?The reason I left you in Cretewas that you might straighten out
what was left unfinished and appoint elders (presbuteros) in every town, as I
directed you.? (Titus 1:5).   In this passage and others in the New Testament, God
is providing a model to his church for church leadership.  Apparently, the normal mode
of local leadership God has in mind includes a plurality of elders in every
church with the maturity to have men who can take that position.  Recently, with the
changes blowing through our movement, the need to meet this biblical requirement
has been made even clearer.  This is a natural moment to pause and ask ourselves two
questions.  Who should we appoint to the eldership and how should they be selected?


            The tradition of our churches, largely handed to us through the
doctrinal stance of the Churches of Christ, is to take a conservative view toward
what are seen as the ?qualifications? of the eldership.  One specific example?the one
which has had the greatest impact on our ability to appoint elders?is our normal
stance on the qualifications for the eldership as it relates to the children
of those who are willing to consider as candidates.   The passage most germane to this
issue is Titus 1:6.  ?An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a
man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and
disobedient.? (NIV)  Our tradition has been to interpret this passage fairly narrowly, in that
we have said that unless a man has children, and unless they are all baptized
and faithful disciples?members of the ICOC fellowship?then the person in question
is not ?qualified? to become an elder. 


In this essay, we propose to address the question of choosing elders from two
fronts.  First, we would like to do a thorough word study in the Greek of the qualities/qualifications
listed in the key passages in Titus and 1 Timothy.  What is the literal meaning of the
Greek words used?  Should the word in Titus 1:6 be translated as believers or faithful
and why?  What did Paul really have in mind?  What is denoted and what is connoted by
the qualities Paul lists for elders?  What is the background in the letters to Timothy
Titus and 1 Peter which caused Paul and Peter to mention the specific traits
in these passages?  How are the qualities related, and why are they listed in the order
they appear?  Are some more crucial than others?


Secondly, we propose a change of overall perspective as we view Titus 1:5-9,
1 Timothy 3:1-7 and 1 Peter 5:1-4.  We believe that, in general, these passages list
desirable qualities rather than qualifications for the eldership.  This may seem like
splitting hairs over semantics, but we will show that it is more than that.   In
?other words, in asking who we should appoint as elders, we should investigate
the lives of the men who are brought forward and take an overall view of how
well their lives exhibit the qualities implied in these passages.  Some may have stronger
qualities in one area above another, but the man should be viewed on balance,
taking all the qualities as a whole into account.  The lists of Paul and Peter should
not be seen as lists of in-or-out qualifications, but as guidelines for viewing
the sum of a man?s character as it relates to the crucial role of elder in the
Lord?s church.




Before we become embroiled in the useless and fruitless debate over translation
that has raged among and split many religious groups let us provide some observations.


First, the accusation (sometimes subtle, sometimes not subtle) that modern translations
are too interpretive as compared to the ?literal? translations is misleading
or even deceptive.  Every translator who approaches the biblical Hebrew and Aramaic or
Koine Greek must make choices concerning word meanings and word order.  The idea the
?literal? translations (examples: KJV, ASV, NKJV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, and the recent
English Standard Version) are more faithful to the wording and meaning of the
original text is not necessarily true at all.  These making of these translations
involved hundreds of decisions about the interpretation of the original text.  I
n some cases, that will require a choice of something as simple as word order;
in other cases, it could be a choice as serious as a textual variant.  Of course every
translator has personal preferences which affect the way he/she chooses to state
what he/she sees in the ancient text.  The point is that the choice of a literal
word-for-word translation (RSV) may actually provide a less accurate sense of
the original meaning than a meaning-for-meaning (NIV) or a paraphrased (LB)
version.  A good example of this concept is found in Titus 1:6.  When an evangelical translator
chooses the phrase ?believing? children over ?faithful? children, the word ?believing?
has a much weaker connotation for the evangelical than for us.  This fact can,
in turn, have a large effect on how we interpret this passage.


Many modern translators have chosen to do a meaning-for-meaning rather than
a word-for-word translation and such decisions are effected by the translators?
preferences.  The same is true of the ?older,? ?literal? translations.  Every Greek word carries a meaning
which is to be determined by the context in which they are contained; even conjunctions
(the small seemingly insignificant words) have a variety of meanings that can
affect the understanding of the text.  One who cannot read the original texts must
depend on a translation.  It is advisable, therefore, to compare a variety of translations
if one is to be involved in a very detailed discussion concerning the interpretation
of a particular passage of scripture.  Having said this, it is important to remember that
arguments and debates over fine points of interpretation and translation can
cause one to cross the line of arguing over unessential matters.  Such fruitless arguments
the Holy Spirit strongly warns us to avoid (2 Timothy 2:14, 23-26).  In the end, we
may need to tolerate different opinions on these unessential matters in our
fellowship.  There is no perfect translation!


The honest truth is that it would take a complete perversion of the text to
make our understanding of the important and essential matters change.  In all the translation
s, Jesus is still the unique Son of the only God who has brought the only hope
of salvation to a lost world, and each individual has the opportunity to be
reconciled by God?s gracious offer through the obedience of faith and love in
?Jesus.  In the end, we will all agree that the elder or overseer fills a crucial
role of leadership in the church and that the standards of spirituality for
this responsibility are very high. To take other matters, perhaps ancient debates
going all the way back to the days of those who came after the apostles themselves,
and make them equal in importance to the faith, or the gospel, is to create
division in
his church.  God help us to avoid that error, which has plagued the ?Christian




Just to set the stage, let us take a brief side trip to consider what we can
see concerning elders in the Old Testament.  In Exodus 18 Moses received some valuable
advice from his father-in-law.  Jethro suggested Moses place qualified men in charge of various
groups to relieve him of the monumental burden of meeting the vital needs of
the entire nation.  In Deuteronomy 1:9-18, Moses explained what took place in Exodus
18 as a reminder to God?s people of how important this was to meeting the needs
of the people.  In this passage, the appointed men were called ?tribal leaders? and
?judges.?  This is not the first time we run into the concept of elders among the people
of Israel.  When Moses initially returned to deliver Israelfrom the Egyptians
(Exodus 3:18) the first people whom he gathered together were the elders (Exodus 3:
29).  One can see a list of names of the elders in Exodus 6:14-25.  In Exodus 17 the leaders
gathered with Moses even before Jethro arrived to advise him about choosing
capable men from among the people.  So, it would not be surprising to discover that
those respected by the people would become the ?officials? judging the nation.  Th
is seems to be the historical source of ?elders? in Israel.  What qualities
were they looking for in the men who would settle disputes among the people?


Exodus 18

??????????????? Deuteronomy 1

Capable, God fearing, trustworthy, and not corruptible

??????????????? Wise, intelligent, experienced, and not showing favoritism


Their responsibilities were to settle disputes and disagreements among the people
of God.  This should provide some insight into the meaning of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8,
and what kind of people Paul was recommending as judges in the church.


Those who were chosen as elders of the people were prepared for service as described
in Exodus 18:20.   Here we see Moses teaching them the Law, providing an example of
a lifestyle worth following, as well as instruction about their duties, and
how to handle judging disputes.  This process was already completed when Moses wrote
the Law and when he provided (Deuteronomy 31:9) a copy for the elders of Is
rael.  Israelwas not the only nation to have elders (see Numbers 22:4, 7 as an example).
  But Israel?s elders were unique in that their judgments would be based on
the revealed will of God.   


In Numbers 11:16-30 we see that 70 of the elders played a special role among
the Israelites and in this circumstance were singled out from the other elders
and leaders when the Spirit of God came on them and they prophesied. Their appointment
became the basis in Jesus? day for the Sanhedrin, or ruling council of the Jewish
nation after their restoration to Jerusalemfrom the lands of captivity.  This was the
official body of ruling priests and elders that condemned Jesus to death for
blasphemy under the leadership of the high priest, Caiaphus. 




Elders played an important role in the history of Israelprimarily in overseeing
local city government.  They were only occasionally asked to serve a larger role when God
would call the whole nation together, but their primary responsibility was to
oversee local justice from the days of Moses to the days of Jesus and beyond.  It sho
uld not surprise us that disciples of Jesus who came from a Jewish background
would look for elders with qualities that could fulfill such a familiar role.  I
f we compare the qualities of elders in Exodus 18 and Deuteronomy 1 with those
we see in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5, we will find some remarkable parallels.
  What are the qualities Paul gave for those who would serve as elders in the
New Testament church?   As one looks at the list below, it is worth considering the
situations in Ephesus(1 Timothy), in Crete(Titus) as well as in a world region
which includes many nationalities (1 Peter).  The first of these was written regarding
a mature church with a well established eldership, yet a church with a number
of problems, including false teachings and factions in the church.  First Timothy 3
will tend to emphasize the qualities especially suited for this situation.  The situation
?on the islandof Cretewas very different.   Titus was being sent into a situation with
relatively young churches which may have lacked mature leadership and probably
did not have any elders appointed up to that time.  The qualities mentioned by Peter
will reflect the situation he had in mind as well.  Peter wrote to Christians who
were going through severe persecution for their faith.  Elders in such a situation
would require an extra measure of qualities appropriate to that situation.


1 Timothy 3:1-7

??????????????? Titus 1:5-9
??????????????????????????????? 1 Peter 5:1-4

(oregoo) means: to stretch toward something.  It is used in parallel with (epithumeoo)
?which means to lust after something, to have a passion for something. 


The object of their desire is (episkopos), a word which has an English parallel
of ?supervisor? but carries the idea of watchful care and concern; according
to Paul this is a (kalou ergou) a good work, which emphasizes responsibility
over position and title.  The candidate should desire the good work of being an elder/overseer.


??????????????????????????????? (ekousioos kata theou) means to be a willing shepherd the way God wants it to be
– (mee anagkastoos) not forced or an unwilling leader.  Instead (allas) he should be (prothumoos) looking forward
to the opportunity to serve in this fashion.
??????????????????????????????? The object of their desire is to be a shepherd of God?s flock, an overseer (

(anepileempton) means: literally to be someone who has nothing held over his
head; not open to bribery, manipulation, favoritism, or blackmail.  The person in mind
should not have a serious blemish in his past which could be used against him
by believers or outsiders.

??????????????? (anegkleetos) means:  someone not accused of wrong or charged with crimes.  In Titus, this
word is used twice, once with regards to family matters, and then with regards
to relationships outside the family.  The reason he is to be blameless in his family
is so we can determine what kind of leadership he will provide for God?s household
(see verse 7 where he is called [theou oiknomou ? he is God?s ?steward?, the
servant in charge of household affairs]).

(mias gunaikos andra) means:  literally to be a one woman man; a faithful husband.  This does
not apply to a woman.

??????????????? (mias gunaikos andra) means:  literally to be a one woman man; a faithful h
usband.  This does
not apply to a woman.

(neephalion) means:  to be free from mental or spiritual drunkenness and describes
someone who is calm and approachable.  This is a person who is not given to great swings
of emotion.


(soophrona) means:  a healthy thinker; a clear thinker

??????????????? (soophrona) means:  a healthy thinker; a clear thinker

(kosmion) means:  worldly in the sense of order not chaos; which means someone organized
and respected.


(philozenon) means:  someone fond of strangers and so hospitable; taking care of people
outside his immediate family.

??????????????? (philozenon) means:  someone fond of strangers and so hospitable; taking care of people
outside his immediate family.

(didaktikon) means:  a teacher, not just a manager

??????????????? (didaktikon) means:  a teacher, not just a manager
??????????????? ???????????????

(mee paroinon) means:  someone not hanging out by the wine; so, one not looking to
alcohol for comfort or solutions

??????????????? (mee paroinon) means:  someone not hanging out by the wine; so, one not looking to
alcohol for comfort or solutions

(mee pleekteen) means:  someone not full of themselves, or pushing themselves on others;
not defensive

??????????????? (mee pleekteen) means:  someone not full of themselves, or pushing themselves on others;
not defensive

(epieikee) means:  a good listener; someone with an open mind, continuing to grow
and learn


(amaxon) means:  someone not looking for a fight; literally ?not cutting others down?


(aphilarguron) means:  someone not fond of money; so not greedy (must handle money


(prohistamenon) means:  someone who is in front of a group providing an example worth
following (used twice in this context, once of his home, the other for the church).
  And his children (whoever and how many and age, etc. are not specified in
this context) are under his leadership and voluntarily treat him with respect
(they don?t take his advice and lifestyle lightly).  If a man doesn?t know how to lead
his family without resorting to force then he has no place in leading the church. 
?The church is to be treated like a family by her leaders and elders are to
be those who (epimeleesetai) ?are concerned for the welfare? of the church.

??????????????? (tekna exoon pista) means:  children regardless of age or quantity as long as they
are part of his heritage ? could include members of his household such as servants,
cousins, and people who have taken refuge in his home.  These children are described
as having faith or being faithful.  The meaning of ?faithfulness? or ?faith? is determined
by the following descriptions:  (asootos) people not ?wasting their lives? or (anhupotakt
a) ?refusing direction?.  This is to be understood in the context of a society where fathers
had the right of life and death over their children.  The father could even force a divorce
of one of his children from their spouse, but an elder in God?s church must
not resort to such rights to obtain compliance from his children.

(mee neophuton) means:  someone who is not a seedling or just sprouting from the ground,
so not a recent convert; the reason:  he will be full of hot air (literally ?full of


A good reputation with those outside of the church



??????????????? (mee authadee) means:  someone who does not please himself at the expense of others.


??????????????? (mee orgilon) means:  someone who is not irritable or easily offended


??????????????? (mee aisxrokerdee) means:  someone who is not profiting financially in an illegal,
manipulative, or improper manner
??????????????????????????????? (meede aischrokerdoos) means:  someone not serving for financial gain, acting like
an employee


??????????????? (philagathon) means:  someone who loves good; impartial


??????????????? (dikaion) means:  innocent, not liable to be accused of impropriety; consistent with
his confession


??????????????? (hosion) means:  devotion to laws


??????????????? (egkratee) means:  someone able to take a personal stand, not depending on others
for restraint


??????????????? (antexomenon) means:  someone who holds on to the teaching of Jesus against those
who want to be involved with theological speculations and philosophies and is
capable of convicting those who have been led astray.


??????????????????????????????? (meed? oos katakurieuontes) he must not be a person who rules or lords his position
over others whom he has appointed to lead (kleeroon). 


??????????????????????????????? Instead of lording it over others he must be an ?example? for them to follow



As mentioned above, there are some likely reasons for the difference between
the listed qualities for the elders of Ephesusas described to Timothy and those
for Cretein Titus
.  Ephesuswas a city where the apostle Paul had spent much personal
time and built great relationships.  If the traditional date for 1 Timothy, in the early sixties
AD is correct, then Paul had already appointed elders, and Timothy was responsible
for finding more elders who could help carry the load in that city.  It is even possible
that some of those already appointed as elders in the city may have been part
of the problems there.  If 1 Timothy was written prior to elders being appointed[1], then Paul
was telling Timothy what kind of individuals to look for among those people
who could take care of the church and keep it healthy.  Paul would also be warning them
of teachings that would cause trouble in that city.  And he would personally follow
up with this group of men in Troas(Acts 20).  In Titus one finds a situation where
the apostle Paul spent little or no time at all.  The society in Creteat that time
was criticized for a lack of discipline that could easily influence a young
church without the advantage of an apostle?s direction.  In the churches in Crete, elde
rs needed to be men who could stand against the unruly society they lived in
and provide an example that would set the church apart from their unbelieving
counterparts.  They also had to be men who were capable of stemming the spread of false teaching
that would wreck the faith of young believers.  1 Peter was likely written toward
the end of Peter?s life when the official persecution of Christians had become
a reality.  Peter was aware that he would soon no longer be available to help the church
in these regions, so he wrote t hem reminders of the important matters of the
faith and charged the elders in those regions to be faithful to their God-given
charge to lead the church.  There were different needs in each of these cities.  Pe
ter and Paul recognized this and addressed them appropriately through the list
of qualities for elders which they mention.  This should not surprise us since the qualities
of Old Testament elders as described in Exodus 18 and Deuteronomy 1 are significantly
different even though both of these accounts refer to the same event. 




            Now that we have a good background for the meaning of the words
in Titus, 1 Timothy and 1 Peter, let us turn to the question of qualities versus
qualifications.  This gets to the heart of the matter.  Are we to interpret Titus 1:6 as an in-or-out
qualification for an elder candidate?  First, let us consider the phrase in Titus 1:7,
?Since an overseer (episkopos) is entrusted with God?s work, he must be blameless?
not overbearing, not quick-tempered??   If Titus is a list of qualifications for the eldership,
how could any of us be qualified on the grounds of being blameless?  Can any of us claim
to never have been overbearing?  And what about ?whose children believe and are not open
to the charge of being wild and disobedient??  Can any of us who have teens claim with a
straight face that our children have not been disobedient?  Clearly, no disciple of Jesus
is blameless; neither do any of us have children who have never been disobedient.  Neve
rtheless Paul lists these qualities for a very good reason.  These are the absolutely
essential qualities that anyone who would take on the shepherding, overseeing
role in the church. 



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