“Understanding Elders, Part 2” (Titus 1:6)

Titus: Godly People, Godly Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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What are some qualifications a church should consider before hiring a pastor? In this verse, we look at several which get to the heart of his homelife. (If you're interested in donating to our ministry, visit https://www.lwbcfruita.org/give !) Watch/listen here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermon/429242015484218

Series: “Titus: Godly People, Godly Church”Text: Titus 1:6
By: Shaun Marksbury Date: April 28, 2024
Venue: Living Water Baptist ChurchOccasion: PM Service


There are many questions concerning what we should look for in our church leaders. When looking for pastors, many search committees will consider whether he has business acumen, notably, and MBA degree. Some churches will want a charismatic leader, someone who will draw in crowds. Of the many ideas out there, how many of them align with God’s revealed will on the matter?
God has given qualifications for us to consider, such as this verse and its parallel passage in 1 Timothy 3:2–4. Remember that Paul left Titus behind to “set in order what remains and appoint elders” (Titus 1:5). He challenged Titus to cultivate a sound or healthy church, including correcting the false teachers confusing poor souls about God and His gospel. So, Paul informs him to, not to employ a vote through a popularity contest, but to appoint qualified men who have careful doctrine and lives and who are able to instruct others about God and His glorious grace. God inspired these letters for the edification of churches, so we will know how to operate as a body.
He has given us multiple lines of qualification to consider when appointing pastors. Based on 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9, an elder must…
be above reproach,
be not addicted to wine,
be not a new convert,
be the husband of one wife,
be not pugnacious,
be self-controlled,
be temperate,
be gentle,
be sensible,
be prudent,
be uncontentious,
be not self-willed,
be respectable,
be not fond of sordid gain,
be not quick-tempered,
be hospitable,
manage his household well,
loving what is good,
be able to teach,
control his children with dignity,
be just and devout,
be free from the love of money,
be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict, and
have a good reputation outside the church.
That is quite a few! This evening, we will only be considering some of these as we continue through the Book of Titus. Just based on v. 6, an elder is to be a man, someone above reproach, a one-woman man, and he must have faithful children. Let’s consider the first of these:

An Elder is to Be a Man

if any man
The word for “man” is not in the original, but comes from the masculine pronoun here, which is best translated “man.” This is why neither the NASB or the KJV places “man” in italics to show that it has been added for clarity in English. In this case, the translators believe the text of the original demands that word be supplied.
Some counter that the pronoun here could be translated “anyone,” meaning that men or women could be church elders. However, again, the pronoun is masculine, not neuter in gender, which is what we would translate as “anyone.” Moreover, the following adjectives and verbs are all masculine. In fact, the next phrase, translated into English here as “husband of one wife” or, more literally, as “one-woman man,” denotes a masculine role.
This is exactly the case in the parallel passage of 1 Timothy 3:1–7. Everything in that passage of qualifications reads naturally as demanding a male role. In fact, that matches the context. Paul specified back in 2:8 that men should lead in prayer. In 2:11-12, He says, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” That parallels what he said in 1 Corinthians 14:34 — “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.” This is a universal rule for churches.
So, in the church, women are to be under the authority of the elders. They are excluded from teaching men or holding positions of authority over them. This is why the Bible does not know of a female elder — it is a role specifically for men. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of ministry for women, and we’ll note some examples in Titus 2, but this is a role that God has called qualified men to step into and lead.
Of course, these qualifications are what we’re studying now. Simply being male isn’t enough to certify someone as an elder. He must be “above reproach,” which is what we see next.

An Elder is to Be Above Reproach

is above reproach
We read here that he is to be “above reproach” or “beyond reproach” (LSB). Yet, the NIV has a different translation: “An elder must be blameless.” The word “blameless” is the literal translation, which is also how the NKJV and KJV reads.
What does it mean that an elder should be blameless? The Lord makes us “blameless” (1 Cor. 1:8), and certainly, an elder should be a Christian, someone who’s sins are forgiven. Yet, this seems to speak more of horizontal rather than vertical reproach.
Being blameless does not mean that there are no sins in the life of the individual, for sinless perfectionism is impossible and an unbiblical idea. Nor does this mean that a person doesn’t have anyone who would possibly falsely accuse or blame him; a man can sometimes be known through his enemies. People who are in love with their sin get mad at elders for holding to Scripture and the standards of the Lord. This term simply refers to a conformity to biblical ethics.
This term answers the question, “Does this man live a life that Scripture does not condemn?” As one study notes, “To be “above reproach” translates the words anepilēmpton (1 Tim. 3:2) and anegklētos (Titus 1:6) and connotes the fact that an elder should be one who is free from any deficiency of character that could call into question his ability to lead the church.” Another puts it this way:
In light of the positional reality, the believer is called to live in such a way as to attain the quality of blamelessness. In these cases, it is evident that blamelessness refers to public respectability as an outgrowth of private moral character. Christians must “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14). By growing in discernment and avoiding a critical spirit, believers can become “pure and blameless” in an age marked by wickedness (Phil. 1:10; 2:14–15).
So, an elder should be someone that other believers can look up to as a model, imperfect as it may be, of following Christ.
That is what gives the expression “blameless” or “above reproach” such weight. This one phrase sums up the rest of the qualifications, and Paul even says it again down in v. 7. No sound minister of the gospel lives without the daily battle of sin, but he must model what it is for a Christian to overcome.
To think of this another way, he must be trustworthy. So, if a well-known criminal in the community comes to Christ, he may still suffer the sting of his past sins in that he could not be an elder. (Incidentally, one of the most interesting questions I would get from inmates was how they might become pastors; I would give them a copy of these qualifications and tell them to prayerfully start working on these areas.) If a pastor uses his position to embezzle money, he would be disqualified from future pulpit ministry. If he is abusing staff or others, he is disqualified. The issue is trustworthiness.
Of course, one way to see someone’s heart in this regard is to see his homelife. That’s where we turn next.

An Elder is to Be a One-Woman Man

the husband of one wife
This expression engenders much debate. Some wonder if this forbids bigamous or polygamous marriages. Others wonder if this refers to divorce, permissible or otherwise. Others wonder if a single man is forbidden from holding office. These are all important considerations.
We must first keep in mind that this is within the context of a pagan society that has just learned about Christ. There may have been some Jewish converts who led godlier lives, but none live a life of perfect Christian virtue before coming to Christ (nor afterward!). There may have been otherwise qualified men on Crete who had poor relationships before coming to the Lord; are they permanently disqualified from holding office? It seems that this would have to be examined on a case-by-case basis.
Today, if the man was divorced “BC,” before Christ, there may not be as much debate as if someone experienced divorce after coming to Christ. If a man has a divorce after becoming a Christian, but it is on biblical grounds (she unrepentantly committed adultery or abandoned the family), then it is possible that that person could be qualified one day. If a man has an unbiblical divorce but repents after remarriage, and demonstrates a consistent life with his new wife for 10-15 years, then he might be qualified. If a man has an affair during his pastorate, then not only is he disqualified from continuing in office, but he is permanently disqualified from office, because of his level of knowledge and culpability.
Again, these are issues we have to consider on a case-by-case basis. As the Reformation Study Bible notes, this is most likely addressing “the widespread immorality in the Greco-Roman world.” That’s an issue that isn’t so different today! The church needs men who model faithfulness to their spouses, both internally (purity) and externally (free from adulterous relationships). It should be a testimony.
That’s why it’s so damaging to even hear of a pastor who might have an emotional relationship with a woman other than his wife. Sometimes, there are stories of men who view pornography, even at the church office. And, of course, there are accounts of pastors who commit adultery. These are all disqualifying behaviors of various degrees, and churches should take them seriously for the purity of the body.
It's important for the church to see a man who is married, especially in a culture with a lot of sexual infidelity, and the church can learn much about how a man may operate in how he treats his wife (does he lead his home with domineering behavior, or is he passive?). Of course, it may be possible to have a Paul as an elder, one who isn’t married. However, even if he is qualified in every other way, to exclude his homelife is to lose an important marker of his qualifications. It’s clearly best practice to find a married man, if possible.
Of course, as we consider his homelife, there is another consideration to examine:

An Elder is to Have Faithful Children

having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
Just as the previous point engendered debate, so has this one. There is considerable disagreement as to whether this should be translated “children who believe” (NASB) or “having faithful children” (LSB, N/KJV). Yet, it seems that the LSB has once again given us an important upgrade in translation to the NASB.
Some of this is based on how to translate pistos, which often translates “faith” but can also be translated “faithful.” Some rests on how one understands the parallel passage; 1 Timothy 3:4 says, “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” And some rests on how one connects the next phrase (to the children or to the elder). The final consideration is to whether Scripture ever promises anyone (elder or otherwise) that their children will all be saved. Those who claim this means that grown children must never renounce their faith are reaching.
This speaks more of their state within the home. Adult children who have moved out are outside of our direct influence or control, and they may engage in prodigal living. There’s nothing we can do there except wait and love, but that is not disqualifying to the elder. If, however, the children of elders are feral, foul-mouthed, juvenal delinquents, it would be best for the elder to step down for a while.
There must be a priority in the local church to build godly households. The onus is placed on fathers as leaders in the home. Scripture also extols the importance of motherhood in the task, and it calls children to obey both fathers and mothers, but fathers are ultimately responsible for the spiritual instruction in the home. Fathers may entrust mothers with much of the task, such as in a homeschooling situation where fathers will be away most of the day at work, but fathers should still take an active role in the planning and perhaps even the execution of the children’s instruction.
Can an elder without kids serve? Again, it seems so, as Paul gives no indication of having fathered children. Yet, this removes an important marker for the judgment of pastoral qualifications, which must be carefully considered as it also potentially removes a formative source of sanctification which can negatively affect how a man executes his office. At the very least, we can say that the forced celibacy of priests found in the Roman Catholic Church is an unbiblical practice.
Churches should consider how potential elders will behave by looking at those over whom they have authority. Do the elders care about the spiritual well-being of their children, teaching them the truths of the gospel? Do elders correct behaviors, or do the children become more sinful? The expression, “not accused of dissipation or rebellion” perfectly describes the behavior of children that churches should watch; it doesn’t demand sinless little angels (an impossibility!), nor does it describe uber-intellectual children ready to teach seminary-level courses, but it does describe a reasonable standard that all Christians should try to repeat within their own homes.
“Dissipation” is that which destroys. Getting drunk is one example Scripture gives of this (Eph 5:18). There are children who, even in their middle school years, are engaging in risky behaviors involving alcohol, drugs, and the like. Godly fathers will take measures to stop this early in this trending process. If his kids continue in dissipation, that is a sure sign that a pastoral candidate will need to focus on his own home first.
Similarly, “rebellion” is a dangerous attribute within the home. A child who is committing crimes even with mom and dad will only grow in their rebellion. Paul warns that there are many men in Crete who are rebellious (v. 10), so an elder should be one who can show how to raise non-rebels, respectful people who will glorify God.


The next verse reminds us of why this is all so important with the term “overseer.” We see quite a bit about potential elders from their home lives. Does he care for his wife and kids? Does he domineer? These are questions to consider.
Of course, this is a reminder to all of us to strive for these virtues, however applicable they are. We should strive for lives that are above reproach. We should strive for sexual purity if we are unmarried or sexual fidelity if we are. We should strive to be good parents or good children!
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