Is He An Elder
by Timothy A. & Kimberly B. Southall
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In the "Controversies Over Requirements" section below, there are Greek
words given with the English equivalent following in parentheses.
If you do not have the font "Koine" installed on your computer, then the
Greek words may not appear accurately.
The Word of God gives us the information
we need in order to identify who the elders (also known as shepherds and/or
overseers) of our congregations are. Acts
20:28 tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who makes men
overseers. The selection of elders, therefore, is made by God and not by
any of us. Let us always remember that.
Qualifications To Become
God's Word sets forth the qualifications
for elders. These are found in 1
Timothy 3:1-7; Titus
1:6-9; and 1
Peter 5:2-3. In addition, the qualifications for deacons
are likewise requirements for elders (as established in 1
Timothy 3:8), and they are found in
Timothy 3:8-12. And even though the qualifications are as
simple as can be, we in the church sometimes somehow manage to make the
requirements about as clear as mud. Why? We don't know. For if we will
review the requirements in question form, it is a simple matter to know
whether the Holy Spirit has made someone an elder or not. Is there someone
being considered for the position of elder? Ask yourself these questions
If the answer to any of the questions is
unknown, then the true answer needs to be ascertained. If the answer to
of the questions is "no," then the Holy Spirit has not selected the individual
in question to be an elder of Christ's church. Period. Remember, God set
forth the requirements for elders, and He controls the circumstances in
which we find ourselves. If one doesn't meet all of the requirements, then
it is not us who says a man is not qualified, it is God.
Responsibilities to Remain An Elder
Not only do the above qualifications need
to be fulfilled at the time a man is appointed to be an elder, but he must
also continue to fulfill each and every one of the requirements of becoming
an elder. And once an elder, there are additional requirements and/or responsibilities
he must fulfill. What about those who are already elders in our congregations?
Are they truly elders chosen by the Holy Spirit for the position? In addition
to the questions above, let's review other questions which apply to elders
|Is he willing to be an overseer? (1
|Is he eager to serve? (1
|Is he "not greedy for money"? (1
|Does he "not lord it over those entrusted
to him"? (1
|Is he an example to the flock? (1
|Does he keep watch over himself and all
of the flock? (Acts
|Is he on guard against "wolves" or men
who may arise and distort the truth in order to draw disciples after them?
|Is he willing to pray over the sick and
anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord when requested? (James
There are some requirements for elders
which seem to be debated over the issue of semantics or definitions. Let's
review some of them.
Does an elder always have to be a married
man? Yes. According to scripture, he has to be "the husband of but
one wife," therefore an elder must be a man, and he must be married. (See
Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus
Does an elder have to have children?
Yes. According to scripture, his children must believe, he must manage
his children and household well, and he must see that his children obey
him with proper respect. Therefore an elder must have children. (See
Timothy 3:4, 12; Titus
Does an elder have to have more than one
child? Yes. The word translated "children" in 1
Timothy 3:4 and Titus
1:6 is from the Greek word "tekna"
(tekna) which is plural. The word translated "children" in 1
Timothy 3:12 is from the Greek word "teknwn"
(teknwn) which is plural. The singular form of this word in Greek is "teknon"
(teknon), and would be translated into the English word "child." However,
the singular word is not used in connection with requirements for elders;
the plural word is used, meaning an elder must have more than one child.
Are adult children exempt from being considered
as part of the requirements to become and remain an elder? No, they
are also included, regardless of their age. As shown in the answer to the
previous question, the words "tekna"
(tekna) and "teknwn"
(teknwn) are translated into the English word "children." This Greek word
(and its forms) refer to one's offspring in general rather than to those
who haven't yet reached adulthood. A good example of this is found in Romans
8:16-17, which says in part, "The Spirit himself testifies
with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then
we are heirs . . ." The same Greek word "tekna"
(tekna) is used there also. Obviously, Romans
8:16-17 refers to adults as well as to those who have not
yet reached adulthood. Likewise, 1
Timothy 3:4, 12 and Titus
1:6 refers to the elder's adult offspring as well as his
offspring who have not yet reached adulthood.
There is a great need for biblical elders
in our congregations today. However, we must be very careful not to overlook
any of the required qualifications and consequently appoint a man whom
the Holy Spirit has not designated to be an elder. Untold damage can and
has been caused within the Lord's church by Christians selecting unqualified
men to be elders. Appointing men to oversee and shepherd the flock of God's
children is very serious business. And no one but no one, other than God,
is qualified to know who should fill that position. In fact, scripture
tells us that "the Holy Spirit has made" overseers (Acts
20:28). If He didn't make them (and the circumstances which
qualify them) to be elders, then they are not elders. And if we appoint
them as such contrary to God's Word and will, then we presume to know better
than God and are usurping His authority over His own church. God's Word
assures us that all individuals who take on the role of elder must someday
give an account as those who have kept watch over the flock. (See
13:17.) Surely, no unqualified man would knowingly wish
to find himself faced with that task, nor would any of us want to place
him in that terrible position.
God wants only the best for all of His
children. If we will just place our faith in Him and follow the qualifications
He has lovingly and wisely put into place for our benefit, it won't be
difficult for us to be able to determine whether any particular man is
an elder or not.
Copyright © 2002 Timothy
A. & Kimberly B. Southall. All rights reserved.