When it came to actually carrying out the instruction of setting things in order Paul then gave Titus the primary task to accomplish this goal – appoint qualified elders in the church. Qualified leadership will do more for bringing order and propriety in the church than anything else, for if the leadership is unqualified then the truth is not being upheld and people will be led astray. In order to drive this point home Paul gives Titus a list (just as he did for young pastor Timothy as well) that defines the character qualities necessary for elders to fulfill their ministry, edifying saints and bringing conviction to those who are living contrary to the gospel.
We read in Titus 1:5-9:
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
The key to this list of qualifications for leadership in the church is the first quality he lists: he must be blameless. All of the rest of the qualifications listed modify this one term. In order to be blameless, the elder must be all of the rest of these things. Notice too, this is reiterated in the text. This is not a wish list. A “bishop” (another word for pastor or elder that means literally “overseer”) must be blameless. He must be blameless.
This does not mean that an elder must be perfect or sinless, for that is impossible this side of glorification. But as man mature in the faith and steeped in knowledge and application of the Word of God, he must be able to live as an example of what it means to follow Christ. Blameless means “above reproach”, literally there is not a handle for someone to grab when making accusations of unfaithfulness or ungodliness.
This coming Sunday, May 8, in our message “Qualities for Elders”, we will examine each of these qualities and see what God demands of those who would lead in His Church. For now, let’s take the time to make sure that we understand just what an “elder” is.
Those who are called in the Bible elders, bishops, or overseers are those men who are called and qualified to serve as loving shepherds in His church. Christ is Lord of the church and He rules with authority through godly elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12; Hebrews 13:7; Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-2).
To be clear, an elder is known in Scripture as a bishop, pastor, or elder. Elders are not deacons and deacons are not elders. The elders and the body itself are aided by deacons, literally “servants” or to be more specific, “table waiters.” The deacons serve the body in whatever ways are needed. Distributing to the poor and needy those resources given through the church, taking care of widows and orphans, and freeing the elders for the works of prayer and preaching. This is not a position of authority or leadership, but a position of humble service to the church. There is no specific or official responsibility listed in the Scriptures for the deacon to carry out but we are told that they are to do whatever tasks the elders assign them to do in aiding them in the ministry of the church (1 Timothy 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-4).
In summary I would like to share a brief Scriptural look at these offices of leadership and service within the church. A church must these offices functioning according to the Scriptures if they are to be in any way sound in their doctrine and church life.
In explaining the purpose, function, and duty of elders we will see that there are rigorous requirements and qualifications for those who would be appointed to lead in the Body of Christ.
Scriptural Terms for the Elders – 1 Peter 5:1-2; Acts 20:17, 28; Ephesians 4:11
1. Episkopas – translated “bishop” in most Bibles, the word means an “overseer, guardian, decision maker, or manager.”
a. 1 Peter 2:25 – Christ is the “overseer” of our souls
b. Philippians 1:1 – the leaders of the church at Philippi are called “bishops”
c. 1 Tim 3:1 – The position of “bishop” is a good one to be desired by qualified men
d. 1 Tim 3:2 – A “bishop” must meet qualifications listed in vs. 2-7
e. Acts 20:28 – told to shepherd the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made them “overseers”
In Romans and Greek usage culturally, the “overseer” (episkopas) was an authority figure representing Caesar in a conquered territory (Pontius Pilate was the Roman episkopas in Jerusalem). The term signified the person’s authority, their accountability to a higher authority above them, and their task of introducing a new order of life to a conquered people.
2. Presbuteros – translated “elders” it means one who is older or mature. It also refers to a “council of elders” (plural).
a. Acts 14:23 – a new church is planted by appointing elders
b. Acts 20:17 – Paul sent for the elders at the church in Ephesus
c. 1 Peter 1:1; 5:1-2 – the churches scattered over Asia had elders
Biblically, the elders (plural) “rule” the church led by the Spirit and guided by the Word of God. (1 Cor 1:10; Eph 4:3; Phil 1:27; Phil 2:2).
3. Poimen – translated “pastor” , the word means shepherd, one who cares for, protects, and leads.
a. Hebrews 13:20-21 – Christ is our shepherd
b. 1 Timothy 5:17 – the labor of shepherding refers to effort, not amount
c. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 – They must be qualified men
d. Titus 1:6-9 – Restatement of qualifications
e. Ephesians 4:11 – they are given by Christ to His Church
The imagery of shepherding is used throughout Scripture to indicate the role of a caretaker. The shepherd is responsible for the health and well being of the flock. He provides both protection from harmful foods, situations, and from predators.
In examining these terms then we see that they do describe one man in one office, that of a pastor-teacher. The term elder refers to who the man is (his identity as mature in the faith), the term overseer refers to what he does (his job as manager), and the term pastor refers to his heart as he does the job (his character as a shepherd)!
Join us this Sunday as we learn the “Qualities for Elders” in the church.
LISTEN to this message here: Qualities for Elders.