This is a question I have been wrestling with recently. Of course, I am referring to the 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and particularly verses 4 & 5. This passage contains one of the listings of the qualifications for the office of “bishop.”
Here is what I understand from the teaching of the New Testament:
- The terms pastor (ποιμήν), elder (πρεσβύτερος), and bishop/overseer (ἐπισκοπή) are used in the NT synonymously when referring to an office in the local church, but uniquely when describing varying functions of that office. In addition, I do not see in the New Testament where there is a distinction – in other words where a man would be a pastor and not an elder – it is one office.
- The norm for this office as presented and instructed in the New Testament is to be a plurality. That is, a local church should be led by a plurality of pastors/elders. This does not mean that there are not times when this is not possible, but it should be the goal that is pursued.
- Although a pastor/elder must be “able to teach” this does not mean that only pastors/elders can teach in the church. Stephen would be an example of where that was not the case (Acts 6). Gifted men who are not pastor/elders could be teachers in the church.
With regards to the marital status of the man filling this office and his having children, I have understood the following:
- Verse 2 literally reads “and overseer must be…a one woman man.”
- The passage assumes the man will be married and have children, but does not require it. In other words, the norm would be for a man in the office of pastor/elder to be married and have children, but it is not a requirement and a man could demonstrate these qualifications in other ways.
- If a man is married and does have children then the demonstration of “managing his own household” is a simultaneous event with his “caring for the church of God”. In other word “is a man currently demonstrating the character of managing his own household, keep his children in subjection with all dignity?” If he is, then he meets this qualification and (assuming he meets the rest) is qualified for the office of pastor/elder.
It is point #3 I am now wrestling with…
Is this qualification to be met simultaneous to his functioning in the role of a pastor/elder or is there something in the text/grammar (not pragmatics or preference) which would indicate that this is chronological?
In other words, must a man first demonstrate his character at “managing his household” and then and only then be fully qualified for the office of pastor/elder. If so, it would seem that a man would not be fully qualified until his children were grown to the age where they have demonstrated the qualification in Titus 1:6 as being “believing” or “faithful.” (See the following recent discussions on this: Nathan Busenitz and The Macks.)
1 Timothy 3:4-5
NKJ 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
NKJ 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
BNT 4 τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου καλῶς προϊστάμενον, τέκνα ἔχοντα ἐν ὑποταγῇ, μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος
BNT 5 (εἰ δέ τις τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου προστῆναι οὐκ οἶδεν, πῶς ἐκκλησίας θεοῦ ἐπιμελήσεται;),
The word in verses 4 & 5 for “rule his own house” is προΐστημι meaning “to be at the head to rule.”
In verse 4 it is a present middle participle in verse 5 it is an aorist infinitive. In addition the controlling verb in verse 5 is οἶδα in the perfect active indicative.
According to Wallace, “The force of the perfect tense is simply that it describes an event that, completed in the past (we are speaking of the perfect indicative here), has results existing in the present time…”
However, on pages 580 and 581 Wallace goes on to explain the unique qualities of οἶδα. (Emphasis mine.)
“The Perfect with Present Force Compared
οἶδα is the most commonly used verb in this category… The reason why such perfects have the same semantics as presents is frequently that there is very little distinction between the act and its results. They are stative verbs. The result of knowing is knowing. When one comes to stand he/she still stands. The result of persuading someone is that he/she is still persuaded. Thus this usage occurs especially with verbs where the act slides over into the results. They are resultative perfects to the point that the act itself has virtually died; the results have become the act.
In sum, it is important to remember that (1) this usage of the perfect is always lexically influenced (i.e., it occurs only with certain verbs), and (2) a very large number of perfects must be treated as presents without attaching any aspectual significance to them. (οἶδα alone constitutes over one-fourth of all perfects in the NT!)”
So far the grammar would seem to indicate this is a present demonstration. The use of οἶδα along with the use of the present participle προΐστημι would allow for, if not, require a present tense understanding of the activity of this man “managing his household.”
We now come to the end of verse 5 where Paul asks his ever so helpful question, “how will he take care of (ἐπιμελέομαι future passive indicative 3rd person singular) the church of God?”
The word Paul uses here is the future passive indicative 3rd person singular form of
ἐπιμελέομαι meaning “to care for take care of.”
It is a future passive…
First of all it is a passive. Who is doing the action?
Secondly, it is a future…
I will come back to this again tomorrow…
If anyone has any thoughts on this particular exegetical question, please share your insights.
 Wallace, Daniel. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Electronic edition from BibleWorks 7.0, page 574.