We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Saturday, April 9, 2016

What Are the Required Qualifications for Elders? Part 2

There are three qualifications for elder in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus which seem to cause contention.  
  1. “Must be…the husband of one wife.”
  2. “having his children under control with all dignity” 
  3. “having faithful children not accused of wildness or rebellion.”
There is a disagreement as to what “husband of one wife” means.  I think if one reads it literally there should be no question.  The elder must have a wife (rules out a woman being an elder), and one wife only.  Now, if he is a widower he still had a wife, and if he remarries after his first wife died, he does not have more than one wife.  A polygamous man is not qualified.  A man who has had more than one wife through divorce is not qualified (divorce would also demonstrate that he didn’t have control of his own household —1 Tim. 3:4).  An unmarried man is disqualified because the requirement says he must be married. 

With items 2 and 3, the question is, how long is a father responsible for his children’s behavior?  A father can have well-disciplined children raised in the knowledge of the faith, but when they become adults and leave home, they are no longer the responsibility of the father.  In their adult years they can get caught up in various sins, turn their back on the Faith, etc, but this should not be held against the father as for qualification for eldership.

Some other comments regarding qualifications:

A pastor is the shepherd of the flock, and therefore must have some sort of experience in the area of shepherding, which is why Paul said to not be in a hurry to ordain people new in the faith (1 Tim. 5:22), and why the office title of “Elder” includes the idea of an older man. This means that a freshly-minted seminary graduate is not qualified for the position of even “youth pastor”; experience has shown that these young men are more inclined to want to be “buddies” than mentors.  These men may be put in position of teachers or other work, but not ordained as “pastors.”  They are too young and have no experience at shepherding.

A man must have a family in order to get experience in shepherding, but a man with young children shouldn't be a pastor because he needs to spend his time helping to raise them and learning about shepherding.  While a man with a normal job can be there for his family to assist his wife, a man who is an elder is virtually on call 24/7 for counseling, emergencies, etc., and often away engaged in the business of the ministry even on his “off” time. 

As for “believing children,” children must be old enough to understand the faith in order to accept it for themselves, so having unbelieving young children is not a problem, but if his children are in their teens and still not believers, then that says something about the teaching in the home and, again, disqualifies the man for the office of elder.

The qualifications make it plain that the man must have a wife and family, otherwise there is no way to judge how well he runs his own household!

Some interesting citations about Titus 1:6:

In this repeated list of the qualifications of the elder, one thing is specially stressed.  He must be a man who has taught his own family in the faith.  The Council of Carthage [A.D. 419] later laid it down: "Bishops, elders and deacons shall not be ordained to office before they have made all in their own house-holds members of the Catholic Church."  Christianity begins at home.  It is no virtue for any man to be so engaged in public work that he neglects his own home.  All the Church serviced in the world will not atone for neglect of a man's own family.
William Barclay (Barclay is known for bad teachings, but this quote is used because he cites the Council of Carthage)

The next qualification is another aspect of that mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:4.  It calls for a good testimony in his own house; his children must be believers.  This is the scriptural standard.  How can one be called a leader publicly when his own family doesn't follow him as a result of his private life and testimony?  How many fail here.
The negative aspect is that they must not be living wild and dissolute lives.  This seems to qualify further the "believing children."
William MacDonald & V. Paul Flint (Emmaus Bible College Correspondence Course)

Since older men would be chosen for leadership, it is assumed that the elder would have children.  The latter must share their father's Christian faith by having made a personal decision.  Their remaining pagan would throw into question the father's ability to lead others to faith.
D. Edmond Hiebert, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary

The idea here of "faithful children" means believing children.  If a man cannot lead his own children to the Lord, he ought not to be an officer in the church. ... For the cause of Christ and for the sake of the office, an officer in the church must have believing, obedient children.
J. Vernon McGee

Well, this is what I can think of at this time.  Perhaps in the future I may have more thoughts regarding the literal interpretation of what 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9 mean when compared to those who are looking to fit their particular ideology into the passages.


Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

Boy, are you ever in for a bunch of vitriolic rebuttal.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Sort of like when I talk about Beth Moore's false teaching -- Those early posts at the start of my blogging still hold the record for the nastiest comments. Perhaps this will break the record :oD

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

Mine too. My Beth Moore post leads the page views by 100% more than the second most visited post ever in my eight years of blogging, and by far, the most hateful comments (some of which I couldn't post because of their nastiness).

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I know what you mean-- I also moderated those which were too nasty, but I also got hate emails. This is why I say her followers are like cult.

Perri Nelson said...

Yes, that one will be controversial.

I particularly like the note about young men fresh from seminary. Just because a man has a degree from a bible college doesn't mean he's able to lead and pastor a church. In fact it doesn't even mean he's actually a Christian.

Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

If we put all this into practice it means that some of our favourite pastors shouldn't have been pastors, at least not as early as they did. Lloyd Jones was a pastor pre-children, and John MacArthur was only 25 when he started as a pastor, so presumably had young children. May I ask if you know of any church set up or organization that works within this framework? Again an example is Grace church led by John MacArthur where is a list of pastors and whilst most are listed as married with children, not all are, (and from appearance some of these would have young children).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for addressing the issue of the young men. We have sadly mistaken these young "Bible College" and "Seminary" graduates for genuine, tried and tested, mature, true elder men of God.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous 4/10 12:31AM

I agree that there are pastors out there who I don't think held the qualifications when they first were ordained. I think it shows how long ago we left any hard standard for the position.

As noted, there is nothing wrong with these men being placed in another capacity while gaining experience. Teacher, understudy/intern, etc.

I know of no assembly which requires elders to be married or to not be young.

Richard Ferguson said...

So how do you deal with the logical objection that these standard disqualify Jesus Christ from pastoring a church?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


God makes the rules, and Jesus is God. He also wasn't an elder, rather He IS the ultimate shepherd.