Believing as we do in the trustworthiness, inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures, it is vital that we walk in obedience to them in all ways. The Scriptures are neither ambiguous nor silent on matters that pertain to both personal and corporate life. That means that the bible gives to us sound, clear and applicable truth that we must put into practice in both our homes and our church. If our homes are to be homes that honor and glorify the Lord, and subsequently are used to make the gospel of Christ known, then they must be homes that are built upon a solid biblical foundation. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loves the church and wives must respect and submit to their husbands as the church submits and respects Christ. Children must be taught the gospel and instructed in the teachings of God’s grace. They must be disciplined in love for the purpose of correction and leading to Jesus. Father’s are to be the Spiritual leaders in the home and to not provoke their children to anger. As our homes reflect these, and other biblical teachings we will have homes that glorify and honor Christ.
Likewise the church, which is the corporate gathering of Christians, must be structured and organized in a biblical way in order to fulfill the mission that was left to it. The church is to be the center of disciple making and disciple multiplication. That is that the church creates disciples of Christ Jesus and then sends those disciples out to create more disciples. This multiplication of disciples is done through the planting of churches so that the process grows exponentially.
So what is the biblical structure of the church? Looking first at Titus we begin to see what the biblical structure of the church is. Titus is a young pastor appointed by Paul to “put what remained into order” (vs.5) in Crete. The first step in this process is the appointment of “elders in every town as I directed you” (vs.5).
So the first part of setting things in order is the appointment of a plurality of elders to lead the church in Crete. This is significant because if a church is not biblically led then the ministry of the church suffers greatly. So what is biblical eldership?
What is Biblical Eldership?
Biblical eldership is outlined in Titus 1:6-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Peter 5:1-3, Acts 20:17-37. Elder is another term for pastor, Bishop, overseer or shepherd. Elders are those who are charged with the leadership of the church. Elders are men who are above reproach or blameless. These are not sinless men—sinless men do not exist. The elders who would lead the churches have to be men without any outward character flaw. It is a person who others in the church have no obvious, outward reason to accuse him of sin. He would have internal evidence of his own sinfulness against himself because he knows his inclinations toward evil and sin. His lifestyle should be exemplary. All Christians should strive for these general characteristics, not just elders.
This list, from 1 Timothy, is a description of a person living above reproach which all of us should strive. The normal attendee of a church would not be denied entrance into the church if he or she lacked these character qualities. However, an elder must demonstrate ALL of these qualities to serve in the office of elder. Every believer should strive to live above reproach. This is the highest office in the church and the other pastoral epistle states this as a role exclusively for males (1 Tim. 2:11-15).
“Above reproach” (Titus 1:6, 7; 1 Tim 3:2) This is the overarching, summarizing characteristic. Being above reproach is the first requirement in both 1 Timothy and Titus. The other items on the list explain what above reproach means. If we peruse the two lists, as well as 1 Peter, we find 17 qualities of an elder who is above reproach
II. Seventeen Characteristics of an Elder Above Reproach
1. Husband devoted to one wife (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:2) a one-woman man.
This is a major qualification in light of the marriage picturing Christ and the church (Eph.
5:22 ff.). The pastors in the church lead by example. They exhibit Christ’s love for His church—His bride; by their love, devotedness and exclusive faithfulness to their wife. This does not disqualify a single man from being an elder… Jesus was single and Paul was single but it is the exception. Here is the rule: do not look and do not touch unless she is your wife—then look and touch often!
2. Children in submission (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:4-5) not perfect.
Equally important is the pastor leading his family. 1 Timothy 3:5 explains that if a man
does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church. The first flock for a pastor is his own family as Pastor Dad. If this flock is not in order, the larger flock will suffer. Paul instructs fathers not to provoke [their] children to anger, but [to] bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
3. Faithful Steward (Titus 1:7)
Here the term used is overseer (Greek episkopos). It is not another office, but a functional title of the elder. It is what he does. He is a steward, a manager of God’s resources and Jesus’ flock. He takes responsibility, but not ownership.
4. Humble – Not Arrogant (Titus 1:7)
A pastor must constantly demonstrate the gospel by admitting wrong and assuming
responsibility and restoring relationships. Arrogance is only concerned with oneself.
5. Gentle – Not Quick-tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)
No man will be of any use in the kingdom that is quick-tempered and lashes out at others.
The difference between how Jesus demonstrated anger is that He was angry at the abuse of others and the dishonoring of God. We get angry at how it affects us.
6. Moderate – Not a Drunkard (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)
This is not just overindulgence in alcohol but is idiomatic for any behavior that fuels
7. Peaceful – Not Violent (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)
A pastor is not prone to inflict violence through his words or actions. He is to be a
8. Financial Integrity – Not Greedy for Gain (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3)
A pastor is to be upright in his financial dealings and not accused of pursuing money over
the kingdom of God.
9. Hospitable (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2)
A pastor’s home is to be open for others to enjoy. He must welcome strangers, especially
non-Christians, for evangelism
10. Lover of Good (Titus 1:8)
A pastor genuinely loves what is good. He does not just think he should love it.
11. Self-controlled (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2)
Self-control is a characterization of every area of a pastor’s life. He is disciplined in his
diet, time, mouth, exercise, relationships, sex, and money. He is consistently training in
righteousness to be able to run the race set before him.
12. Upright (Titus 1:8)
He is upright in his relationships and in how he treats others.
13. Holy (Titus 1:8)
Devoted solely to God and set apart for His work.
14. Able to Teach (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim 3:2)
All of the other qualifications are character qualities. This is the only ability-based
requirement. He is to be able to teach sound doctrine, not just be able to communicate in
an excellent manner. His teaching can be to one or two, to twenty, to a hundred or to a
thousand. Most of the churches in Crete were house churches. The elders were to defend
the faith once delivered to the saints against the numerous false teachers that arose.
15. Spiritually Mature (1 Tim 3:6)
Positions of authority without spiritual maturity lead to the trap of pride. When pride grows in a man sin abounds. 1 Timothy 3:6 says, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the
devil. A pastor must first be a convert.”
16. Respectable (1 Tim 3:7)
1 Timothy 3:7 says that an elder must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not
fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. That does not mean that all will like him or even appreciate him. It means that there is no criminal, moral or ethical offense against him.
17. Example to the Flock (1 Peter 5:3)
We need models in our life to emulate. Elders are examples of Biblical expressions such as sexuality, time management, marriage, parenting, worship, relationships and any other way. A pastor should be someone your sons could pattern their life after and the kind of man your daughter should marry.
III. Relational Traits of an Elder
1. Relation to God
A man — masculine leader, not a female
Above reproach — without any character defect
Able to teach — effective Bible communicator
Not a new convert — mature Christian
2. Relation to Family
Husband of one wife — one-woman man, sexually pure
Creates gospel environment – where children can find salvation
Manages family well — provides for, leads, organizes, loves
3. Relation to Self
Temperate — mentally and emotionally stable
Self-controlled — disciplined life of sound decision-making
Not given to drunkenness — without addictions
Not a lover of money — financially content and upright
4. Relation to Others
Respectable — worth following and imitating
Hospitable — welcomes strangers, especially non-Christians for evangelism
Not violent — even-tempered
Gentle — kind, gracious, loving
Not contentious — peaceable, not quarrelsome/divisive
Good reputation with outsiders — respected by non-Christians
IV. What are the responsibilities of the elders?
Care for the church of God:
– pay careful attention to yourselves
– pay careful attention to all the flock
1 Peter 5:1-3
– Shepherd the flock among you
– Exercising oversight
– Being examples