This morning’s post is a re-post of an article from earlier this year, with some additional information from other posts included at the end of this post.
The New Testament provides a clear picture of the kinds of men who are to lead the church as elders. Both Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 give numerous qualifications for these men, as the following chart summarizes (download the PDF):
There is close overlap in topics between the two lists, though not many repeated words. Even “above reproach” is denoted by two different terms. Interestingly, Paul seems to use opposite concepts to convey one idea. For example, in Titus he speaks of one who is “not quick-tempered,” in Timothy, one who is “peaceable.” In Titus, “not fond of sordid gain,” in Timothy, “free from the love of money.” In Titus, “not quick-tempered;” in Timothy, “temperate.” In Titus, he also has an extended section concerning the ability to teach (v. 9), which he mentions in just one phrase in Timothy (v. 2). Both passages have an extended discussion about the elder’s family, though offering different reasons and placing them in very different places in the order.
Regarding the differences in these lists, Gene Getz notes,
Viewed in this larger context where biblical authors spoke to various issues in different churches, it shouldn’t surprise us that Paul addressed unique circumstances when he wrote to Timothy in Ephesus and to Titus in Crete. Though many of the challenges were the same, there were also special problems these men would have to face, and he prescribed certain requirements accordingly.
For example, in Crete, some men had already emerged and were “ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain” (Titus 1:11). In fact, these false teachers were so blatant in their sinful actions that Paul classified them as “detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (1:16). It is no wonder that Paul told Titus to look for spiritual leaders who were “not overbearing” (arrogant and self-willed) and “not quick-tempered,” but men who loved “what is good,” who were “upright, holy and disciplined” (1:7–8). And perhaps the requirement most relevant to the situation in Crete was that Paul told Titus to appoint shepherds who would “hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that” in turn they could “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (1:9).
It’s easy to see why Paul outlined these specific requirements in his letter to Titus but also addressed some other issues that Timothy faced in selecting and appointing spiritual leaders in Ephesus.… [Elders and Leaders (Kindle Locations 2213-2224).]
Because of the differences in the two lists, it is likely that Paul did not intend these lists to be exhaustive or comprehensive, but representative of the kinds of issues that relate to a man’s ability to lead the church. It is possible to consider other spiritual characteristics in examining a man’s fitness to serve as an elder (though the church should not consider any less than Paul’s lists of qualities).
- Some of my favorite resources on the topic of elders and leadership in the church include books by Mark Dever and Alexander Strauch.
- The elder is not supposed to be “addicted to wine.” What else does the Bible have to say about the believer and his consumption of alcohol?
- What about false teachers? How can we identify them? Paul provides some insight in how to deal with “tricksters” (Eph. 4:14).
- How can you help your elders? Pray for them? What should you pray for them? Ligon Duncan provides a list of 17 items to pray for your pastors and elders.