What Elders Must Be (Titus 1:5-8)
Elders/Overseers as Stewards (verses 5, 7)
The primary purpose for which Paul left Titus in Crete was to “set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city.” The New Testament often refers to elders, overseers, and pastors—all of which refer to the same office in the church. The fact that multiple “elders” should be appointed in “every city” is in agreement with other passages in the New Testament showing that the biblical norm is for every local church to be led by a plurality of elders.
These elders are “God’s stewards,” meaning that they have been entrusted with a particular task by God. This task can be summed up well by the Apostle Paul’s words in Colossians 1:29, “that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Not only does stewardship imply that God has entrusted something to overseers, but it also means that all overseers will give an account to God for their faithfulness with what has been entrusted to them (Hebrews 13:17). The elder that will hear the words, “well done good and faithful slave,” is the man who is faithful with the stewardship given to him to care for each member of the church.
The Elder as an Example in His Home (verse 6)
Paul gives Titus specific instructions with regard to the type of men that should be appointed as leaders in the churches. Notice, first of all, that the qualifications with regard to the elder as an example come prior to the elder’s qualification as a teacher. This reminds us that leadership is always by example. Nowhere in Scripture do we ever get the idea that teaching is merely the transmission of knowledge, without regard for the life of the one communicating it (2 Timothy 3:10-11; Philippians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 11:1). Whoever we are, whatever the stewardship we’ve been given or the context in which God has placed us, as believers we should seek to exemplify godly living to one another along with instructing one another in the Word.
This list begins with the family-life of the pastor. The first thing we should want to know about a man that desires to be an overseer is: What is his relationship with his wifelike? And what is his relationship with his childrenlike? If a man has not been faithful to love and lead the members of his own home, then we cannot expect him to be faithful in leading those in the church (1 Timothy 3:4-5). The elder is to be a one-woman man. This means that he must be known by all—most of all by his wife!—for his single-minded, undivided, untainted, unfailing devotion to loving his wife alone. He must also have children that are believing. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily believing in a saving sense, but that they are in submission to their father’s authority, not openly hostile toward the gospel, and not known for “dissipation and rebellion.”
The Elder as an Example in His Conduct (verses 7-8)
The next thing outlined is the elder’s qualification in his general conduct. Half of the list has to do with what he is not (verse 7), and half of it has to do with what he is (verse 8). The first half can be summed up generally with the phrase “self-mastery.” He is a man who knows how to control his will, temper, indulgence, outbursts, and desire for material gain.
The second half tells us that he must be hospitable, meaning that he is ready and willing to open not only his home, but his entire life to those that are in need; loving what is good, meaning he intentionally thinks about and speaks about noble and virtuous things (Philippians 4:8); sensible, meaning he is sober and sound in his judgment, not being carried away into things that are of no real value; just, meaning he is fair and consistent in the way that he treats others, not desiring harm toward any unnecessarily; devout, meaning he is single-minded in his devotion to Christ and His desire to ultimately please Him alone; self-controlled, meaning he knows how to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness.
- Elders are to be examples in their home life and in their general conduct. They must be men above reproach, who demonstrate the qualities outlined in the Scriptures. But they will be far from perfect, and their goal must never be to gain a following for themselves. The goal of all pastors must be to lead the church of Christ to the One True Shepherd, who laid His life down for the sheep. He alone is truly above reproach, guiltless and innocent. And by His grace through His death for us, we are now under His care and guidance, if we have “now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of [our] souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
- These qualities are not meant to be restricted to those in leadership. Rather, they are characteristics after which all believers are to continually strive as we rely on the grace of Christ. In which of these areas have you experienced the Lord’s growth in you, and in which should you seek the Lord’s help for His continued grace to help you grow?