Qualifications for Elders


One elder in a church in Arkansas joked that you had to have high class coon dogs if you were going to be an elder in that church, because if you couldn't tell a good coon dog, how could you lead the church of God? Even though he joked about it, you knew that there was an element of truth in what he said. A city slicker like myself would have a hard time fitting into a back-country church like that. How do you shepherd people if you can't relate to them? So even if a person met all the Biblical qualifications that we are going to look at today, it would not guarantee that a congregation would feel comfortable in choosing them. I know of another Arkansas church where the ruling elders down-country averaged an eighth grade education, but did an outstanding job of shepherding. They were a perfect fit for that church. But they felt totally out of their element when they visited a large metropolitan church that the son of their pastor was pastoring.

I bring that story up to illustrate that there is a lot that goes into choosing elders and pastors and associate pastors. Will a man fit on the team? Will he fit with the church? Can the people respect him? If he's not into coon dogs, can he at least enjoy the fact that most of the people in that church are into coon dogs? To what degree do the qualifications listed in Titus and Timothy find a match? And I say "to what degree" because Paul himself indicated that no one perfectly meets the standards.

There are three primary goals that I have in preaching today's message. The first is to explain the standard that God has set for elders. This is a measuring stick for them. But it's also a guideline to inform your voting. The second goal is to convince you that they are to be models for you to follow, and so in a sense, this is a standard that all of us are to aspire to. The third goal is to explain why we should not have a perfectionistic view of the eldership. Some people have such a high view of the eldership that even the apostle Paul would not be able to be an elder.

Let me explain. We all know that the apostle Paul was mature, but we know he wasn't perfect. He said so himself. Even toward the end of his life he continued to press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). He saw himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Grace does that to you. It makes you recognize not only that you are secure in Christ, but it makes you see yourself as being far worse than others see you. I was listening to a tape on Philippians yesterday, and the pastor quoted Jack Miller as saying to people who were discouraged over their sinfulness: "Cheer up! You're much worse than you think you are." It's not until you understand the depth of your sinful depravity that we are forced to walk by grace and grace alone, and that grace becomes such a security to you that even when others can show you your sins, you can show them even more and still be secure.

But the point is that Paul had times when he blew it and had to get reconciled. He got angry at Mark in Acts 15:39, and from my perspective, did not handle the dispute with Barnabas in a Biblical fashion. They got reconciled later. That's clear from 2 Timothy 4:11 where Paul admitted he was wrong in his judgment about Mark. Peter had his imperfections as well. In Galatians 2, Peter is said to be blamed (v. 11), was driven by ungodly fear (v. 12), played the hypocrite (v. 13) and was not straightforward about the truth... (v. 14). It says that on that occasion Peter fell victim to the fear of man and peer pressure led him to show favoritism. Now he repented of that, and no doubt hated the fact that he did that. But the Scripture presents us with mature men who have not completely arrive yet. That is the balance. We are looking for maturity in each of these areas, but not for perfection. In fact, if an elder never admits to any sin, it is probably an evidence that he isn't mature yet.

Now (on the other hand) we should be very worried about men who justify their sin rather than repenting of their sin; or about men who have habits of sin that they have not thrown off. If the sin is habitual, it automatically disqualifies a man from the eldership. There needs to be a maturity there. In fact, 2 Peter 2:22 describes disqualified officers as men who still have that ongoing appetite for sin. And the image he uses is gross: he likens them to dogs who return to their vomit. He quotes Proverbs 26:11, which says, As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. It's the repeating: the habit, that sets them apart as having an appetite for sin. I will never understand why dogs are attracted to vomit. My dog in Ethiopia was a wonderful dog, but that was something that grossed me out. He seemed to love to eat vomit. You can outwardly keep a dog from doing so. There are show dogs that are well disciplined, well groomed and well behaved around their masters. But they have not lost their love for vomit, and given an opportunity, it will manifest itself.

What we are looking for in mature men is people who not only hate their sin, and who not only do not justify their sins, but who understand grace to such an extent that their daily walk is characterized by grace. So keep in mind that though we are not talking about perfectionism, we are talking about maturity. We are talking about having a godly testimony. We are talking about knowing how to live by the empowering of the Spirit; how to ask for forgiveness; how to systematically conquer sins.

In your worship notes I have two outlines. One is a one page sheet for our sermon outline. The other is a booklet that gives a much more extended list of qualifications for elders and deacons. If you don't have the booklet, I would encourage you to pick one up from the back table and to use it in prayer for the upcoming elections, and after the elections, in your prayer for your elders and deacons — and even for yourselves. Elders are examples for you in holiness, not substitutes. But in any case, Satan goes after the leaders, and he would love nothing more than to see our officers fall. So pray.

Qualifications of Role

I've divided the qualifications up into four parts: Qualifications related to roles, qualifications related to family, qualifications related to character and two qualifications related to doctrine. The first area is qualifications related to role. Though this list is not exhaustive, I think that the three titles that are given to elders in this chapter are very helpful in examining what they should be like. In verse 5 the officers are called elders. In verse 7, they are called bishops or overseers. And in the same verse they are called stewards. Elder candidates must be men who can fill the shoes described by those three titles.

Elder (v. 5; cf. vv. 10-16; Exodus 12:21; 18; Numb. 11:11-17,24-30; Acts 15; 16:4; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:5; Heb. 13:7,17,24; Rev. 4:4)

And the first title (elder) is a key one. In verse 5 Titus is commanded to appoint elders in every city. There are two things about that word that I want to comment on. The first is pretty obvious, and that there is an age qualification. A five year old by definition is not an elder. Literally it means an older man, and yet it is surprising to me that the issue of age is so seldom discussed when it comes to eldership. I believe that a bare minimum for the office of elder is the age of thirty, and that is young. That's a bare minimum. That was the way it was in the Old Testament, and even Christ waited until His thirtieth birthday, even though He was eminently qualified in every other way. It wasn't an issue of giftings and knowledge. Jesus had that knowledge and ability from the time that He was twelve years old — stumping the brightest scholars in the temple. So normally speaking, an elder was definitely older in age, or if young - in otherwords, if he was only thirty, he needed to be mature well beyond his years.

Some people will object: "Well, what about Timothy! Paul said, Let no one despise your youth." You know, in the PCUSA there are some churches that have had teenagers as elders and have said, "Let no one despise your youth." I'm sorry: the Old Testament says that is shameful and a sign of backslidden church when children rule over them. So what is Timothy's "youth" in 1 Timothy 4:12? How old was he? Scholars range in their view of his age from an absolute low of 34 years old to an estimate of 42 years of age. William Hendriksen calculates the time from when Timothy first appears on the scene in Acts (and that's 51 AD) to 63 AD (when this book is written) and he says that Timothy could not have been younger than 34 years old, but was probably closer to 39. Others, based on Jewish conventions estimate his age to be 42 here. According to Iraneus, a person is considered young until he is 40.

Others will object with pragmatic arguments. They will say, "Look at Spurgeon. He started preaching when he was in his teens. He was a pastor in his twenties, and think of the loss to the kingdom if we had legalistically followed this rule!" Well, we could say the same thing about Jesus. "He could have made a better pastor at age twelve than any of us pastors. What a waste that Jesus legalistically followed the Hebrew pattern and waited until He was thirty!" No! No. No. No. That argument does not hold up. By definition, a person is not qualified to be an elder if he is under thirty.

The second thing I want to draw from this word "elder" is the function of an elder, because not everybody who was old automatically became an elder, and as I've said, there were younger men who had the office of elder. If you study through some of the verses I've given in the one page outline, you will see that the word "elder" was a technical term for those who held an office of rule, authority, of administration of justice. When there is a dispute in the church, what does Paul say should happen in 1 Corinthians 6? He says, "Don't go to the civil courts!" He tells the Corinthians to take their disputes before the church. He says it is better to be defrauded by your brother than to go before a pagan court. Pagan courts are for dealing with pagans." Now that's a heavy responsibility for elders to bear. But we saw in Exodus 18 that this is a big part of their work. We need to be qualified to be rulers, judges, administrators of justice. So when you think of the word "elder," pray not only that we would have maturity beyond our years, but that we would have the Biblical wisdom to be able to perform all of the aspects of rule and the administration of justice. Pray that we would have such wisdom, that if you had a business dispute with another believer, you would feel comfortable allowing us to arbitrate and determine the restitution. Don't vote for a person that you do not believe could stand as an administrator of justice in this local community. That is what an elder is by definition.

Bishop (v. 7; cf. vv. 10-16)

The second word is "Bishop." The word literally means an overseer. And for some people, that concept doesn't sit any better than the concept of ruler. And part of the problem I think is because we project the negative concepts that we see with rulers, and with worldly overseers to what is being described in the church. But the church is limited government. It should be no more of a police state than the civil government should be. Don't think of an Orwellian big brother peering over your shoulder and snooping into your affairs. Now I do realize that this has happened in some circles, but 1 Peter 5 indicates that such things are an abuse of the office and are not God's intent.

But he tells the elders that they still cannot abdicate that responsibility to rule and to oversee just because there are abuses out there. And the oversight cannot be a mere figure-head position. It has got to be true oversight. A shepherd who allowed his sheep to be eaten by wolves and did nothing about it is not giving oversight. A shepherd who allows diseases to run rampant and for rams to be abusing sheep is not giving oversight. And so we need to ask, is this person capable of giving oversight.

Steward (v. 7; cf. vv. 10-16; Acts 20:27-35; Luke 12;42; 16:1-8; 1 Cor. 4:1-2)

The last title that is given to them in this passage is "steward." Now if you want to know what a steward is, just think of Joseph in the Old Testament. Potphar trusted Joseph so much that he elevated him to the place of a steward. Now Joseph was still a slave responsible to Potiphar, but he had full authority in the home and regulated the affairs of the household as if he were Potiphar. If someone disobeyed him, it would be like disobeying Potiphar because Potiphar had given him the authority of steward. But Joseph couldn't operate by his own rules, he had to operate by Potiphar's rules. Well, the same is true of elders. They represent the Lord, and are accountable to the Lord and must operate by the Lord's standards. But stewardship trust implies some abilities.

So the first thing that I would ask you to pray for is that all future officers of this church would be capable as elders, overseers and stewards, and would be faithful to their calling to be such. It's a huge responsibility. And I might say that it is something that you grow better at over time as well. But Satan is going to try to do his utmost to make the elders shun their God-given duties, but you pray for them and ask God to bind Satan and to take away his attacks. Pray that we would receive Christ's words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Pray for your present and future officers.

Domestic and Community Qualifications (v. 6)

  1. Blameless (especially in areas listed here)
  2. A man
  3. Married
  4. Faithful to one woman
  5. With children
  6. Able to manage the household
  7. With children old enough that their character can be discerned.

But next let's go through the family qualifications. And keep these in mind as you determine who would be eldership material in the future. Keep these in mind when you think about associate pastors, and when you vote in the future on whether to retain me as your pastor. When we become particularized, you will have to vote on whether you want me to be your pastor at that point. Timothy has several qualifications that are not listed here, so if you want the complete list, you will have to read through the color brochure in your worship notes or on the back table.

Here's verse 6 again: if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.

Paul says, If a man is blameless, [and this is parallel to Timothy's "above reproach"] Notice that there are two times that this requirement of blameless is given — one under the family qualifications of verse 6 and one under the personal qualifications of verses 7-8. Officers need to be blameless in those two areas. Now this doesn't mean that the community has to like the elder. Otherwise, in muslim countries, and other countries where Christians undergo persecution, you wouldn't even be able to have elders because they are constantly coming under false accusation. Every one of the apostles were treated as criminals at one point or another. Paul and Silas were disliked enough that they were mobbed out of more than one city. Nor does it mean that the church likes you. I think that Corinth had their doubts about whether they liked Paul. But the critical thing is that there be nothing that can be legitimately held against an elder that would make him subject to any major blame, criticism, or censure, particularly with the items that are listed in Titus 1. I have heard of elders who lead a double life; being like one of the boys at work, but being a saint at church. And you can see how such a thing could be disastrous to the testimony and work of the church as it seeks to win the community to Christ.

Second, he needs to be a man. Both Timothy and Titus use a Greek word (anair) that means "male" rather than using the generic word for man. He is emphasizing the masculinity of the men that need to be elected. They need to be seen as real men. And 1 Timothy 2 is very clear, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence." So that's pretty straightforward. There is no controversy in this church. Elders need to be men. But the question might be: "Why?" I personally know some women who would make very capable teachers and very capable rulers. Why does God forbid them? It has nothing to do with abilities, as we will see in chapter 2 where Paul commands the mature women to teach the younger women. We don't question whether they are able to do so. Instead, we see this as part of God's blessing of patriarchy at every level of society. If the church is the nursery of the kingdom, it is also the model for the family, which is the foundation of the kingdom. And God wants these officers to be model men. Not just warm bodies who can do a job — but models of manhood. This is hugely controversial in the modern church, but I think they are missing the point.

Now that's not the only controversy in verse 6. Paul not only insists that elders be men, but that they be married, third that they have children, fourth that the children be old enough to be able to be seen as faithful, and fifth — that the man manages his household well without rebellious children. Let's look at each one.

If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife. Gordon Clark thinks there is no getting around the Greek here and in 1 Timothy. He says, "He must be a married man 'having children.'" I used to think it meant, "If he was a married man, he had to have one wife," but in studying both the Greek and Jewish expectations, I have come to realize that an unmarried man would rarely be accepted as an elder in the gates. It was definitely one of the qualifications of eldership in the Old Testament. But some people object that this would put Paul into contradiction with his own requirement. 1 Corinthians 7 implies that Paul was unmarried at the time that he wrote that epistle. But you know what? - that same chapter says, let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband. Most interpretations of 1 Corinthians 7 completely violate that verse. let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband. (v. 2) Any unmarried state appears to be a temporary state that he is advocating there, and it was because of the fiery persecution that they were under. And if you want confirmation of that, read 1 Timothy 5 where he commands younger widows to get remarried, etc.

My belief is that Paul was married, had children and that his wife died sometime before he wrote 1 Corinthians, and that even at that time he claims to the right to get married again. I base that on several passages. First, in 1 Corinthians 9:5, Paul claims the right to eat, drink have a wife and to get wages just like the other apostles. That shows his attitude toward marriage as being a right. Second, Acts 26:10 says that Paul "cast his vote"with the Sanhedrin to put Christians to death before he was a believer. You couldn't vote unless you were a member of the Sanhedrin. And we have clear evidence that every member of the Sanhedrin had as a requirement not only that he be married, but that he have children. Based on Jewish Sandhedrin law, Paul's children were probably grown by the time that he was converted. Third, Paul calls himself a Pharisee of the strictest sect (Acts 26:5). Well, we know exactly what the rules of the strictest sect of Pharisees were. Unfortunately, they went way beyond the Bible. But those rules mandated that Pharisee men get married at age 18 (as preferable) but absolutely no later than age 20, and cursed those who refused to do so. This implies that Paul was married sometime between 18 and 20, but probably shortly after he turned 18. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not recommending this. He was a Pharisee back then and misinformed. But I'm just saying that Paul probably was married for many years, and probably didn't outlive his wife by very many years. Fourth, in Galatians 1:14 Paul describes himself as "being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers." Again, those were unbiblical traditions, but Paul said that he met every one. He was more strict than the rest. For sure the Pharisees looked down on any adult who was not married. They shouldn't have looked down on them, but they did. It's clear that they looked down on Christ. And Paul was highly honored among them. So I am almost certain that Paul was married probably at age 18, but at least by age 20, and that he therefore had full grown children.1 Scripture explicitly says that all of the other apostles were married. Fifth, various church fathers like Clement and Eusebius2 insisted that Paul was married with children. Now that's saying something since those same church father's often had a low view of marriage. Scholars like Joachim Jeremias think it is certain that Paul was married and had children. And I agree.

And you might think: so what? The "so what" is that both the Old and the New Testaments want elders to be models for the families. How can you be a model to other families if you don't have a family. Modeling is showing. Secondly, how can an elder disciple a family in "family issues" if he isn't married himself? Paul is simply upholding the Old Testament pattern that an elder be a family man. There is a richness of maturity that is gained through marriage and having children that cannot be acquired in any other way. There are a lot of Reformed people who would balk at this, but the Greek is clear. He must be married.

The next requirement is that this man be the husband of one wife: or literally, a one-woman man. This too is ignored in many modern churches. A person who commits adultery is not a one-woman man. Can he be forgiven? Certainly he can. He can once again be a respected member, but he cannot be an elder. And some people balk at that requirement and say that once a person becomes a Christian, he is forgiven, and the past is cleansed. And I would say, "Well, yes, absolutely! The past is cleared away as far as relationship to God as a child. But while forgiveness restores a person to the kingdom and to church membership, it does not restore a person to the eldership. Think of it this way: Everyone agrees that a person in Crete who had three wives before he became a Christian was forgiven of his polygamy. But they also agree that the polygamy would hinder him from being an elder. It doesn't matter that it happened before he became a Christian. He still has three wives. Forgiveness does not change the fact that he is a polygamist. There were people who were members who had more than one wife in both the church that Timothy taught in and the church that Titus taught in, but they were not elders. But if it's true there, it is logically true of every form of polygamy. People who are wrongly divorced and get remarried are considered to be serial polygamists. Can they be members of the church? Yes. Absolutely. Their sin can be forgiven, and you don't make them divorce the second spouse, but the fact that they have more than one wife — that they are polygamist, rules them out as elders. And the same is true of adultery. A person who has had only one fling is still not a one-woman man.

Now why this high standard? Why this requirement? Does it mean that adultery is an unforgiveable sin? No, not at all. But let me tell you something: in the Old Testament, you could have had the death penalty for adultery. God treated it that severely because it destroyed the foundations of society. We just need to realize that God's requirements for eldership are higher; they are discriminatory. And the reason is that God wants elders to be models for strong families. That's how much God thinks of the family. Strong families are the foundation of the church and they are the foundation of the culture. And Paul wants the elders to be discipling families to become strong. This requirement makes eminent sense.

The next requirement is that they manage their household well. In 1 Timothy Paul mentions the qualifications of the wife as well as of the children, but here the children are being emphasized. Having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. Here are some other translations: a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. This does not mean that when one of your children is grown and becomes ungodly that your credentials come into question. But it does mean that as long as they were in the home, and under the authority of the elder, those children must have had a reputation of being in submission and living a Christian life. An elder candidate must have demonstrated that he knows how to have family worship, how to discipline and how to nurture his children in the faith. I know numerous churches where this requirement is flagrantly violated. In fact, pastors kids have a reputation of being some of the worst kids around. That's terrible! If my children were rebellious and I could not handle it, I would need to step down from the ministry. Why? Because God values the family so much that he wants the elders to be models of godly family managers. Secondly, because the family is the training ground for leadership in the church. If you don't wear the pants in your family, how can you expect to have authority in the church? Here's how it's worded in 1 Timothy 3:4-5: one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" That's far more important than having quality coon dogs, let me tell you! In our individualistic society we make no connection between an elder's family life and his eldership, but that just shows how far removed the family has become from the life of the church. In this church of all churches, we ought to emphasize the family since it is at the core of our philosophy.

Finally (and this was implied in the term "elder" as well as in the mention of these children's behaviors), the elder's children need to be old enough that their behavior can be evaluated. It's not sufficient for an elder candidate to have a one month old baby and to say, "Yeah, this baby is very submissive." There's no test in that. Paul wants people with family experience precisely because he is going to be having these elders discipling families and passing on his skills to the men.

I won't get into it now, but you can read the requirements for the women in 1 Timothy 3:11. The reason Paul mentions the wives is that they will be one of those mature older women that Titus 2 mentions as being integral to discipling the families.

Pray that all of our men (not just the elders, but that all of our men) would have this kind of sacrificial faithfulness to their wives, their sons and their daughters. Pray that they would strive to be better pastors of their own homes. No man can completely escape from these requirements since every husband is automatically a shepherd of the home. You need to live out these requirements if you are to be a good shepherd of your own family.

Personal Qualifications (vv. 7-8)

  1. Blameless
  2. Steward's Heart
  3. Not Self-Willed
  4. Not Quick-Tempered
  5. Doesn't drink too much
  6. Not violent or pugnacious
  7. Not greedy
  8. Hospitable
  9. Lover of what is good
  10. Sober-minded
  11. Just
  12. Holy
  13. Self-Controlled

So those are the family qualifications. Next comes a list of personal qualifications. And for these too, a candidate needs to be blameless. IN other words, no charge should be able to be brought against a candidate.

Verse 7 says, For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God. WE have already looked at those phrases, but then comes the qualification: not self-willed or stubborn or arrogant. One commentator said of this verse, "Willing to consider others and to yield one's own rights; able to take criticism, to admit wrong and to apologize. Not stubbornly insistent on having one's own way." Now obviously this does not mean an elder can't be firm and unyielding. When Paul firmly opposed Peter and the party of circumcision in Acts 15 and Gal. 1 he was being the opposite of self-willed. I'm sure it took a lot of self-denial to oppose them. It would have been hard to persevere in doing the right thing. So don't confuse this with the characteristic that many elders having of going with the flow and a milktoast personality that will never fight wrong and never gets angry. No, that's the very opposite. That is being so concerned about being liked that you are unwilling to take the risk of confronting. But a stubbornness and an arrogance to admit wrong should make a person not apply for the position of elder.

The next word is not quick tempered. That is another quality that is often explained away, with the excuse, "Oh, that's just his personality. Give him a break." Well, Paul does not give him a break. He expects him to learn to control his temper. I know of one PCA minister whom I believe ought not to be a minister because he is always flying off the handle. I was embarrassed in one time when we were waiting in a long line to see the movie Joni, and he came barreling up to the wicket and bawled out the lady out, and angrily demanded that he be let in ahead of us. He said, "I've got a ticket." She said, "Well, they've all got tickets too." But he basically bullied his way to the front of the line. Needless to say, those of us who had to wait weren't too impressed. I was downright embarrassed. If you have a temper, realize that Paul says there is a way to control it. Otherwise he wouldn't have used it as a qualification. And if you need help on overcoming your temper, I can give you practical counseling that should help.

Next it says that an elder must not be one who is given to wine (NKJV). The Lexicon says that it means to drink too much wine or to linger beside the wine. One version has "not... a hard drinker" (Wey) and another has, "not excessive in the use of wine" (Lam). And immediately people say, "Well, how much is too much?" But that's precisely what we should be asking a candidate. How much is too much for you? If a person can't give a number, then they don't know how much is too much. And if the number they give is just before they go over the edge into drunkenness, their number is wrong. It's a sign of maturity to know your limits in every area of life. My limits of temptation may be different than somebody elses. But God doesn't want us to get as close to sin as we can without sinning. He wants us to hate sin; to flee from sin; to stay far from sin. And so a candidate needs to be very temperate in his use of alcholic beverages. Now again, just like ignoring God's requirements is wrong, adding to God's requirements is also wrong. Some have said that to be an elder in church, you have to sign a statement that you will never drink wine. That would have ruled Christ, Paul and Timothy out of those churches because they all drank wine. I don't think you want to rule them out! And so we need to be careful that we don't take away from or add to God's requirements. But the candidate needs to know what is too much for him. I know exactly what I am not willing to go beyond, and I've never experienced anything beyond that, so I don't know if it is overly cautious. But I have set a rule for myself that is far, far short of drunkenness. And you should be able to know from others what is too much for them.

The next statement in verse 7 is, not violent or as some render it, not pugnacious. In other words, if you are a person who verbally or physically bullies people into submission, you don't qualify. Some people justify their verbal violence with the thought that they have never laid a hand on another person. But violence takes different forms. And again, don't get me wrong. Paul is not saying that an elder can't defend his wife or child from danger by beating up a thug, and doing so thoroughly. He'll get my high praise, and I believe he will get God's high praise. But this is a person who likes to get into scraps. He's just violent. That should not be true of any of us men.

The next requirement is not greedy for money. If an elder candidate has been known to be involved in numerous get rich quick schemes, that's a problem. If he has been know to have had shady deals, that's a problem. If he is known to have wasted large sums of money through gambling, that's a problem. If he is a miser who can't be generous, that's a problem.

Verse 8 says that he needs to be hospitable, which is literally "loving strangers." Though this is a characteristic of all believers, this is to be especially a characteristic of elders. How do people learn best? It's by watching. And if people are not in your home to witness the way your family runs, how can you be a model? And so it is hospitality to those under their charge, but it also involves hospitality to strangers. If their own family does not reach out to the community, how will they disciple the families under them to be reaching out? It can't happen. That just shows you how important outreach and hospitality is to God. He puts it right up there with things that are essential for an elder. And that means that all of us should aspire to this characteristic that is so close to the heart of God. God welcomes us to His dinner table. We need to welcome others to our own.

Verse 8 goes on to say that he needs to not only do what is good, but he needs to be a lover of what is good, helpful, worthwhile. This needs to be something that flows from his inner being. If you are frustrated with having to do the right thing, you're not there yet, if it is just out of duty and not out of love. But if you love doing these things, that shows God's grace working in you. Instead of having an appetite for spiritual vomit, you have a burden for good, a love for good, a devotion for good. That's what will make people want to follow an elder. They won't to follow an elder who is just grinning and bearing it and enduring his Christianity. But when they see us loving life and enjoying the Lord, that can be infectious.

The next two, "sensible and just" relate to what we saw earlier about their need to be rulers and judges. If they don't have common sense and justice in their dealings with their families, their business and their community, they are not yet ready for eldership.

The words holy and self-controlled are self-explanatory, but it is amazing how often holiness is lacking in elders, and how elders and pastor many times show no self-control in their appetites. They are the first ones to heap their plates at the picnic or Barbeque. They show no self-control in their words, their watching of TV, their discipline of their children, their sleep, their study of Scripture, their getting up, their devotions or other areas of life. Holiness and self-control. Discipline is a necessary ingredient of being a soldier of the cross. So those are the personal qualifications. And I think you can see why they are so important.

Doctrinal Qualifications (v. 9)

  1. Doctrinally sound
  2. Able to convince adversaries of doctrine

And then finally he gives the doctrinal qualifications. Verse 9 says, holding fast the faithful word which he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. He may not have gone to seminary, but what he has been taught by Titus, he needs to be able to communicate one on one. Don't expect elders to be preachers. That's not what this is talking about. But an elder needs to not only be able to know doctrine inside and out, but he needs to be able to defend it one-on-one and convince others of their errors. So he needs to be able to handle the word in a counseling setting, a teaching setting and an adversarial setting. If a man cannot do that, he is not yet ready to be an elder. He needs more training.

We've seen in past lessons why the position of elder is so important if there is to be godliness in the church. Therefore it is not surprising that Paul sets their qualifications so high. Elders are to be an example to the flock, which means that each one of you needs to pursue these traits of godliness in your own lives. But since an elders work can be undermined and made shipwreck completely when these things are missing, I would request that you would pray for me and for every future officer in this church that we would excel in each of these areas. It will make the difference between a strong and a weak church. Better to wait another year or two than to come into office too soon. And that's probably why Titus had to wait for several years to get elders. There's no shame in that. But at the same time, as long as we don't have ruling elders, the church will be lacking. And we need to keep that in mind. May God provide in His perfect timing. Amen.


  1. "Every Jewish man should marry at eighteen, and he who marries earlier is more meritorious" (The Shalchan Aruch, Eben Haezer 1:3). "Since the Mishnah fixes the 18th year of one's life as the age of marriage, a man unmarried after this time is, in many communities, regarded as not having conformed with inviolable tradition." (William Rosenau, Jewish Ceremonies and Customs, p.155). This of course has been the basis for some criticism of Jesus: "...you know he was not married, and from the Jewish point of view, that is a defect. The Jewish morality insists that a man who does not assume the social responsibility for the continuation of society, lives a life that is not complete." (Rabbi Emil Hirsch, My Religion, New York, 1925, pp.43-44). While the criticism is wrong, it does show what the attitudes toward marriage were in Pharisaic Talmudism.

  2. See Euseubius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapter 30. Also, Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 7.63-64.

Qualifications for Elders is part of the Titus series published on September 26, 2004

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