OceanSide church of Christ

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The Qualifications of Elders (1)

Victor M. Eskew




A.   Elders are men within the local congregation who oversee the work (Acts 20:28) and shepherd the flock (I Pet. 5:1-3).


B.   Not just any man can be an elder.  The Lord has given qualifications for this position in the church.

1.     I Timothy 3:1-7


This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach, not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the house of God?)  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.


2.    Titus 1:5-9a


For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:  if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.  For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught…


C.   When the two lists are combined, there are 33 qualifications listed.  However, seven qualifications are common to both lists.  Therefore, there is a total of 26 qualifica-tions. 

1.     Some divide the list into two broad categories:

a.    Positives (16)

b.    Negatives (10)

2.    We have divided the qualifications into seven (7) categories:

a.    An Elder’s Desire

b.    An Elder’s Family

c.    An Elder’s Spirituality

d.    An Elder’s Temperament

e.    An Elder’s Behavior

f.    An Elder’s Relationship with Others

g.    An Elder’s Relationship with Money


D.   We originally scheduled only one lesson on the Qualifications of Elders.  This topic, however, is very important in the selection of elders.  Therefore, we are going to devote four lessons to the subject. 

E.   Today, we are going to cover the first two categories:

1.     An Elder’s Desire

2.    An Elder’s Family




A.   This qualification is set forth in I Timothy 3:1.


This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.


B.   OBJECTION:  Some do not believe this is one of the qualifications.

1.     Yet, a desire to serve is foundational.

2.    If there is no desire, one will not serve to the utmost of his capacity.


C.   Two times Paul uses the word “desire” in this verse.  The two words are different in the Greek language.

1.      If a man “desire” the office…

a.    Definition (3713):

1)     To stretch one’s self

2)    To reach after

b.    This desire is outward, expressed in a man’s preparation for the office.

2.    He desireth a good work.

a.    Definition (1937)

1)     To set the heart upon

2)    To long for

b.    This is the desire and longing of the mind for the position.

3.     The two words “describe the man who outwardly pursues the ministry be-cause of a driving compulsion on the inside” (MacArthur NT, “I Timothy,” MacArthur, 96).l


D.   Some see desire as a negative.

1.     They will criticize, saying:  “He seems to want to be an elder too much.”

2.    We should not look negatively on desire.  We should ask, however:  “What is it the man is really desiring?”

a.    Does he want the position or the work?  Does he want the office or the service?

b.    One has said:  “Ambition for office corrupts, desire for service purifies.”

c.    Jesus spoke to His apostles about this (Mark 10:42-44).


But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.  But so shall it not be among you:  but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:  and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.


E.   The Lord’s church must be led by men of passion, passion that springs from an earnest desire to be an elder.




A.   The family is a microcosm of the church.

1.     It is a small unit over which the man is the head (Eph. 5:23).

2.    It is the “training ground” for his leadership abilities within the church (I Tim. 3:6).


(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the house of God?)


B.   There are four qualifications within this section.

1.     The husband of one wife (I Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6)

a.    This verse is definitely talking about one’s marital status, regardless of what John MacArthur says in his commentary on I Timothy (p. 104).

b.    An elder must be a man in order to be a husband.

c.    He must be the husband of “one” wife.

1)     The root of the word “one” comes from the numeral one.

2)    Thayer:  only one

d.    This excludes several men from the office of elder.

1)     Bachelors (NOTE:  Paul is never referred to the Bible as being an elder.  He could not be an elder.  He was a single man, I Cor. 7:8).

2)    A polygamist

3)     An adulterer, that is, one divorced and unlawfully remarried (Matt. 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3).

e.    Two questions:

1)     What if a man’s wife dies while he is an elder?

2)    What if a widowed man remarries?  Can he serve as an elder?

3)     Answer:  At death, the marriage bond is severed (Rom. 7:2).


For the woman which hath a husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.


a)    If a man’s wife dies, he is no longer married.  Thus, he is not the husband of one wife.  He should step down.  (Question:  Does God see the widower as being the husband of one wife?).

b)    If and when he remarries, he can serve as an elder.  He is still the husband one wife.  The old marriage bond does not exist. 

2.    One that ruleth well his own house (I Tim. 3:5)

a.    Two definitions

1)     Ruleth (4291):  to stand before, to be over, to superintend, to be guardian, protector, care-giver

2)    Well (2573):  rightly, so that there shall be no room for blame, excel-lently, truly, nobly, honorably



b.    Comments

1)     In some homes, a man is present, but he is not the one ruling, the wife is.  This man is not qualified to be an elder.

2)    Ruling well means more than just having control of his children.  “House” involves everything connected with the home.

a)    His children may obey, but he is not a good provider.

b)    His children may be faithful, but he is not a good steward of his finances.

3.     Having his children in subjection with all gravity (I Tim. 3:4)

a.    Two definitions:

1)     Subjection (5292):  submission, obedience

2)    Gravity (4587):  reverence, respect, dignity, majesty

b.    If a man’s children will not obey him, he cannot serve as an elder.

c.    This does not mean occasional acts of disobedience by his children.  It is a persistent pattern of rebellion to the father’s commands.

d.    We need men in the eldership like Abraham (Gen. 18:19) and Joshua (Josh. 24:15).

4.    Having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly (Tit. 1:6)

a.    Definitions

1)     Faithful (4103):  trustworthy, believing, faithful  (Other passages using the word in this way indicate those who are Christians, I Tim. 6:2; II Tim. 2:2).


And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.


2)    Riot (810):  profligacy, excess, an abandoned, dissolute life

3)     Unruly (506):  insubordinate, disobedient, that cannot be subject to control

b.    Comments:

1)     Believing children can become riotous and unruly.

2)    Again, we are talking about patterns of behavior, not isolated instances of disobedience.

c.    Questions:

1)     What if an elder has grown children who are riotous and unruly?

a)    Most believe that this would not disqualify the man.  They are no longer part of “his house.”  One does not have control over another’s house. 

b)    If a man’s conscience convicts him on this point, he should not take the position, or, resign if this happens to him.

2)    Does one child meet the qualification of “having faithful children”?

a)    Common sense would say:  “Yes.”  If we said:  “All those having children, please come to the front,” we would not tell those having only one child not to be present.

b)    Genesis 21:7


And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck?  For I have born him a son in his old age.

3)     If a man has five children and three are Christians and two are not, can he be an elder?

a)    Simply ask the question:  “Does he have believing children?”  Yes.

b)    Again, a man may, for conscience sake, wait until all of his children are faithful Christians.


C.   Let us not get too bogged down in all the details and forget the overall purpose of these qualifications.

1.     His home is the proving ground for his being an elder.  What he does at home will be reflected in his role as an elder, good or bad.

2.    I Timothy 3:5


(For is a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?”




A.   These are the most controversial of all the qualifications.


B.   They are, however, some of the most important qualifications.  They truly reflect his leadership abilities.


C.   The first two kings of Israel could be studied in light of both desire to lead and the importance of ruling one’s house.

1.     Saul didn’t seem to desire the position as king.  The people wanted him to be their king for all the wrong reasons.  His rein ended poorly.

2.    David did not rule his family well.  His position as king was constantly disturbed by his own sons.