"ELDERS"



THEIR BIBLICAL QUALIFICATIONS & JOB DESCRIPTION
Copyright © 1993, Tim Arensmeier
Introduction Ordination Qualifications Job Description "Under shepherds" Authority Conclusion


I.     For starters, in dealing with the Elder from I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, taken from the original language, and compared, passage with passage, a "presbyter" or "episkopos" [episcopal] is all of the following:

An Elder - as opposed to being a "younger," however, no specific age may be designated, but from the guidelines there are some implicit factors suggesting a bit older than just freshly out of university.

A Bishop - implying responsibility for the management of a local reflection of the Church.  In this capacity, there are the administration of ordinances in the local church, as well as the discharge of such duties we normally deem unpleasant, like the discipline of unruly members of the flock of God's pasture. - I Thessalonians 5:12,13 and Titus 1:9

A Pastor - as distinct from a preacher (as anyone can preach a sermon, and often may do it quite well), in this facet of the presbyter, we see the sense of one who cares for the souls of the local flock/congregation.  A minister, or one who serves the flock of God. - I Peter 5:4

An Overseer - while similar to Bishop, there is the greater sense of responsibility for actually being aware of the state of the flock, their care and feeding. - Acts 20:28

And (my favorite) an "Under Shepherd of the Lord," Who is the Good Shepherd, or Chief Shepherd. - I Peter 5:1-4

There are a few additional and esoteric references from Acts and the Gospels which when translated fairly, render "minister" as an "under oarsman."  By way of mental picture, this is not reflective of a job with immense prestige.

Taken together, the position and responsibility are filled by the man qualified for them.  In filling that position (office) that individual, qualified for the job, is the person we think of as the pastor.  From Acts 20:28, we gather that the Holy Spirit, makes a man an elder, and it is the local church which has the privilege, responsibility and obligation to acknowledge what the Spirit has done, by recognizing that man as an elder.  That may be variously identified as:

                appointment,
                public acknowledgment,
                affirmation, or the more commonly understood,
                ordination.

Ordination being precisely the recognition of the gifts and capacities, as well as the willingness to serve the local congregation, in whatever capacity the ordination is issued.  Normally, individuals are "ordained" to a specific ministry, which may include, elder, deacon, evangelist, prophet or missionary.

Elders are pastors, bishops, overseers, under shepherds and of the number of men who are qualified and ordained, a local church may choose to remunerate one or more in a partially or totally supported manner, out of the tithes and offerings of the congregation.

The idea that a supported pastor is not biblical is reflective of idealism, and poor scholarship.  I Timothy 5:17 & 18 specifically addresses the support of elders, when the Apostle Paul through the revelation / inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,' and 'The worker deserves his wages.'"  Paul was not at all meaning we give "two bows" on Sunday morning, as much as the manner in which "honor" is normally intended to reflect an economic weight of responsibility.

In the biblical record, and subsequent church history, churches were governed, or overseen by bishops (elders, pastors, overseers, etc.) and deacons.

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II.    The process of a church recognizing / ordaining an elder is essentially simple:

The qualifications are acknowledged to be revealed from God, through the Spirit's inspiration of the Apostle Paul, and are seen in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

In the original, there were two types of lists:

        1.    The general shopping list type, i.e., "On your way home from work, please pick up some bread, milk, butter, ice cream and bananas, or whatever else you want to bring home."

        2.    The other list was an imperative list, and would today be understood in this manner: "We're having company.  I'm making cheese fondue this evening, and in order to do that we must have:  Emmanthaler and Gruyere cheese, cherry brandy, garlic, sauterne, nutmeg, and corn starch. Don't forget the French bread either."  Implicit in this is that without all of the ingredients, you cannot make cheese fondue.

The qualification list contained in I Timothy 3, is of the imperative list type, and would read for our understanding like this:

            The overseer must be:  above reproach
            The overseer must be:  the husband of but one wife
            The overseer must be:  temperate
            The overseer must be:  self-controlled . . .

And it would continue on through the entire list.  In other words, each qualification "must be" present in the life of the individual who is to be ordained as an elder.  Interestingly, Timothy and/or anyone reading Paul's instructions in the first century didn't have any question as to what was intended and directed.  They automatically understood the list to be imperative, and therefore all of the qualifications needed to be present.

The other matter which a mature church congregation needs to ascertain is whether or not the man is interested in being, or functioning as, an elder in the church.  If he is neither, then he should not be ordained, until the Spirit of God has done sufficient work in his life as to lead him to the conclusion that he must so serve for Christ's sake.

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III.    Back to "the list," with brief comments:

    1.  Above reproach - does not imply "sinless perfection" as that is not possible, even with the Holy Spirit of God's assistance.  It means specifically that no one may "lay hands on" as a jailer or sheriff, to apprehend for wrong doing.  There are nonbelievers who live lives that are above reproach.  Their business and private lives are decent and orderly and provide no offense to anyone.

    2.  The husband of but one wife, or the husband of one and only one wife.  Later in the list of qualifications the aspect of how a man governs, manages or leads in his own home is to be an issue of the observing church's evaluation of the individual's leadership style, therefore the "one and only one wife" is preferred for our understanding.  Much may be said about death, remarriage and/or divorce and remarriage, but suffice it to say the elder essentially ought to be a man who has only committed himself in totality to one living woman.  The Adam & Eve illustration needs to be viewed as prototypical.

    3.  Temperate - technically meaning two things:

            a.    total abstinence from all that is harmful, either in and of itself, or to the individual.  LSD rearranges your DNA template.  White Lead will kill you; and

            b.    moderation in everything else.

The man who will not indulge in any alcoholic beverages with a self-righteous vengeance, but who simultaneously drinks 30 cups of coffee a day . . . is not temperate.

    4.  Self-controlled - as opposed to being controlled by his appetites, be they food, drink, sex, power, nicotine, money or any other addictive thing which governs the individual.  Some men have an impeccable level of "self-control" regarding the obvious, but regularly "loose their temper." Disqualified.

    5.  Respectable - or from the King James Version, "well behaved" which essentially reflects upon the man's capacity to "fit in" and put others at ease; as opposed to a man who does quite nicely with high schoolers, but behaves the same way when around the mayor and city councilmen.  Or, the obverse:  a man who behaves quite nicely with dignitaries, but doesn't even try to communicate with the kids in the high school department. - Philippians 2:3,4

    6.  Hospitable - here, the apostle technically uses a term of mild humor, and it should be translated:  Addicted to Hospitality.  In our day, the word "addicted" carries little humor, and therefore we would misunderstand.  It merely means that there are quite normally people around this man.  He apparently lives the kind of lifestyle that is winsome and attracting to others.

    7.  Able to teach - carries more than the capacity to teach.  It indicates that the man is essentially always learning, and doing it in such a way that it is applicable, or transferable.  It further means that people find themselves drawn to this man because they know that they will learn something that they can put into practice themselves.  He helps people to become "doers of the Word, and not hearers only deceiving themselves." - James 1:22

    8.  Not addicted to much wine - Paul is not saying that the elder may not ever drink wine.  He is saying that the "self-controlled" individual may drink a little wine, provided there is not an addiction to it.  In qualification "6" above, the elder is "addicted" to hospitality, but in this one, the elder is not "addicted" to much wine.  By implication, he's not addicted to a little wine either.

    9.  Not violent, but gentle - "pugnacious" is the word used in earlier translations, and means that the elder is not prone to "punching people out."  He is more of a diplomat, or negotiator, rather than a brawler, as it pertains to conflict resolution.  At this point, the "principled man" or one who will die for a principle, any principle, is probably not qualified.  "Principles" in this sense being details which more accurately fit in Paul's list of things that Timothy should not engage in, i.e., discussions about genealogies, etc., which don't matter, and cause arguments. - II Timothy 2:23-26

   10.  Not quarrelsome - we have all met people who may be depended upon to "pick apart" any position and take issue with just about anything, in an apparent attempt to be seen, and/or heard having "last word."  Again, that man doesn't qualify.

   11.  Not a lover of money - in no way indicating that a wealthy man may not be an elder.  "Lover" in this usage denotes an attitude of absolute commitment to pursue and obtain for one's own the object of their desire.  The opposite of this is seen in God the Father, Who so "loved" the world, that He gave His only Son, so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.  God certainly went after the world, wholeheartedly.  We are not to "go after" money, wholeheartedly.  By the same token, the elder as a "self-controlled" individual will not squander money foolishly, but will behave toward it as a good steward, knowing that he will answer to God for his handling and stewardship of the Lord's money.

  12.  He must manage (lead, govern, control) his own family well, and insure that his children are obedient, and properly respect him.  A man will not obtain the respect of his children by demanding it of them.  That is not proper respect.  That's fear.  There is a parenthetical comment here in which Paul asks a rhetorical question, "If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how [in the world] can he take care of God's church?"[!]  The Titus reference here uses a term which when misunderstood may be taken to indicate that the elder's children are believers in and followers of Christ.  That's not fair.  The word means "faithful" or "dependable," not necessarily "believing in Jesus Christ."  We've all seen children who could be depended upon to do what they were either told to do on the spot, or what they knew they were supposed to do.  We've also seen children who when told to do something did precisely the opposite, or we knew that the parent was going to have to repeat themselves until the right pitch of volume and apparent anger had been reached.

   13.  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.  In falling under the "same judgment as the devil" there is an awesome implication of rejection of God, and by God.  This man should have spent some time "in the trenches" doing battle with God, against the Enemy of our souls.

   14.  He must have a good reputation with the "outsiders" so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.  A good reputation is gained primarily by "working for a living" in the world.  Again, there is an implication of age here, of maturity which gains the respect of the non-believing world.  How else might this man lead in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ?  The "falling into the devil's trap" may be seen in the young "pastors" or otherwise unqualified "elders" who somehow feel themselves above the normal strictures, and therefore think that they can stand, and proceed to fall. - I Corinthians 10:12

   15.  Not overbearing - we have all met persons who seem to think that by raising their voices, and clouding the issue with verbiage and intricate "reasoning," they can, and/or do manage to get their way, in spite of the fact that their "opponent" has merely acquiesced, but not truly been led to rethink their own position.  There are some people with whom it's just plain too painful to disagree.

   16.  Not quick tempered - similar to the "self-controlled" man above, but here the tendency to a "short fuse" of the temper is singled out in Paul's letter to Titus.

   17.  Not pursuing dishonest gain - again, similar to not being a lover of money, but here the emphasis is on those monies which have dubious legitimacy.  Bribery is implicit.

   18.  One who loves what is good - a specific direction of the man's life is oriented to those pursuits which everyone may acknowledge as wholesome.

   19.  Upright - a man who knows that his righteousness is in Jesus Christ, as opposed to one who is "self-righteous" and/or pompous about "his" righteousness.  This is very similar to "1.," above, in that the issue is the manner of righteous living.  This man may be "followed" by anyone and no one will be able to charge him with wrong doing.  Or, should his own children, or others in the church, choose to follow his example, they will end up following Christ, as that is what he is doing.

   20.  Holy - One who has such a relationship with God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ that while truly capable of "having fun" and enjoying life, he is usually very conscious of the presence of the Savior in his life through the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  As opposed to what is all too often the norm:  we are so busy that we can go hours, to days, not even thinking of our relationship with Christ.

   21.  Disciplined - while similar to "self-controlled" this carries a bit more baggage.  This speaks to the man who has chosen to be a disciple (one enrolled in the pursuit of learning) of Jesus Christ, in such a way that certain habits may be found in his life.  Not legalistic habits, as much as that he may be depended upon to consistently be "in the Word," consistently "in prayer," consistently "serving the Body of Christ," and consistently "reaching out to the lost" somehow.

   22.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine, and refute those who oppose it.  Sincerity doesn't count here, as much as "right doctrine."  The elder "must be" capable of articulating right doctrine, handling the Word of God rightly (II Timothy 2:15), and interpreting it to himself, and others for their edification and assistance (Ezra 7:10) in being "doers of the Word."  This is not a task for a person without an interest and inclination to be involved in a lifetime study of the Word of God.

Click on Elders - Part II for Job Description and completion.

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