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Choosing a Pastor

Church Leadership in the New Testament, Part 3

Qualifications of an Elder, I Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9

When a church or congregation seeks a pastor, what criteria are used to determine their choice? Frequently, the following is a sampling: a good speaker, enthusiastic, friendly, leadership qualities, formal education, ability to instill programs for church growth, etc. What about the choosing of an elder? Frequently, the one sought is a successful businessman, perhaps the president of a local bank. He may be just someone we like or even just someone who is willing to assume the position.

What is right or wrong about the above criteria when compared to God’s word? The good part is that God uses people with or without many of these qualities. God does not require us to work with something we do not have. He requires faithfulness with what he has given us (I Cor. 4:2). It is encouraging to know that, in God’s sight, even the “members of the body which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (I Cor. 12:22).

 The negative side of this reasoning is twofold: One is that the biblical qualifications of the pastor are the same as that of the elder because they are the same person with the same responsibili­ties. The second reason is that, for the most part, the above requirements are not on the list that God gives to us. God sees things differently than the world and, sadly enough, this includes many believers (Isa. 55:8; Prov. 14:12; Gal. 1:10). If Jesus had been bound to the above criteria when He chose His disciples, He would have picked someone else.

Qualifications of the Elder

A Synopsis  I Tim. 3:1-7

1. Blameless

2. Husband of one wife

3. Vigilant

4. Sober

5. Of good behavior

6. Given to hospitality

7. Apt to teach

8. Not given to wine

9. No striker

10. Not greedy of filthy lu­cre

11. Patient

12. Not a brawler

13. Not covetous

14. Rule well his own house, children in subjection  with all gravity

15. Not a novice

16. Have a good report of them which are without

Titus 1:5-9

1. Blameless; with fam­ily

2. The husband of one wife

3. Having faithful chi­ldren not accused of riot or un­ruly

4. Blameless; as steward of God

5. Not self-willed

6. Not soon angry

7. Not given to wine

8. No striker

9. Not given to filthy lu­cre

10. Lover of hospitality

11. Lover of good men

12. Sober

13. Just

14. Holy

15. Temperate

16. Holding fast the faith­ful word… to exhort, con­vince the gainsayers

Scripture Explained, I Timothy 3:1-7

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

This is a true saying, (Lit. “a faithful saying”) If a man desire the office of bishop, (“office of bishop” is from one word, lit. “overseership) he desireth a good work. It is not wrong to desire the position but a man’s motives and qualifications must be proper before he is appointed.

This verse also seems to limit the office to a man. Some “Christian” religions ordain women as Elders/Pastors and there is a growing movement in this direction. Logic is presented to justify this action but limiting the office to a man has nothing to do with a supposed superiority of either a man or a woman. God has chosen a man to preside, both in the home and in the church, regardless of their respective talents. Both men and women are required to be faithful (I Cor. 4:2; Gal. 3:28).

 Though it is true that the overseership is limited to a man, this is not the verse to use to prove it. The phrases “If a man...” and “he desireth” are both gender-generic. Literally, it is “If someone desireth” and “he desireth” could be masculine, feminine, or neuter, depending on the context.

 No doubt, the translators rendered it masculine because the context and the grammar of the context both demand it. The word “elder,” used interchangeably with bishop in Titus, literally means “an older man.” It would be an impressive feat for a woman to achieve that goal or to fulfill the requirement of v2. by being “the husband of one wife.” (also a requirement of a Deacon, v 12) The pronouns used throughout could be either masculine or neuter, neuter obviously being ruled out by the context. Chapter two, verses 11 and 12 present an introduction to the passage considered and would be contradictory if the overseership of the church included women. God, in His wisdom and sovereignty has provided other valuable roles for women.

 Verse 2. A bishop then must be blameless, Literally, unaccus­able, unrebukeable, a different word than is used in Titus, but with similar meaning. This does not mean that he is without sin. It means that he is now and should have over time shown a pattern of life; a reputa­tion, that would not give legitimate cause for blame or rebuke.

It is a likelihood that Paul is first stating a general principle, then following up with specifics of how this may be recognized. In other words, he may be saying, “A bishop must be blameless” then gives details how we may determine that he shows this pattern. This may be similar to the basic requirement given for the first deacons in Acts 6:3; “ of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom....” “Honest report” means “given testimony to” or as we would say, “A good testimony.”

 As we begin to study these qualifications it is important to recognize that Paul is emphasizing not something that we just see today in the man. We are looking for character traits that have become a way of life in him over a period of time. As in Acts 6, the choosing of deacons was limited to “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” A good reputation is not earned in a day. The elder qualifications also require a pattern of life over a period of time.

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