“…but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:8 (ESV)
Today’s text contains six more qualifications for church elders or bishops. Let’s examine each characteristic. Where Titus 1:7 listed negatives to avoid, today’s text lists character traits to pursue and possess.
An elder is to be hospitable. Hospitality (φιλόξενος; philoxenos) means to care for strangers (1Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1Peter 4:9).
“Hospitality meant housing, feeding and treating graciously travelers needing a place to stay. Christian travelers, like Jewish ones, normally carried letters of recommendation attesting that they could be trusted,” explains one commentator.
“All Christians are to practice hospitality (Heb. 13:2). But elders are to be so engaged in this practice that it characterizes them (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8). In so many words, Paul told Timothy and Titus that elders not only need to go and seek God’s sheep; they also need to bring them into the fold of the shepherd’s home,” states Dr. R. C. Sproul.
An elder is also to be a lover of good. This phrase is one word in the Greek (φιλάγαθος; philagathos). It means to be a right minded lover of moral goodness.
Additionally, a church leader is to be self-controlled (σώφρων; sophron). This refers to moderate, prudent and sensible behavior. It is synonymous with being sober-minded and discreet (Titus 2:2, 5).
To be upright (δίκαιος; dikaios) means to be righteous and just. It refers to being in obedience with God’s compelling standards (Matt.1:19).
To be holy (ὅσιος; hosios) means to be a dedicated servant ((1Tim. 2:8; Tit 1:8; Heb. 7:26; Rev 15:4). Holiness refers to moral blamelessness (I Thess. 2:10).
Finally, an elder is to be disciplined (ἐγκρατής; enkrates). This is another word for self-control. This is in contrast to the vices mentioned in Titus 1:7 and 1 Tim. 4:7–8).
“I know, many people’s eyes glaze over with disinterest when the subject of church government comes up. But how churches are to organize and govern themselves is a major theme throughout the New Testament. Church government is an important topic in virtually all the Protestant confessions, and in most of our major systems of theology. Whether the subject piques our interest or not, the biblical writers thought it very important and devoted much time and attention to direct those who would come after them as to how to organize and govern their congregations. Remember, all those who trust in Jesus Christ by faith are part of his spiritual body, and are to be members of a local church. For its part, Christ’s church must ensure that the souls of God’s people are fed and cared for, are protected from heresy, as well as from those who confess faith in Christ but who still behave like pagans. When churches ignore these weighty and numerous biblical texts, God’s people may remain Christ’s, but it is they who are treated by their own shepherds as though they were pagans—duped non-persons who do the leader’s bidding, and open their wallets, and give countless hours at great sacrifice to accomplish the leader’s personal vision,” explains Pastor Kim Riddlebarger.
It is obvious that not everyone can serve the Lord as a church elder or bishop. It requires unique individuals who God has gifted. It is a hard task to be an elder, but a noble one.
Pray for the elders of your local church. Pray for their families and their ministries. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!