The Meaning of the Word “blameless” in the New Testament July 15, 2007Posted by roberttalley in First Timothy, Spiritual Leadership, Titus.
I’m reposting this because I messed up the previous post when I redesigned the “mother blog” at verizon.net and wanted to be able to link to it from tomorrow’s sermon. Enjoy!
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Qualifications of Church Leadership – Blameless
IS SPIRITUAL PERFECTION POSSIBLE?
We are going to slow down a bit in Titus. We have been looking at individual paragraphs in Titus. For the next eight sermons we are often going to be looking at individual words. This is a dangerous thing for a sermon. The second that I say, “Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘blameless’ as…”, some eyes are going to glaze over. So I’m going to try to define words like “blamelessness” and “perfection” by asking and answering a simple question. Is it possible to be perfect? Is it possible to be blameless? How many times have we said to each other, “Nobody is perfect.” “Nobody is or can be blameless.” I want us to look at the Scriptures and see if that is so.
WITHOUT A BLEMISH OR SPOT
The concept “blameless” can be described by the phrase “without a blemish” (Strongs #299). In this sense, Jesus is blameless. Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God willingly shed His blood, so that we could be saved from sin. This is described for us in Hebrews 9:13-14, “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” The writer is comparing the Old Testament to the New Testament in this passage. He is saying that under the Old Testament, the blood and, in one case, the ashes of perfect animals was sufficient to cleanse the outward man but that Jesus did them one better by offering Himself up as the perfect, blameless sacrifice, without spot and that through His blood we are cleansed from sin and made able to serve the living God. Peter tells us how that works in your life and in mine. 1 Peter 1:18-21 “…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” Jesus died the perfect Lamb of God, shed His blood to transform and cleanse you but, according to verse 21, you must trust Christ to redeem you from your “aimless conduct”.ALL BELIEVERS ARE WITHOUT BLEMISH
You are probably not surprised that Jesus is called blameless, perfect, without blemish, without spot. This concept, however, is also used to describe believers presented perfect before God. If you are a believer in Christ, before God, whether now or in the future, you are perfect, without blemish, without spot, without sin, without blame, faultless. I want us to look at one of these instances in Colossians 1:21-23. According to these verses, those of us who have trusted in Christ are three things. The first is holy before God (which means reserved for God’s service). The second is blameless or perfect or without blemish in God’s eyes. Now this is true of all believers. We use the term forgiven but it is much more than that. God views us not as forgiven but as perfect, justified, as if we had never sinned in the first place. That is what the word “blameless” in this context means. This verse also says that we are above reproach, in other words, without accusation. This is the word we are going to be looking at in Titus 1:6-7 in a few moments. This is the word of the three that defines what a blameless church leader should be.
The first answer to the question, can we be perfect, can we be blameless is “Yes! Through faith in the perfect, blameless Lamb of God who shed His blood for us.”
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CRITICIZED?
The concept “blameless” can also be described by the phrase “does not deserve criticism” (Strongs #273). Philippians 2:14-15 tells us that if we do all things without complaining and disputing, we will become blameless (undeserving of criticism) and harmless, children of God “without fault” (Strongs #298). This does not mean sinless but it does mean that no one will be able to criticize us. This word is never used of Jesus. Jesus was unblemished but he was often criticized. Even today, there are those who say that Jesus as man must have sinned. It is not true but this accusation is sometimes made. Although it is never used of leadership in the church, it is used about people on earth (Luke 1:6 of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist; Paul said of himself in Philippians 3:6 that he was blameless in keeping the law).
In other words, it is possible to live in such a way that we deserve a blameless reputation and if we do that we will be in comparison to the people around us “without fault.” This what we as believers are to strive for in this world. By the way, complaining and disputing are quiet sins. What is talked about here is not the loudmouth, belligerent jerk but the quiet behind the scenes mumbling and grumbling, the thoughts that are perhaps never expressed by words but it is that type of thing that if we stay away from it will result in a good reputation in the midst of this crooked and perverted world in which we live.
So the second answer to the question, can I be perfect, can I be blameless is also, “Yes! If I live a life free from grumbling and mumbling and negative doubting of other people, I can be blameless as a believer in Jesus Christ.”
A THIRD MEANING FOR THE WORD “BLAMELESS”
Another way in which the concept of “blamelessness” is expressed is through the words “innocence” or “guiltlessness” (twice in Matthew 12:1-7; Strongs #338). This doesn’t mean sinless in character but means guiltless in a specific situation. For example, one of the Ten Commandments says keep the Sabbath Day holy by not working. Yet, the priests offered sacrifices, they worked on the Sabbath Day. Jesus said in Matthew 12 that these mean were without blame or guilt in that specific situation.
In my conversations about this word with various people over the last eight months, this is the meaning that they want to apply to church leadership. They want someone who is innocent and guiltless in every specific situation in the past. Such a person does not exist. This is not the standard for leadership.
Although, this is not the word that describes leadership in the church, obviously the answer is again, “Yes! It is possible for me to be totally innocent and guiltless in a specific situation.”
CAN YOUR LIFE PASS SCRUTINY?
We are getting closer to what is meant in our text by “blameless”. This word carries the meaning of “unable after investigation to find anything wrong (Strongs #423).” This is similar to the word in Titus 1; it is found in 1 Timothy 3:2 talking about bishops or pastors. In other words, after careful investigation, you should not be able to find anything for which you should rebuke your pastor. In 1 Timothy 5:7 we find that widows who serve the church are to be investigated and in order to serve, to be found blameless. Paul even commanded Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:14 to be blameless until the day that Jesus Christ returns. He was commanded to live in such a way that would withstand scrutiny and investigation.
This is one of the reasons why we instituted a year ago our “Child and Youth Worker Policy”. We don’t as far as we know have a problem, although we do recognize that possibility always exist. We do, however, recognize that we as the people of God, have a responsibility to make sure that every person who works with our nursery and our children and our teens can withstand scrutiny. It is common sense perhaps but there is also a biblical reason for it. That is why, we expect that nursery, children, and youth workers be members of the church. The ministry that we have to our children and young people is so important that we want people whose commitment is beyond question, people whose commitment to God and to others can withstand investigation.
Again, it appears from God’s Word that it is possible to be blameless. Four meanings of the word and in each case the answer is “Yes, we can be blameless, we can be perfect. It is possible for our lives to withstand investigation.”
A REPUTATION BEYOND ACCUSATION
Finally, we come back to Titus 1:5-7. Twice we find the word “blameless” (Strongs #410) in this passage. It means “without accusation”. This word is also used of deacons in 1 Timothy 3:10. It has to do with leadership. Let me explain what “without accusation” means. This means more than simply acquittal but the total lack of a charge against them. It means an investigation is not even necessary. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do an investigation but that a qualified church leader has such a high character that no one would even believe a false charge. It doesn’t mean they are without any fault. It doesn’t mean that they are totally innocent in every specific situation. It means that their character is such that it would occur to no one to even accuse them of wrongdoing. As you might expect, the ramifications of that are huge. Next week at the annual business meeting, you will be asked to approve the election of a nominee for the Advisory Board. What is the first question you should ask yourself? “Is there any possible charge or suspicion of this man’s character? Is he blameless?” He should be in every sense of the word that we have looked at today.
Turn to 1 Timothy 5:19-25. According to verse 19, we find that they are…protected from false accusation. Paul says here, don’t humor troublemakers. Make sure that there is a reasonable accusation before entertaining it. That’s why one accuser is not enough and two may not be enough for a church to take action against an elder. Elders need to be able to teach uncomfortable things and make unpopular decisions without being fearful that their reputation will be ruined.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Deacons and other leaders need to be able to serve without looking over their shoulder to see what someone is going to accuse them of. Hopefully, this summer we will be able to change the constitution of our church to correspond to this teaching but if we can’t, then the spirit of our dealings with each other must follow these guidelines.
According to verse 20, when an elder sins, he should be rebuked publicly. Why, so that others will keep fearing. In other words, so that they will keep themselves from sin. Peer pressure is a good thing when the peers are following God. I would assume from the context that the sin is such that the elder is disqualified from serving.
According to verse 21, be careful. Don’t let things become a popularity contest. You do right, no matter, who it hurts. Does that mean you are careful how you go about doing right? Absolutely! For example, when we rebuke someone, it should be in truth with love, ready to forgive immediately and even if the offense is of a sort that someone has to be removed from the eldership or membership, our responsibility to edify and strengthen and comfort them remains.
According to verse 22a, leadership should be carefully and cautiously established. Obviously, we are working toward the day when we can have elders but leaders are developed not simply elected, not simply appointed, not simply selected. If Paul’s relationship to Titus indicates anything, it is that spiritual leaders are made not born. Election and appointment and selection are the way we recognize leaders but the way to have effective elders and deacons and Sunday School teachers and worship leaders and youth leaders and nursery leaders and evangelism leaders is to develop them. When you look down at verses 24-25, Paul gives reason why we need to be careful and know our leadership candidates well. Some people, it is obvious in five minutes that they have a problem. Others, it takes a while. You have to get to know them. In the same way, there are those of whom it is clear, that they are doing right. There are also borderline cases and we need to give them time and help them to become what God wants them to be. You see, the greatest resource a church has is its leaders…That is why it is important that they be blameless, able to withstand investigation, of such character that they can stand without even an accusation.
Again, in answer to our question, can one be blameless? Absolutely, every biblical usage of the concepts says that we can. The really important question is, “Are we blameless?”
SO, WHAT DO WE DO WITH THIS?
Pray! We need to be looking for men, who we can say …are blameless… We need to pray that God will give us the men and that we will recognize them so that we can develop them and when they are ready put them into this wonderful position that God has provided for them to serve in. Winston Churchill once said, “If you are doing big things, you will attract big men. If you are doing little things, you will attract little men. Little men usually cause trouble.” We are doing a big thing, let’s pray to God for big men and women to help us accomplish the task He has given us to do.
Secondly, if you are a believer, start working on your blamelessness. It is easy to say, ” ‘…We’re all sinners.’ No Christian is freed from the warping presence of sin, even though the Bible says we can be free from sin’s power. While this is true, it’s no solution. When we turn to sin for the explanation (of our own wrong behaviors or of the wrong behaviors of others), we’re really saying that we don’t expect Christians to be Christlike! That, after all, if we’re all sinners, it’s only natural that we behave like sinners. But (we) do expect Christians to be different. We don’t expect natural behavior of those whom Christ has touched; we expect supernatural behavior. We expect those who know Christ and His word to be transformed.” Be innocent and guiltless in every situation. Quit your private complaining and questioning and watch your reputation grow into one that meets the standard of God. Start living the way God sees you: holy, blameless, above reproach.
If you haven’t trusted Christ as Savior, God does not see you as holy or blameless. He sees you as a condemned sinner without hope but God loves you. He sent His Son, Jesus to die for you, to shed His blood for you. Will you trust Him today? He will transform you, He will cleanse you through the blood of Jesus Christ. Believe on Him today.
NOTE: THE TEXT IN RED IS TAKEN FROM A SERMON PREACHED LAST SUMMER ON A SUNDAY NIGHT.