Qualification of Elders & Deacons
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READ KEY TEXTS: 1Tim 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9
- AN ELDER MUST HAVE AN IRREPROACHABLE LIFE.
- 1Tim 3:2 “must be above reproach” – Tit 1:6 “ if any man be above reproach” – Tit 1:7 “ For the overseer must be above reproach”
- To be above reproach does not mean to be sinless (1John 1:8-10; James 3:2a). But explicitly indicated in Tit 1, it means that he is to be irreproachable his home situation (Tit. 1:6), and he is to be irreproachable in his personal character (Tit 1:7-9).
A. Irreproachable in his home situation.
1. This includes an elder’s marriage life.
- Tit 1:6 “if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife” – 1Tim 3:2 “ the husband of one wife”
- This means that an elder, if he is married, must not be one who was converted as a bigamist or polygamist. He cannot be living in a compromise home situation.
- This qualification is essential because an elder ought to be a proper domestic model for God’s people. Moreover, abnormal situation in the home will leave a man very little time and energy in doing the work of an elder.
2. Also, this includes an elder’s children.
- Tit 1:6 “having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion”. Implied also in 1Tim 3:4 “keeping his children under control with all dignity”.
- “having children who believe” does not mean that all his children have to be converted. But the word translated “believe” could also be translated “faithful” or “trustworthy” or “dependable”(1Cor 1:9). The children of elders must be those whom their parents can trust.
- And this trustworthiness is further explained in Tit.1 by way of a negative description – “not accused of dissipation or rebellion”. In other words, the children of elders must not be those who are known to be wild and spoiled brats. For as long as they are under the roof of their parents, they must be those who are faithful or dependable. They should not be the kind of kids who, when their parents are gone, would invite their friends at home and have a wild party. They should not be the kind of kids known to be troublemakers at school.
- This qualification is essential because an elder is to be a model of domestic life and godliness. Moreover, a man who has wild children cannot command the respect of people.
B. Irreproachable in his personal character
- This includes, as clear particularly in Tit. 1, the absence of certain crippling vices and the presence of certain necessary graces.
1. The Absence of Certain Crippling Vices
a. A Proud Opinionatedness
- Tit 1:7
- This means that an elder must NOT be someone who will insist in saying and doing whatever he likes, even without the clear warrant from the Scriptures. He must NOT be one who cannot distinguish between his opinion and the clear teachings of Scriptures, a specific application of Scriptures and the clear commands and principles in the Scriptures. He must NOT be one who is too ready to speak his mind and insist on his opinions in matters he is not familiar with or which Scriptures does not addressed. He must not be guilty of a proud opinionatedness.
- This qualification is essential because an elder is to rule by God’s word, not his own personal opinions. Moreover, how can an elder work harmoniously with his fellow elders, if he is guilty of this vice?
- An Abrasive Hot-headedness
- Various words in Tit. 1 and 1Tim 3 are used to convey this vice. Two key words are used in Tit. 1:7 and 1Tim 3:3, then additional words round up the idea in each passage. The key words used in both passages are “not addicted to wine, or pugnacious”. In Tit, Paul rounds out this idea by adding the words “not quick-tempered”. In 1Tim, he adds the word “uncontentious”.
- “not quick tempered” (Tit 1:7). This means that an elder must not be short-fused. He must not be one who explodes over the slightest provocation. He must not be easily offended by petty and inconsequential things.
- “not addicted to wine” ( Tit. 1:7; 1Tim 3:3). Paul here assumes the relationship between controlling your anger and controlling your temper. A person who has not control over other things, less likely will have control over his temper.
- “not pugnacious” ( Tit. 1:7; 1Tim 3:3). Literally “not a striker or smiter”. An elder must not be a man who is known to be a striker either with his tongue or with his hand.
- “uncontentious” ( 1Tim 3:3). An elder must NOT be a man who loves to fight. He must NOT be one who looks for a fight, or worse, pick fights with people.
- This does not meant that elder is never to contend for what is right or true ( Jude 3). But an elder must not be contentious.
- This qualification is essential because a person guilty of abrasive hot-headedness will be hard to approach. Moreover, instead of solving people’s conflicts, he will tend to aggravate them.
c. Self-seeking Greed
- “not fond of sordid (or shameful) gain” (Tit. 1:7) “ free from the love of money” (1Tim 3:3)
- This means that an elder must NOT be consumed and absorbed about money and things. Economic advancement must NOT be his absorbing concern. He must NOT be someone whose major concern in taking a pastoral charge is the monetary compensation and not the spiritual well-being of the church’s members.
- This qualification is essential because a man who is guilty of self-seeking greed will at best be only a hireling and not a good shepherd. Moreover, nothing is more disgusting than to making religion just a stepping-stone for one’s personal ambition. Furthermore, a person guilty of self-seeking greed will tend to become a slave or a pleaser of men. In addition, he will have little time to give to the work.
2. The Presence of Certain Necessary Graces
a. A Generous Love for People
- “but hospitable” ( Tit. 1:8); “must be hospitable” (1Tim. 3:2)
- This involves being kind, generous, and sensitive to people that one is willing to share his time, his meal, his home with them.
- This qualification is essential because his gifts will be of little value unless he demonstrates this generous love for people (1Cor 13:1). Moreover, an elder’s work involves counseling people, which requires a generous love for them.
b. A Sober Integrity
- Various words are used to describe this basic grace because it is a multifaceted concept. Paul uses five words in Tit. 1:8 and three in 1Tim 3:2. Tit 1:8: “loving what is good, sensible, just devout, self-controlled”. 1Tim 3:2 “temperate, prudent, respectable”. The key word which unites this concept is translated “sensible” in Tit 1:8 and “prudent” in 1Tim 3:2, which is the same Greek word in the original. Clustered around that word are different words which round out this virtue. In 1Tim 3:2, the clustering words are “temperate” and “respectable”. In Tit. 1:8, the clustering words are “loving what is good”, “just”, “devout”, and “self-controlled”. The word translated “sensible” or “prudent” is the thread that ties these things together and demonstrates that essentially Paul has the same multifaceted virtue in mind in both passages. He emphasizes three facets in 1Tim and five facets in Tit.
- So the key word is “sensible” or “prudent”. The word basically means to be in touch with reality ( Mk 5:15; Rom 12:3). Therefore, an elder must have this sobriety. He must have an accurate perception of reality. He must not be living in a dream or unrealistic world, but he must see things for what they really are. He, therefore, must be conscious of eternal and spiritual reality and its impact upon life. This biblical realism is the cord that ties together biblical integrity. And this must be worked out and implemented in the various areas of his life so that he can be said to be a man of universal integrity, and integrity rooted in and flavored by biblical realism.
- The words clustered around the word “sensible” or “prudent” are the following:
- “temperate” (1Tim 3:2). It means to be watching or aware. An elder must have his eye open. He must be on his guard. He must not be asleep and unguarded. He must be one who is careful about what he says and does.
- “respectable” (1Tim 3:2). It means to be modest. It is the opposite of being showy and ostentatious. An elder must be “real” or genuine, not phony. He must be one who does not pretend to be what he really is not. He has a realistic view of himself and acts accordingly.
- “loving what is good” (Tit. 1:8). This means that an elder’s affection must be set upon that which God calls good. He cannot be a man who delights in green jokes, violence, and other things that the world regard as acceptable when in reality they are sinful.
- “just” (Tit. 1:8). This means that an elder must be impartial and fair in his judgments and dealings with people. One whose judgment is not bias for the rich or poor, relative or non-relative, friend or foe, etc.
- “devout” ( Tit. 1:8). And that words means “pure” or “holy”. The word has to do with being separate from the word. An elder must be one whose life is not marred by the prevailing sins of a particular culture.
- “self-controlled” ( Tit. 1:8). This word is used in 1Cor 9:25 to depict an athlete whose whole life is directed towards one goal. Now an elder must be a spiritual athlete. His whole life must be ordered to attain the gospel goals to which he has been called. His bodily appetites, his time, and every ability and asset he has must be directed to one ultimate goal.
- This qualification is essential because an elder is to be a model in the church. He also provides counsel and guidance to the members. Moreover, he is involved in making important decisions in the church.
- A Tenacious Orthodoxy
- “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance to the teaching” (Tit 1:9). To hold fast means to be devoted or committed (Mt 6:24). Thus, an elder must be one who does not only know the truth of Scriptures but is committed to it. He must be a man who buy truth and sells it not for whatever prize (Pro 23:23).
- This qualification is essential because an elder must be “able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refuse those who contradict” (Tit. 1:8).
II. AN ELDER MUST HAVE A PROVEN ABILITY TO TEACH.
A. This ability is implied in Tit 1:9 and is made explicit in 1Tim 3:2 “apt to teach”.
B. And what does this mean?
A. It assumes that an elder must have an adequate and sufficient knowledge of the God’s word.
B. Moreover, aptness to teach particularly refers to an ability to communicate God’s truth in a way that is edifying to others. This does not mean that an elder must be able to teach God’s word from the pulpit, the monologue type of instruction. But an elder must be able to open, use, and apply Scripture in counseling situations.
C. Furthermore, aptness to teach also has to do with the gracious manner one is to teach. 2Tim 2:24. He must be patient and kind in correcting even those who are in opposition.
C. This qualification of elders is essential because how an elder counsel people if he does not know how to open and apply Scriptures? And how can he contribute to the eldership’s decisions concerning the church if he does not know how to open and apply God’s word? If he easily gets upset with those who will oppose, then how can he be an effective communicator of God’s truth?
III. AN ELDER MUST HAVE A PROVEN ABILITY TO RULE.
A. “He must be one who manages (or rules) his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” (1Tim 3:4-5). And this is implied also in Tit. 1:6.
B. This means that in his own household there is submission as opposed to anarchy, order as oppose to disorder and confusion, love and peace as oppose to tension.
C. This qualification is essential because “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God.” (1Tim 3:5). The argument is from the lesser to the greater.
IV. AN ELDER MUST HAVE A TIME TESTED CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE.
A. “not a new convert” 1Tim 3:6. Only implied in Tit 1. This means that an elder must a Christian long enough to have achieved stable Christian maturity.
B. And Scriptures nowhere sets a specific time a Christian can achieved stable maturity. But various factors are to be considered like his domestic upbringing, the kind of spiritual nurture and instruction he is getting, the teachableness of the person, the kind of examples he has in the church, the trials he has been through, etc. These factors have to be taken into consideration.
C. And this qualification is essential for an elder “so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil” (1Tim 3:6). If a recent convert is quickly elevated to a place of leadership in the church, he will become very susceptible to carnal pride and is in grave danger of falling into the condemnation incurred by the devil. It takes some time for a young convert to really learn humility. Besides, how can a man minister to others if he himself is not acquainted with trials and temptations? (Heb 2:17)
And Scriptures nowhere sets a specific time a Christian can achieved stable maturity. But various factors are to be considered like his domestic upbringing, the kind of spiritual nurture and instruction he is getting, the teachableness of the person, the kind of examples he has in the church, the trials he has been through, etc. These factors have to be taken into consideration.
And this qualification is essential for an elder “so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil” (1Tim 3:6). If a recent convert is quickly elevated to a place of leadership in the church, he will become very susceptible to carnal pride and is in grave danger of falling into the condemnation incurred by the devil. It takes some time for a young convert to really learn humility. Besides, how can a man minister to others if he himself is not acquainted with trials and temptations? (Heb 2:17)
V. AN ELDER MUST HAVE A GOOD TESTIMONY AMONG THE UNCONVERTED.
A. “And he must have a good reputation with those who are outside the church..” (1Tim 3:7). This is only implied in Tit. 1.
B. This means that an elder must be a man whom the unconverted cannot bring any JUST accusations. He is not the kind of man whom unbelievers would laugh or shake their heads if they were to know the man is an elder.
C. This qualification is essential for an elder “so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” ( 1Tim 3:7). The devil greatly desires to see men made standard-bearers of the gospel whom he can easily trap and thus cause the gospel to be dishonored. Besides, what credibility will an elder have if he has a bad testimony among the unconverted?
1. Beware of appointing (or retaining) anyone in the office who does not meet these qualifications (1Tim 5:22).
2. On the other hand, beware of barring any man from the office because you add qualifications God Himself does not require.
3. Do not add or take away anything from these biblical qualifications.
Qualification for Deacons
I. THE BIBLICAL ROOTS OF THE DEACONATE
A. The presence of the poor and needy in the church and God’s concern for them.
1. Even in the Old Testament, we find God’s concern of the poor amongst His people. Thus through Moses, He gave many regulations for the care and welfare of the poor especially amongst His people.
2. This concern is continued even in the poor and needy of the church. Mat 25:34-40; Gal 6:10; James 1:27; 2:5; 1Jn 3:16-18 (READ).
B. The priority of prayer and the ministry God’s word among the tasks of the church’s leaders – Acts 6:2, 4 (READ).
C. The Scriptural principles of decency, order, and visible integrity in the affairs of the church – 1Cor 14:40; 2Cor 8:20-21 (READ).
II. THE NATURE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE DEACONATE
A. The Nature:
1. It is the idea of many that the deaconate is a co-equal and independent branch of government with that of the eldership. The elders are responsible with the spiritual matters in the life of the church. The deacons are responsible with the physical and material matters in the life of the church.
2. However, that is not what we find in the NT Scriptures. The deaconate is a helping office. They are delegated the management of the essential and mundane affairs of the church in order to relieve the elders from these burdens and that they might be able to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of God’s word – Acts 6
3. And yet, just like any delegated authority, the deacons are still under the rule and oversight of the eldership.
Elders – Deacons
Elders \ Deacons
4. The entire life of the church is under the rule of elders. And the deacons are servants to help the elders in their work. IOW, the deacons are like the extra eyes, ears, hands, and feet of the elders in the management of the essential and mundane issues in church’s life.
B. Specific Responsibilities include:
1. The care and preparation of the place where the church meets.
2. The care and accounting of the church’s money and properties – books, funs, hymnals, etc.
3. The payment and keeping record of the light, water, and other bills of the church.
4. The management of the benevolence fund of the church – Who to give? How much to give?
5. Providing the elders and the church financial reports and statements.
III. THE QUALIFICATION FOR THE DEACONATE
1. The qualifications for deacons are non-negotiable.
a. 1Tim 3:8 (READ). Although the words must be is supplied by translators and yet the word “likewise” warrants supplying it.
b. 1Tim 3:10 (READ). The word “tested” means “examined” or “proved”. Note not let him serve as deacons and then test him. But the reverse is true.
2. Two texts of Scriptures set forth the qualification of deacons: 1Tim 3:8-10, 12; Acts 6:3 (READ). If we are to collate these biblical passages, there are five categories of the qualification for deacons.
A. Deacons must be men of proven integrity.
1. 1Tim 3:8 “men of dignity” or “men of integrity” or “men worthy of respect”.
2. And this integrity or dignity involves several character traits.
a. “not double-tongue” 1Tim 3:8
- This means that deacons must not be those who say one thing to someone and say the very opposite to another. They must be sincere and honest. .
- This qualification is necessary because of the nature and responsibilities of deacons. If a deacon is not sincere and honest but says one thing to someone and says the very opposite to another, then the elders and the church will have a big problem.
b. “nor addicted to too much wine” 1Tim 3:8
- It is not the use of wine that is forbidding in the bible but the abuse of it. Deacons must be men known to exercise moderation in the use of wine or in any other areas of Christian liberty. They cannot be men who are careless, reckless, or splurging in their liberties. They cannot be men who are over indulgent in matters of Christian liberties.
- This qualification is essential because men who are over indulgent cannot gain the respect and trust of others.
c. “nor fond of sordid (shameful) gain” 1Tim 3:8
- Deacons must be men who are not known to be greedy or covetous. They must be men not known to engage is questionable and shameful business dealings. They must be men whose priority is not money and property.
- This qualification is essential because men who are fond of shameful gain cannot gain the respect of others. Besides, deacons are involved in the finances of the church. Therefore, they must be men of integrity.
d. “holding fast the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” 1Tim 3:9
- A “mystery” in the Bible refers to that which can never be known unless God Himself reveals it. So “the mystery of the faith” simply refers to the “revealed truth of the Christian faith” or the teachings of the Bible.
- Deacons must be men who are known not just for knowing the truth revealed by God but for being attach to it and living conscientiously in the light of it. They must be men known for their love for the truth and commitment to the implementation of it.
- This qualification is essential because a deacon is a representative of the church. And a man cannot really gain the respect of others without love for the truth and commitment to implement it.
B. Deacons must be men who are living in an uncompromised home situation.
1. “husband of only one wife” 1Tim 3:12
2. This means that a deacon, if married, must not be one who was converted as a bigamist or polygamist. If married, he must be a practicing monogamist.
3. And this is essential because deacons do represent the church. Besides, if he is living in a compromise home situation, he will have little time and energy to do the deaconal work.
C. Deacons must be men with a proven ability to rule.
1. “good managers of their children and their own households” 1Tim 3:12
2. This means that if married, the home of a deacon must be mark with submission and not anarchy, order as oppose to disorder and chaos, love and peace as oppose to tension and bitterness. He must be a good ruler of his home.
3. This qualification is essential because a deacon do represent the church. Also deacons manage concerns delegated to them by the elders. Therefore, they have to have some ruling and managing skills.
D. Deacons must be men with a proven reputation of serving others.
1. “men of good reputation” Acts 6:3 Good reputation of what? In the light of the context of their work, it seems that this refers particularly to a good reputation of serving others.
2. Deacons must be men known to care and serve God’s people in whatever way they can – transportation, visitation, helping in cleaning meeting place, etc.
3. This qualification is essential because of the nature and responsibilities of deacons. If they do not have a heart to serve God’s people in the essential and mundane issues, then conferring them that office will not do.
E. Deacons must be men of pervasive spirituality.
1. “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” Acts 6:3
2. This means that deacons must be men whose spirituality and wisdom manifest itself in all aspects of their lives – ie. The way they handle their business, the way they deal with people at work, the way they view politics, etc. They must be men known to operate not with pragmatic and worldly principles but spiritual principles and realities. A notable example is Abraham in the way he dealt with Lot Gen 13:5-9 (READ).
3. This qualification is essential because although the deacons are involved in the financial and mundane concerns of the church and yet they must not operate with worldly and carnal principles but godly and spiritual principles.
Conclusion: Beware of putting, or retaining, a man in office of deacons who is not biblically qualified for the job. All that God requires, we must require. But beware also of making requirements other than what God requires. Remember that the church is God’s house, not ours. Therefore, it is His rules that must be obeyed and implemented.
IV. THE CONFERRAL OF THE DEACONATE
1. Acts 6
2. See conferral of the eldership
V. THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE DEACONATE
A. Regular Meeting: The deacons act not individually but as a body. Therefore, a regular meeting is necessary.
B. Proper delegation: Female deaconal assistants1Tim 3:11 (READ).
1. Note that sandwiched in between the qualifications of deacons is the qualifications for women. What are these women?
a. Some say that this refers to women deaconesses. But that is less likely. For why are their qualifications much lesser than the qualification of deacons? Why is it just sandwiched in between the qualification of deacons?
b. The simplest explanation and one that fits the general teaching of the Scriptures is that these women were female deaconal assistants. Hendriksen: “The simplest explanation of the manner in which Paul, not yet finished with the requirements of the office of deacon, interjects a few remarks about women, is that he regards these women as the deacon’s assistants in helping the poor and needy, etc. These are women who render auxiliary service, performing ministries for which women are better adapted.”
2. Deacons are in need of these women. Because think of a very old female member of a church living alone. It would not be good for deacons to be caring for her. But female deaconal assistants can readily be of service. Moreover, there are other works of which women are better adapted. Women, then, who meet certain qualifications, can assist the deacons in these matters.
3. And what are the qualifications of these female deaconal assistants? 3:11
a. “dignified” or respectable.
b. “not malicious gossips”
c. “but temperate” or sober. One in touch with reality.
d. “faithful in all things”. Reliable or trustworthy.
C. Order D. Reporting: Deacons are under the oversight and rule of elders. Therefore, they should regularly report to the elders about the things they have been doing in order to keep them inform and in order to seek their input and assessment.
VI. THE DUTIES OF THE CONGREGATION TOWARD THE DEACONATE
A. Deacons are to be received in a worthy manner – Rom 16:1-2a (READ).
1. Phoebe is called a “servant of the church in Cenchrea”. And this title most probably refers to Phoebe’s status as a female deaconal assistant of the church in Cenchrea sent by the church for a particular errand. Note that Paul exhorts the church in Rome to receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints.
2. If this is true of a female deaconal assistant, then this must also be true of a church’s deacons. They must be received in a worthy manner.
B. Deacons are to be helped in their work – Rom 16:2 (READ).
1. Deacons and their deaconal assistants are not just to be received in a worthy manner but also they are to be assisted in their work. 2. Deacons are helpers but they themselves also need help. Church members must, therefore, help the deacons and their assistants in whatever way they can. They must not leave the deacons and their deaconal assistants to do all the work that needs to be done by them.
1. Some think that the deaconal office is not prestigious as the eldership. So why serve faithfully as a deacon? But the Scriptures strongly disagree. Note 1Tim 3:13 (READ). Those who serve well as deacons gain a high standing in the church and in God’s kingdom. Moreover, those who serve well as deacons gain great confidence or boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. Since they are faithfully serving Christ in that office, then the greater confidence they will have in the truths of Christianity and in their approaches to Christ. Therefore, it is not a small thing to serve faithfully as a deacon. It is a wonderful privilege and blessing.
2. Having considered the Biblical teaching of Local Church Government, I hope we are all not just hearers but doers of God’s word. Therefore, let us implement what we know that Scriptures to teach by the strength and wisdom God has promised to supply. And this will be for our good and the glory of God in the church.