Are Clergy Held to Higher Moral Standards Than Laypersons?

Greg discusses what the Bible says about moral standards for leaders in the church compared to those of laypersons.



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So should clergy be held to a higher moral standard than other people? Well, there's some ambiguity in that question. Christians, regardless of their role in the church, are all held to the same moral standard, that is all the moral obligations of being a human before God apply to everybody equally. Actually, Christian or non-Christian, the standard is still the same, so it isn't like, in a certain sense clergy have a higher moral standard. No, we all have a high moral standard. However, there does seem to be a different consequence for violating the standard, or maybe what the question means is, if you have not risen to a certain level you shouldn't be in clergy, and that is actually true.

In the passages, like Titus and 1 Timothy, that talk about requirements for people to be in ministry and elders, et cetera, which is the main focus, deacons also there in 1 Timothy chapter 3. There are requirements, so all Christians are supposed to be well tempered, and not pugnacious, and not addicted to wine, and not give in to sorted gain, and all of those kind of things. Those are all standards that we're heled to, but it is requirement to consistently live like that before someone can be in ministry, in an elder role, and if there are failures there there are bigger consequences. It says in 1 Timothy 5, for example, that you should not take an accusation against an elder except from the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses. That is, if there's an accusation against somebody in spiritual leadership you better make sure that the accusation is sound, that it's accurate. If it turns out to be accurate though, the elder should be rebuked in the presence of others so that others will be fearful of sinning.

On the one hand we all have the same moral standard we stand up to, but leaders must attain to that standard in order to be qualified to be considered as leaders, elders, deacons and if they falter badly they are to be publicly rebuked, which isn't the case with the rank and file, you win your brother in private you won him, but a person in leadership who falters badly, that's a public rebuke according to Paul and 1 Timothy chapter 5, and this has a salutary effect on the rest of the church who should shudder a little bit as a result of that. There's the characterization of how moral obligation applies to the rank and file and to elders in the church.

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Greg Koukl