Putting the Church in Order: Qualifications of an Elder Notice that immediately following this command to put things in order and to appoint elders, Paul launches into the qualifications for such elders. This is not a beauty contest. Titus is not to pick elders based on who he personally likes. This is is not a popularity contest. You don’t find, “must be a dynamic speaker,” as one of the qualifications. I found it quite interesting back when I was candidating at churches to become a pastor that a lot of them gave just a brief nod to the qualifications listed here and in 1 Timothy but then proceeded to add on all kinds of other things. It is as if they were saying, “Yeah, yeah, you should meet the biblical qualifications, but what we really want is,” and then they filled in the blank with dynamic speaker, mission-minded or evangelistic superstar. There is the temptation there to be Pharisaical and add on a bunch of qualifications and expectations that are not biblical. They put qualifications on an elder that only Jesus could fulfill. I think that is why Paul, in both letters to Titus and Timothy who were performing similar roles in the church, reminded them of the biblical qualifications. They had a written document that they could take a potential elder and compare him to. If he didn’t match up to what was written they didn’t qualify. If Titus had a potential elder that met all the qualifications but their maybe personalities didn’t mesh, Titus had no right to deny him. These written qualifications remove personal preference from the table. So let’s begin looking at these qualifications. a. Above reproach. In some translations, it says, “blameless.” Blameless in English can be misconstrued to mean without sin which is obviously not the intent here. If an elder must be without sin then there are no qualified men for the job. Titus couldn’t appoint anyone. No person is blameless in regards to sin before God. This should remind us of Abraham who was called to walk blamelessly before God. Was Abraham a perfect man without sin? No, of course not. So what does this mean? The translators’ use of “above reproach” helps to get at the meaning. To be above reproach means that the man does not act shamefully. He does not do things that bring scorn upon himself or derision. This could be applied to many different areas of life but it is specifically here tied to the two following clauses, husband of one wife and children his children are believers. This kind of man is not perfect but he is a repentant man. He does not live with unconfessed sin. When he is rebuked he changes. He is willing to take correction. This phrase does not mean that he is not reproached at all because a good Christian man should expect to be reproached by the world. Jesus said in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” I am learning to be concerned when a long time goes by and I don’t offend someone. There is a story of John Wesley who went three days without persecution. He prayed to God and asked him if he was backslidden or had sinned. A farmer saw Wesley praying and picked up a brick and threw it at him. John’s response? “Thank you, Lord! I know I still have your presence.” Cursed is the elder whom everyone speaks well of. So a godly elder is not reproached because of his sin but because of his faith. b. Husband of one wife. This is the second qualification. An elder must be a husband of one wife. The Greek literally says, “a one-woman man.” So what does this mean? Four main views have been brought forward over the centuries. One view says that this prohibits an elder from being polygamous. That would correspond with other teachings. In the Roman empire, polygamy was outlawed so many people believe that this was not what Paul meant. Some say this verse means that an elder must be married. If this were the intent though, then it should have been written as “a wife” not as “one wife”. It is more natural to read this as a limit to the number of wives a husband can have compared to a requirement that they have a wife. So, single men can be elders. The limiting of wives could refer to the practice of divorce where a man would have divorced and remarried having several ex-wives. This was a common practice among the Jews and Romans. This would require that he was a husband of one living wife. This would not prevent a man whose wife died and remarried. But a man who divorced without biblical warrant and remarried would be disqualified.