Grace Bible Church Adult School of Biblical Theology
The Qualification of Godly Elders
in the Local Church
Dennis Gundersen, Pastor 3/19/00
cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Informing the local church at Ephesus how "one ought to conduct himself in the house of God" (cf. 3:15), Paul enumerated that
are given leadership roles and told to initiate public prayer in the local church.
are called to adorn themselves modestly with good works, in quiet submission, pursuing their calling to raise children. cf. 2:9-15. In chapter three, having already mentioned who shouldn't lead, the aged Apostle identifies who should lead, i.e., godly qualified Elders (vss. 1-7) and Deacons (vss. 8-14). This lesson gives focus to the Elders. Compare with Titus 1:5-9.
Paul says, "It is a trustworthy statement" (cf. 1:15; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8) which the early church used as a motto, mini creed or trustworthy proverb. "If any man
means to stretch oneself so as to aspire or grasp) to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he
suggests a passionate compulsion) to do." To aspire to it, a man who serves for the sheer joy of loving the sheep, who delights to lead them into paths of righteousness. It must be a compelling drive to serve in that work! But obviously desire isn't enough, as
An Elder Must be Blameless,
i.e., above reproach (NASV, NIV). Does that mean without sin? No. The Bible assumes that each of us have sin, remaining sin, struggles with sin. The difference in our leaders must be, there cannot be the kind of sin that stands out in his life. Everyone can forgive a man who has flaws and foibles here and there; but if a man is known to be unfaithful there will be harm to the church. And because the term
) is placed first, as is often the case with lists in Greek, it stands as a heading over the other qualifications. These qualifications can be divided into: moral character, family management, spiritual maturity and social reputation.
Elders Must Be Blameless in Moral Character
An Elder Must be the Husband of One Wife,
which at the very least would mean no more than one at a time. Paul's words here are literally, "a one-woman man." The man who would lead the church must show that he is strong in the area of marital faithfulness. He is not prone to a wandering eye for women. If other women can attract him so that he betrays his covenant to his wife, you can be almost certain that in some hour of trial for the church, he will forsake her interests for his own lusts, for finance, for fame, or even for lower tastes. Such a man cannot possibly be fit for spiritual leadership.
An Elder Must be
i.e., a term for being "sober" (Greek,
) or a man who knows when to be serious, alert and watchful. He can have a sense of humor, but he doesn't exercise it out of place; he is serious about matters when one ought to be. It is one thing for a man to be very happy, to be known for a capacity to have fun; but no one who is known to be an uncontrolled clown can be qualified to lead the church. He is not temperate, sober.
An Elder Must be Prudent
i.e., a man of good judgment. The NKJV translates
"sober-minded." He shows that he has a discerning eye, because he has self-control. Do you know that no one has any more good judgment than he has self-control? Because one's own self-control has a permeating affect upon us, throughout all our doings and deeds.
An Elder Must be Respectable,
i.e., worthy of honor in the sight of all. This is the opposite of one who is reproachable or blameworthy. The word used speaks of a well-ordered life, i.e., a person who, in each of the many departments of life, shows himself a man of balance, of sound thinking, worthy of imitation. People will seek him for counsel because his life is in order. And with good reason, for good order in life is only possible for a man who has managed his life by seeking to implement what the Word of God teaches in all of life.
An Elder Must be Hospitable
i.e., meaning "stranger-loving," used for persons who do not merely show sacrificial kindness for those they know, but for strangers.
Pastors should be men who are notorious for welcoming people into their homes, which suggests the same for their wives.
An Elder Must be Able to Teach
i.e., skilled in teaching. As he is called upon to shepherd the flock with the Word of God (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 4:12-16; 5:17), how can he do that if he either does not know it, or is not a good communicator of it? This refers not only to public teaching, but to one who is capable of personal discipleship, who excels in making the doctrines of the Word of God clear to the rest of the sheep, along with protecting the flock from errant teachings. cf. Titus 1:9 with 1 Tim. 1:5-18.
An Elder Must
Not be Addicted to Wine
He may drink alcoholic beverages but it is necessary that their consumption be under his control and that it not control him! We all need to be wise enough to see what it is to use something and what it is when one is addicted. Compare Isa. 28:7; 1 Tim. 5:23.
An Elder Must Not be Pugnacious
i.e., as the KJV says "Not a striker," or one prone to get in brawls and battles. This trait is attached too often to those who are addicted to wine. And this isn't just with fists. Some men, under the influence of wine or without it, are very argumentative and prone to start a fight of some kind, a war of words or worse when they are opposed. An elder cannot be like this. Compare with 2 Tim. 2:24-25.
An Elder Must be Gentle,
i.e., considerate, forbearing and gracious. Paul follows with immediately. False teachers may rant and rave, showing the ugly fruits of their teaching, but Elders adorn the message of truth beautifully with a calm demeanor.
An Elder Must Not be Contentious,
i.e., not sharp, stern or blunt. Elders must be peacemakers, who resort to every possible step before becoming sharp and stern, having the self-control to refrain from severity and bluntness until it is simply the only option, in dealing with an obstinate man.
An Elder Must be Free From the Love of Money,
i.e., a man who longs for or covets wealth. The Elder must be a man detached from the pursuit of loving money, motivated by the advance of the Kingdom. Compare with 1 Pet. 5:2 and contrast with 2 Pet. 2:1-3; Jude 16; 1 Tim. 6:3-10.
Elders Must Be Blameless in Family Management
An Elder Must Keep His Children Under Control with All Dignity,
i.e., his children must not be rebellious or live in contempt of his wishes in the home. The term "dignity" (Greek,
) means truly respectable, in real ways, not a fake way. You look at how this man's children respond to him and you just have to respect his work with them. An Elder's children are "under control" because they are kept under control. One has to exert effort to keep children under control, because being rebel sinners by birth, they are prone to revolt, resist control, to turn to sin and not to righteousness.
Elders Must Be Blameless in Spiritual
An Elder Must Not be a New Convert,
i.e., not recently saved or immature in the faith. Priests during OT times began service no earlier than 30 years old, demanding some maturity and during NT times the same demands for spiritual maturity apply. Why? The Apostle lists one of the reasons: "lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil." Obviously, an immature man's arrogance can cause him to fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. What condemnation was that? Pride. He wanted to ascend to a yet higher position. He was with God but wanted to be God. A man who is not a new convert is far less likely to fall into this, because he's had some time to observe in the church how other leaders use the authority the Lord has given, not for ruling or tearing down, but for building up the sheep.
Elders Must Be Blameless in Social Reputation
An Elder Must Have a Good Reputation,
i.e., he must be highly respected among unbelievers in the community. Why? Again, Paul gives a central reason: "so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." Obviously the whole church would suffer a taint in their testimony because a serving Elder lacks a community testimony for integrity. The devil is the accuser of believers and would easily have a foothold to stir up accusations.
Conclusion and Application
The ordered church of the living God will have godly men serving as qualified Elders, blameless in their moral character, in their family management, in their spiritual maturity and in their social reputation. Encouragement and motivation of the flock flows from lives worthy to be followed, for Elders publicly mentor by example what all believers should be.
Discuss with your discipleship partner, an Elder, or a Deacon how we can nurture qualified men for leadership at GBC so that those sacred responsibilities would be sought after with passion.
According to 1 Timothy 3:1, if a man doesn't really have a strong longing to serve as an Elder, should he be considered anyway? What about a man who is otherwise qualified and gifted but doesn't really have a strong leading toward ministry in that capacity?
Integrate into your weekly schedule, praying for the Elders and Deacons at GBC at least for 30 minutes. Get to know leaders at the church so that you can pray in a more informed way about specific needs.
Teachers for the GBC Adult School of Biblical Theology research various commentaries and sources to glean a precise understanding of the text. No one claims originality and we all welcome constructive criticism to help better understand the Scripture. Our quest is to "search to see if these things are so."
Each of these traits are what
to be characteristic of every Christian, but for an elder they
refers to an absolute necessity) by characteristics in his life. We all should be; but elders must be. The rest of us may be growing in these areas; elders should be seen as men who have achieved maturity in these areas.