Qualifications for Elders
In a previous post we looked at God's design for men and women in general, but today we will look at the application of those differences. In the Bible we read that God has designated that the office of an Elder be only held by a man. However, not just any man can hold the office of an Elder, he must have the following characteristics:
An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He may not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil (1 Tim. 3:1-7).Let's look at these characteristics and possible reasons one at a time:
- Above reproach: This is really just a summary of what follows. Not everybody can be an Elder, because not everybody is above reproach.
- The husband of one wife: An Elder cannot have multiple wives, be divorced, or be unfaithful in any way. Since marriage is a picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32) it is crucial that an Elder understand this and demonstrate it in his life.
- Sober-minded: Someone who is logical and not swept along by every wave of doctrine or excitement. An Elder must be able to properly understand the situation they are in and act accordingly.
- Self-controlled: Someone who does not have a list of vices or given to sensuality. If they lack self-control they will eventually fall into temptation.
- Respectable: An Elder must be respectable, otherwise no one will follow their lead.
- Hospitable: An Elder must care about the church, and therefore must be hospitable. If he does not like guests, it will be very difficult for them to help the church grow. The church's doctrine is about people.
- Able to teach: "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9)."
- Not a drunkard: A drunkard is someone who cannot deal with their own demons, how are they to help others with their own?
- Not violent but gentle: The church is not about violence. Jesus demonstrates this clearly by being willing to die, rather then take up the sword. When Jesus was being arrested, He said, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matt. 26:53)"
- Not quarrelsome: Someone who is always arguing will end up causing division. They care more about winning the argument than about the truth. A person who is argumentative is generally not able to reconcile people of differing opinions.
- Not a lover of money: You can't serve God and money. Money is the root of all kinds of evil, and causes people to fall into temptation and wander from the truth.
- He must manage his own household well: The reason for this follows, "if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?"
- He may not be a recent convert: Someone who is a new convert may become puffed up with pride and fall into sin. It is very important that an Elder be tested and found above reproach.
- He must be well thought of by outsiders: It may not be at first obvious why this is a requirement until we think of the numerous stories we have heard of people in the church. It is easy for people to look and act the part when they are around the church, but it is important that they always be the same way even when they don't know people are watching.
The Bible does not outline a list of activities that an Elder must perform, rather it delineates a list of characteristic of a person who will naturally perform the appropriate activities. There are very few people in this world that have these qualities, but that is because there are very few people who should actually be leading a church. Leading a church is very important because it is "a pillar and buttress of truth (1 Tim. 3:15)."