of the Elder
Who may be an elder? God says he must be one who manages
his own household well, keeping his children under control with
all dignity, (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household,
how will he take care of the church of God?); and not a new convert,
lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred
by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside
the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare
of the devil 1 Timothy 3:4-7
He must be one who manages: This indicates that
the elder must presently rule his household well, and is
obviously not an optional requirement. Manages:
To be over, superintend, preside over (Thayer, p.
539). To stand before, lead, attend to, indicating care and
diligence (Vine, p. 307). Be at the head of, rule, and direct
(Arndt, p. 707). Well: Rightly,
so that there shall be no room for blame (Thayer, p. 323).
Fitly, appropriately, in the right way (Arndt, p.
401). Keeping his children under control:
That is keeping them over control, having obedient children. Children:
Note that the term children can apply to children who
are little as well as children who are grown adults (1 Timothy 1:2,
18; 5:4). With all dignity: Honor, purity, reverence,
seriousness, respectfulness. It would appear that the dignity
applies not merely to the children, but to how the elder keeps his
children under control. He is a dignified father, that is, he does
not have to yell at his children or threaten them to keep them in
subjection. Denotes the dignified way in which the father
will secure the obedience of his children (Hiebert, p.
But if a man does not know how to manage his own household,
how will he take care of the church of God?: Here is given
the reason for the qualification. The results that a man gets with
his own family will be an indication of the results that may be
expected in the household of God. Ill-trained, bad children
reflect on any elder, not merely because they are hurtful examples
to the children of the members (and non-members), but still more
because they show that the father is incompetent for his office
(Lenski). If a man cannot manage his own children whom
he has reared, and whom have always been under his care, how can
he manage the church of God? (Lipscomb, p. 148). The
way in which a man controls his home reveals his capacity for leadership
and government (Kent, p. 133).
the children be merely well behaved or must they be Christians?
in Titus is more specific and notes that the children must be believing
(Titus 1:6). The expression, that believe refers to
a Christian (Arndt, p. 665). In Timothy, believers
are Christians (1 Timothy 4:3,10,12; 5:16). Some say the child only
has to be faithful to their father, yet this is an abuse of the
term believing. In addition, any grown child who has a Christian
father and yet has rejected the gospel is repudiating the values
of his or her father.
an elder have to have more than one child? Does the plural children
in this passage include the elder with only one child?
a questionnaire is sent to fathers asking, How many children
do you have? The man with only one child would write one;
and this reveals that the term children may mean child.
Yet if the same questionnaire was sent, and it was first explained
that when we say children we mean a plurality of children,
how would the man with one child answer, having heard how the word
children is being used? The answer would depend upon the context.
same word rendered in Timothy and Titus children is used
in other places in the New Testament where it clearly includes
the singular child (Matthew 7:11; 10:21; 19:29; 22:24; 27:25;
Acts 21:21; 1 Corinthians 7:14; Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20
and 1 Timothy 5:4). It is clear that in the New Testament the
plural children often includes the singular child, yet
the question needs to be asked, Does the singular inherently
reside in the word, or is it brought out by other passages and/or
primary argument for the man having only one children being
qualified to serve is that the singular is always
included in the plural. Yet plurals and singulars are
not always interchangeable. The phrase churches of Christ
(Romans 16:16) includes each individual congregation but it
does not refer to only one congregation.
plurals and singulars can equally get us into trouble, for the
plural elders does pick up each individual elder
that is appointed or serving, it clearly does not mean that
Paul appointed only one elder (Acts 14:23), or that only one
elder ruled in Philippi (Philippians 1:1).
the plural of teknon (children) can have a singular application,
but this is not always true. The only way to determine when
children refers to only one child is when the
context and other passages would demand or allow this interpretation.
Normally, the primarily meaning is a plurality of offspring.
So is there anything in 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 1 or any other
passages dealing with elders that would allow a secondary
all the children believe?
this is what we would all like to see, for no one would have a problem
with a man whose children were all Christians. It seems to me that
anything short of this opens up a number of problems, one being
that we are now operating upon pure human wisdom. If all the children
do not believe, then what percentage is still acceptable? The text
does not say that he rules a portion of his household well.
if they fall away after they leave home?
this point some would argue that 1 Timothy 3:4 and Titus 1:6 only
apply to how the children behave when they are under this
mans roof. That whatever the child does after they leave home
does not impact upon the character, or leadership ability of their
father, or how they were raised. The real question here is does
Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:4 only apply to the children as long as
they are at home? We need to remember that these are present
qualifications. Many are uncomfortable appointing a man whose
children tend to fall away right after they leave home, but more
comfortable appointing a man who had one of his children fall away
years after leaving home. Titus 1:6 Having children who
believe: They presently believe. Paul here states to Titus
that these children must be believers but does not mention
whether or not they are still at home. Remember, in first century
culture, children old enough to be on their own and children with
their own families were often still in the same household as their
parents. Not accused: Not involved in and thus
not under the accusation of being. Of dissipation:
An abandoned, dissolute life (Thayer, p. 82).
Wastefulness (Vine, p. 299). debauchery
(Arndt, p. 119). Luxury of the table, and all intemperance
in the enjoyment of sensual pleasure (Macknight, p. 364).
Compare with Ephesians 5:18; Luke 15:13; 1 Peter 4:4. Or
rebellion: Disobedient, not subject to rule, undisciplined,
rebellious. Not accused of reckless living, not wanting in
obedience (Knox); Not open to charges of reckless
living and unwillingness to obey (Nor).
Not a new convert": It takes time to become apt
to teach (Hebrews 5:12-14). To feed the flock, one must know
more than just the milk of the word or just the first principles
of Christianity. To do battle with false teachers, one must have
a working knowledge of the word, and have experience (Titus 1:9;
Acts 20:29ff). The reason for this qualification is that in the
first century various Jewish men became Christians who already might
have possessed most of the qualifications already. Secondly, there
is the temptation among Christians at times to appoint to the eldership
a new convert who has a high profile in the community. So
that he will not become conceited: Such a position of
leadership and authority would be setting up this new convert for
temptation. To blind by pride and conceit (Vincent,
p. 208). The great danger to the novice is that his sudden
elevation is likely to cause him to inflate with pride (Kent,
p. 134). Please note that this new convert might be a very moral
man and an extremely good husband and father, yet there is a big
difference between being moral and having a spiritual maturity that
is able to handle a position of leadership. 3:6 And fall
into the condemnation incurred by the devil: This may
be the type of condemnation into which the devil fell, or this may
be the condemnation that the devil tries to lay for man, by luring
people into sin through pride: 1 John 2:15-16. Again we see Gods
wisdom. Often men try to appoint someone to a task in order to make
them feel good, to make them feel welcome. The work of an elder
is not merely honorary in nature. Those that become elders must
be men of experience, humble men who realize their own true unimportance
and importance, being an elder cannot go to their head, but must
go to their feet, that is, it must motivate them toward the work.
And he must have a good reputation with those outside the
church: Please note that the elder is a man from the community
in which the congregation is located and not some administrator
with headquarters in a distant city. Often people can put on a front
when with other Christians and at the services. Is this man a Christian
the other six days of the week? This is a man who does not let his
guard down and is always faithful in all circumstances. He believes
that Christianity applies to every realm of his life, including
business dealings, with relatives and in-laws, during times of recreation,
at the supermarket, and so on. Too often men are selected
and appointed to the eldership without regard for their reputations
among those people who are not Christians. Those outside the church
must consider this man a fair, honest, good, sincere, godly man.
He must be right in his dealings with all men (Phillips,
p. 169).The good which a church is capable of accomplishing
in a community depends very much upon its reputation, and the reputation
of the church depends much upon that of its representative men
(McGarvey, p. 64). If someone does not speak well of him,
we need to remember to consider the source. Christians will make
some enemies (Luke 6:26). A non-Christians reason for disliking
a potential elder needs to be evaluated (Titus 2:8).
So that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the
devil: That he may not be exposed to scandal and
get caught in the devils snare
(NEB). The term reproach means reveling, disgrace,
insult, to fall into disgrace. And a snare is
whatever brings peril, loss or destruction, a trap (1 Timothy 6:9;
2 Timothy 2:26). So he may not be involved in slander and
get snared by it (Ber).
Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017