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Qualifications and Examples

Posted by on Sep 17, 2010 in books, elders, office | 7 comments

Qualifications and Examples

About three and a half years ago, I wrote a post called “Qualifications and Examples.” The post was triggered by a passage from John Hammett’s book Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches. As I say in the post, I don’t like the phrase “qualifications” for the lists in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Perhaps, as I ask at the end of the post, you have a better term.


Qualifications and Examples

I have mentioned John Hammett’s book Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches several times on this blog. I do not agree with everything that he says about pastors, elders, and overseers (or other aspects of the church). However, he has a great section on the “qualifications” from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:

The first notable aspect of these lists is their ordinariness. As D.A. Carson notes, “almost every entry is mandated elsewhere of all believers.” Whatever is involved in being an elder, it is not a calling to a higher standard of Christian living. How could it, when every Christian is commanded by Christ to “be perfect” (Matt. 5:48) and when the goal and destiny of every Christian is Christlikeness (Rom. 8:29)?

But if these character traits are commanded of all Christians, what is their significance here? The key to understanding the meaning of these lists of character traits is remembering that one of the responsibilities of leaders is to set the example for the flock (1 Peter 5:3). The character required to be an elder is the character necessary to be an example to the flock. Such a person would not need to be perfect (such persons are in very short supply among fallen humanity) but would need a degree of maturity and proven character that would enable him to serve as an effective example, including an example of how to confess and repent when he does stumble.

Second, it is also striking how different these qualifications are from modern lists of qualifications for a position. There is no mention of the need for training or educational requirements, little in the way of skills or experience or certification. Character is the central issue. [166]

So, according to Hammett, elders are not perfect. I agree with this. In fact, I would suggest that no one can live up to the list of “qualifications” given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Perhaps that is why Paul does not call the lists “qualifications”.

What are the purpose of the lists then? Well, I think the lists are not given for the benefit of the elders, but for the benefit of all the people. If leaders are to be examples as Hammett says – and I agree with this – then which examples do we follow? I mean, everyone is an example of something. Which examples are we supposed to follow? Who should we look to as examples?

We should look to people who most closely live according to the lists given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 (among other lists). We do not look for perfect people to follow – there are none, other than Jesus Christ. We look for people who would be godly examples, people who are mature followers of Jesus Christ. They will fail to meet some of the “qualifications” – all of them will – but they will also be known for repenting and confessing when they do fail, to paraphrase Hammett’s description.

But, these people are not living a certain way in order to be leaders. They are living an exemplary life in response to God’s work in their own life – in obedience to the presence, conviction, and leading of the Holy Spirit. These people do not become elders and then begin living an exemplary life; they are recognized as elders because of the life they are already living.

So, perhaps “qualifications” is not the best term for these lists. Any suggestions for another name for the lists in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-17-2010

    Lifestyle 😮

  2. 9-17-2010

    An older (in the LORD) follower of Christ who is growing and maturing as evidenced by their lifestyle of loving God, neighbor, brother and enemy, who is sacrificially serving others and who spends time with younger brothers and sisters helping them to do the same.

  3. 9-17-2010

    Oops I posted a reply on the wrong post. 🙂 See are you my elder? 🙂 Sorry.

  4. 9-17-2010


    And that list of (I vote for) qualifications is a real tough list. Yes?

    Could the list of qualifications be a test of someone’s “Integrity?”

    Why would someone assume the role of elder, and say they are an elder,
    if they know they do NOT qualify to be an elder?

    Could it be a lack of “Integrity?”

    What would you call someone, who called them self an elder
    and knew they did NOT qualify?

    What would you call a medical Doctor, who said they were a Doctor,
    and who knew they did NOT qualify to be a Doctor?

    What would you call a Lawyer, who said they were a Lawyer
    and who knew they did NOT qualify to be a Lawyer?

    Would you recommend a Doctor or a Lawyer to a friend
    If you knew they did NOT qualify to be a Doctor or a Lawyer?

    Wouldn’t it be dangerous and expensive to trust and depend on
    a Doctor and a Lawyer who does NOT qualify?

    In my experience…
    It is dangerous and expensive to trust and depend on
    elders/overseers who do NOT qualify.

    Maybe that’s why “The Religious System” of today
    is in such a mess – elders and overseers – who do NOT qualify
    “Spiritually Abusing” God’s ekklesia, God’s sheep.

    The Bible warns us, a lot…
    About False apostles, many False prophets,
    False teachers, False Christs’, False anointed one’s, etc..

    To trust No man. To not trust in princes.
    Let no man deceive you. And the list goes on…

    And lot’s of scriptures about trusting Jesus.

    No thanks – Never met an elder who meets the qualifications.

    Jesus… I’ve returned to the shepherd and Bishop of my soul… Jesus…

  5. 9-21-2010

    Paul wrote to the Corinthians “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”. The elders and overseers are called to be examples to the flock. Paul encouraged the brothers at Phillipi:

    “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
    Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
    Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
    For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Phl 3:13-18

    So, as Amos (and Paul) warned, wolves will enter in, so study to show yourselves approved.

    I see the “qualifications” as marks of maturity all the brethren should be looking to imitate, attain and hold to.

  6. 9-21-2010

    Dear Amos,

    Though true, I find your points heart breaking. Not because I love you. Because I have loved me, and still do, and in that I can recall your pain (and your anger?). I think your position, that we are not to put our trust in men, is well taken. When we do so, we are going to find failure resulting in disappointment, and often in painful wounds. This tells us as much about ourselves as about them.

    Is there a Christian who hasn’t experienced these?

    Your post describes proud, arrogant men, men–as you say–who are without integrity. None of us would recognize such men as elders, regardless what else is Officially claimed by them or others. But, would we not still recognize them as our brothers (and sisters in some cases)? If we can love our enemies, we can love these family members. We can “bear all things,” heavy as that can be (until we kneel at the foot of the cross).

    May I remind myself again that we can submit to one another without trusting in one another, without expecting perfection, without feeling bitter disappointment when failure occurs. (Without the terrible weight of trusting ourselves.) Failure always occurs (but we discover soon enough that even this is a grace given to us).

    And we guard ourselves from pain. We desire (secretly demand) that we be loved. Are we deserving of that? The commandments teach us that God is deserving of the love we want for ourselves, which gives us a clue about our self-estimation, and our ugly, shared, earnest wish along with Satan. I was an older man, and decades a believer, when I finally owned that I was not God. I am still learning this. May I remind myself again to remember I am not God and do not deserve what He deserves. And remind myself again that He-who-is-God-alone extends His grace to me.

    Shall we let the proud wound us? Shall we wound ourselves? Why? How.

    Don’t we know our own weaknesses and frequent failures, our fears, the terrible admixture of good and evil that swirls within? Knowing this, admitting this, falling in tears before Him don’t we find grace from Him? Over and over and over, 7×70 equaling infinity? And so, experiencing such generous and relentless grace for ourselves, we can be those who “have been forgiven much” and so “love much.” We extend that same preciously embraced grace to our brothers and sisters, finding that “love covereth a multitude of sins.” We need this kindly, gentle glue between ourselves. Or who could stand?

    Submission is something that becomes woven into our being as believers. It is our joy. It is to breathe freely at last. We are to submit to God / to the Word of God / to the Spirit. We are to submit to government,
    “every ordinance of man” (I Pet 2:13). Husbands and wives are to submit to each other (Eph 5:21) and the younger submit to the older (I Pet 5:5). Each of us learns to submit to every Christian: “all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility,“ and, I Pet 5:5, “let each esteem other better than themselves” Phil 2:3 We are even to count every circumstance as His best and wisest will for us, determined to bring good to us (the sublime sunlight of Romans 8).

    It is wonderful to be free from protecting ourselves, from seeing ourselves as we inspect others. To uncoil from our defensive stance, clinging to our own life, and to enrobe ourselves at last in His undiminishable righteousness. The only righteousness we all have is His. Nothing we have done. Nothing we will do. All His. Ours. Free. To find that rest, trusting Him as He works through every circumstance, through every brother and sister. Even the belligerent ones, the proud ones, the vain ones–yes, those just like us, who also are forgiven, safe forever. How much pain this washes away for us. How light a burden we have in exchange.

    We are not to trust in men. But when we trust Him, we see Him reflected through others. Even, at times, through ourselves.

    Those who are our elders are those who have loved us sacrificially, who submit to us, whose life sets an example we want to follow. They are those we would naturally seek out to pray for our deepest needs, even our sicknesses. Of all those we are to submit to, because elders among us are tangibly, visibly yielded to Him, small before Him, loving towards us, they are among the easiest for us to submit to. They are safe because they know we are just like them, always in some turmoil and struggle. They are learning to taste grace, and offer it, digested, to us.

    And yet, as God reminds husbands to love their wives (who are such incredible examples of His grace in our lives), God reminds believers to be submitted to elders (as we are to be to all believers). How hard our hearts must be!

    Elders are those who could say things like Paul said (but we already see this expressed in their lives):

    For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. – II Cor 2:4

    For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. -II Cor 4:5-7

    But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. -II Cor 8:16

    Beside those things that are without (and he recounts many and varied sacrifices made in following Christ on their behalf), that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? -see II Cor 11:23-29

    Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. -I Thess 2:6-8

  7. 9-21-2010


    Appreciate the response, the tone, and the caring thoughts.

    Much agreement with…
    “The only righteousness we all have is His. Nothing we have done. Nothing we will do. All His. Ours. Free. To find that rest, trusting Him as He works through every circumstance, through every brother and sister.”

    And yes, there was much pain and anger and “Spiritual Abuse.” By men who said they were elders, leaders, “God Ordained Authority” and they were found to be liars. Rev 2:2.

    The benefit is; It drives you to Jesus, the Shepherd and Bishop of your soul. You find that Jesus will teach you all truth and Jesus wants to be your leader. He’s the best. 🙂

    “Spiritual Abuse” is rampnat in the 501 (c) 3, non-profit, tax deductible, Religious Corporations, most call “church.” Most don’t even know they are being abused, they just go along with the program, thinking they are being taught truth. But, they are being taught “traditions of men” and “twisted scriptures.” Anyone in the Bible with the “Title” *Pastor?* Anyone in the bible with the “Title” Reverend? Any congregations in the Bible “Led” by a *Pastor/Reverend?* Hmmm?

    What is popular is not always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is not always popular.

    As Alan says in this post, (and I love the example of “fellowship”that Alan sets and blogs about) leaders are to be examples, But, the scriptures say “Elders” are to be examples. Wouldn’t it be a great example if all those who were told they are “Elders” BUT, did NOT qualify to be an “Elder” would remove themselves from that “Position” and become a brethren. Instead of trying to make excuses for those who do NOT qualify. Or trying to give the “Qualifications” a different subtitle so that “ALL” the “Elders” who do NOT qualify can remain as they are. Disobediant to Pauls list. Disobediant to the word of God.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    Be blessed in your search for Truth… Jesus.