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Choosing a Pastor

Church Leadership in the New Testament, Part 8

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

 “A bishop then must be... no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;” (I Tim. 3:2,3)

God’s requirements for leadership of His church are listed in I Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Notably absent are qualities of worldly success or position. Paul enumerates character qualities demonstrating that true leadership emanates from our walk with God rather from achievements or vocational success.

 Also important to emphasize in this study is the fact that most of these requirements for the bishop are also commands for every believer. We are all to maintain a “blameless” testimony before the world and other believers. We are to let our “conversation (manner of life) be as it becometh the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27; Eph. 4:1). Titus 3:5, says that it is “good and profitable” for the believer to maintain good works. Matt. 5:16, tells us that our good works glorify our Father in heaven.

No striker” (lit. pugnacious, contentious, quarrelsome, combative, ready for a blow) used only here and in Titus 1:7. Part of the fruit of the spirit is temperance or self-control (Gal. 5:22,23). We have all met people with a contentious spirit, particularly while driving. Of course, it is always the other guy. This is hardly an attribute that even the world esteems as respectable.

Not greedy of filthy lucre” (from two words meaning: indecent, dishonorable, vile, and gain, or profit, but not necessarily only material gain, e.g. Phil 1:21; 3:8; I Cor. 9:19ff; I Pet. 3:1), or, in modern English; eager for dishonorable gain. It is used in I Tim. 3:3; 3:8; Titus 1:7; I Pet. 5:2, as commands to refrain as true teachers. It is used in Titus 1:11 as a characteristic of false teachers. This phrase is not found in most newer translations, those which use the Critical Text as their basis. The vast majority of older Greek manuscripts do contain it. (14)

This is not to say that the elder should not gain from his labor. It is referring to the prohibition of improper gain and to his improper motives. Paul said that the elders who rule well should “be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.” (I Tim. 5:17). This instruction likely includes being counted worthy of reasonable financial remuneration. The word “honor” literally means “value” or “estimate of worth.” It is translated “price” in Matt. 27:6,9; Acts 4:34; 5:2,3; 19:19; I Cor. 6:20; 7:23; and “sum” in  Acts 7:16. It is translated “honor” in the sense of “honor’ or “esteem” in I Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Rom. 13:7; I Pet. 3:7.

 I Cor. 9, presents God’s mind on the subject of paying the Christian teacher and how Paul applied the principles in his own life and ministry. Paul had been answering questions that the Corinthian church had asked via a previous letter (7:1; 8:1). Chapter 7 concerns marriage, divorce, and celibacy. Chapter 8 covers the topic of whether or not a believer should eat meats offered to idols. Although Paul had that liberty he warned that some are weak and could be offended. The conclusion is that we should “take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak” (v9). And that we “sin against Christ” when we wound their weak conscience (12). Therefore he would forego his liberty so that he would not offend the weaker brother (v13, Gal. 5:13).

Chapter 9:1-5, speaks of his liberty to have a family with him in his ministry. Then verses 7-18 present a case for paying the faithful laborer and also show how Paul chose to take advantage of this liberty in his ministry.  

Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?... Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.... If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?... Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (v 7-14).

His response to this liberty — “Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.... What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.” (v 12, 18). He applies the same love and properly placed priorities here as he does in chapter 8 in reference to other liberties.

Even though the teacher has a greater accountability   (James 3:1), the elder’s attitude toward temporal gain should be the same as any other Spirit-controlled believer. Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt. 6:33). We should set our “affections on things above, not on things of the earth.” (Col. 3:2). Speaking to those who were sacrificially giving in order to further the work of Christ, Paul said, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19). If we can trust God to save our soul, we can surely trust Him to provide a hamburger. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He even owns the hills. (Ps. 50:10; 24:1).

But patient,” a positive trait, is a fitting contrast to the pattern of being a “striker.” It means to be equitable, fair, mild, or gentle.  This is the same word that is translated “moderation in Phil. 4:5, “Let your moderation be known to all men... .” This is a command to believers in general and is in the context of how to have the peace of God.  It is translated “gentle” in Titus 3:2; James 3:17; and I Pet. 3:18.

Not a brawler” Lit. not a fighter, used only here and in Titus 3:2 (again in contrast to being gentle).

Not covetous” Lit. not a lover of money. Different than “not greedy of filthy lucre” which could refer to any kind of improper gain including recognition, popularity, etc.  “Not covetous” or “not a lover of money” is contrasted to the positive form in 6:10, “For the love of money is the (a) root of all evil(s).” Much of chapter 6 contains valuable wisdom concerning riches and our attitude toward them -Having food and raiment let us therewith be content. But they that will (desire to) be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (v 8,9). Please study the whole chapter.


(14) The KJV and the NKJV were translated from a compilation of the “Majority text” family of manuscripts of which there are several thousand early copies. The Greek text used for the KJV was compiled from a few of these and was later known as the “Textus Receptus” or the “Received Text.” These manuscripts are from the Asia Minor area where the original manuscripts were first circulated and were available for verification of later copies. These copies were actively used (and worn out) by the growing early churches there.

Most of our newer versions are translated from some form of the “Critical Text.” This was compiled around 1881 and comes primarily from two Western texts (Egypt). Though these manuscripts are older, this writer believes them to be less reliable than those from the Majority text family. The two Western texts have over 3,000 differences between each other just in the Gospels. The textual variations between these two texts and even in comparison to the Majority text are almost all minor and doctrinally insignificant. Critics argue that there are important doctrines affected such as some verses omitted referring to the divinity of Christ. This is true and I believe, inexcusable, but many of the other “proof” texts for these same doctrines still remain. The Critical text is earlier but many believe, not the more reliable. It could be called the “minority text” by about 6,000 to 2. This persuasion is not universal among Christian leaders today. Though the Critical text and the resulting modern translations have some verses and many words and phrases absent which are present in the Majority text family (about 3,000 words in the Greek NT), the significant doctrines still remain in the shorter text.

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