This is the second of five faithful sayings that Paul declared in his pastoral epistles. This second faithful saying centers on those who desire to be under-shepherds of God’s flock. The term bishop means overseer and refers to the position of an elder, one who oversees the local assembly of the household of faith.
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop he desires a good work.1 Timothy 3:1
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you-…For a bishop…. Titus 1:5 & 7
According to the Scriptures there is no hierarchy that rules over the elder of a church. He is the one responsible for the well-being of the flock and for the furtherance of the work of God, both through His own work, and the work that he equips the saints to do through faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Now Paul encourages those who desire to be an elder, that they desire a good work, but he gives a list of the qualifications for the position of elder of a church. In order for a man to be called to this work, he must meet these qualifications which are given in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5(for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 1 Timothy 3:2-7
Notice that Paul excludes women from being elders, but not directly here, since he had already addressed a woman’ position in the church in the second chapter of first Timothy.
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 1 Timothy 2:12
Paul reiterates and expands on some of the qualifications for an elder in Titus chapter one.
6If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,9holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort ad convict those who contradict. Titus 1:6-9
Those who are disqualified from being an elder are those who don’t meet these qualifications. If a man has had more than one wife (that would also include being unfaithful to his wife), if his children are or have been rebellious, if he is self-willed (not submitted to the Lord’s will as declared in the Bible), easily angered, prideful, greedy, without self-control, cliquish, gives way to evil, a drunkard, thinking without biblical constraint, having a poor testimony in the community because of evil or questionable behavior, someone who has not been tested, and does not love the Holy Scriptures and so is ignorant of biblical doctrine, then that man is disqualified from the position of elder. Based upon the testimony of many a so-called man of God they are disqualified from their position of leadership because they fail to meet these tests. They flaunt their godless lives and perverse doctrine. However, the man of God must be thoroughly equipped through reliance upon the Bible to preach and teach the truth, and exhort and correct those who oppose sound doctrine. They must be able to warn their flock against those that are wolves in sheep’s clothing. In 2 Timothy Paul expands upon this godly qualification to know and teach sound doctrine so as to refute the wicked unbeliever.
15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and idle babblings for they will increase to more ungodliness. 2 Timothy 2:15-16
13But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 1I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 3:13-4:5
The need of the hour, indeed the need of the church from its inception, is for genuine men of God who are called to the task of being elders by meeting God’s qualifications. This standard has little to do with doctorates in theology or church administration. The standard that God has set forth in His Word is a godly uncompromising life that is characterized by a love for God, His people and His Word. The need of the hour is for men who will lay down their lives for Jesus Christ and for their brethren. The need of the hour is for men who are shepherds under the authority of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who get their marching orders from His Holy Word by the indwelling Holy Spirit. God’s people need elders who are not afraid to stand for the truth, expose and refute error, and expose and condemn false teachers, whoever they may be. The flock of God bought with Christ’s precious blood needs elders who will feed them and nourish them in the words of sound doctrine from the only source of sound doctrine, the Word of God, the Bible. The precious child of God must always be reminded of Christ’s special love for them through His sacrificial death on the cross for their reconciliation to God and His resurrection from the dead for their victory over sin, the world, the devil and death. Believers in Christ do not need men who are enamored with cultural evangelical Christianity that so often misses the mark of truth and living godly for Christ Jesus. If you desire the position of an elder, know that you desire a good work, but it must be done God’s way in order to glorify God and bless His people. To Christ Jesus alone be all of the glory! Amen!