“If there is one who is irreproachable, a husband of one wife, whose children have faith, not open to the accusation of reckless living or undisciplined behavior, for it is required that the overseer is irreproachable as God’s steward, not intractable, not short-tempered, not violent, not greedy, but hospitable, a lover of good, prudent, upright, pious, disciplined, being devoted to the faithful Word as taught, that he might be able to exhort people in doctrine that is sound and reprove those who deny it.”
Paul will write these words to the church in Philippi:
“The last thing, brothers, is that whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is upright, whatever is holy, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, if there is virtue and if there is praise, think on these things.”
So, with that in mind, Paul instructs those who would be choosing Elders that such men must be φιλάγαθος (philagathos) or “lovers of what is good.” This term was not unfamiliar in the Greek world, but was used to refer to a characteristic of a good citizen of the community or of the empire. And thus, it can be presumed that those in the church ought to also be lovers of the good…and especially then, the church’s leadership.
What, then, is good? In the ultimate sense, only God is good (Matthew 19:17), so let’s start there. One who is an Elder of the church must love God and the things of God. He must love the law of God and seek to apply that law as a pattern of life. He must love the works and creation of God as those things point us to God himself. He must love the word of God. As one loves to hear the voice of their love, the Elder must love to read the word of God preserved in the scriptures — and to govern his life by that word. One must desire to be in the house of God more than to be in the house of the rich man and never compromise that dynamic.
Yet, as we speak of “good” there is a more common meaning of the term as well. Things of beauty in the world around us are considered good, whether the creative works of God or the creative works of man. Man is not only created in God’s image, but man is created with the purpose of imitating God in his creative work. While we cannot create Ex nihilo, we can create with the natural things that God has placed in the world around us. And here, whether we create music, art, dance, or literature, so long as we honor the one who has given us these resources, it can be considered a good thing. For indeed, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but instead, what is beautiful is beautiful only to that extent which it imitates the things God has created.
We, of course, are created for good works (Ephesians 2:10), recognizing that God is the one that works such things in us. The ultimate good work in us being the work of salvation that God has worked in us and which he will bring to completion (Philippians 1:6). Further, the idea of increasing in the knowledge of God is tied to good works (Colossians 1:10).
And so, we began with the words of Paul and will end with the words of Solomon:
“Do not those who plan evil wander about in error? Lovingkindness and Truth are planned for the good.”