What Qualifies an Elder? (Part 2)
In determining the qualifications for the office of elder, we must consider the two primary passages of Scripture that are devoted to the topic:
“...an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” - 1 Timothy 3:2-7
"If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." - Titus 1:6-9
In part 1, we noted that a man must be "above reproach". One of the ways a man is living above reproach is by being a man that has eyes and heart exclusively for his wife. Further, a man should be deeply devoted to his family and effective in leading his wife and children.
The other virtues mentioned include being sober-minded, self-controlled, humble (not arrogant), patient (not quick-tempered), gentle (not violent), peaceful (not quarrelsome), generous (not greedy or obsessed with money or material things), addiction-free & not given to substance-abuse (not a drunkard), holy, upright and disciplined.
While nobody should discount the validity of using each of these listed virtues for determining a man’s qualifications, both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 give us indications that Paul is addressing some of the common idols of both the Ephesian and Cretian cultures. Why would this be significant?
If this is true, then special attention should be given to whether an elder rises above the key idols of his community. In other words, an elder-like man should be an example of a redeemed human being to the culture in which he lives and works.
Yet another area that should be considered when determining a man’s qualifications are his existing weaknesses and potential challenges. Paul tells Timothy that a recent convert should not be considered.
While a man might already exhibit all the other characteristics of an elder and even have the right skill set, the potential challenges of being a new Christian places a man at an obvious disadvantage for such a public role.
While the amount of years since one's conversion is important, there’s a larger point to consider in what Paul is saying. In examining a man, all possible limitations should be considered. Things such as a man’s limited time-availability or a mismatched skill-set for a particular context should be considered when qualifying a man for elder.
Finally, Paul makes it clear that an elder should be a Gospel centered man (“word” means Gospel in Titus 1:9) - he knows the Gospel, can articulate the Gospel and appropriates the Gospel to life.
Since the Gospel is the starting point for all biblical theology, a man’s Gospel centeredness should enable him to teach sound doctrine and correct any deviant ideas they might emerge in his local church.
So, to summarize both parts 1 and 2:
- An elder must be observably above-reproach for a redeemed man in his given context
- An elder must both lead effectively and devote himself completely to his household in a way that mirrors the kind of leadership and devotion required for leading in the church
- An elder must not have any limitations that would set him up for failure and serve the church poorly
- An elder must be able teach, correct and rebuke from a doctrinal position of Gospel-centrality