Friday, August 11, 2006

Qualifications for Elders

Below is a good article on Qualifications for Elders. I wanted to post it here as many congregations, including mine, will soon be nominating their Elders. This article points out a fundamental understanding the laymen ought to have when choosing elders:

In this regard, there is an important principle that we need to keep in mind. Acts 20:28 clearly teaches that it is really God who makes or appoints and qualifies men for ministry by maturing them, by gifting them, and by giving them a burden for such a ministry...

Since God is the one who appoints men to the ministry of elders (and this would apply to deacons also), what exactly is the responsibility of the church? What is it that the church does in the selection process?

It is the responsibility of the church to recognize the emergence of those men whom the Holy Spirit has prepared and appointed by the qualities of their lives from the standpoint of (a) their character, (b) their giftedness, and (c) their burden and concern for the body of Christ.

Thus, while the local flock is asked to participate in the selection process, its job is not so much to elect or select such men as it is to confirm the Spirit's work and thus His appointment and gift of certain men to serve either as elders or deacons. How? By recognizing God's work in their lives through growth in Christ-like qualities. These qualifications then simply demonstrate God's work and His appointment (cf. Acts 16:1-3).

Many people wrongly approach this solemn occassion thinking they are simply voting on the best candidate (in their minds) according to their own preferences - like this country's Presidential election. They make their choice based on feelings, shared opinions, and other such subjective standards. This is wrong. This denies God and makes void his Word. This elevates ones own ethic higher than that of Christ's! Likewise, to deny a qualified man according to Scripture is rebellious iniquity resulting in the open mocking of God's law. It is not up to us (the congregation) to "choose" overseers but up to God the Spirit. We confirm, agree, and submit to God's provision of a man placed in our midst according to Scripture. God is leading us. Christ is head of the Church. If God should approve a man (thus providing one), we agree and follow. Regardless of sub-biblical qualifications that are all too often raised above God's Word.

If one were to think, "I don't think person x will be a good elder because he never attends the church picnics and reads the NIV and he doesn't agree with me about what color the church carpet should be." This is shamefully wrong. This one should be made to repent of their dishonoring The Living God. Further, the elders need to teach the man pure doctrine and rebuke him (Titus 1:9) for his foolishness.

The only thing in view for us electing officers in the church is what does the Bible say? Does the Bible qualify him? Yes? Then he is qualified! Someone whimpers, "But, but, person x has never gone on a mission’s trip..." I say repent brother, for you have just made void the word of God for the sake of your tradition" (Matt. 15:6). If elders should hold to such a position, Christ has this to say, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!" (Mark 7:9)

(Excerpted: here is the full article)

Qualifications for Elders

In General

As a summary statement for all that follows in the qualifications, Paul says an elder is to be a man who is above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:7). His lifestyle is such that no one can legitimately accuse him of conduct which is unbefitting a mature believer. However, this does not mean he is perfect or without room for improvement. Why? Because none of us are perfect (Phil. 3:10-14; Ps. 143:2). Generally speaking, an elder is to be a model of Christian maturity and the qualities of these passages are marks of maturity which normally characterize the qualified man. Note that these qualities may also be seen from the standpoint of a man’s fundamental relationships—to God, His Word, self, family, others including the outside world, and things.

As to God and His Word

(1) Not a new convert (1Tim. 3:6). Not a neophyte, novice, one newly converted. Does he truly know the Lord and has he shown definite progress in spiritual maturity?

(2) Devout (Tit. 1:8). Does he demonstrate a definite commitment to know, love, and walk with God?

(3) Holding fast to the faithful word . . . able to exhort . . . and refute . . . (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:9). Is he a student of the Bible? Is he stable in the faith, sound in doctrine and practice? Does he know the Word well enough to teach it to others? Is he able to use the Word of God to exhort people with sound doctrine and to refute those who are antagonistic to the faith or the truth of Scripture?

As to Himself

(1) If a man aspires to the office of overseer (1 Tim. 3:1). Based on biblical criteria and motives, does he have a strong desire to serve the Lord and the body of Christ as an overseer of the flock, or does he feel constrained by necessity (cf. 1 Pet. 5:2, “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily according to the will of God)?

(2) Temperate (1 Tim. 3:2). In the everyday situations of life does he tend to react according to biblical principles so that he remains under God's control? Is he Spirit-controlled and disciplined rather than self-indulgent?

(3) Prudent (1 Tim. 3:2). Is he prudent or biblically minded to the extent that he walks wisely according to the wisdom of Scripture?

(4) Not quick tempered (Tit. 1:7). Does he have a short fuse? Is he emotionally stable and in control of his feelings?

As to His Family

(1) Husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6). Literally, a one-woman man. He is a man totally devoted and faithful to his own wife so that he is not distracted by other women? (See the Addendum on this controversial clause.)

(2) One who manages his own household well (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Tit. 1:6). Does his wife love, respect, and follow his leadership, and are his children believers, under control, respectful of authority, and responding positively to God?

As to Others

(1) Hospitable (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8). Literally, "a lover of strangers." As he is able, does he share his home with others in order to minister to their needs?

(2)Able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2). Is he able to communicate the Word of God to others? Is he able to handle those who disagree with him in a patient and gentle manner? Have others recognized in him the ability to teach and communicate the Word at least in small group settings?

(3) Not self-willed (Tit. 1:7). A self-willed man is a self-centered man who demands his own way because he cares only for himself. As a servant, an elder must seek to please God and care for others. Is he able to set aside his own preferences in order to promote unity and care for the needs of others?

(4) Loving what is good (Tit. 1:8). Literally, "a lover of goodness." He is a man who is devoted to that which is good or beneficial either in things, deeds, or people (Ps. 15). Does he take advantage of opportunities to do good to all men (both Christians and non-Christians) in order to build them up rather than tear them down?

(5) Not pugnacious or a striker, i.e., anger out of control (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7). Does he show a tendency to be either physically or verbally abusive? Has he shown a disposition to use a position of leadership to bully or push people around?

(6) Uncontentious (1 Tim. 3:3). He is not a quarrelsome person who struggles against others for self-seeking reasons such as jealousy or selfish ambition. He may strongly disagree, but he will state his case without being contentious.

(7) Gentle (1 Tim. 3:3). This word in the original Greek text refers to strength under control, like a powerful, but gentle horse. Does he handle others in a gentle, patient, and gracious way? Is he yielding, showing a mellow gentleness, or is he heavy-handed, insisting on the letter of the law?

(8) Just (Tit. 1:8). In his relationships with others, is he able to make just decisions, those that are wise, fair, impartial, objective, and honest according to the principles of Scripture?

(9) Respectable, orderly, balanced (1 Tim. 3:2). Is he respected by others because his life adorns the Word of God? The basic idea of this word is orderly. It describes a man whose behavior is good and blended harmoniously in a balanced manner.

(10) Having a good reputation with those on the outside (1 Tim. 1:7). Does he have a good reputation among unbelievers because he has a life-style of unquestioned integrity.

As to Things

(1) Free from the love of money (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7). Does he have his priorities straight? Is he seeking his significance, security, and primary satisfaction from material wealth? Is he involved in dishonest business practices? Is the amount of salary he receives the most important thing about his occupation? Is he seeking the office of elder for personal gain?

(2) Not addicted to wine (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7). Is he free from any form of substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, etc.) or any kind of addiction which might take control of his life, cause belligerent and irresponsible behavior, and cause weaker Christians to stumble (Rom. 14:13-21)?

Qualifications for Deacons

In General

Tested . . . beyond reproach (1 Tim. 3:10). Before a man is asked to serve as a deacon, he is to be observed over a period of time to see if he is qualified for that ministry. If he is found to be beyond reproach (if there are no violations in the qualities needed to serve), he may then be chosen to serve as a deacon. This is a warning against hastily choosing men for ministry for whatever reason (the pressure of needs, to fill a quota, etc.). Time is needed so his qualifications can become clearly apparent.

This principle also applies to the selection of elders (see 1 Tim. 5:22). Because of context, some think 1 Timothy 5:22 deals with church discipline, but the only record we have of the laying on of hands in the New Testament and in early church history (before the third century) is associated with the selection and ordination of men for ministry (cf. Acts 6:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). Because of this, it is better to take this passage as a warning against hasty selection and ordination of elders.

As to God and His Word

Holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Tim. 3:8). "The mystery of the faith" refers to the body of Christian doctrine to which we hold (believe and live by) through faith. "With a clear conscience" means he seeks to honestly live by the truths of Scripture. He keeps short accounts with God.

As to Self

(1) Men of dignity (1 Tim. 3:8). He is one who takes his life and work seriously as a part of his devotion to the Lord. He has a vision for his life's purpose.

(2) Not double tongued (1 Tim. 3:8). He is not a hypocrite who says one thing to one person and something contradictory to another. He speaks the truth, is honest. He does not destroy his credibility by words that are contradictory.

As to Things

(1) Not addicted to much wine (1 Tim. 3:8). (See above under elder qualifications.)

(2) Not fond of sordid gain (1 Tim. 3:8). As with an elder, he must not use the office for personal gain, or be controlled by the desire for material wealth. Wrong motives kill a man's ability to serve the Lord and love others. He cannot serve God and mammon or self-seeking goals.

As to Family

(1) A husband of one wife (Literally, a one-woman man) (1 Tim. 3:12). See Addendum. (See above under elder qualifications.)

(2) Good managers of their children and their own households (1 Tim. 3:12). (See above under elder qualifications.)

There is one word which truly summarizes these qualifications. It’s the word SERVANT. A deacon, as with an elder, is to be a servant of God and a servant of men (Mark 10:43-45).

1 Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, p. 20.
2 Ibid. p. 180.
3 Ibid, p. 98.
4 Ed Glascock, “The Husband of One Wife Requirement in 1 Timothy 3:2,” Bibliotheca Sacra, July-September 1983, p. 249.
5 Robert Saucy, “The Husband of One Wife,” Bibliotheca Sacra, July, 1974, p. 230.


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