Eldership Pt. 1 – 1 Timothy 3:1-3

Posted by: admin | 06/08/2014 | 12:15 pm

What Is An Elder?

The passage that we’re going to go through today isn’t so much about what an elder does than what an elder’s qualifications are.  Not just anyone should be an elder and not just anyone can say that they are an elder.

This passage uses the term “ἐπίσκοπος” which is the term Paul uses in this passage simply means “church leader.”  But in other areas of Scripture, Paul uses the term “πρεσβύτερος” which is translated as elder, however both of these term I believe (and many other scholars believe can be taken as synonymous with one another.  One thing that is essential to be an elder is ordination to that position.

For very plain reasons, at this fellowship, you must be recognized as a biblically qualified leader before you can have any responsibilities or be ordained for any particular work.  I believe that any congregation that does not have biblically qualified elders at the helm is no church at all.  Neither would it be qualified by Scripture because Paul writes in Acts 14:23, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

Unless your “church” has qualified elders overseeing it, it does not qualify as a biblical church “For the bible tells me so.”  It seems that my generation wants to redefine the church at every turn but God has beaten them to it.

ILLUSTRATION: We live in a culture where anyone can be ordained for any reason.  You take a quick online class, sign a piece of paper that’s mailed in to you, and then a few days later, you get a certificate in the mail.  I remember one time going with a friend so that they could get a tattoo and as they were getting their tattoo done, I was talking with the artist and he asked me what I did for a living.  I told him I was a pastor to which he responded between the most foul of language that he was an ordained minister as well.  This individual I was speaking to wasn’t even a believer and yet some entity out there had qualified him for the ministry of the gospel that he didn’t even believe in!

Redemption: If the church is to grow and thrive, biblically qualified elders must step up and lead

Doctrine of sermon: The church is required to have biblically qualified elders overseeing it or it is no church at all.


WHAT QUALIFIES AN ELDER?: He must be above reproach

When Paul was writing this, he had in mind that the elder being appointed must be someone who simply makes sense.  This must be someone that the average person would look at and think that the role of elder simply applies to that person because the person behaved as an elder would before they were considered.  In other words, this list isn’t a list of things that a person must change before they can become an elder, rather these are things that are more than likely already present in that person.

  • This means that even those who are not believers must think well of him, because what happens when someday those unbelievers become believers and they see their former co-worker who had an affair with their wife preaching from a pulpit?
  • Understand that I’m not saying that every saint doesn’t have a past and every sinner a future, however that people can see that the man standing in front of them isn’t the same man who was “dead in his sins and trespasses.”
    • This passage is meant to indicate that someone who has blame or accusations against them; or perhaps that they have broken relationships in their lives that they have not made attempts to reconcile that it might not reflect well on the church and its members for that matter for allowing that person to lead.  Even ordained elders are not immune to church discipline.

–Turn with me if you will to 1 Timothy 5:19-21

Redemption: The only way that an elder can be above reproach is if his personal life, particularly his relationships, are well managed…


   II.            WHAT QUALIFIES AND ELDER?: He must be the husband of one wife

–Of course, if a man’s own wife is being neglected or if he is not good at being devoted to his own bride, how do you think he will care for the Bride of Christ?  If a man isn’t obedient to God in the covenant of marriage, how do you think he’ll do in the covenant of a church?

  • Different scholars have approached this phrase to mean many things. 

a)       Some have said that this means that an elder must be married, but that doesn’t make sense that Paul (who recommends that those within the church remain single and was himself an apostle which was a higher office than elder who was himself single) would require that. 

b)       Some would say that Paul was making a statement that an elder couldn’t be divorced.  However drawing that very specific conclusion from a very generalized statement might not be a very safe conclusion.  In fact, while in most English translations this portion has 5 words, in the original language, this portion would read generically, “of one wife husband” and is only 3 words.  Can an elder have been divorced?  My question would be “WAS THE ELDER A CHRISTIAN WHEN HE WAS DIVORCED?”  If no, then I can’t apply Christian standards to a non-Christian.

c)       Instead, this general statement meant from what I can tell that if an elder were married, it could only be to one woman (this is an important qualification in a culture where polygamy was a prevailing practice).  Also, it means that an elder must be devoted to his wife.

ILLUSTRATION: A solicitor was going door to door making his sales. Hearing a commotion inside he knocked extra-loudly on the door. A somewhat disheveled man admitted him in. “What can I do for you?” he growled, clearly upset about something. “I would like to speak to the head of the home,” said the solicitor politely. “Then you’re just in time,” barked the young man. “My wife and I are settling that very question right now!”

  • If a man’s personal life and relationships are a mess, how do you think his relationships inside the church and among believers will look?

Albert Mohler wrote in his book, The Conviction to Lead that, “Americans instinctively know that character matters in leadership.  As a matter of fact, you can go so far as to say that character is essential to leadership.  People know better than to follow someone they do not trust.”

  • If a man is unable to get his own wife to follow him and trust him, what do you think his leadership will look like?  I can guarantee that it will be nothing but a disaster.

ILLUSTRATION: Dr. Charles Stanely of “In touch ministries” wife Anna,  filed for divorce in the early 90’s and after years of counseling, stated that, “She said she had experienced ‘many years of discouraging disappointments and marital conflict. … Charles, in effect, abandoned our marriage. He chose his priorities, and I have not been one of them.’”  This minister who’s a leader of one of the biggest churches in the nation chose the church over his wife.  I make a covenant in front of you today, if this ever happens, I’m choosing to heal my marriage and I will step down as an elder because I would have been disqualified on a biblical basis.

Redemption: An elder must be a good leader and husband, but this requires that he have a realistic understanding of both his surroundings and himself…


  1. III.            WHAT QUALIFIES AND ELDER?: He must be sober minded

–This list is interesting because according to Paul, being sober minded is a pre-requisite to being self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and being able to teach.  If you’re not sober minded, you are not self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, or able to teach.  While sober-minded was a noun in this passage, the rest of the descriptors following it were adjectives.

  • WHY IS BEING SOBER MINDED THE ENTRY WAY FOR ALL THESE OTHER POINTS?  According to the original language, sober-minded meant “be in control of one’s thought processes and thus not be in danger of irrational thinking.”  This involves as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth to, “take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
    • This makes sense when looked at from the right perspective because if one can control his thoughts, then he can control his outward actions.  If he can control his outward actions, then he will be well respected; if he is well respected then he can be hospitable to those he doesn’t know but that may know him; if he is all of the above then people will listen when he speaks and he will be allowed to teach.  Particularly in our culture, you have to earn your right to speak into the lives of those around you; it was the same back then.

ILLUSTRATION: One of my favorite Greek words in the entirety of Scripture is found right here and it’s translated as “hospitable.”  But it’s actually a compound word that’s put together “φιλόξενος” which literally means, “a friend of strangers.”


ILLUSTRATION: I can’t remember who I was speaking to, but I remember getting onto the topic of loaves of bread.  We talked at long length over how we couldn’t understand how people throw away the heels of the bread because it’s the best part!  We related over bread, yet God was able to use that ever so common matter to allow us to relate and be friendly even though we were strangers.

Redemption: Being aware of his surroundings and himself allows the elder to think about how he himself would like to be treated…


  1.  IV.            WHAT QUALIFIES AN ELDER?: He must not be addicted to drinking, violent or greedy, but must be kind and gentle

–Paul was drawing a sharp line of distinction between those who were sober-minded and those who were drunkards and greedy.

  • If a pastor gets into ministry because he wants to be rich, God may just grant him his wishes as a judgment against him in exchange for his soul.  There are plenty of ministers out there that preach a different gospel and are clearly lovers of money instead of lovers of Jesus Christ.  There are also plenty of ministers out there that are addicted to alcohol, who are not kind, and who are not gentle in their dealings with others.  Instead they’re spiritual bullies looking to belittle and bludgeon the people of God.
    • They lead from a place of manipulation and aggression, taking the word of God and telling others to apply it to their lives while ignoring it in their own.  These are Pharisees at their worst; Jesus says of these types, “so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”
    • Usually, if a pastor is willing to seriously compromise their faith in one way, then they’re willing to seriously compromise it in many.

Illustration: There was a pastor in our association who was an alcoholic who was the leader of a certain church here in town who, although corrected, would not cease his habits.  Then, after a time away, came back to the association, planted a church, fell back into alcoholism, and right before a sermon on Sunday, sent out an email like a coward and told his leaders that he quit. 

ILLUSTRATION: There’s another big time pastor by the name of Creflo Dollar that is very popular who you can pull upon youtube dancing on money that people are throwing up on the stage.  He is telling people that if they want the blessing of God, then it doesn’t come from the work of Christ on the cross, but through the money they to the ministry.

–Show slide of Creflo Dollar in jail (In 2012, Creflo Dollar was charged with punching and then choking his 15 year old daughter.  It seems greed and violence go hand in hand.

–I have one word for these two “DISQUALIFIED!”

Redemption: If the church is to grow, bring people to a saving faith in Christ, and reach others for Christ, it must have faithful elders at the forefront….



Doctrine of sermon: The church is required to have biblically qualified elders overseeing it or it is no church at all.


Application: Today church, I’m going to ask you to pay attention just for one more minute.  I would like you, if this is your church to consider the outcome of my faith and look at my life.  I’d like you to measure me by Scripture to see if I measure up and if you’re from another church or if you’re considering going to another church, I ask you to carefully weigh the life of the pastor and see if he is in line with this teaching from Scripture, because if he’s not I guarantee you that the church you’re attending is in serious trouble.



–HOW ABOUT SPIDERS? (Spiders have killed only 100 people in the last 50 years) HOW ABOUT TIGERS?(tigers kill a little over 100 people a year) HOW ABOUT SNAKES? (Snakes kill an average of 50,000 people around the world every year).  No, THE MOST DANGEROUS CREATURE ON THIS PLANET IS THE MOSQUITO.  The mosquito, through the transference of blood borne diseases, around 1,000,000 people every year.  There is a reason that small things matter when we consider eldership and it’s because usually, it’s the things that aren’t obvious that lead to failure.