The Personal Character of Preachers

As our brother J.W. McGarvey noted in lectures he gave in 1890, a number of passages in Paul’s letters to the preacher Timothy stress the need for preachers to be exemplary in their personal, Christian character.1 Consider the following points made by McGarvey:

  • The preacher must keep a good conscience. “[W]age the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:18-19).
  • The preacher must avoid the love of money. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. . . . But as for you, O man of God, flee these things” (1 Timothy 6:10-11).
  • The preacher must be an example in every virtue. “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
  • The preacher must be devoted to the work of the Lord. “[P]reach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).
  • The preacher must avoid the love of applause. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Here is a series of difficult challenges for preachers. Someone might react to it by saying, “I sure am glad that I am not a preacher, so that I am not held to this standard!” Consider, however, that each of these challenges is placed upon every person, not just the preacher. Every person must strive to keep a good conscience (1 Peter 3:16, 21). Every person must strive to avoid the love of money (Luke 12:15; Hebrews 13:5-6). Every person must strive to be exemplary in virtue (1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Peter 1:5-11; James 1:26-27; 3:2-3). Every person must strive to be devoted to the work of the Lord (Matthew 6:33; James 1:22-25). Every person must strive to avoid the love of applause (Matthew 6:1-4; John 5:44; 12:43).

The general challenges God sets before every Christian are the same because every last member of the body of Christ—the one who preaches the gospel from the pulpit and the one who teaches the gospel privately and shows a good example in his daily lifestyle—is commanded to pursue holiness with his entire being (Matthew 22:36-37; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 1:13-25).


  1. The Lost Outlines of J.W. McGarvey, ed. Brandon Renfroe (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 2011), 58. 

- 2017