Elder's Marital Qualifications
Copyright © 1986, Indian Hills Community Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.
This brief letter by Paul to Titus focuses on the subject of good works or godliness. Paul begins by dealing with those who are to be appointed leaders in the local churches.
Several facts about these leaders have already been covered:
Their number - The indication of Scripture is that there is a
plurality of leadership in each church.
Their responsibilities - They have two main areas of responsibility:
It is God's church and He will appoint the leaders (cf. Acts 20:28). Our question is how we are to recognize the leaders whom God has selected. The prime way is to recognize the men who meet the biblical qualifications and are desirous of serving:
It is important to note, especially in our day, that only men are
biblically qualified to hold the office of elder
(cf. 1 Tim. 2:11,12).
There also should be a strong desire for the position on the part
of the man being considered (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1, "aspires" - lit. "stretch
oneself, reach out one's hand" fig. "aspire to, strive for,
desire") (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10).
Paul now turns his attention to the qualifications of men who would serve as leaders in the church of God.
As we examine these qualifications, it is important to note that they are the characteristics of a godly man that should be the goal of every believer. As we examine these we must ask ourselves where we fall short and then work to correct the defect.
We should also note that there are no perfect people on this earth. These qualifications do not mean that a man must be perfect to serve as an elder. But he must be a mature, godly man.
"Above reproach" (anenkletos) - Paul begins with a general, all-encompassing qualification. There is no charge or accusation which can be brought against this man.
Paul states the same fact at the beginning of his discussion on this subject in 1 Timothy 3. There he says an overseer must be "above reproach" (anepileptos). This word carries the idea that there is nothing in his life which can be laid hold of, thus he is not open to censure.
What it means to be "above reproach" is covered in the rest of the
"The husband of one wife" (mias gunaikos aner) A man's family plays an important part in his being qualified for the position of elder. There has been much discussion about the meaning of this qualification.
Several possible meanings have been suggested:
Elder must be married. Some suggest that this means an elder must be
a married man.
The unmarried state is a gift from God to enable a person to
serve more effectively (cf.1 Cor. 7:7,8,17,32).
Elder cannot practice polygamy.
This is forbidden for all believers (cf. 1 Cor. 7:2).
Polygamy was at this time forbidden in the Roman Empire.
If this means polygamy, then 1 Timothy 5:9 must
refer to polyandry. There is no evidence that this was
practiced at all.
Death has effectively ended the first relationship
(cf. Rom. 7:1-3).
Paul says the widowed have a right to remarry
(cf. 1 Cor. 7:8,9,39).
In 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul recommends younger widows remarry.
On this interpretation, 1 Timothy 5:9 means they could not be
enrolled in later life.
Elder cannot be divorced. This is probably the most common view.
It would have been simple in light of the pattern that he follows
to have said, "not divorced."
These qualifications are obviously dealing with a man's present
condition. No one could ever be qualified if his entire past were taken
into account. Yet some try to do this with this qualification.
Some apply this to Sunday school teachers
and so forth, when the passage is talking specifically about elders.
This is not a study on divorce, but we as believers need to come to grips with whether divorce is more unforgiveable than any other sin (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Elder must be faithful to his wife. This seems to be the best and
most accurate interpretation.
This phrase is literally "a one-woman man" or "a man of
one woman." This emphasizes the character
of the man rather than his marital status.
This means that a man must demonstrate faithfulness in his
The two nouns man and woman are without
the definite article, a construction which emphasizes character or
nature. The phrase could be translated: "a one-woman sort of man."
The absence of the article does not prove the translation, but it
certainly supports it.
This would be the only qualification covering the sexual areas.
Sexual purity must characterize the man who would serve as an elder.
Paul moves on to talk further about the family relationships of
the elder, particularly his children.
"Having children who believe" (tekna ekon pista) - Again, Paul is not saying an elder must have children, but where there are children, they must be believing.
This would not rule out an unmarried man or a married man who had no children. But the normal pattern is that a married man has children. This qualification covers the general or normal situation.
By implication, this would also seem to be dealing with children who are old enough to believe. If Paul intended to say that a man must be married and have children old enough to believe, there are clearer and more direct ways to say it.
Example - If I were to say, "I want every man who teaches Sunday school to spend some quality time with his wife and children this week," it would be misleading to go out and say, "Every man who teaches Sunday school at IHCC must be married and have children."
We all recognize that my statement covers the general situation, since most of the teachers are married and have children. It says nothing about those who are not married or have no children.
Paul now mentions the characteristics that are opposite of believing.
"Not accused of dissipation" (asotias) - An abandoned, dissolute life. It is used of the prodigal son in Luke 15:13 (cf. also Eph. 5:18; 1 Pet. 4:4). It is a squandered life that leads to ruin.
"Or rebellion" (anupotakta) - This word means "undisciplined, disobedient, rebellious." It is used again in v. 10. It is also used in 1 Timothy 1:9.
Paul elaborates on this area a little differently in 1 Timothy 3:4,5 showing its importance as a qualification. Note carefully that the man is responsible for managing his home. The condition of my home reflects on my leadership. This is contrary to the ideas of the world today. We men need to be reminded that God expects us to lead in our homes.
Note that all these qualifications deal with the condition of the man at the time he is being considered. In the past he may have come short in all of them, but by God's grace he has grown to maturity in Christ.
The fact that a man is qualified at the time of appointment does not guarantee he will continue to be qualified in the future. If I turn into a drunk or become greedy and pursue money, I will no longer be qualified. The same is true for the condition of my family.
Remember, there are no perfect families or perfect children. But there must be a clear pattern of submissiveness evidenced in my children's response to me in my home.
How are you doing in these crucial areas? Are you a one-woman man? Are your children believers, living lives of obedience? Are you ruling your house with dignity?
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.
Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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