“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.” (Titus 1:6)
I recently received a phone call from a pastor in the eastern United States. He is a leader of a church plant. His congregation is growing in their faith in Christ and in number. He said he needed guidance regarding the need for, and the selection of, elders for this local church. I gave him several suggestions, including the study by that local church of I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
What did the Apostle Paul say to Titus regarding the selection of elders in the church? What qualifications are there for individuals to serve as church elders?
First, elders are to be anyone above reproach? Paul’s use of the pronoun anyone (τὶς; tis)is in the masculine gender. This infers that elders are men. The phrase above reproach (ἀνέγκλητος; anenkletos) means to be morally blameless and beyond any immoral accusation ((1 Cor. 1:8; Col. 1:22; 1 Tim. 3:10; Titus 1:6, 7). This remains a vital requirement for leaders in the church.
Second, an elder is to be the husband of one wife. This literally means a one wife husband. In other words, a one woman man. An elder is to remain faithful to his wife and to his marriage vows and responsibilities (Prov. 5; 6:20-35; Eph. 5:22-33). An elder is to avoid sexual immorality at all costs. This is an explicit reference to only men being elders.
Third, an elder’s children are to be believers. There is no age limit inferred in the text. An elder’s children must confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord whatever their age. They must also live lives which are not open to any accusation of debauchery or insubordination.
Debauchery (ἀσωτία; asotia) refers to recklessness, senseless living and wildness. Insubordination (ἀνυπότακτος; anypotaktos) means to be rebellious and disobedient. Both words describe a child who is self-willed and independent to the point of being uncontrollable.
“The elder must have his own household under control. This involves not only the matter of discipline (1 Tim. 3:4–5), but also positive spiritual influence as well. His children must be believers who are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient,” explains Dr. Duane Liftin.
Years ago, an elder at a church I pastored approached me and informed me that he was resigning from his position. One of his children had broken the law and been arrested. While the incident was a mischievous misdemeanor punishable by community service, my friend believed it disqualified him from being an elder. While other elders of the church dismissed his decision as taking his teenager’s actions too seriously, I accepted his resignation and respected his decision. I encouraged the other church elders to do the same.
Eldership is not to be filled by someone on the basis of their popularity in the congregation and position in the community. Rather, God has given the requirements and they are to be taken seriously. My friend understood this even though other church elders did not.
Take time today to pray for your church elders. You may consider sending them an email informing them of your prayerful support of their position and ministry. I am sure they would be most appreciative.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!