Qualifications for Elders – Titus 1:5-9 – 12/17/2015
This bible study is part of a series on the book of Titus, in order to see the full series please check out our “epistle” page or alternatively please check out our page dedicated to the book of Titus for other studies in this book.
Titus 1:5 (ESV) This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Titus begins the reason for his letter after the earlier salutation (see previous blog article) and outlines the reasons for initially writing and sets out what the mission for Titus should be. It is both a mission and a challenge because Titus would have to be very discerning in who he chose and he would require wisdom to ensure that the correct type of people were installed to help these churches to be strong. Let’s start in verse 5.
V5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—
We learn from this verse that Paul had served with Titus in Crete which is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Titus had been left there in charge of the church movement on the island to a group of people that would be what we would call in the modern church as a church plant. There were many people attending but also many new believers. Crete was a difficult place to be in because the inhabitants of the island did not have a good reputation and it was a difficult place because the attributes listed were not externally what you would associate with the reputation that the island had. It was also great because the ones who met these qualifications would certainly be living as “salt and light” in that place.
I know how this is as when I write this article I acknowledge that even though I live in a town that has a good reputation, the area in town I live in is not the best so I truly have to be “salt and light” to my neighbors and attempt to win them over with love first and then as they question what makes me different then win them over with the gospel. Titus had been left in Crete for the following reasons:
• Put what remained in order
• Appoint elders in every town
• Follow directions
We have no clarification that Titus was being left in Crete so he is there for this purpose and is there to establish the churches there on a solid foundation and appoint those who would equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Like any new ministry, the church in Crete needed structure, order and the right leaders in place to ensure solid doctrine was being preached and that the newer believers were being mentored up in the faith of Christ Jesus. This is why the term “put what remained in order” which tells us that there was something that was not quite in order, it may have been something small but it may have required major intervention, we are not told this and such talk is just speculation. However the main point is that he should appoint elders in every city.
Paul sets out quite clearly the criteria for Eldership, so much so that many churches use these verses and verses in 1st Timothy chapter 3 to
1st Timothy 3:1 (ESV) The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
The reason I use this scripture too is that in the Ephesian church model the church was more established and Timothy was asked to appoint deacons and elders but only elders are mentioned here in Titus. He had quite a job as the cities in Crete were large in number and he would have to do quite a bit of appointing. We see here that Paul wanted all of the cities to have their own leadership and this shows an immense amount of trust being placed on the shoulders of Titus, it gave him a tremendous amount of authority to be Paul’s man in Crete. Paul lists criteria for leadership that suggests that Titus had a job of ratification as well as selection.
V6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
You will notice that Paul didn’t say to Titus “find me the tallest, the good looking, the ones who have a smooth personality, the winners, the popular, the ones you like or have an instant rapport with” he gives a criteria that is much better. Also he didn’t say “pick the willing, the volunteer, the one who isn’t really equipped but he is keen, the one who tithes the most, the one who compliments” he picks more about the character of the man.
I have grouped the criteria together because there is a lot to go through so I made a list but the overriding criteria that Paul is looking for is Godly character. That should be the entry level requirements for a candidate to get through the door, I notice that we don’t see education or a seminary background and whilst it is good to do these things, that does not always automatically qualify you for leadership.
Lastly and before the list is given, it doesn’t state that the man has to have it all together, I have seen some of the greatest elder appointments were to guys that were 80% there in doing the job already but they knew the criteria that they wanted to meet and they strived at that with all of their heart, not for personal gain but to increase in their service to their Lord.
Paul gave a list as follows:
• Above reproach – Basically above gossip, not exactly Teflon (Non-stick) but the congregation cannot be left wondering “why is he up there?” that there should be nothing that can be attacked either by the church or externally from outside the church. Basically one that is obvious in living a righteous life, he is an example to those he is serving.
• The husband of one wife – It doesn’t say that a leader had to be married, but what it does say is that if the leader is married then he must be married to one wife. The idea is that the leader has the attention and sights set on one woman in the church only. Would you want your elders being flirtatious and causing the ladies of the church to stumble?
• Children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination – The heart behind this instruction is the same as the one in 1st Timothy is that the man should be in control of his household and the ability to lead his own children should demonstrate his ability to lead God’s church.
• Not be arrogant or quick-tempered – Arrogance, self-will and quick temper should be checks in the qualifications for leadership, these and the next few would certainly not make the candidate “above reproach” can you imagine the scene if an elder is brawling or arguing with members of the congregation on a regular basis?
• Drunkard – which means the same as “not given to wine” and that is a just qualification as a man who is in leadership will be called to deal with all manners of people, some may have had issues with alcohol and may justify sin by measure that “well my elder does it” I think that personal sacrifice is a far better example as to not stumble a weaker believer rather than a brutish exercise in ‘personal liberty”. Am I saying don’t have a beer? No, I am saying don’t be drunk with wine.
• Violent – You have to be an example to all believers, unless you wish to breed a generation of violent brawlers then avoid this quality in your leadership. I am not referring to those who defend themselves but Paul is stating don’t pick people who are the cause of the fighting and are violent by nature and have not submitted that to the Lord. This goes for those who throw fists as well as those the throw words.
• Greedy for gain – Do not pick those who were just like Judas! One eye on the prize of their pocket as opposed to doing the will and work of the Lord, I have issues in the past with elders who wanted to conduct business whilst doing the Lords work and it left a bad taste in the mouth and caused me to avoid that brother for a while.
• Hospitable – Probably the most overlooked criteria for an elder but in my view it should be the first thing that is looked at. Is that ministry candidate willing to open up their home, willing to be scrutinized? Willing to feed the poor? Clothe the needy? Not because he wants to look all holy but because he has a heart to do the work of the Lord in the city he has been planted. Will he invite people into his home and open the word of God and mentor folks? If not then why would you trust him to in the church?
• A lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined – Men who tell the crude jokes, have the dirty minds, love the debase things, do you want them in charge at your church? What about the jokesters? The ones who you are not sure could be serious when occasion calls? I am not saying that if a man ever told a joke then he should be struck off but if a man cannot be sober minded and mature enough to read a situation well then he may not be ready for leadership. The words just, holy and self-controlled refer to his attitude towards other men, God and himself. Matthew Henry is quoted as saying “How unfit are those to govern a church who cannot govern themselves!”
• Holding firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it – And lastly he must know his doctrine! If he does not know his doctrine and is sure of it then how will he give instruction, exhort and convict those who either come to him or contradict him. Leaders need to have a solid foundation in the Word of God, which is why Paul commissions Timothy to not pick a novice.
God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to