Exposition of Titus 1:5-9
It does appear that there is one general qualification that is expounded in the verses 6-9. Any man (NOT WOMAN) 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.
1) Elders must be blameless in their character (vv.7-8)
The title, overseer or ‘bishop’ in verse 7 replaces ‘an elder’ in verse 6 to show that it is a reference to the same office (read Acts 20:17-35 to see that they are used interchangeably in reference to the same office). 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. Therefore, we have to 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 (church) 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)
v Hospitable – willing to welcome into his home brethren and visitors, entertaining and accommodating.
v 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.
v Self-controlled – sober, reasonable and controlled in his judgments or governance of the church.
v Upright – he deals with people honestly in good conscience
v Holy – his standing, attitude and conscience before God is good.
v 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.
2) 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 literally ‘a one woman man.’ If he is married it has to be in 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. There has been so many ‘church scandals’ such as child molesting, sexual immorality, corruption etc. in the Roman Catholic and Anglican priests and bishops and now there are even gay bishops, even among Presbyterians! Obviously these leaders are not qualified in serving in the church of Christ!
These leaders’ 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. They are NOT to provoke their children to anger, but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)
The children must be obedient, faithful, pious and not be in open to rebellion and debauchery or unruly or wicked like Eli’s sons. “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)
3) 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 as well as the prophets both in the Old and the New Testaments. 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:
a) 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 only able to make people wise for salvation (2Tim 3:15). 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. In fact the authority of pastors in preaching is only in faithfully teaching and applying the Word of God in the lives of those in the church. They need to present the whole counsel of God diligently explaining and expounding as heralds sent by God, with God’s authority, to declare His will and as evangelists to win sinners to faith by proclaiming to them the gospel.
b) 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.
v 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!
v 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 say that “Far from me to be an elder because I am unqualified”. In fact these qualifications are general and ought to be true for all Christians.
v 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.
v We are to support the pastors (by prayer, encouragement and financially) 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. That God may 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 honour and glory to the Lord.
v Last question for you: Have you ever called your pastor to say how helpful he has been to you and that you are praying for him?