Examining the Qualifications for Elders

Text: 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9

Elders play a vital role in God’s plan for the church. But we cannot appoint just anyone – they must be qualified. This lesson will examine the qualifications for elders.

“An Overseer, Then, Must Be…” (1 Timothy 3:2; cf. Titus 1:7)

  • These are not optional – an unqualified man cannot be appointed as an elder
  • Does not matter how faithful, capable, knowledgable, or wise we think he is – he must be qualified

1 Timothy 3:1-7

  • Must be above reproach (v. 2) – does not mean sinless (cf. Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8); must be known for doing good (1 Peter 5:3), not for sin and hypocrisy
  • Must be the husband of one wife (v. 2) – “be” is in the present infinitive tense; means he is and continues to be; nothing wrong with a man being single (1 Corinthians 7:8, 26); but a single man cannot serve as an elder; his wife is his “help meet” (Genesis 2:18); qualifications for her as well (1 Timothy 3:11)
  • Must be temperate (v. 2) – word means to abstain from wine; he must be able to think clearly (cf. Proverbs 31:4-5)
  • Must be prudent (v. 2; Titus 1:8 – sensible) – means to curb one’s desires and impulses; must be willing to deny self (Luke 9:23) and not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12)
  • Must be respectable (v. 2) – same word translated elsewhere as modest; means to be well-ordered; he is to quietly gain respect through good works; influence others to faithfulness (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-4)
  • Must be hospitable (v. 2) – more than social interaction; a willingness to provide help to one in need (1 Peter 4:9; Hebrews 13:2; 3 John 5-6)
  • Must be able to teach (v. 2; cf. Titus 1:9) – exhort (Acts 20:20, 27) and refute (Titus 1:11; 2 Corinthians 10:5)
  • Must not be addicted to wine (v. 3) – related to “temperate“; abstinence from alcohol (1 Peter 4:3)
  • Must not be pugnacious (v. 3) – not to be quarrelsome (cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-25); “refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9) honorably (Ephesians 4:15); not to have an argumentative demeanor
  • Must be gentle (v. 3) – same word translated “moderation” (Philippians 4:5) in the context about harmony with others
  • Must be peaceable (v. 3) – goes with precious point; not to be contentious; we fight for the Lord (1 Timothy 6:12), but are not to fight for other reasons unnecessarily (Romans 12:18)
  • Must be free from the love of money (v. 3) – the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10; cf. Colossians 3:5; Matthew 6:24)
  • Must manage his own household well (v. 4) – this proves that he can lead the church (1 Timothy 3:5)
  • Must keep his children under control (v. 4) – they are to obey and respect him; result of training (Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:9); possible for a man to have rebellious children despite proper training (cf. Ezekiel 18:5-13); but even if he is not morally responsible, the “proof” of managing his household properly is absent (1 Timothy 3:5)
  • Must not be a new convert (v. 6) – practical; also about learning humility and submission (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Must have a good reputation with those outside the church (v. 7) – consistently do good before all; does not mean that false accusations will disqualify him; these will come (cf. Acts 21:27-29; Matthew 5:11)

Titus 1:5-9

  • Several of these were addressed in the first passage (1 Timothy 3:1-7) – above reproach, husband of one wife (Titus 1:6); not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain (Titus 1:7); hospitable, sensible, self-controlled (Titus 1:8)
  • Must have children who believe (v. 6) – faithful Christians; this is what he trained them for (Ephesians 6:4); in his household and in the church, he is not just leading people to be good citizens, but to be faithful Christians
  • Must have children not accused of dissipation or rebellion (v. 6) – not false accusations, but credible ones
  • Must not be self-willed (v. 7) – word used one other time in NT to describe false teachers (2 Peter 2:10); must put others first (Philippians 2:3-4); not seeking his own will (cf. Acts 20:30)
  • Must not be quick-tempered (v. 7) – anger prevents one from listening to and obeying God’s word (James 1:19-20); causes one to stir up strife (Proverbs 29:22) and not pursue peace (Romans 14:19)
  • Must love what is good (v. 8) – hold to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Romans 12:9); what is good is found in God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • Must be just (v. 8) – fair in his judgments and dealings with others (James 2:1; cf. 1 Corinthians 6:1-6)
  • Must be devout (v. 8) – set apart; undefiled by sin; devoutly follows the word of God
  • Must hold fast the word (v. 9) – necessary to feed, protect, and lead the flock (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17)


  • When we look at the character qualifications of elders in particular, all Christians must strive for these
  • As we look to appoint elders, we need to judge them in light of these qualifications
  • The Holy Spirit makes men elders (Acts 20:28) – has He indicated that they are qualified?
  • We need to be careful not to ignore any of these qualifications – also not to add our own

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