The Lord Jesus Christ has designed His church to be a place where truth and godliness are upheld. Paul told Timothy that the church is the pillar and buttress of truth – truth both believed and lived. For this reason the church needs godly leaders who will lead believers to godliness. The truth that accords to godliness has to be preached by godly leaders who in their leadership, through the ministry of the word would inspire their congregation to godliness.
This is not easy to achieve by anyone but it is the standard set down by God for the leadership of His Church. As I preach this, I am very convicted of the truths in this Scripture. Do I qualify? This is the question that I have honestly given the answer, NO. But then I wonder, why did God let me in the ministry and at least two churches have witnessed that I qualify.
Let us consider the passage and fully understand the qualification laid down by the Master for His Church. As I bring this, please understand that I am also preaching to myself.
It does appear as a conjecture, after Paul was released from the prison in Rome in Acts 28, he travelled to encourage the churches and when they were in Crete, he left Titus there. Why did Paul leave Titus in Ephesus?
Paul gives two reasons for leaving Timothy in Crete:
- So that he might put what remained into order
It is the specific task of the leaders who begin churches, having been sent by their local churches, to make sure that the church functions normally with its own leadership structure in place. A church has to have at least two elders to function well. Where there is only one man in charge of a church, there is bound to be problems. This is why we are to pray for this church to have more than two elders. This is why we should aim at sending at least two men to go to church plant.
Putting into order what remained was quite a task for the young man Timothy. But this was work that he was going to do with the help of the Lord Himself, who is the Chief-Shepherd who loved the church so much that He gave His life to buy for Himself a people. He will give aid in the establishment, progress and consummation of the church. This why we have to fully rely on Him for the guidance, otherwise, we might not be able to bring up a church that reflects His glory.
- So that he could appoint elders in every town as directed by Paul.
Titus was to look for those who had the desire to the office of an elder. The desire, though not here, is very specific in the parallel of this passage in 1Timothy 3:1, as the beginning point to this office. The church had a role to play in these appointments. Or otherwise, how could he have been able to investigate personally each and every individual for every church in the towns of Crete? The responsibility of the appointment of pastors is joint responsibility of both the eldership and the church members. The elders recommend and the members investigate and finally appoints. This is why Paul stresses the fact that he must be ‘above reproach’.
The men to be appointed are called elders to reflect their seniority in the government of the church. But the ruling authority is unique in the sense that it does not use coercion to bring the church to his rule. Instead the Word of Christ is used to persuade and bring consciences of men into subjection so that they submit to the lordship of Christ. These men in charge of a church are also called overseers, as those who exercise oversight over souls of men before God, so as to give an account before Him. Instead of coercion and dominion, the Chief-Shepherd said that His disciples must not govern like the world or hypocrites do because they lord it over them, but rather “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20:25-26). Then it does appear that it is the specific function of these leaders to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ until all members attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:12-13). Eldership is like the joints to the body so as to make sure that every part of the church is functioning properly (Eph. 4:16)
What were the qualification(s) to this office?
It does appear that there is one general qualification that is expounded in the verses 6-9. Anyone who is above reproach or blameless in matters to do with his family (v. 6), in personal godliness (vv. 7-8) and in his ministry (v. 9), is eligible to be appointed to the work of eldership which is called overseers in terms of the task to be done. You notice that the general statement is made in verse 6 and verse 7, “… if anyone is above reproach… For an overseer as God’s steward, must be above reproach.” Only the leaders who qualify in regard to this qualification would be of maximum benefit to the church. What it means, is not that he must be faultless or unblemished or without any flaw, because then there would be none who qualifies except Christ. It means ‘without blame’ or ‘without an accusation against him’. It could also mean a person of unquestionable integrity in regard to his public or social life with people, beginning with those in the church who know him well. If a person is marred by disgrace and has glaring sin in his life, he stands unfit to be a shepherd of God’s flock and should not be considered for the appointment to this work.
- Elders must be blameless in their family life (v.6)
Charity begins at home and therefore, “The home is regarded as the training ground for Christian leaders” Donald Guthrie. Therefore, the one who is to be appointed to this noble office of eldership must have such home qualities that show his capability to exercise oversight in the church of Christ. This is to be manifested in his marriage life. He is to be “a husband of one wife” That is if he is married it has to be a monogamous relationship. He has to be a man who is committed to one woman as his wife. This is not designed to exclude the unmarried from being elders, but it is actually to qualify those who are married. You realize that sex scandals are so damning even for worldly leaders like it was the case of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in America. How much more damning it would be for a pastor to have such scandalous relationship because then he would put the name of the Lord and His church to shame. This is what we hear every time in the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church priests and bishops and now there are even gay bishops etc.! Obviously they are not qualified from serving in the church of Christ!
Their blamelessness is not just in marriage but also in their parenthood. Their children are to be believers, having been brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The man has to learn to teach his family the Word of God and correct them in the manner that the children come to faith. Obviously, it doesn’t say that, they must save their children, it is for the Lord to save them but it is for the man to use the right means to bring them to faith in Christ.
The children must be obedient, faithful, pious and not be in open to rebellion and debauchery or unruly. “Children so faithful and obedient,” says Mathew Henry, “and temperate, will be a good sign of faithfulness and diligence in the parent who has so educated and instructed them; and from his faithfulness in the less, there may be encouragement to commit the greater, the rule of government of the church of God.” He must manage his own household well, with all dignity, keeping his children in submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household how will he care for God’s church? (1Tim 3:5)
- Elders must be blameless in their character (vv.7-8)
The title, overseer or ‘bishop’ here replaces ‘an elder’ to show that it is a reference to the same office so that pastors of a church were the final authority on earth to determine all church matters. He is entrusted by God with the church. Always bear in mind that the responsibility to be pastors of God’s church is a privilege (not a right) of trusteeship and therefore be very careful to watch over ourselves and the flock. We should have such a character that befits God’s stewards, knowing that we will give an account to Him. As elders here we will give an account for every soul. This is why you should not make it difficult for us but rather help us to do it with joy and not with groaning because that will be of no advantage to you (Heb. 13:17).
So as God’s stewards, elders-overseers must be:
- Not arrogant – stubborn, self-willed, so as to get one’s way. Unwilling to listen to others or take criticism.
- Not quick-tempered – impatience with people and therefore anger and wrath is a great temptation to us all but particularly to pastors who deal with slow and obstinate people, who though by now ought to be teachers are still on the basics.
- Not drunkards – not necessarily teetotalers but the moderate ones so that they do not control over themselves.
- Not violent – pastors should avoid forceful disposition, rather it is by example (1Peter 5:3)
- Not greedy for gain – seeking dishonest gain and love of money will always land one into trouble because those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is root of all kinds evils (1Tim. 6:9-10)
- Hospitable – willing to welcome into his home brethren and visitors, entertaining and accommodating.
- Lover of good – he has to be a person who generously supports good causes for the good of the church in particular and the society in general for the glory of God.
- Self-controlled – sober, reasonable and controlled in his judgments or governance of the church.
- Upright – he deals with people honestly in good conscience
- Holy – his standing, attitude and conscience before God is good.
- Disciplined – he is to be self-controlled and honors the Lord in everything so that the Lord is glorified.
- In these words, as John Stott puts, we have five areas of great temptation – pride, temper, drink, power and money. These are the greatest temptations for the elders. It is very easy for pride to come just like anger. But the gracious remedy given by the Spirit to the steward of God is self-control. Self-control is the last of the nine-fold fruit of the Holy Spirit and it shows a Christian who is mature. Christianity maturity is necessary for the pastoral responsibilities. The Holy Spirit, who indwells believers, so that they can be fruitful to the Lord, is the only one who can master earthly passions that wage war against our members.
- Elders must be blameless in their doctrine (v.9)
- The elders have to be those with a firm and strong grip of the truth, which is described as the trustworthy word taught. This is the objective faith taught by the Lord and the Apostles. This trustworthy word is the basic thing that the elders are expected by the Lord to hold firm and keeping on holding. They are to be people who well understand the word of truth for they will need it for two purposes:
- To be able to give instruction in sound doctrine
- It is the responsibility of the elders to feed the flock with the right diet, that is, the word of God, which is able to make people wise for salvation. The eldership is made up of men who are able to teach others so that they may bring them up to maturity of faith so that they can be profitable to the Lord. The teaching ministry is very basic in the continuity and profitability of the church to its Master. The elders should seek to use the word of God to encourage and convince believers to godliness pointing them to Christ. They need to present the whole counsel of God diligently explaining and expounding as heralds sent by God to declare His will and as evangelists to win sinners to faith by proclaiming to them the gospel.
- To be able to rebuke those who contradict the truth
- The second purpose for the elders to hold firm to the trustworthy word is to be able to expose error, uproot it where it had root, to overthrow and destroy it where it had overcome some truth. It is the responsibility of the elders to make sure that the flock is not fed on falsehood and so they have to warn the church of both false teachings and the false teachers as Paul did in 1 Timothy 1:19-20. He exposed Hymaneus who was blasphemously teaching that resurrection is already past (2Tim. 2:17-18). This is protecting the church from being trapped into the snare of false teaching.
- The church without elders (plural) is incomplete or has some unfinished task. The church has to be governed by plurality of elders. The
- The church ought to be very carefully by scrutinizing anyone who aspires to be her pastor. Those in leadership have to investigate the candidate well enough, together with the whole church, to ascertain the qualifications listed down in the specific areas of personal holiness, family and ministry. Once you have chosen someone to the office, it’s very difficult to come back on the matter, without causing undue tension. Therefore, when you start doing the work, you better do it well. There is no place for hiring pastors in boardrooms!
- This qualifications are achievable that is why the Lord has appointed many men throughout history, many of them with such a bad past because He qualifies those He calls. He does not call those who are qualified – he calls men and qualifies them to the task of the ministry. Therefore, there is no one who should be able that far from him to be an elder because he is unqualified. In fact these qualifications are general and ought to be true for all Christians.
- We should pray for such faithful men to be given by the Lord to look after His church. We should also look around for such like them and encourage them to the office of the overseer.
- We are to support the pastors because of the awful responsibility and expectations that the Lord has set for them. There are many times I examine myself and find that I am per below per and so continue to pray that the Lord who called me will in due time fill me in so many areas I am lacking, strengthen me in areas where I am weak and encourage me to continue when I am weary. Please pray for us particularly that we will be godly in character, faithful husbands and fathers, and diligence in the ministry that we will bring honor and glory to the Lord.