The Character Qualifications for Elders

Text: 1 Timothy 3:2-3; Titus 1:6-9

If we are to develop, identify, and appoint elders, we must know the qualifications for elders that God has given. Most of the qualifications have to do with the elder’s character – traits that all Christians should possess. In studying these, it is not just about someone else (elders or potential elders). All of us need to look to ourselves and develop these character traits that elders must possess.

He Must Be Above Reproach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6)

  • Blameless (KJV) – leaders face greater scrutiny (James 3:1)
  • Does not mean he is sinless – no one is without sin (1 John 1:8); but he must not continue in sin (1 Timothy 5:20) or lead others into sin (1 Timothy 5:21; 1 Peter 5:3)
  • He must be known for doing good, rather than being known for sin/hypocrisy

He Must Be Temperate (1 Timothy 3:2)

  • Vigilant (KJV) – definition of this word means to abstain from wine
  • The point is that he must think clearly – nothing must cloud his thinking regarding God’s law (Proverbs 31:4-5)
  • Elders will give account for how they lead (Hebrews 13:17) – not must forget or be distracted from the word

He Must Be Prudent (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)

  • Sober (KJV); sensible (Titus 1:8, NASB) – same word in both passages
  • Means to curb one’s desires and impulses – idea of denying self (Luke 9:23)
  • Not to be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12)

He Must Be Respectable (1 Timothy 3:2)

  • Of good behavior (KJV) – word means to be modest
  • Same Greek word used in the passage about modest apparel (1 Timothy 2:9) – means his life is well-ordered
  • He quietly gains respect through his consistent good works – similar concept (1 Peter 3:1-4)

He Must Be Hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)

  • Given to hospitality; lover of hospitality (KJV)
  • We sometimes equate hospitality with someone opening their home and hosting get-togethers – this is showing kindness and is certainly good, but it is not the same thing as hospitality
  • Greek word (philoxenos) is a compound of two words – means to show brotherly love to strangers; hospitality mentioned in the NT (Hebrews 3:2; 3 John 5-8; 1 Peter 4:9); treat strangers as brethren

He Must Not Be Addicted to Wine (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)

  • Not given to wine (KJV) – from a word that means “staying near wine”
  • Temperate is related – that emphasizes the need to be clear thinking; alcohol hinders this
  • This emphasizes the abstinence from alcohol – more than just avoiding drunkenness (1 Peter 4:3)

He Must Not Be Pugnacious (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)

  • No striker (KJV)
  • This means he is not to be quarrelsome – not how a Christian should be (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
  • He is going to have to “refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9) – must do so honorably; speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)

He Must Be Gentle (1 Timothy 3:3)

  • Patient (KJV) – means to be fair or mild-mannered
  • Opposite of being pugnacious or a striker – same word translated moderation (Philippians 4:5, KJV); in context, this was emphasizing being at harmony with others in the Lord (Philippians 4:2)
  • Must strive to maintain unity and harmony in the body of Christ (cf. Romans 14:16-20)

He Must Be Peaceable (1 Timothy 3:3)

  • Not a brawler (KJV) – not contentious; abstains from fighting
  • Similar to being not pugnacious or no striker – we must fight for the Lord (1 Timothy 6:12); do not fight for another reason unnecessarily as this is counterproductive
  • As much as it depends on us, we must be at peace with others (Romans 12:18) – important for elders in a local church

He Must Be Free from the Love of Money (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)

  • Not greedy of filthy lucre; not covetous (KJV) – serves “not for sordid gain” (1 Peter 5:2)
  • Fundamental problem with the “love of money” – “root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10); it is idolatry (Colossians 3:5); one cannot serve God and wealth (Matthew 6:24), including elders
  • Particularly important for the position that elders are in – handling congregational funds (Acts 11:30)

He Must Not Be Self-Willed (Titus 1:7)

  • Word means to be self-pleasing, self-willed, arrogant
  • Word is used one other time in NT to describe false teachers (2 Peter 2:10) – Paul warned the Ephesians elders of some who would draw away disciples to themselves (Acts 20:30)
  • Must put the interests of others ahead of himself (Philippians 2:3-5) – particularly spiritual interests (Hebrews 13:17)

He Must Not Be Quick-Tempered (Titus 1:7)

  • Not soon angry (KJV)
  • Could be lumped together with “self-controlled” (Titus 1:8), but it is distinguished for emphasis – anger prevents us from listening to and obeying God’s word (James 1:19-20); it is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:20)
  • Anger is particularly dangerous for elders (Proverbs 29:22) – produces strife instead of peace (Romans 14:19)

He Must Love What is Good (Titus 1:8)

  • Lover of good men (KJV) – “loving goodness” (Thayer)
  • We must “abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9) – “hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21); in context, this refers to God’s word
  • Not just a “tolerance” for what is good – love what is good (by God’s definition); do not love what is popular, politically correct, new, traditional, etc.

He Must Be Just (Titus 1:8)

  • Word used here often means righteous
  • Another meaning which fits the context is to be fair in his judgments and dealings with others – we are to be impartial, treating others equally (James 2:1)
  • Elders will often have to handle disputes between Christians (cf. Acts 6:1-3; 1 Corinthians 6:1, 4-6; Philippians 4:2-3) – must do so without partiality

He Must Be Devout (Titus 1:8)

  • Holy (KJV) – we often think of being holy as being set apart; this would be true, but this has particular emphasis on being undefiled by sin
  • Already discussed the fact that he must be above reproach (blameless) – this is not based on a subjective standard (public opinion), but an objective standard (God’s word)
  • He is to have “a good reputation” (1 Timothy 3:7) – not just that people speak well of him; he must devoutly follow the word of God

He Must Be Self-Controlled (Titus 1:8)

  • Temperate (KJV) – not the same as temperate/vigilant (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • He is in control of his emotions – already noticed this about anger (Titus 1:7); the word basically means he is strong mentally
  • Elders deal with discouragement, personal attacks, stress, mental fatigue, etc. (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29) – he cannot allow outside pressures to hinder him from his work

He Must Hold Fast the Word (Titus 1:9)

  • Faithful word (KJV) – refers to the word of God
  • All Christians must do this (2 Timothy 1:13; Philippians 2:16) – but it is especially important for elders; others will follow them, even into sin/error if they depart from the truth (Acts 20:30)
  • Remember his work to feed (1 Peter 5:2), protect (Acts 20:28-30), and lead (Hebrews 13:17) – cannot be done if he does not hold fast the word


  • These are qualities that elders must have
  • They are also qualities that all Christians must strive to have
  • We need to look for men, and develop men, with these characteristics – also, each one of us needs to work to have these qualities ourselves

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