“Just, holy, self-controlled…” (Titus 1:8)
We have carefully considered Paul’s list of qualifications to look for in leaders among God’s people. Those who oversee the work of the church are not to be chosen according to charisma, talent, status, or other such qualities. We should look for character, the kind of men who can be described by this list in Titus 1:7-9.
1 Timothy 3 gives a similar list, and we understand that this isn’t a search or demand for perfection, but that we should look for the ones who best meet these measures, and that they should be the values of a leader’s life.
We understand that this list is for more than leaders; every Christian should care about this list because it gives God’s description of what spiritual maturity and godliness look like practically. We may never have the calling to leadership, but every Christian should grow towards the character of a godly leader.
We also appreciate this list because in many ways it gives us a wonderful description of Jesus in His earthly life. He perfectly fulfilled all God’s expectations for leaders.
In this phrase from Titus 1:8 we see that a pastor or leader in the church must be just, holy, and self-controlled.
Another way to say this is that the pastor or leader should be right toward men – loving justice, fairness, and right treatment. He should be just. That is a good and important quality for all believers. God wants us to care about what is right and just.
The pastor or leader should also be holy– that is, right toward God. The idea behind holiness is separation, the one who is separated from the anti-God culture all around us and separated unto the God who is Himself holy. Holiness isn’t something just for leaders; God wants all His people to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).
Finally, the pastor or leader should be self-controlled. We can think of this as being right towards one’s self. The self-controlled person is not ruled by their own appetites. They are able to say “no” to the desires of the flesh so they can say “yes” to God and to His plan for their life. The person who does not know self-control will never fulfill their God-given destiny, being hindered by the tyranny of self. Matthew Henry wrote, “How unfit are those to govern a church who cannot govern themselves!” That is true for leaders, and for all followers of Jesus Christ.
The three go together:
– Just: right towards others.
– Holy: right towards God.
– Self-controlled: right towards self.
Remember that only one person ever lived this way perfectly: Jesus Christ. He fills the life of His people so that they have the power to live in that same direction – so look to Him to be just, holy, and self-controlled. We also take comfort in the fact that Jesus died to atone for our sin for every time we are not just, holy, and self-controlled.