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Qualifications, General

Gender (1 Timothy 2:12)

Leaders are to be male. Women are not to lead men (1 Timothy 2:12).


The word, "elder," may indicate that the one named is an older person or it may just refer to the office without respect to age (Bauer, Arndt, & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 1952 edition, pages 706-707). Should an elder of a local church be advanced in years? Can younger men be elders?

The elder as an office holder would be familiar to the original Jewish readers of the New Testament because there were such officers in the Sanhedrin and in the synagogues. According to Jeremias, the under age sons of the Sanhedrin elders had a right to sing with the Levites during the daily sacrifice in the temple (pages 224-225). Therefore, the Jews understood that the office of elder was not just filled by aged men, but it also included fathers having young children. With this background, the oversight of the local church should not be limited to the white-haired.

It may be best that an oversight be composed of men of various ages. This will help assure that the assembly's ministry is relevant to all ages.

"Those who are leaders in an assembly have to realize that they must continually nurture leadership from other men whom the Holy Spirit will raise up. A pattern can be seen in the demise of several of the assemblies which no longer exist. The initial eager leadership characteristically did not establish methods for passing leadership to the next generation. Some men seem to have been very reluctant to relinquish control as they grew old and their vigor diminished. They also do not seem to have passed their own evangelistic zeal to the next generation--only a set of rules to be followed. The vision was lost. Only a sense of duty remained for the next generation, and that is not sufficient to sustain a work of God (Robert L. Peterson, Lessons from the History of the Colorado Brethren, Emmaus Journal, Summer 1992, page 176)."

Tested (dokimazesqosan - 1 Timothy 3:10)

First Timothy 3:10 indicates that candidates should be tested before they become deacons. The "also" in this verse also applies this qualification to elders. Elders are discussed in the verses prior to the section on deacons.

"Just as medical doctors are officially examined before they are licensed, so prospective shepherds and deacons are to be examined in light of God's requirements (1 Timothy 3:2-12) before they can take office (Alexander Strauch, Minister of Mercy, The New Testament Deacon, page 105."

Some qualifications can literally be tested. In the case of "learned," a candidate can be given a written test or an oral examination to discern his degree of Bible knowledge and theology. Other qualifications like "respectable" are more subjective and can be confirmed only by observations over a significant period of time.

The existence of qualifications cannot be assumed.

Blameless (anepilhmpton, anegklhtoi, anegklhtov, anegklhton - 1 Timothy 3:2, 10; Titus 1:6-7)

This is a severe quality of a person whereby he affords ". . . nothing which an adversary could take hold of, on which he might ground a charge . . . (Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, p. 382)." Timothy is exhorted to be blamesless after the model of ". . . Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim. 6:13-14)." See Matthew 27:24 where Pilate, the adversary, judges that Jesus is a "just" person. Consult also Luke 23:4 where Pilate finds no fault in Jesus.

"When an elder is irreproachable, critics cannot discredit his Christian profession of faith or prove him unfit to lead others (Neh. 6:13) (Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership, an Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, 3rd ed., page 189)."
However, some enemies have very creative minds and can make bizarre charges. One who seeks to be an elder should not be disqualified just because someone brings forth a charge that is believable only to the one making it. Only a candidate who is liable to charges having an aura of possibility in the minds of the electors (probably due to well know defects in the life of the candidate) is disqualified. This aura should be based on well-known defects in the life of the candidate.
All the other Biblical qualifications for Elders and Deacons provide specifics concerning what a blameless man is like.

Organization of Qualifications

Since the qualifications for both Elders and Deacons key off of one general qualification, blamelessness, those listed for Elders and those listed for Deacons jointly define the sphere of qualities candidates for both offices should exhibit. Another indication that this is true is that otherwise Deacon's wives would have to be qualified but Elders' wives would not (1 Timothy 3:11) even though the Elder office is the position with the most authority.