After the introduction, Paul began his instruction to Titus. His first directive was that Titus should appoint elders. But as we saw last week, he was to appoint them neither by selecting randomly, nor electing democratically. He was instead supposed to approach the matter prayerfully, and examine these men's lives carefully. We will be spending these next few weeks looking at the attributes which Paul said were essential for elders to possess.
Being above reproach is not only a requirement for elders, but also for deacons (1Tim. 3:10). However, if you don't fall into one of those two categories, don't think that you're out of the woods yet!
You see, this is an attribute which the Lord not only requires of His leaders, but desires for His children as well. Paul wrote that the whole reason Jesus died for us was...
Col. 1:22 ...in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach
"Beyond reproach" here is the same Greek word as Paul used in Titus.
The Greek word "eng-kal-EH-o" means "to accuse," or "to be accused." The word translated "above reproach" here is a derivative of that word with a negative prefix: "an-ENG-klay-tos." Thus, to be "above reproach" means to be someone that can't be be accused. It means someone who is blameless in their behavior and their life.
And so every Christian should be striving for this attribute. In Ephesians 5, Paul told us,
Eph. 5:15 ...be careful how you walk...
The King James translated that as, "walk circumspectly." We must live our lives as if we are in a glass house - that every moment, every action, and every conversation is open for the world to see.
Indeed, that is actually the case - because we are constantly in the presence of spiritual forces that are watching and waiting for us to slip up. Peter wrote,
1Pet. 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
The world has introduced several systems to describe levels of alertness. Norad has Defcon levels. Our local Air Force Base has a Threatcon level. The Department of Homeland Security has a Color Advisory Code for terrosrist threat levels. But Christians need to be on maximum alert all the time, because the devil is always prowling around for us.
When we don't live our lives on the alert, it is an opportunity for the devil to devour us. That's why he's called, "the accuser of the brethren."
Therefore, we must examine ourselves every minute, asking, "What am I doing?"
- If this were made public, would I be ashamed?
- If the police knew I was doing this, would I be ticketed or arrested?
- If my coworkers knew this, would it bring reproach on my reputation?"
What we say, what we do, how we live, how we drive, how we talk to people, how we handle our finances, how we spend our time, how we pay our taxes, when we pay our bills, how we dress... everything must be constantly examined to make sure that we are above reproach, blameless.
Some might think, "The devil can't devour me, and I really don't care what others think of me. My reputation isn't important."
But even if you don't mind what people see of you personally, remember that unbelievers are also looking at you to see the nature of God. Paul said,
2Cor. 5:20 ...we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us
Think about it - does God's appeal through you have any appeal? Or...
Rom. 2:23-24 ...through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For "THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,"...
The same evil forces looking to bring shame on you personally want to make the most of every opportunity to bring shame on the body of Christ corporately, bringing dishonor upon God.
This is not to say that we will never be accused. Indeed, many godly men have been accused falsely. You remember the day Jesus walked into a synagogue, and right into a waiting trap...
Mark 3:1-2 ...a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.
They were actively looking for ways to accuse Jesus, but all they could accuse Him of was for doing what was right.
Another godly man who endured accusation was Stephen. He was busy being godly, serving people waiting tables, and preaching the gospel.
Acts 6:9-13 But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. They put forward false witnesses who said, "This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law..."
Remember, when the devil can't accuse you of something true, he'll simply make something up. False accusations are par for the course with our enemy who never fights fair.
The accusations against Stephen were untrue. But here is a real trick of the enemy: You can live your live above reproach, completely blameless, but your reaction to false accusation can be cause for reproach. If you respond unscripturally, if you react poorly, you can become the very thing that they are accusing you of.
Stephen could have pointed out the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in their stories. He could have responded angrily and vehemently. But he didn't do that. He showed godliness and remained above reproach.
Acts 6:15 And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.
As Jesus had done, he did not revile in return. He just appeared to have the face of an angel.
And so, although we may live godly and blameless lives, there is no way we will be able to prevent every false accusation. But, we can prevent him from having the ammunition of truthful accusations to launch against us! And we can lived lives that cause the majority of people to disregard by default the false accusations brought against us.
1Pet. 3:16 ...keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
A third and final example of a man who lived above reproach is Job. The book of Job begins with the words,
Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.
These are some of the keys to being above reproach:
- Being upright. That literally means "straightforward, level, and honest." Job was a man that didn't play mind games, his life wasn't a soap opera, and you didn't have to "read between the lines" to discover what he really meant. He was upright. He was clear and sincere.
- Fearing God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
2Cor. 7:1 let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
- Turning away from evil.
1Pet. 3:10-11 ..."THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT. HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.
When we turn away from evil, we turn towards a much happier life. It's so much more peaceful not to have to worry about who will find out about our sin, and what will be exposed.