are irrelevant — regardless of how reproachable or shameful that person once was. Because time has passed, corrective action was taken, and his reputation was restored, this individual can be viewed as “blameless.” There is nothing active in his life that would disqualify him from serving in a higher capacity in the Church. He can therefore now be viewed as a candidate for leadership.
You may have sins in your past that make you feel unworthy to be called “blameless.” But have you repented and reestablished your testimony? If your answer is yes and you are now walking right with God, your blame has been removed and you are eligible for leadership. Although you were once guilty, God’s forgiveness, along with your commitment to live a holy life, has freed you from any charges that people may have once legitimately held against you.
Remember that it was the apostle Paul who wrote the word “blameless” in First Timothy 3:2. Before he came to Christ, he had watched Stephen’s murder (see Acts 7:58), and he had personally overseen the arrest, imprisonment, and even execution of numerous believers (see Acts 26:10). If God judged people by their past actions, Paul would have never qualified for leadership or apostleship. But Christ’s forgiveness, coupled with Paul’s obedience to the Word of God, transformed his lurid reputation into a glorious testimony!
Paul referred to this dramatic change in his own life when he wrote, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious…” (1 Timothy 1:12,13). By the grace and love of Jesus Christ, Paul was forgiven and restored, and the person he used to be was no longer relevant. He met God’s requirement of “blameless” and went on to serve the Body of Christ as the most famous apostle who ever lived.
Today I encourage you to review your life and see if there are any areas that require attention. And if you desire to be a leader but the devil keeps reminding you of past failures for which you’ve already sought forgiveness and experienced restoration, tell him to shut up and get behind you in Jesus’ name! If you have dealt with your past sins and failures before God — and, if necessary, before anyone you may have hurt or offended — that means you, too, can qualify for leadership!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I thank You for speaking to my heart today through this Sparkling Gem. I ask You to help me make a thorough inventory of my life to see if I have truly repented for past wrongs. If there is any area in me that requires attention, please show me so I can bring it to Your Cross and allow Your Spirit’s sanctifying power to purify my life and conscience. I want to be used by You, so I ask You to delve into the deepest parts of my being and expose anything in me that would discredit me from being used. If you show me something that still needs to be changed, please give me the courage to do what is needed to bring correction to that area of my life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I declare that I am not a prisoner to my past and that God has a good plan for me, regardless of my former mistakes. I confess those things as sin, and I do everything within my power to clear the slate. I declare that the blood of Jesus has left me blameless of the things that others once held against me. I pursue a life that is blameless; I seek to be an example of Christ; I endeavor to serve with a pure heart; and I know that Jesus Christ wants to use me more than ever before. Therefore, I am a candidate to be used by God in a powerful way to effect change in my generation!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of areas in your life that would hinder others from following you as a leader? If so, what do you believe the Holy Spirit would have you to do to correct that wrong and make it right with those individuals?
- Can you think of people you personally held a grudge against because of their past actions even though they have since put forth their best efforts to bring correction to themselves or to the situation? Do you continue to hold them as prisoners to their past behavior or have you released them from that judgment?
- Now that you have read today’s Sparkling Gem about the word “blameless,” how would you describe the meaning of the word “blameless” to someone else?