Submission and Humility.

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5).

Peter now turns his attention from the shepherds to the sheep. Good leaders need good followers. While it is certainly true that elders must not hurt the church, it is equally true that the church must not hurt its elders and pastors. Those who are led are responsible to be in subjection to not only God, but also to men of God.

The word “likewise” (ὁμοίως; homoios) means in a similar way. Peter directs this thought to those who are younger (νέος; neos) than the elders the apostle has been addressing in his previous remarks. What are these younger believers in Christ to do with respect to the elders and pastors of their congregation?

The younger ones are to be subject to the elders. Peter returns to the issue of submission (ὑποτάσσω; hypotasso) which we previously studied in I Peter 2 & 3. Younger people in the congregation are to follow the Lord’s command of obeying and being under the biblical authority of elders and pastors.

One pastor writes, “The elders are the pastors, the spiritual leaders of the church (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The church members, especially the young people, are to give honor, deference, and respect to spiritual leadership. Submission is a fundamental attitude of spiritual maturity (I Corinthians 16:15; I Thessalonians 5:12-14; Titus 3:1-2; Hebrews 13:7, 17).”

Younger people are to submit to pastors as they follow an additional command to clothe themselves (ἐγκομβόομαι; enkombosasthe) or to show and demonstrate in a personal and obedient way the attitude and behavior of true humility. The meaning of “to clothe’ comes from the idea of tying around oneself the apron of a slave. Humility (ταπεινοφροσύνη; tapeinophrosyne) means to have a non-arrogant attitude about oneself and toward other people. In this context, to have an arrogant attitude towards a pastor, or anyone else for that matter, violates a command of God.

Humility means to possess an attitude that you are not too good to serve. This attitude is not only to be displayed towards the elders, but Peter goes on to say that humility should characterize our relationship with one another, or fellow believers. Notice that this command is for “all” believers. Not just a few, but everyone who claims Christ as their Savior and Lord is responsible to display humility.

The apostle then quotes from Proverbs 3:34, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” God opposes (ἀντιτάσσω; antitasso) or is hostile toward the arrogant. However, God continually gives grace (χάριςl charis) to the humble, lowly and downhearted. Peter’s quote from the Old Testament indicates his understanding that it was, and is, the Word of God.

Submission and humility were not considered virtues in the ancient world. Neither are they today. However, the Scriptures clearly indicate that these attitudes are pleasing to the Lord (John 13:3-17; Philippians 2:1-4; Proverbs 6:16-17; 8:13; Isaiah 57:15).

Many times it is uncomfortable to be submissive and humble to those in leadership and to fellow believers. We don’t want to allow ourselves to become vulnerable and expose ourselves to hurt or pain: emotional or physical. Yet this is what God commands His church to do. Let us not give into fear.

I encourage you today to trust in the Lord that He will honor your obedience to His will and His word.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Chief Shepherd.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (I Peter 5:1-4).

What are the responsibilities of those who serve as elders? To begin with, God calls upon elders and pastors to shepherd the flock of God that is among them. Secondly, elders and pastors are to exercise oversight on behalf of the congregations they shepherd. Thirdly, elders and pastors are to serve in the local church with a willing spirit. Fourthly, elders and pastors are not to serve in the local church for the purpose of sinful, financial gain, but rather having an eager spirit to serve the Lord and other people. Fifthly, elders and pastors are not to dominate the congregation of the local church.

Ultimately, elders and pastors are serving one far superior than themselves. Peter identifies this person as the Chief Shepherd. The noun Chief Shepherd (ἀρχιποίμην; achipoimen) is the head shepherd who directs the activities of the other shepherds. This is a figurative reference solely to Jesus Christ.

The Bible describes Jesus as a Shepherd in a variety of contexts. He is “the True Shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:11–16), “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14), and “the Great Shepherd” (Hebrews 13:20). When Jesus Christ returns, His faithful under-shepherds will share in His glory (1 Peter 5:1) and receive unfading crowns (I Peter 1:4).

Because Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd, those who serve as His under-shepherds, that is elders and pastors, are given a particular promise that will be fulfilled when Jesus returns: elders and pastors will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Unfading (ἀμαράντινος; amarantinos) means to never lose its brightness or its wonderful character. It refers to a flower called the amaranth which was thought to be unfading. Crown (στέφανος; stephanos) literally means a wreath or garland which was given in the ancient Olympic Games as a prize or reward for an outstanding performance. Glory (δόξα; doxa) means honorable and respected. God promises to give faithful elders and pastors a reward for faithful and outstanding service with an honorable award which will never lose it bright character.

The responsibility of a church’s elders and pastors not only involves our time here on earth, but also in eternity. May elders and pastors, and the congregations they shepherd, be found faithful to God’s commands.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Not Domineering, but an Example.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:1-3).

What are the responsibilities of those who serve as elders? To begin with, God calls upon elders and pastors to shepherd the flock of God that is among them. Secondly, elders and pastors are to exercise oversight on behalf of the congregations they shepherd. Thirdly, elders and pastors are to serve in the local church with a willing spirit. Peter refers to this particular attitude with the phrase “not under compulsion but willingly.” Fourthly, elders and pastors are not to serve in the local church for the purpose of sinful, financial gain, but rather having an eager spirit to serve the Lord and other people.

Fifthly, elders and pastors are not to dominate the people in the local church. To dominate (κατακυριεύω; katakyrieuo) means to overpower people by ruling and reigning continuously over them. In other words, the elders and pastors of a local church must not seek to control the congregation, collectively and individually, by exercising their authority over people’s lives. Let me give you two examples.

The first example is a pastor who believes people should dress a certain way: his way. Therefore, he subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, begins to tell people what they are wearing is appropriate or inappropriate. He may even suggest having a closet full of clothes at the church ready to be used for anyone which the pastor or elders may deem inappropriately dressed while attending a worship service. Ultimately, modesty is not the issue, control is.

The second example is the pastor who approaches an individual in his congregation and tells them God has told him that they are to give a certain amount of money to the church to assist the church’s finances. There was a young man once who was injured on the job. He went to court in order to reach a financial settlement with the company he worked for who had refused to pay him workers compensation. The plaintiff won the case and received a fair settlement. This was good for his family since their finances had taken a hit with him unable to work. The pastor saw it as an opportunity for this individual to give the settlement check to the church in order to pay off some significant church debt. There was no question in the pastor’s mind that this was what the man must do if he was to be in God’s will.

You might think these two examples are products of my imagination. Not so! Both examples, while occurring several years ago, are both true and illustrate the prohibition given by the Apostle Peter.

Rather than dominating, pastors and elders are to be examples to the church. Being an example (τύπος; typos) is displaying a model or pattern of behavior which should be followed or imitated.

One pastor writes, “The word translated lording it over (katakyrieuontes) includes the idea of domineering as in the rule of a strong person over one who is weak (cf. Matt. 20:25; Mark 10:42; Acts 19:16). Ezekiel indicted false shepherds: “You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:4–5). Peter exhorted the elders to be examples (typoi, “types or patterns”), to serve as models for the people to follow. They were not to drive God’s people, but to lead them by their examples of mature Christian character.”

No group of elders or pastors are perfect. They make mistakes and should be forgiven when they do. However, Peter describes a pattern of behavior which should not characterize elders and pastors along with what should.

There are not many good reasons to leave a church, but if elders and pastors are dominating and driving the congregation like cattle, instead of being a godly example, then it may be time to consider removing oneself from such a toxic situation.

May God give pastors and elders discernment to lead the church in a godly fashion. May God give church members discernment to biblically evaluate the godly, or ungodly, pattern of leadership displayed by elders and pastors.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Serving Eagerly.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;” (I Peter 5:1-2).

What are the responsibilities of those who serve as elders? To begin with, God calls upon elders and pastors to shepherd the flock of God that is among them. Secondly, elders and pastors are to exercise oversight on behalf of the congregations they shepherd. Thirdly, elders and pastors are to serve in the local church with a willing spirit. Peter refers to this particular attitude with the phrase “not under compulsion but willingly.”

Fourthly, elders and pastors are not to serve in the local church for the purpose of sin, but rather having an eager spirit to serve the Lord and other people. Peter uses the phrase shameful gain (αἰσχροκερδῶς; aischrokerdos) meaning material gain or profit. False teachers are always motivated by money. They seek to rob people of their own wealth in order to add more to their own.

It is the church’s biblical responsibility to pay their pastors well (I Corinthians 9:7-14; I Timothy 5:17-18), but a pastor’s desire for more must never be a motive for service (I Timothy 3:3; 6:9-11; 2 Timothy 2:4; Titus 1:7; 2 Peter 2:3). John Calvin stated that the minister belongs to Christ, and is not to be “a slave to his own stomach and purse.”

In contrast to the pastor serving because of greed, he should serve eagerly. To serve eagerly (προθύμως; prothymos) means that one’s first concern is not about pay, but rather about ministry. If asked to serve in a memorial service, no one should ask how much it pays. If you receive an honorarium, wonderful. But don’t serve because of the honorarium. Instead, serve because you have the opportunity to glorify God.

How lasting the damage done when a pastor or elder steals from the church’s finances. Trust is broken and the Lord’s reputation tarnished. This should never happen.

Pray that God will protect your pastor from greed. Pray that your church will pay your pastor an excellent wage so he will not be tempted to seek financial gain elsewhere or be preoccupied by it.

Soli deo Gloria!

A Willing Spirit.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;” (I Peter 5:1-2).

What are the responsibilities of those who serve as elders? To begin with, God calls upon elders to shepherd the flock of God that is among them. Secondly, elders are to exercise oversight on behalf of the congregations they shepherd.

Thirdly, elders are to serve in the local church with a willing spirit. Peter refers to this particular attitude with the phrase “not under compulsion but willingly.”

Not under compulsion (μή, ἀναγκαστῶς; ma anankastos) means not from a sense of obligation. Elders and pastors should not serve in a local church because they are forced to or someone has imposed the responsibility to lead the church upon them. Rather, they should serve willingly (ἑκουσίως; hekousios) or because they want to serve and have a desire to serve.

I have known pastors and elders that possessed the qualifications to serve, and the opportunities to serve, but who lacked the desire to serve. They didn’t want to serve. Serving the Lord should be from a joyful heart rather than from a reluctant heart no matter the service.

Perhaps Peter was warning elders and pastors about laziness. One pastor I heard preach warned his fellow pastors against four temptations: sex, self, silver and sloth, or laziness. A pastor’s calling (I Corinthians 9:16) is a divine one. Likewise, the task at hand is an urgent one (Romans 1:15). Pastors and elders must not be indifferent.

Another concern would be for elders and pastors to do only what is expected of them, never showing initiative or sacrifice. They do their thing, no more, no less. There is no devotion for their work.

Ask your pastor(s), elders and other church leaders if they enjoy serving the Lord. If they do, ask them for what reasons? If they don’t, then begin praying for them that they will soon reclaim the willing and joyful spirit of serving. May we also have this joy!

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Exercising Oversight.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;” (I Peter 5:1-2).

What are the responsibilities of those who serve as elders? To begin with, God calls upon elders to shepherd the flock of God that is among them. To shepherd (ποιμαίνω; poimaino) is God’s command to qualified men to actively and with a whole heart guide and take care of the local church.

A shepherd had two primary responsibilities toward the sheep: to guide and lead the sheep along with feeding the sheep. The shepherd was to make sure the sheep were well fed and that they were protected from danger. This correlates to the elders role in the local church: to guide the congregation by God’s truth and to feed the congregation God’s truth.

Secondly, elders are to exercise oversight on behalf of the congregations they shepherd. To exercise oversight (ἐπισκοπέω; episkopeo) is the verb form of the word “overseer” which is the synonym for elder found in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

To exercise oversight means to minister or serve, to be responsible for, to take care of and to guard the church. These are the particular responsibilities undergirding God’s command for elders to shepherd God’s flock. Within the grammatical context, elders are to exercise oversight in a continuous and active way.

Elders are to take this responsibility of leading a church seriously. The church does not exist for a pastor’s, or a board of elders, own personal amusement or area of influence. Being an elder is not about one’s ego.

Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesian church elders comes to mind from Acts 20:17-32. Much like the Apostle Peter, the apostle shared similar encouraging but somber words regarding the responsibilities of elders.

17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:  “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Again, we must remember that the flock or church does not belong to the elder(s), bishop or pastor but rather she belongs to God. Therefore, elders must be faithful to their task (I Corinthians 4:1-2) before God.

As did the church during its inception, the church today lives in an increasingly evil time (2 Timothy 3:1). Both the church and its elders must remain true to God’s Word.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Shepherding the Flock.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;” (I Peter 5:1-2).

Thus, far we have sought to make a biblical case for the existence and importance of elders within the local church. The New Testament in general, and I Peter 5:1 in particular, places great importance on this office. It is synonymous with the title bishop, or pastor, but it also includes those who serve as lay elders in the church. All those who serve in this capacity must embody the qualities found in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

However, what are the responsibilities of those who serve as elders? As of yet, we have not addressed that subject. Well, Peter does in I Peter 5:2 and it is to that text that we now give our attention.

To begin with, elders are called upon to shepherd the flock of God that is among them. To shepherd (ποιμαίνω; poimaino) is God’s command to qualified men to actively and with a whole heart guide and take care of the local church.

A shepherd had two primary responsibilities toward the sheep: to guide and lead the sheep along with feeding the sheep. The shepherd was to make sure the sheep were well fed and that they were protected from danger.

Why was this such a necessary task for the shepherd to guide and feed the sheep? Because, and let me be blunt, sheep tend to be dumb. It is part of their nature. They go where they should not go, and they eat things they should not eat. Therefore, it is the shepherd’s responsibility to protect the sheep from any and all predators and to make sure the sheep are well nourished.

What a wonderful metaphor for elders within the local church. God commands elders to protect the congregation from spiritual dangers, such as false teaching, and to feed them the Word of God (I Peter 2:2). This is important because like sheep, church members tend to make foolish decisions which can cause spiritual damage.

Peter tells elders to shepherd the flock of God. The word flock (ποίμνιον; poimnion) is a figurative expression harmonizing with the elders role as spiritual shepherds. Notice that the flock or congregation belongs to God. Peter uses the possessive form to explain that the local church does not belong to the pastor, elders or a spiritual shepherd. Rather, the church belongs to God.

Elders belong to the congregation they are responsible to shepherd. They are to be among the people. They hurt when the congregation hurts. They rejoice when those within the congregation rejoice. They lead the congregation in the truth of God’s Word.

An elder’s responsibility is a noble task. It is an important task. It is a selective task in that only those who God has called into this ministry are privileged to serve as elders. Remember, the behavior of elders in times of crisis could encourage or discourage the flock. That is why Peter seeks to encourage the elders who are leading the flock. The leaders, once known by their enemies, would be the first targets of search, capture, torture and execution by the opponents of the church and the gospel.

Therefore, elders must take seriously their responsibility to lead God’s church. The church must also take seriously its responsibility to pray and encourage its elders. May elders and the congregations they lead both be found faithful.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Exhortations to Elders, Part 4.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:” (I Peter 5:1).

We have thus far seen that the word elder comes from the Greek word πρεσβύτερος; presbyteros. Our English word Presbyterian comes from this Greek noun. The word’s root meaning is an old, or an older man. Elder also means a person of responsibility and authority in matters of religious concerns. This was not only the case among the Jewish nation, but also the New Testament Church, which consisted of both Jews and Gentiles.

I Peter 5:1 begins with the statement, “So I exhort the elders among you…” The Apostle Peter wants to exhort (παρακαλέω; parakaleo) or continuously and actively appeal to and encourage the elders who were among the people to whom he was writing.

Peter identified himself as a fellow elder (συμπρεσβύτερος; sympresbyteros). It is obvious I’m sure to most people that if you want to encourage or motivate someone, it helps when you and they can relate to similar issues and problems. Peter could understand the pressures and challenges facing these church leaders. Peter was a church leader himself, Many would say that along with the Apostle Paul, he was “the” church leader.

Along with being a fellow-elder, Peter indicated that he was a witness (μάρτυς; martys) or one who testified to the truth of the painful sufferings (πάθημα; pathema) Jesus Christ experienced while on earth. Peter could motivate these elders because of his authority in having been an eyewitness of the person and work of Christ.

Peter also motivated the elders because of the anticipation of the glorious return of Christ. Peter referenced this glory of Christ in I Peter 4:13. See also Matthew 17:1-8 and 2 Peter 1:16. Realizing that church leaders will one day receive rewards for faithful service, Peter is saying that this should stimulate a leader to want to serve with a fervent heart.

You may, or may not, serve as an elder within your local church. If you do, let me exhort you to continue in your faithful service. If you are not an elder, then take the time today to personally encourage those who serve in that capacity in your church. Let them know their labor is not in vain in the Lord. At the same time, resolve within your own heart to serve God with a holy fervency. Your work for God matters.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Exhortations to Elders, Part 3.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:” (I Peter 5:1).

What are the biblical qualifications for a man holding the office of elder? Two particular passages referring to an elder’s qualifications are I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. We have already looked at I Timothy 3. Let’s now examine Titus 1:5-9.

“5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 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. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

 First of all, we notice that where the Apostle Paul exclusively used the word “overseer” in I Timothy 3, he adds the word “elder” in Titus 1. We therefore conclude that these two words are interchangeable and refer to the same office. What are the requirements of church elders in Titus 1? While there many similarities to I Timothy 3, there are some notable additions. The list is as follows.

  • Above reproach. Without accusation or blameless.
  • The husband of one wife. A one-woman man.
  • His children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.
  • For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. A responsible manager of the church.
  • He must not be arrogant. Not self-willed and stubborn.
  • Not quick-tempered. Inclined to anger.
  • Not a drunkard. One who habitually drinks too much.
  • Not violent. Not a bully.
  • Not greedy for gain. Greedy for material gain.
  • Willing to perform humble duties.
  • A lover of good.
  • Self-controlled. Sensible and moderate.
  • A righteous man.
  • Devout and dedicated to God.
  • Exercising self-control.
  • He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

The prerequisites needed to be an elder found in Titus 1 do not detract, even with those qualities unique to the text, from the previous list given in I Timothy 3. Both lists point to a person and a position within the church that is limited by design to a select few. The Apostle Paul is not calling for a perfect man, but rather a consistent and godly man in word, faith and practice.

Pray for the elders and pastors in your church today. Their task is important, but their consistent, godly character is even more important. Pray that God would protect them as they serve.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Exhortations to Elders, Part 2.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:” (I Peter 5:1).

We have thus far seen that the word elder comes from the Greek word πρεσβύτερος; presbyteros. Our English word Presbyterian comes from this Greek noun. The word’s root meaning is an old, or an older man. Elder also means a person of responsibility and authority in matters of religious concerns. This was not only the case among the Jewish nation, but also the New Testament Church, which consisted of both Jews and Gentiles.

I Peter 5:1 begins with the statement, “So I exhort the elders among you…” The Apostle Peter wanted to exhort (παρακαλέω; parakaleo) or continuously and actively appeal to and encourage the elders who were among the people to whom he was writing. Remember, these were difficult days for these Christians. Times were tough, persecution was rampant and death was near.

It is likely people had died for their faith. The church perhaps had become discouraged and most likely the elders or church leaders also. Therefore, Peter is wanting to encourage these leaders so they in turn would encourage the church.

What are the biblical qualifications for a man holding the office of elder? Two particular passages referring to an elder’s qualifications are I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Let’s begin by looking  at I Timothy 3.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

 The Apostle Paul uses the word “overseer” in referring to the office of elder. Overseer is from the Greek word ἐπίσκοπος; episkopos. We derive the English word Episcopalian from this. It literally means “guardian.” This word identifies men who are qualified and responsible to lead and protect the church (I Timothy 5:17; I Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:7). In the New Testament the words “bishop.” “elder,” “overseer,” and “pastor” are used interchangeably to describe the same men.

What are their qualifications for elders according to I Timothy 3? Let’s briefly look at each one.

  • Above reproach. Above criticism.
  • The husband of one wife. A one woman man.
  • Sober-minded. Possessing a sober and restrained manner. A person who is self-controlled and disciplined.
  • Self-controlled. Thoughtful, prudent and sensible in his behavior and decisions.
  • Modest and well-ordered.
  • A person willing to perform humble duties.
  • Able to teach. Skilled at teaching God’s Word.
  • Not a drunkard. Not a person who habitually drinks too much.
  • Not violent but gentle. Not a bully but rather gracious and forbearing.
  • Not quarrelsome. Lacking a spirit which pursues conflict.
  • Not a lover of money. Not greedy.
  • He must manage his own household well. Guiding and leading well in his home.
  • With all dignity keeping his children submissive, (for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?).
  • He must not be a recent convert, (or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil).
  • Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

Aside from being skilled at teaching, the preceding qualifications focus more on the character of the man rather than his job performance. What does Titus 1:5-9 say about elder qualifications and how does it compare with I Timothy 3? We’ll find out when next we meet.

Even a superficial examination of an elder’s qualifications should be sufficient for anyone to see that not everyone is qualified to be a church elder. Therefore, take time to seriously pray for those who presently serve as elders in your church and those who are asked to serve. Ask God to help these leaders consistently embody the qualifications found in Scripture regarding the office of elder.

Soli deo Gloria!