PAUL’S EPISTLE TO TITUS
QUALIFICATIONS FOR ELDERS
TEXT: TITUS 1:5-9
1. The word “elder” goes back to the OT, where it refers to mature men of good reputation and wisdom (cf. Pro. 31:23).
2. The word carried over from the synagogues to the churches.
3. In the NT, the terms “elder,” “bishop” (Titus 1:7) and “pastor” (Ephesians 4:11) are used interchangeably (cf. Acts 20:17, 28; I Peter 5:1-4; Phil. 1:1).
4. First Timothy 3 gives us the requirements for the bishop (elder, pastor) and deacon (cf. I Tim. 3:1-7).
5. Many Baptist churches these days are switching to so-called “elder rule.” This teaching has been popularized by the very influential Pastor John MacArthur out in southern California.
6. In my opinion, “elder-rule” is contrary to the Bible and contrary to Baptist principles, such as congregational church government.
7. Under the elder-rule model, the congregation has little or no say in the matters of the church. A select group of elders rules and controls all or most of the decisions of the church.
8. MacArthur’s views have influenced both independent and Southern Baptist churches. Paige Patterson is the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, and a leader of the conservative wing of the SBC.
9. Dr. Patterson said, “I do not like the 'elder-rule' proposition. I think we are going to lose one of our great distinctives as Baptists if we throw away our congregational church polity. I do not have a problem with multiplicity of elders within congregationalism.”
10. Patterson said “primary elder” congregationalism rather than “single elder” congregationalism is the model found in the New Testament.
11. “In his Epistles Paul generally mentions elders in the plural (Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:5), but in I Timothy 3:1-7 the elder is spoken of in the singular while a plurality of deacons is mentioned in the same passage (cf. vs. 8). This might possibly indicate that as time went on a single elder led each assembly with the help of several deacons” (Charles C. Ryrie, Bibliotheca Sacra, January 1958, p. 65).
I. PASTORS ARE TO BE BLAMELESS (1:6, 7).
1. “Blameless” is mentioned twice (1:6, 7). This does not mean sinless or perfect; it means having a good testimony and a good reputation.
2. Sinners will make accusations but we must be sure that these accusations are not true. Just the other day, someone told me about an adulterous pastor. Unfortunately this is not uncommon.
3. Immoral men bring reproach and shame to the cause of Christ.
4. The pastor should be “ the husband of one wife” (1:6). There are different views but one thing is clear – a woman cannot be the husband of one wife.
· Prohibition of polygamy: This view appeals to divorced people and those churches that accept divorced pastors. However, this view seems unlikely because polygamy was outlawed in the Roman Empire at that time. There is no evidence that polygamists were in the Christian church so it would be strange to exclude them from being pastors.
· Widowers were not to remarry. This view is untenable because death dissolves the marriage bond (cf. Rom. 7:1-3).
· Unmarried men not qualified to serve as pastors. Paul does not say, “the husband of a wife,” but, “the husband of one wife.” Paul assumes the preacher will be married but does not demand it.
· Prohibition of divorced pastors. Polygamy was not a problem but divorce was (and still is). Many Christians sincerely feel that a divorced pastor is no longer “blameless” (1:6). While divorced men can serve in many ways, it is better if they did not serve as pastors or deacons.
5. “Bishop” (1:7) means “overseer.” Pastors are entrusted to watch over God’s church. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
6. A pastor is like a shepherd keeping watch over his flock, to keep them safe from wolves or other dangers. He must feed the flock and protect the flock from wolves (cf. Acts 20:28-31).
II. THE PASTOR’S FAMILY (1:6)
1. In both I Timothy 3 and Titus, we see the importance of the pastor’s family (I Tim. 3:4, 5).
2. The church and the family are very closely related and intertwined. The church is God’s family. When a person is saved, he or she born again into God’s family.
3. In II Corinthians 2:13, Paul refers to Titus as his “brother.” In Romans 16:1, Paul refers to Phebe as his sister.
4. The family and the church follow the same pattern. The husband is the head of the home (under Christ), and the pastor is the head of the church (under Christ).
5. When this principle is violated there is trouble, confusion, and disorder.
III. THE PASTOR’S CONDUCT (1:7-9).
1. “As the steward of God” (1:7), the pastor is accountable to God. First Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
2. In Bible times, stewards managed the affairs of a rich man’s house. They had to see that all of the other servants were doing their work. The pastor is “the steward of God” and so we must see to it that God’s people are doing the work of the ministry (cf. Eph. 4:11, 12; Titus 1:9).
3. Pastors should not be “self-willed” (1:7). False teachers are self-willed (cf. II Peter 2:10). Someone has defined a self-willed man as “having a self-loving spirit, which seeks to gratify self in arrogant disregard for others.”
4. “Not soon angry” means not a hothead. Proverbs 15:18 says, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.”
5. “Not given to wine” means a pastor should not drink alcoholic beverages, nor should he associate with drinkers. Personally, I believe all Christians should abstain from alcohol, but especially preachers. A drinking preacher is a disgrace.
6. “No striker” means not pugnacious.
7. “Not given to filthy lucre” (1:7; cf. 1:11b) means phony preachers are in the ministry for the money (Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Rev. Ike, Jim & Tammy Bakker, et al).
8. “A lover of hospitality” (1:8) means friendly; entertains guests, etc.
9. “A lover of good men” – you can tell a lot about a preacher by the people he associates with.
10. “Sober” means sober-minded, self-controlled, sensible, serious about the things of God, discreet.
11. “Just” means upright in his dealings with other people. “Holy” refers to our walk with God. And “temperate” speaks of a man’s relation to himself. The pastor must be disciplined, in full control of his own appetites, passions, actions, and moods.
12. “Just” means righteous and upright. “Holy” means separated from the world, pure, unpolluted. False teachers are unholy and defiled by worldly pollutions (1:15).
13. “Temperate” is similar to “sober.” A Sober-minded man is moderate in the enjoyment of that which is lawful; the temperate man refrains from all that is unlawful and harmful.
1. These days the standards are being lowered in our churches, even in fundamental churches. It is not unusual to hear Christians say, “Well, as long as the pastor meets most of the qualifications, etc.”
2. But that is not what the Bible says.
3. The pastor’s primary occupation is “holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught…” (1:9). Lord willing, next week we will study this in more detail.