Volume 16 Issue 1                 January, 2018

Qualifications of an Elder


In the last couple of issues we have been looking at how God builds leaders and develops their authority. It is important that we understand that leadership is a calling of the Lord and that there are qualifications for one who would fulfill this calling. One does not become a leader by accident but by the preparation of the Lord .

Qualifications of an Elder

The basic qualifications of an elder reveal the fact that he has taken the Word of God seriously and has applied the teachings of the Lord to his life and that of his family. In other words, he has sought the Kingdom of God for himself and his family by applying the rulership of the Lord to himself, his family, and his work. In Paul's letter to Timothy he lays out the primary requirements for an elder.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 NASB

(1) It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.

(2) An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

(3) not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.

(4) He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity

(5) (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),

(6) and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.

(7) And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Paul told Titus, when he left him in Crete to set in order the things that remained by appointing elders in every city. The implication of this is that the final step of putting things in order is the appointment of elders. I believe this step is what moves a group of disciples from being a gathering of believers into a lawful assembly (ekklesia).

Paul told Titus to evaluate the prospective elder by the same set of characteristics that he had told Timothy.

Titus 1:5-9 NASB

(5) For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,

(6) namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.

(7) For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,

(8) but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,

(9) holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.

One of the requirements listed above is that the elders must be “able to teach”. This doesn't necessarily mean that an elder must have what we would call a “pulpit personality”. This type of teaching was not the norm in the early Church. It is only as we have moved to large buildings and created a distinction between clergy and laity that the “pulpit personality” has come into being. Most local teaching in the early church was done in small groups or even one on one. Any Elder should be able to counsel or teach an individual or family in a small environment. This type of teaching is closer to a discipleship relationship than what we would consider to be that of a teacher.

Table of Qualifications for an Elder from the Scriptures

Elder Qualifications
from Timothy

Fuller Meaning of Original Greek Words

above reproach blameless, Or without reproach: one who cannot be laid hold of, who gives no ground for accusation.
husband of one wife

husband with only one wife

temperate sober, circumspect, vigilant, to be sober and wary; cool and unimpassioned, to be calm, dispassionate, and circumspect
prudent safe (sound) in mind, that is, self controlled (moderate as to opinion or passion): - discreet, sober, temperate
respectable orderly, that is, decorous: - of good behavior, modest
hospitable fond of guests, that is, hospitable: - given to (lover of, use) hospitality
able to teach instructive
not addicted to wine quarrelsome over wine
not pugnacious a smiter, that is, pugnacious (quarrelsome): - striker
gentle forbearing, appropriate, that is, mild: - gentle, moderation, patient
peaceable not contentious, peaceable: - not a brawler
free from love of money not a money-lover, unavaricious: - without covetousness, not greedy of filthy lucre
manages household well placed in front, dwelling, family, home
dignified control of children children under subordination: - subjection
not a new convert a young convert (“neophyte”): - novice
good reputation outside church good evidence given - record, report, testimony, witness

Elder Qualifications
from Titus

Fuller Meaning of Original Greek Words

believing children trustworthy, trustful, believing, faithful, sure, true children
no dissipation not charged with unsavedness, that is, profligacy: - excess, riot
no rebellion not charged with unsubdued, that is, insubordinate - disobedient, that is not put under, unruly
no reproach unaccused, that is, irreproachable: - blameless
not self-willed not self pleasing, that is, arrogant: - self-willed
no quick-tempered not irascible: - soon angry
loves what is good fond of good, that is, a promoter of virtue: - love of good men
sensible safe (sound) in mind, that is, self controlled, moderate as to opinion or passion - discreet, sober, temperate
just equitable (in character or act), innocent, holy - just, meet, righteous
devout consecration, purity from defilement, that is, hallowed, pious, sacred, sure- holy, mercy
self-controlled strong in a thing (masterful), that is, self controlled (in appetite, etc.)- temperate
holds fast to word adhere to, care for- hold fast, hold to, support the trustworthy word
able to exhort powerful or capable, possible- able, could, power, strong; to call near, that is, invite, invoke (by imploration, exhortation or consolation): - beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort (-ation), intreat, pray
able to refute powerful or capable, possible- able, could, power, strong; to confute, admonish: - convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove; those who dispute, refuse- answer again, contradict, deny, gainsay, speak against

These requirements fit into three broad categories: 1) personal character, 2) family situation, and, 3) spiritual ability.

It may help us to understand by creating another table where we categorize the requirements for an elder as listed above into the three categories.

Categorization of Elder Requirements

Personal Character Family Situation Spiritual Ability
above reproach husband of one wife able to teach
temperate hospitable not a new convert
prudent manages household well holds fast to word
respectable dignified control of children able to exhort
not addicted to wine believing children able to refute
not pugnacious



free from love of money

good reputation outside church

no dissipation

no rebellion

no reproach

not self-willed

not quick-tempered

loves what is good






As can be seen from the table above an elder has grown up, that is, matured in the Lord. He is well on his way to becoming conformed to the image of Christ. His family is maintained in good order and his spiritual ability is based on the word and its delivery to others.

Redistribution Information

You have permission to copy and distribute these materials provided:
1) no changes are made to the content, and,
2) they are not sold.

© 2018 Art Nelson and Lifestream Teaching Ministries.
All rights reserved