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Elders Qualifications

New Testament passages that indicate the spiritual qualities that elders, bishops, and shepherds should have include (but are not limited to) 1 Tim 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9; 1 Pet 5:1-5; Eph 4:11-16; Heb 13:7,17; John 13:1-20; John 10:1-19; Matt 20:20-28; Luke 22:24-271 Timothy 3:1-7“This is a faithful saying “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.”A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 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. Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride, he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”A close examination of the qualifications of an elder as given to Timothy

  • An Elder Must Desire The Office – “This is a true saying, If a man desire (Gk. orego) the office of a bishop, he desireth (Gk. epithumeo) a good work” (v. 1). Two different Greek words are used by Paul to describe the desire one should have for the work of an overseer. The verb orego means to aspire to, strive for. The verb epithumeo means to eagerly desire, long for. This word would indicate a more intense desire than orego. Lazarus, the beggar, desired (Gk. epithumeo) to eat the crumbs from the rich man’s table (Lk. 16:21). It is occasionally translated covet (Acts 20:33). Why would Paul use two different words to express the same idea? Perhaps there is an emphasis intended on the work of an elder. If one desires the position of overseer, he must eagerly desire the work of an overseer. This would indicate there is more involved in being an elder than the aspiration for office. If one is truly interested in being an overseer, he will also be eager for the work.
  • An Elder must be above reproach – “A bishop then must be blameless” (v. 2). It is necessary that an overseer be blameless and above reproach. Especially would this be true relative to the qualifications in verses 2-7. The word translated blameless (Gk. anepilemptos) occurs only in 1 Timothy (3:2; 5:7; 6:14). Paul does not mean that elders are to be sinless (cf. 1 John. 1:8). No one can ever be blameless to the extent that he is perfect in every way. Fault can always be found by those who look hard enough for it. However, an elder must be a man of mature and proven spiritual qualities. His spiritual life should be of such high quality as to be an example for others (1 Pet. 5:3). His good character should make it difficult for a charge to be brought against him. If a charge is brought against an elder, it should be established by two or more witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19).
  • An elder must be married to one woman – An elder is to be the “husband of one wife” (v. 2). This would certainly exclude him from being a polygamist. The elder is to be an example in family relations by being faithful to his wife. This would also demand that an elder have at least one wife. McGarvey states: We think that candor requires the admission that it also has the effect of requiring a man to be a married man. That he should be the husband of one wife, forbids having less than one as clearly as it forbids having more than one. Moreover, the context confirms the conclusion; for the apostle proceeds in both epistles to state how the overseer must govern his household, and especially his children;’ which statements imply that he is to be a man of family.
  • An elder must have self-control – The translation vigiltrot in the KJV is not adequate for the meaning of nephalios. This word has a root meaning of holding no wines and refers to the temperate use of wine. It is used again of elders in Titus 2:2 (sober, KJV) and of women in 1 Tim. 3:1!. It is probably used figuratively to refer to the self-control needed for the work of an elder. The verb form (Gk. nepho) is used figuratively in the New Testament and refers to the clarity and soberness one should have in the discharging of his ministry (1 Thes. 5:6,8;.2 Tim. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).
  • An elder must be sober-minded – The word sober (Gk. sophron) means to be of sound mind, sensible. The kind of soberness under consideration with moderation and self-control. This word is close in meaning to the one considered under D. As verbs, the words are also used together. “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye sober (Gk. sophronoew) and watch (Gk. nepho) unto prayer” (1 Pet. 4:7). A man who is easily excitable or emotionally unstable would not be sober minded. To be caught up in a religious frenzy or irrational emotionalism is not to be sober-minded. When Paul preached the gospel to Festus, he was accused of being out Of his mind. Paul replied, “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness (Gk. sophrosune)” (Acts 26:25). Sophron and its word group in the Greek New Testament refer to the sensible, self disciplined mind the Christian should have (cf. Titus 2:5-6; 2:12; Rom. 12:3; 1 Tim. 2:9, 15; 2 Tim. 1:7)]
  • An elder must be respectable – The KJV says “of good behavior” {v. 2). The phrase is a translation of kosmios and means respectable, honorable. It is found one other time in the New Testament. Paul indicated women are to be dressed in a respectable (modest, KJV) way (1 Tim. 2:9). In Greek literature, it describes “one who disciplines himself and who may thus be regarded as genuinely moral and respectable… namely, the element of the ordered, the controlled, the measured, or the balanced…, This word is similar in meaning to the two words discussed under D and E.
  • An elder must be hospitable – An elder is to be “given to hospitality” (Gk. philoxenos). Peter said, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet. 4:9). This word and its word group are all used to describe hospitality. Christians are often encouraged to be hospitable to strangers (Heb. 13:2; cf. Rom. 12:13). The root meaning of xenos is foreign. The prefix philo means love. Thus, to be hospitable is to love strangers. The references refer more to being hospitable to traveling strangers than to local Christian friends. However, the concept of hospitality could easily apply to new converts who were strangers in the faith. Those outside of Christ are pictured as aliens and strangers (Eph. 2:12). “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (v. 19). One of the greatest needs of new converts is to be integrated socially as well as spiritually into the family of God. The ancient world did not have the many convenient means of lodging that exists in our modern world. Traveling Christians would naturally want to stay with other Christians while traveling. Elders, as church leaders, should set an example in showing hospitality to such people. Such action also aided the preaching of the gospel. Thus, John excluded false teachers from hospitality ‘because it would aid in the spread of false doctrine. “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is a partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 10, 11). The importance of lodging is also seen in Paul’s request in Philemon to “prepare me also a lodging” (Philemon 22). While Peter was at Joppa, he lodged with Simon, a tanner (Acts 10:6; cf. 21:16; 1 Tim. 5:10).
  • An elder must be able to teach – An elder must be able to teach (Gk. didaktikos). The ability to teach is necessary if one is to be an effective teacher. This ability should be evidence of spiritual maturity and growth. ‘For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are full of age, even to those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:124.4). While some elders will be better teachers than others (cf. 1 Tim. 5:17), all must be capable teachers. Paul told Timothy to commit the word to faithful men (2 Tim. 2:2). “And the servant of ‘the Lord must’ not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach (Gk. didaktikos), patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves’ (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
  • An elder must not drink intoxicating beverages – The Lexicon definition for the Greek word paroinos is drunken, addicted to wine. The word occurs only here and in Titus 1:7. The Word appears to be a combination of the preposition para (at, by the side of, near) and oinos (wine). Thus, paroinos would literally mean that an elder must not be at, by the side of, or near wine. This would indicate total abstinence. The definition of drunkenness is not fully adequate. Besides, there were common words especially for intoxication and drunkenness. It does not go far enough to say that a paroinos man is not one who lingers long at wine. He does not go near wine. Apparently, this was Timothy’s attitude toward intoxicating wine. “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23). Paul had to encourage Timothy to use wine for medicinal purposes. He was no longer to drink water only, but to mix in a little wine as a purifying agent.The Mediterranean world had a variety of Hebrew ‘Old Testament and the Greek New Testament have different words to describe the many kinds of wines. This distinction is seldom seen in our English versions where the one English word wine nearly always brings to mind a highly intoxicating drink. The Greeks and Romans had developed a commonly used wine drink which was entirely non-intoxicating. The Jews in Palestine usually drank a mixed wine heavily diluted with water (cf. M. Pesahim 10:2, 4, 7). The Jewish mixture of water to wine was on a ratio of three parts water to one part wine. The apparent criticism of mixed wine in lsa. 1:22 probably refers to an excessive dilution of wine by water. The wine loses its identity because of the addition of too much water.Some feel that Paul’s recommendation not to drink wine because of the weak brother (Rom. 14:21) indicates that those who oppose the consumption of intoxicating wine are weak. This argument falsely assumes that all wine is intoxicating. Those who abstained from wine (cf. John the Baptist, Lk. 1:15) abstained from every use of the grape. This even included grape juice and dried grapes (Num. 6:3).
  • An elder must not be violent – The translation’ striker (KJV; Gk. plektes) refers to one who fights a bully. An elder should not become physically violent in his relationships with other people. Perhaps Paul is referring to fights resulting from the consumption of intoxicating drinks. Intoxicating drinks as well as uncontrolled emotions can result in physical violence. An elder must be in control of both.
  • An elder should be gentle – Instead of resorting to physical violence, an elder should be gentle and yielding (GR. epieike; cf. occurrences in Titus 3:2; James 3:17; 1 Pet. 2:18; Phil. 4:5) in his relations with others. Paul uses this word to describe the gentle nature that every servant of the Lord should have (2 Tim. 2:24). An elder must be gentle, kind, yielding, and moderate. This is another term emphasizing the need for self-control.
  • An elder must not be contentious – An elder should be disinclined to fight and quarrel (Gk. amachos). This word literally means without battle. One way to understand the meaning of this word is to examine its opposite. The Greek noun macho has the meaning of quarrels, disputes, fighting. Paul told Timothy to avoid questions which “gender strife’s (Gk. macho)” (2 Tim. 2:23). The verb form of this word is used in the following verse. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive (Gk. macheomai); but be gentle unto all men.. .” (v. 2-4). Note the discussion of gentle under B above. Many Jews were contentious and quarrelsome about certain theories they had developed concerning the law. Paul told Timothy not to engage in these quarrels with the Jews (Titus 3:9; cf. James 4:1-2; John 6:52). Some people would rather argue and fight about religion than to know the truth. An elder should not have a quarrelsome disposition. One can contend for the faith (Jude 3) without being contentious. The contentious spirit is a great obstacle to unity and growth in many churches today. This attitude is especially destructive when found among elders.
  • An elder must not be greedy – An elder must not be a lover of money (ophilarguros). This word occurs only here and in Heb.-13:5 where it is translated without covetousness (KJV) and free from the love of money (NIV). There are two other words similar to ophilarguros that occur in the New Testament. All of the words in this group denote an intense fondness for money, avarice, or miserliness. An elder must not have a miserly desire to gain and hoard wealth. This may be one of the most neglected qualifications today. An elder who is stingy and miserly with his own money will be the same way with the Lord’s money. He will also be an obstacle to developing a program of sacrificial giving in the church. Money is a form of energy that makes it possible to get things done. As a result, a miserly church will have a miserly program of work. Elders should be examples of generosity in the church. Paul said the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil . (1 Tim. 6: 10; cf. 2 Tim. 3:2). An elder who is miserly will, be critical of those who attempt to teach the truth about giving. When Jesus taught about money Luke tells us the Pharisees “who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him” (Lk. 16: 14).Paul is not saying that elders should not be concerned about financial matters. Paul even defended the fight of an elder to receive financial renumeration for his services (1 Tim. 5:17). When elders serve in a full-time capacity they may be paid as others who serve the church. “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). However, Paul is saying that elders should have the right attitude toward material things. He must set an example to the flock by his generosity unselfish attitude. Although he may even receive some compensation for his service, his conduct and attitude must be above reproach regarding material things. “Shepherd the flock of God among you . . . not for sordid gain, but with eagerness” (1 Pet. 5:2, NASV). While Paul accepted compensation for his work (Phil. 4: 14-17), he was always careful about projecting the right example (2 Thess. 3:7-9).Our world today is more dependent than ever on money as a medium of exchange. Money can be ability, energy, and talent in doing the Lord’s work. One of the great leadership challenges elders will face is teaching the church the proper attitude toward material possessions. This task will be made difficult by the materialistic attitude of our society. Yet, there is a great financial resource in the Lord’s church today that can be utilized if elders will lead the way.
  • An elder must manage his own family well Aand have his children under respectful control – An elder must be able to manage and control his own family because “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (v. 5, NASV). The Greek word translated manage (prohistemi) means be at the head, direct, be concerned about, care for.9 An elder rules and directs in the sense of leading and caring for the flock. This word occurs in several passages relevant to our study.1. Rom. 12:8 – “… he who leads, with diligence” (NASV). Although Paul does not mention elders specifically in this verse, he is no doubt referring to them. Paul discusses those who serve the church in various capacities in this chapter. Those who-lead (rule, KJV, ASV) are to do so with eagerness and zeal. The RSV translates the phrase, “he who gives aid, with zeal.”2. Thess. 5:12 -In this verse Paul encouraged the Thessalonians church to know the ones who labor among them. Paul says these workers are “over you in the Lord” (have charge over you, NASV)3. 1 Tim. 5:17 – Paul mentions elders specifically in this verse. These elders are to “rule well” (KJV, NASV, RSV). The NIV has “directs the affairs of the church well.’The occurrence of prohistemi in these passages indicates elders have a measure of authority. Their authority derives from their responsibility to care for the flock. The example of the family is used to describe the work of elders. Deacons are also told to manage their families well (1 Tim. 3:12). A good father does not practice authoritarian rule in the home. Instead, he manages, directs, leads, guides, and cares for his family. The authoritarian form of family government, with its emphasis on total conformity and submission, is one of the least effective ways for a father to manage his family. A father can still be the head of the family without being authoritarian. An authoritarian approach in the home often provokes family members to anger and rebellion. Yet, children are to be obedient to parents (Eph. 6:1). Paul indicates that an elder’s children are to be in subjection (Gk. hupotage; cf. 2 Cot. 9:13; 1 Tim. 2:11) and respectful (Gk. semnotes; cf. 1 Tim. 2:2; Titus 2:7). Paul argues that “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (v. 5, NASV). A man’s ability to manage his family will indicate to a certain degree his ability to shepherd the flock of God. Most parents will readily admit that one often needs the wisdom of Solomon to handle family problems. A man who is emotionally stable, spiritually mature, and wise will provide adequate leadership in the home.
  • An elder must not be a recent convert – The Greek word neophutos comes from two words; neos meaning new, fresh (cf. 1 Cor. 5:7) and phuteia which means a plant. Thus a neophutos is one who is newly planted in the faith. The English word neophyte comes from this word. A recent convert will not have the spiritual maturity and experience necessary to be a flood elder. Paul .says a novice may be “lifted up with pride” because of his lack of experience in the faith. There is a period of time when a Christian is considered a spiritual babe (Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:1). A certain amount of judgment and common sense should be applied in applying this qualification to elders.
  • An elder must have a good report – An elder must have a good report (Gk. marturian; testimony, standing) of them that are without — that is, of those outside the body of Christ. Peter said, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing which they slander you as evil doers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:12, 15; NASV). An elder must have a sufficient number of years in the faith (see F above) that his changed lifestyle is recognized by all. Those outside of Christ will judge the church by its leaders.Titus 1:6-9 “If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful Word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”A close examination of the qualifications of an elder as given to Titus
  • An elder must be blameless – The word anaenkletos is used here and in verse seven. Paul is emphasizing that elders be irreproachable concerning the qualifications under discussion. A word very similar to this one has already used (Gk. anepilemptos, 1 Tim. 3:2). Other occurrences of anepilemptos are in 1 Cor. 1:8; Col. 1:22; and 1 Tim. 3:10
  • An elder must be the husband of one wife – (See 1 Tim. 3:2).
  • An elder must have believing children – An elder must have believing or faithful children (Gk. tekna echonpista). The KJV rendering of this phrase is almost a literal rendering of the Greek text. This phrase can be the equivalent to being a Christian (cf. 1 Tim. 6:2). The following phrase also suggests that the children under discussion are old enough to be Christians: “…not accused of riot or unruly.” The NIV has “wild and disobedient.” The word for riot (Gk. asotia) is used in association with drunkenness (Eph. 5:18; see also 1 Pet. 4:4). The plural children (Gk. tekna) means offspring and does not demand a plurality of children for each elder. Examples of such usage abound in both testaments. Joshua told the Israelites there would be a time in the future when “your children” would ask concerning the meaning of the twelve stones placed by the river Jordan (Josh 4:6; cf. Exod. 12:26; 22:24). In these verses the plural would include the singular. Another example is Sarah’s statement, “Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? For I have born him a son in his old age” (Gen. 21:7) There are also several good examples in the New Testament. “For the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now they are holy” (1 Cor. 7: 14). The point being made by Paul is not how many children each couple has but the status of their offspring. This is similar to Paul’s use of tekna in Titus 1:6. Paul is concerned with the kind of family an elder should have and not how large. There is some question as to the application of this qualification to children who are no longer at home.A perfect Christian environment will not guarantee that a child will remain faithful when he is on his own. If it did, then children in Christian homes would no longer be free to choose right from wrong. The key to understanding the application of this verse is found in Paul’s statement that an elder’s child should not be accused of riot (Gk. asotia). The word and its word group describe a “wild and undisciplined life.” The word signifies a wild and disorderly life style and is used to describe the conduct of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:13). Such a riotous life style would bring criticism to the child’s father. An elder cannot serve effectively if his children are out of control. The qualification would apply to those circumstances where a child’s conduct brought reproach upon the father and the church.
  • An elder must not be arbitrary – The Greek word outhades is translated sell-willed, arrogant, and overbearing by our translations. It occurs only here and in Peter 2:10. An elder must not be obstinate and inflexible in his dealings with others. An arbitrary man tends to be despotic and tyrannical. He is unreasonable. An arbitrary elder can divide the church. He will tend to be authoritarian in his approach to leadership (cf. 1 Pet. 5:3).Normally, this attitude will be evident in a man’s relationship with his family and friends. It also applies to his attitude toward the word of God. “In the two passages in which authades occurs in the New Testament the reference is to human impulse violating obedience to the divine command.”
  • An elder must not be quick-tempered – An elder should not be inclined to anger (Gk. orallion). A quick temper displays a lack of self control. Instead, he should be patient and gentle.
  • An elder must not drink intoxicating beverages – (See 1 Tim. 3:3).
  • An elder must not be violent – (See 1 Tim. 3:3).
  • An elder must not be fond of dishonest gain – The qualification is also given for deacons (1 Tim. 3:8). Peter says that an elder should not serve with expectations of dishonest gain (1 Pet. 5:2). This qualification would apply to his business practices and any financial support he might receive for serving as an elder.
  • An elder must be hospitable – (See 1 Tim. 3:2).
  • An elder must love what is good – An elder must love what is good (Gk. philagothes). The word occurs only here in the New Testament. The KJV translation “a lover of good men” is not broad enough. An elder must love all that is good. In the ancient world, the word appeared as an honorary epithet in religious inscriptions. The opposite of this word (Gk. aphilagathos) is found in 2 Tim. 3:3. Paul encourages Christians to always do good. “Let him them that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:28-29). Peter’s words could also be used to describe one who is a lover of good: “… and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet. :3: 16, NASV). One with this qualification would “abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Ram. 12:9). A lover of good is one who thinks and concentrates on the good. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8, NASV).
  • An elder must be sober-minded – (See 1 Tim. :3:2).
  • An elder must be just – The man who is just (Gk. dikaios) is upright, righteous. He is “conforming to the laws of God and man, and living in accordance with them:”7 .John said, “… he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 John :3:7). A just man will do what is right. “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient” (1 Tim. 1:9). Joseph is described as a just man (Matt. 1:19). Cornelius is also described as just. “And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews (Acts 10:22).
  • An elder must be holy – The word holy (Gk. hoses) meads devout, pleasing to God. B It is used together with just to describe the new man in Christ. “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24; cf. Lk. 1:75).
  • An elder must be self-controlled – The word translated self-control is enkrates. This word and its word group are used frequently to refer to the moral discipline a Christian should have. Paul preached to Felix about self-control (Acts 24:25). Self-control is found among the Christian virtues (Gal. 5:23; 2 Pet. 1:6). It is used regarding sexual continence (1 Car. 7:91 and the discipline required of a successful athlete (9:25).

An elder must hold fast the faithful word – An elder must hold fast (Gk. antecho) the truth of the gospel. To hold fast means to cling to, be devoted to something or someone. Jesus said one cannot hold fast to two masters (Matt. 6:2-47. This is a very important qualification. Since an elder is in a leadership and teaching position, he will have ample opportunity to influence the church. If an elder tolerates false doctrine, or gives an uncertain sound, then the flock is without good leadership. Paul warned the Ephesian elders to “take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock . . . Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:28, 31). These references indicate an elder must have a strong and firm position about doctrinal truth, He must not be passive or indifferent concerning doctrinal matters. He must not give forth an uncertain sound. When a crisis arises, the elders must be able to give clear direction. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8). As a teacher of the Gospel, he must “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13; cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-4). This qualification is not considered important by some. However, the damage that can result when this qualification is neglected can be extensive. An elder who is indifferent or compromising concerning the truth can block the efforts of others to identify and remove false teachers from the church. New converts and the spiritually weak need encouragement and guidance. The elders can give guidance by both exhorting and refuting those who contradict the truth (Titus 1:9). Paul even says that elders must stop the mouths of those who subvert the church (v. 11). This may seem too harsh for some, but it is a necessary qualification for an elder.If an individual does not feel he is ready to take such a firm stand, either because of a lack of conviction or lack of knowledge, then he is NOT qualified to be an elder.

 

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