5 The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town. 6 An elder must be blameless: the husband of one wife, with faithful children who are not accused of wildness or rebellion. 7 As an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless: not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a bully, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it. — Titus 1:5-9
Qualifications for Elders in the Church
by Paul Wilkinson
Paul demands that elders be blameless and goes on to express features of three distinct yet connected categories in which they should be “without accusation”: household, personality, and doctrine.
Paul begins by saying that an elder’s marriage must be stable and his children must be obedient and faithful. In other words, an elder must be able to manage his own household by being the spiritual and moral leader. Paul utilizes this theme of household to segue to personality traits by highlighting that an elder manages the house of God.
And for one to manage God’s house and God’s people, one must have a Christlike personality. Paul’s list of attributes reminded me of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. To not be a bully or violent, to not be hot-tempered, and to not be greedy are exactly what Jesus expressed by teaching that we should turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), we should not be angry (Matthew 5:21), and we should not be obsessed with material things (Matthew 6:19ff.). Of course, the positive attributes are there too, for being hospitable is just loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 7:12), etc. Thus, the elder is to be one who is a disciple of the kingdom of God!
Lastly, an elder must be one who understands the Gospel (the message as taught) so that he will be able to teach others about the good news of Jesus and the kingdom of God while also refuting false teaching. As a leader of others, the elder must have sound doctrine in order to teach the truth about God, salvation, and the kingdom.
In sum, Paul demands that elders have right thinking, right action, and right relationships. Or, we could say that Paul calls for a healthy mind, healthy behavior, and healthy relationships. When phrased this way, we come to realize that we should all be striving to fulfill the qualifications of an elder in our personal lives, whether we’re called to that particular local office or not. For, to qualify as an elder is just to be a disciple in God’s kingdom. May we model the person and work of Jesus in our thinking, our behavior, and our relationships for the sake of expanding the kingdom through service and personal evangelism!
- Do you have a kingdom mindset and proper biblical doctrine? Can you articulate your faith well? Can you articulate the attributes of God well? Can you articulate salvation and kingdom well? If not, then begin praying for a zeal to study, and seek out a minister to point you to resources that can help you along.
- Do you have kingdom behavior? Are you lacking in any of the personality traits Paul elevates in our text for today? If not, then remain in steadfast prayer for endurance and go help someone else to acquire the positive attributes of an elder. If so, then pray for conviction from the Spirit, and then join a small group and confess to them your struggles (James 5:16) so they can help you carry your burdens (Galatians 6:2).
- Do you have a kingdom-representing family? Is your marriage, assuming you’re called to marriage, God honoring? If not, then seek the guidance of a minister to help you understand the calling of marriage. Do you disciple your children? If not, then seek the guidance of a minister for how you can become the primary discipler of your children. If you are single, then apply the same criteria to your personal relationships.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.