An ordained clergyman who preached at our Church last Sunday, after greeting the congregation spoke of the pulpit supply student we have as an interim preacher saying … “of all the students from all the theological seminaries that I have dealt with, none has the integrity that Dale has.” He analyzed Dale over a period of time and came to the conclusion that his integrity is above question. What a huge compliment for such a young man who turned 25 on Monday this week. In introducing his teaching about elders, Paul said to young Timothy:
1Ti 3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
He pointed out the type of integrity an elder needs to have … now he gets into the specific qualifications:
1Ti 3:2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Remember what we have being doing over the past while. In our studies in Acts 14 we saw that:
Ac 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church.
Because of the importance of Church Leadership, we digressed to come to grips with the “who, what and why” of elders. These are the men whom God has appointed to manage the Church, its existence and its future … for Him! Now we come to, as said, the specific qualifications of elders.
1) The list in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is basic, yet before these, the God appointed husband and father as leader together with the qualifications of a slightly lower office, that of deacon must be incorporated into the qualifications of an elder. Although the NIV interprets elder as overseer, I’ll speak of elder. (I explained the meaning yesterday). The eldership of a Church is the highest office a local Church can have. If the wrong men are appointed, the Church shall fail. What does this mean for the Gospel … and what does this mean for the Glory of the Owner of the Church? In the passage before us there are at least 16 non-negotiable requirements for elders. Therefore …
2) The elder must be above reproach. Picture walking your dog. You have it on a lead to control or restrain it. Suddenly another dog, much bigger and vicious comes charging towards your dog. Its owner did not use a lead and runs after his dog, but having no lead dragging behind there is nothing to grab … and hold onto to prevent his dog from attacking your dog. The term “above reproach” means “nothing to take hold upon”. Critics and enemies must not know of or find anything about the elder to “take hold upon” to accuse him of. Another translation is “blameless”. His must reflect and practice perfection in all of life. Something we need to grasp here is that anyone who becomes a Church Leader, especially an elder, needs to declare any previous history to the eldership board before taking on the office. As examples, before the person became a Christian they might have been an adulterer, drunkard, “dodgy secondhand car salesman”, etc. Such things (and there might be some serious things like having been imprisoned) need to be declared in confidence to the eldership so that should anyone come forward at a later stage and say “that elder is guilty of …”, they would respond … “Yes we know. That was before his salvation. His tract record since salvation is above reproach!” Once installed as an elder, his life and conduct needs to be unquestionable. He represents God!
3) The elder must be the husband of but one wife. The phrase … but one wife” literally means “a one woman man.” As with the deacon, an elder must not be polygamous. He may re-marry should his wife die, but he must only have one wife at a time. The concept of divorce must not be entertained because “a one woman man” implies the elder is not a playboy, womanizer, flirt, adulterer or having fantasies of any nature about women.
(i) Just in case we missed it, the elder must have a legal marriage. Once a pastor called me about one of his elders. This man lived with a woman for so many years that everyone thought they were married. Then they were converted and he became active in the Church, serving well and eventually he became an elder. It never crossed his mind that as a couple they were not married. Everyone thought they were. She was known as Mrs. X. Only in their sixties did they come under conviction that they were not married … and married.
(ii) At the same time, like with a deacon, an elder does not need to be married … but if he is, it must be one wife at a time … a one woman man. Death is what makes it possible to remarry … not divorce.
4) The elder must be temperate. The original thought behind “temperate” is “not given to extremes”. There might be more but let’s consider three things …
(a) Extremes … changes to vision. He may not be a person who has agreed to the vision of the Church and the method of achieving the Church’s vision and then change his mind. This will disrupt the Church’s ministry.
(b) Extremes … mood swings. It would be inappropriate to have an elder who runs hot and cold or happy and sad or full of energy and then lazy.
(c) Extremes … alterations in actions. He cannot behave in one way today and another tomorrow. These three speak about consistency in mind, attitude, emotions and behavior. We all go through ups and downs … but being “temperate” implies consistency where those who are the elders know the suggested elder to be a man of stability and may trust him as one approachable, has integrity and will be a confidant in matters of engagement. We have a long way to go, but think through these things discussed and see if the elders of your Church match up to God’s requirements. If not … make it a matter of serious prayer.
O God our Glorious Father, Your requirements for eldership makes so much sense because they represent You. Your glory and name are to be jealously protected by them. Amen.