When a congregation starts the process of appointing new elders, the preacher usually preaches a lesson or two about the qualifications of elders. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 are usually the two texts on which the preacher focuses. But I think we are missing some qualifications that are much more fundamental. Obviously a man must not be a drunkard and he must be the husband of one wife; but just because he meets these qualifications, does not necessarily make him qualified to serve as a shepherd in the Lord’s church.
Before we talk about the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, we ought to begin by talking about the fruit of the Spirit. If a man does not display the fruit of the Spirit, then he does not “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). If a man does not walk by the Spirit, he certainly is not qualified to serve as an elder, regardless of whether or not he meets the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Consider the qualities Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23. These are the first nine qualities we ought to look for when considering a man for the office of overseer:
If a man does not posses these qualities, then he is not “led by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18) and it is a moot point to proceed further by asking whether or not he is the husband of one wife, has believing children, etc.
Consider the ramifications of this idea. This means, for instance, that a man who is not joyful, is not qualified to serve as an elder. He may have been a Christian for five decades, may have never been divorced, may know the Bible from cover-to-cover, and may be able to refute every false doctrine, but if he is known in the congregation and the community as a grumpy old man – he is not qualified to hold the office. Similarly, if a man is not kind, gentle, and patient – he is not qualified to serve as an elder.
Personally, I can say I serve under the oversight of four elders who not only meet the qualifications of elders listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, but just importantly, meet the qualifications listed in Galatians 5. In the lives of these four men, it is easy to see the fruit of the Spirit. Unfortunately, however, many congregations cannot say that about the men serving there as elders.
So maybe, when it’s time to appoint elders, congregations should consider Galatians 5:22-23 before they consider anything else. And if a man currently serves as an elder – or wishes to someday serve as an elder – these are some of the qualities he ought to cultivate in his life; just as every Christian ought to be cultivating these qualities.
I love you and God loves you,