Biblcal Leadership Traits - Not a New Convert

Masters Men: Leadership

Biblical Leadership Traits

Not a New Convert

1 Tim 3:6




NAU 1 Timothy 3:6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. μὴ νεόφυτον, ἵνα μὴ τυφωθεὶς εἰς κρίμα ἐμπέσῃ τοῦ διαβόλου.

“New convert” is really one word (νεόφυτος sounds like neophyte). Comes from neoj meaning new in respect to time, that is “young” (synonym is kainoj which is new in respect to quality or form) plus fuw meaning to bring forth or produce (sometimes agriculturally therefore to spring up or grow and sometimes of people therefore to beget or be born [Lk 8:6,8; Heb 12:15]. Thus we could translate literally as newly planted. This is the only NT use. But used in LXX.

NAU Psalm 144:12 Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace;

NAU Job 14:9 At the scent of water it will flourish And put forth sprigs like a plant.

Note the related idea where “convert” is the word firstfruit in  NAU Romans 16:5 also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. (Rom 16:5 NAU)

This introduces interesting dynamics about believers. First they are planted – the gospel takes root in us and we sprout. Second, the plant is expected to grow – so the emphasis is on maturity. Thus it is easy to see how all versions think the reference is to a new convert.

The last phrase establishes the purpose (ἵνα) for not having a newly converted person as a leader in the church. However, note that some versions translate it “lest” or “or” indicating a result – ie the result of selecting a new convert to lead is that he might become “conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.” (KJV, ESV, NIV, NAS). This is probably the best way to take the phrase.

The result of placing a man in leadership prematurely is that he might fall into the condemnation of the devil. Literally we could translate, “…lest he might fall into the condemnation of the devil after having become conceited.” So the disaster is that he falls into the clutches of the devil. This is preceded by pride; the term means smoke and metamorphically is delusion or conceit (τυφoj). In verb form it is to wrap in smoke; hence either to puff up or be blinded. In fact, a related word, tufloj, means blind (thus darkened by smoke). Pride is a horrible thing! It is a monstrosity - read 1 Tim 6:3-5 and 2 Tim 2:3-5. God has some candid descriptions - Pro 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. 1Pe 5:5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Here is a sample of the NT view of new converts or of those who are not new converts but have not spiritually matured.

1Pe 2:2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,

Heb 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.

1Co 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ.

We should not be surprised at this NT description of spiritual babies. This is okay, for babies. But babies are not fit as leaders.

Here is the sobering question: what is the condemnation of the devil shared with the new convert who succumbs to pride? Is the answer found in NAU Revelation 20:10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev 20:10 NAU)

So Matthew Henry’s comments:

He must not be a novice, not one newly brought to the Christian religion, or not one who is but meanly instructed in it, who knows no more of religion than the surface of it, for such a one is apt to be lifted up with pride: the more ignorant men are the more proud they are: Lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil. The devils fell through pride, which is a good reason why we should take heed of pride, because it is a sin that turned angels into devils



  1. Make an attempt to quantify what constitutes a “new convert”.
  1. Do you have any thoughts as to why churches often violate this requirement when selecting leaders? How might this be remedied?

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2018. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.