the weblog of Alan Knox

Above reproach

Posted by on Jan 26, 2011 in discipleship | 22 comments

Above reproach

When Paul wrote to his friend and disciple Timothy, he said that overseers must be “above reproach.” When he wrote to Titus, Paul also said that elders should be “above reproach” (although he uses a different adjective than the one he used when writing to Timothy).

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this little adjective “above reproach.” What does it mean? How is someone “above reproach” or not? How do we know if someone is “above reproach”?

(It might also be interesting to notice that widows are to be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 5:7) and Timothy was to be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 6:14).)

I had always thought of “above reproach” like this: a person who has such a good reputation with people that if anyone were to accuse him or her of something (and he or she didn’t do it) the people who truly know him or her would know it is a lie.

But, the problem is, this really doesn’t fit with Paul (or perhaps to Jesus either). Paul was accused to several things. Some people who knew Paul believed the accusations; some people who knew Paul did not believe the accusations. So, was Paul “above reproach”?

What do you think? What does it mean to be “above reproach” and how do we rec0gnize when someone is “above reproach”?


22 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-26-2011

    Alan,

    I hope I’m not adding a red herring by not giving my answer to your question, but adding another question, which I think is very relevant to answering your question:

    Does Scripture set the bar higher for elders than for every other believer?

  2. 1-26-2011

    Alan,

    Here is a summary of my thought or answer. Jesus and Paul weren’t ever accused of pleasing men. They did have one goal and that was to please God.
    As with all of us that should be for every believer. We should all be above reproach if we are truly trying to please God, not within ourselves, but through the Holy Spirit.
    Then by dicernment of the brethren it would be recognized as such.

  3. 1-26-2011

    Aussie John,

    Yes, that is another good question.

    Steven,

    I’m trying to understand… are you saying that “above reproach” means trying to please God and not men? So, anyone who tries to please God and not men is above reproach?

    -Alan

  4. 1-26-2011

    Could it be that their love for God and for those around them was so evident in their lives that people knew they were followers of Jesus.

  5. 1-27-2011

    Aussie John,

    I think it’s where God sets the bar for ordinary believers to become elders. We mere lessers are still God’s children, but won’t be elders.

    Alan,

    I’ve learned it this way: nobody has anything of substance against you. The accusations against Paul – and the ones against Jesus, come to think of it – were false. True there are many who have been denied eldership due to false accusations, but they were false. I could be wrong about this, but I’m just saying how I learned it.

  6. 1-27-2011

    Fred,

    I think that a person who is above reproach would demonstrate a life of love for God and for those around them. But, I’m not sure love encapsulates the meaning of “above reproach”.

    Steve,

    In God’s eyes, I think you are right. He knows our hearts and actions and he knows if we are above reproach or not. However, we don’t have that same luxury. The people who heard the accusation against Paul or Jesus did not KNOW they were false accusations.

    -Alan

  7. 1-27-2011

    Just some thoughts on the subject. I certainly have no answer since I have thought about it for about 10 minutes of my life, starting when I read your post. First I guess I wonder if it has more to do with perception or reality. Is Paul saying these people need to simply BE blameless or in addition they must APPEAR blameless? Another thought I had is that the examples you gave of Jesus and Paul were situations where they were accused by evil men. When he calls these people to be “above reproach” or “blameless”, if he is talking about perception, does he mean just within the church or in society in general? Neither Jesus nor Paul had been accused by people within the church had they?

    This may all be totally missing the point, but these were the thoughts I had as I read your post and the passages you mentioned.

    Dan

  8. 1-27-2011

    Dan,

    Since we cannot KNOW if someone is actually blameless or above reproach, I think that APPEARANCE must at least play a part in our definition.

    By the way, Jesus was accused by Jewish leaders, who were not considered evil by the compatriots. Paul was accused both by Jewish leaders and by other Christians.

    -Alan

  9. 1-27-2011

    Could it mean that certain groups are held to the highest of expectations such as the aged or the matured? Is it not possible that it means that no true charge should be able to be brouht against such as these? That these groups or certain individuals must leave no room for the character of the kingdom they stand for to be found in any way reproachable. Maybe our western standards are set so low that for us to imagine some being above reproach seems so obscure that we simply assume that the words “above reproach” must surly carry a more broad meaning than the phrase suggests.

  10. 1-28-2011

    Doug,

    I think those are good thoughts. Of course, Timothy was young, but Paul still expected him to be above reproach. Again, as I’ve asked above, some Christians believed bad (even false) accusation against Paul. Does this mean that Paul was not above reproach?

    -Alan

  11. 1-30-2011

    so what’s your answer? :)

  12. 1-30-2011

    Randi,

    I wrote this post and asked these questions because I am honestly trying to figure out what “above reproach” means. I think I have a few parameters for a definition, but not a good definition yet. I’ll probably write another post about it later.

    Besides, I ask the questions here… ;)

    -Alan

  13. 1-30-2011

    :)

  14. 2-1-2011

    Alan, I apologize for taking so long to answer your question about my comment. We have been fighting sickness in the home and I lost track of what I was involved in. :)

    You asked, “I’m trying to understand… are you saying that “above reproach” means trying to please God and not men? So, anyone who tries to please God and not men is above reproach?”

    Above reproach means blameless correct? And so who are we to blameless with? Men can always try to find blame for our actions, yet if we are trying to pleae men in order for them to not find accusations, then are we pleasing God?
    I can’t remember the exact scripture where Paul states, that he is not trying to please men, but he is trying to please God.
    Our whole service of being above reproach should be toward God. Again as you stated about Jesus and Paul, they were being accused by men. Not God.
    Yet, in the circle of influence we have in our groups, again there shouldn’t be anything to hide from those groups. In turn if we are truly honest with one another, then all of our faults or lack of faults would be exposed and that would make us blameless.
    Wouldn’t it?
    Sorry to end this in a question. I am just rattling off thoughts that are coming to me as I type.

  15. 2-1-2011

    Alan, this is what I had read the day you first posted this blog post.

    It is from Menno Simon,

    “Those who are of one spirit with Christ Jesus are members of his holy body, full of the love of God and of their brethren, who with Christ Jesus, their Bishop, seek nothing but the eternal gain, honor, glory and praise of God, and the inward conversion, regeneration and eternal salvation of those whose brotherly care is entrusted and commended to them of God. Yea, he sends such as are unblamable both in doctrine and life; as are urged by the Holy Spirit; who sincerely lament, with Christ, about those who do not acknowledge the gracious time of their temptation, who are rejoiced, with all the angels of God, at the conversion of a sinner, who so thirst after the salvation of all mankind as a hungry person hungers after bread; who so apply the word and truth of the Lord that they dare not teach or practice a word otherwise than Christ Jesus himself has taught, practiced and commanded, namely, the pure, unadulterated, biblical word in the true sense and meaning of Christ and of his holy apostles. [p. 341]

    We desire, according the word of God, that no bishop, pastor or teacher shall be admitted into the church of the Lord, to teach and administer the sacraments of the Lord, other than those who are comprised in the doctrine, ordinance and life of our Lord Jesus Christ – unblamable in all things, 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6; Lev. 21:7; Ezek. 44:21; for the word of the Lord is truth, Jn. 17:17; it is Spirit and life, Jn. 6:63; therefore they can not be administered by the carnal minded; by no children of death, nor by liars; but by the truthful, by the spiritual minded, and by those who rightly confess Christ Jesus; who surely feel the life eternal in their hearts, and who live unblamably before God and walk in Christ Jesus, so that they may truthfully say with Paul, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” 1 Cor. 11:1

  16. 2-2-2011

    Steve,

    Thanks for the explanation. God obviously knows who are his and who are not his. He knows who are being consistently obedient and who are not. I think “above reproach” describes man’s perspective though. Do we see someone else as being “above reproach” or not… That’s the way I’m leaning, anyway.

    -Alan

  17. 6-4-2011

    Let me get this straight so your saying the bar for regular believers is less than say an Elder….I would rather think this way an Elder is one who is mature spiritually to be above reproach means that he has gain the insight unto himself an has control of himself, if your going to step into the position of an elder you best have your ducks in a row an keep them there for the cost of doing otherwise before God is great, none of these positions are to be taken lightly. I do not remember in the list of qualified position Pastors,Prophets teachers, evangelist, that ELDERS was mention, also Timothy ? Paul called him his SON. If we are going to quote the word of God an then try an give a explanation to it lets try this first Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. It pays to be informed…Grace Mercy an Peace be with you all.

  18. 6-4-2011

    Sheri,

    I guess you addressed this comment to me. It was hard to tell. Look through 1 Timothy and Titus again. Those are not lists of things that someone starts doing when they become an elder. The lists show the church how to recognize those who are ALREADY spiritually mature and living as an elder should live. Thus, the “requirements” or “qualifications” are for everyone, not just elders. We should all live to the same standard, and that standard is Jesus Christ.

    By the way, the fact that someone interprets Scripture differently than you does not mean that person has not studied Scripture nor does it mean that person is not diligent (the meaning of the word you translated “study”) nor does it mean that person is not approved of God.

    Grace, mercy, and peace to you as well.

    -Alan

  19. 6-5-2011

    Hmmmm well one scripture is dealing with the running of churches the scriptue i was referring to was what God has set in place for the edfiying of the church. Now to say God holds new converts to the same degree has he holds the rest he does not. Understanding the time Paul was writing this the issues he was dealing with is inportant cant imagine anyone would agree that women should not be seen nor heard nor hold a position in a church. It is not unto private interpentation but rather as the Spirit of wisdom gives what i understand today concerning His word an Kingdom will only be defind as i walk with Him. I cannot accept putting one into a office within a church without first prayer an most times fasting, for if Jesus is to be the example then He did nothing say the Father showd Him, He spoke nothing that He didnt hear the Father speak. Simple as, i am always amazed at ppls interpentaion of Gods word, i stand by what i wrote understanding that it might be misunderstood. I bid you aduei

  20. 6-5-2011

    Sheri,

    You said, “I cannot accept putting one into a office within a church…” I agree completely, since I don’t believe there are offices within a church to be put into.

    -Alan

  21. 9-21-2012

    I tend to agree with your definition. I believe being “above reproach” is that idea that if someone were to do something sinful it would be shocking to others who knew that person.

  22. 9-21-2012

    William,

    I like the way you put that. Thank you!

    -Alan