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Choosing a Pastor

Church Leadership in the New Testament, Part 6

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

“A bishop then must be... apt to teach;” (didaktikon, ; apt and skilful in teaching, qualified to teach). The elders in the church are all to be apt to teach (Remember that the NT always speaks of a plurality of elders or pastors). This does not meant that one or several could not be the primary teacher or teachers. Ideally, they would have a va­riety of gifts that could be exercised in the various functions of leadership in the church. This concept de­tracts from the common notion of requiring the one pastor to be a “superman,” master of all the gifts.

Titus expands on this theme by presenting some of the responsibilities that require the elder to know God’s word well enough to be “apt to teach.” Titus 1:9 speaks of the elder, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers (contradictors).” Later verses mention those who are “vain talkers and deceiverswhose mouths must be stopped, …Wherefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” One does not “exhort”, “convince the gainsayers,” “stop the mouths of vain talkers and deceivers, etc.” by just telling them to “be quiet.” This task must be accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit, boldly with truth (learned Bible doctrine) and love (Eph. 4:15). This is hardly a task for one who cannot stand firmly upon God’s Word and know why he does.

Let us also remember, although these are requirements that must be met before a bishop is appointed, that most of these criteria are also commands to believers in general. II Tim. 2:24, tells us that “the servant of the Lord must... be... apt to teach...” (same Greek word). This is not just for elders. All of us should be “servants of the Lord” and all of us, in one form or another, should be “apt to teach.”  None of us who are believers are exempt. The methods and circumstances will vary but the command still stands (I Cor. 12:4-6; I Tim 2:12; Titus 2:2, 4).

The context gives us a hint on how we can become “apt to teach.” It makes sense that before you can teach something, you must know it. Verse 15, tells us, “Study (lit. be diligent, speed up) to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” This task is not optional. The widespread disobedience to this command is a major reason that the Church is so anemic in the spiritual battle. Most Christian’s doctrinal stand is as strong as the last entertaining speaker that they heard. If we do not stand for God’s Word, we will fall for anything.

 You might say that you do not have much time for Bible study. It is true that no one else can judge precisely how you can spend your time. God’s word says to be diligent in this endeavor, so He has a reason for it and it can be done. May I suggest that it will cost you something to become proficient in “rightly dividing the word of truth.” It might mean reevaluating our priorities like turning off the TV, or even giving it away. Let us look at our activities with eternal values in view. It may even require something “radical” or “unreasonable” like forsaking something secure and comfortable in our lives and actually trusting God. Luke 12:42-48, relates the tremendous loss experienced by the “servant which knew his lord’s will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will” (v49). Certainly not a declaration of “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).

What about women teaching? Doesn’t I Timothy 2:12 forbid woman from teaching? “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” No, this verse is not saying that a woman cannot teach. It is telling us that she may not teach a man in the manner of usurping authority over the man. “Silence” here does not mean “without a sound.” It means “with a quiet spirit.” This also fits the context.

Titus 2:3,4, exhorts the older women to teach the younger women some important facets of family and Christian life. The following verses which instruct us as believers to teach others are “gender-generic:” II Tim. 2:24; Col. 3:16; Heb. 5:12.

 Both men and women should teach others by our example. II Cor. 3:2, speaks of believers being “epistles... known and read of all men.” Our lives may be the only representative of God’s word that some may see. Surely, a Godly testimony is essential if people are going to listen to us as we present the Good News of Salvation (Matt. 5:16; John 13:35; Titus 3:8).

Heb. 5:11-14, presents a dismal commentary concerning believers who have not grown past infancy and still require “baby-food.” In time, they should have become teachers (v12), but apparently, did not use what God had provided for them (v14) and remained stunted in their growth. I Pet. 2:2 instructs us, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” It is no disgrace to start life as an infant but it is sin and a tragedy to remain one.

The man who qualifies for the office of bishop has not always been “apt to teach.” We shall see later that he must not be a novice (lit. neophyte, newly-planted). By implication, he once was a novice. He had to start somewhere. He grew by doing just what every believer is commanded to do; “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

II Pet. 3:15; “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

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