Elder's Character Qualifications
Copyright © 1986, Indian Hills Community Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.
Introduction - Paul has been instructing Titus regarding the appointment of godly leaders in the churches in Crete. These leaders are called elders, overseers or pastors. He is now discussing the qualifications of these leaders.
The first qualification (v. 6) had to do with the family of the prospective elder. Assuming that he is married, he has to be devoted to his wife, and where there are older children they must be believers, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
He continues this theme in verse 7 by emphasizing the importance of what he has been saying.
The first part of this verse gives the reason why the overseer must be "above reproach" in the sense that he has just talked about in verse 6. He is "God's steward."
"God's steward" (theou oikonomon) - The word steward means "household manager." The elder is managing God's household. The point here is the same as in 1 Timothy 3:5.
Paul is very fond of the picture of God's servant being a steward or household manager (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1,2; 9:17; Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25).
The church is identified as God's "household" (oiko) in 1 Timothy 3:15. The elders are those men whom God has appointed as the overseers of His household, the local church.
"Not self-willed" (authade) - literally means "pleasing himself." This is a person who is obstinate in his own opinion, arrogant and refusing to listen to others. One writer identified him this way: "He obstinately maintains his own opinion, or asserts his own rights, while he is reckless of the rights, opinions and interests of others" (Trench). p2**
"Not quick-tempered" (orgilon) - This is a person who does not have his anger or passion under control. Rather as believers we are to be "slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:19,20).
"Not addicted to wine" (paroinon) - Refers to drunkenness or overindulgence in wine. The issue of total abstinence would have to be dealt with on the basis of other passages, such as Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10.
"Not pugnacious" (plekten) - This literally means "not a striker," contrasting that with a person who would resort to physical violence under pressure. Some would include verbal abuse here as well, but the word basically denotes a "person who strikes back with his fists when annoyed."
"Not fond of sordid gain" (aischrokerdeis) - There must be no question concerning his financial dealings. He must not have a life that centers on acquiring material things.
There are those teachers who twist and adjust what they say to please their listeners in the hope of getting money from them. This was going on in Crete as well as other places (cf. Titus 1:11; 1 Tim. 6:5; 1 Pet. 5:2).
It is not wrong for spiritual leaders to be paid for their ministry. In fact, this is what God intends (cf. 1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:17). However, their goal in ministry must not be money.
Paul now turns to a series of positive qualities that must characterize the elder.
"Hospitable" (philoxenon) - literally a "lover of strangers." In biblical times this might often mean providing lodging for traveling Christians, since the public accommodations were very unsatisfactory in many ways.
This might involve a willingness to use our homes and our possessions to minister to others. 1 Peter 4:9 gives an important reminder in this regard: "Be hospitable to one another without complaint."
"Loving what is good" (philagathon) - The elder must be devoted to all that is beneficial and worthwhile.
"Sensible" (sophrona) - This indicates a person who uses sound judgment, or one we might call "level-headed." It is used of someone who is in his right mind or is thinking properly (cf. Luke 8:35; Rom. 12:3).
This sensible, sound way of thinking is a key concept in Titus. In fact, Paul uses this word five times to emphasize the importance of this quality in our lives as believers (cf. 1:8; 2:2,5,6,12).
"Just" (dikaion) - His conduct conforms to right standards or meets the approval of God.
"Giving men their due" - Righteousness characterizes his dealings with other men.
"Devout" (hosion) - This word emphasizes personal godliness. "A man who is 'holy' is welcome and at home with God," that is, a man who is pleasing to God or performs his duty toward God.
"Self-controlled" (egkrate) - This is a person who has power over himself. In other words he has himself and his body under control. He is not controlled by fleshly desires, impulses and passions. Paul evidenced this quality in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27. It is identified as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23.
The last qualification that Paul mentions focuses on one of the prime duties or responsibilities of the elder: He is to be a teacher and defender of the Word of God.
"Holding fast the faithful word" - He must have a firm, unshakeable hold on the Word of God as totally reliable and trustworthy. There can be no wavering or deviation here. p4** "In accordance with the teaching" - The reference is probably to the teaching that has been given by Paul and the other apostles.
There are two reasons given for having a firm grasp on the Word of God:
"To exhort in sound doctrine" - The believers under his authority are to be challenged with healthy teaching. He is to be exhorting and encouraging and persuading with teaching that will produce sound, healthy believers. He cannot do this without a firm commitment to the Word of God.
"Refute those who contradict" - There will be those who oppose and speak against the Word of God. The elder must be able to stand against them. He must be willing and able to stand against those who attack the Word of God. This does not mean he will always win them over. But the firm commitment to the Bible as the totally trustworthy Word of God gives him a strong position to refute and convince those who speak against the Bible.
This is a key responsibility of the elder. He must lead and feed. He must be on guard to defend the flock against those who would attack. For this he must be a man who is characterized by godliness.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.
Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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