We shall now briefly examine the rest of the qualifications of an elder as taught in 1
Timothy 3:2-7. As mentioned in earlier articles, these are spiritual qualifications. Thus, a
man can only have these qualities if they are given to him by the Holy Spirit.

The qualifications of an elder can be split broadly into two categories: qualities that deal
with giftedness and qualities that involve character.

Apt to Teach (v.2)

The adjective διδακτικός (didaktikos) refers to one who is “skillful in teaching”. This
skillfulness in teaching relates not to worldly knowledge, but to the Holy Scriptures. An
elder must thus prove himself to be qualified and competent to instruct others in the Word
of God.

The qualification of being “apt to teach” is especially important for the pastor-teacher (i.e.
the teaching elder), for he is the one who is charged with the ministry of the word, where he
is required to preach the Word of God, and to rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and
doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2). He should demonstrate the highest ability in terms of instructing
others in Biblical doctrine. As for the ruling elder, as he is often involved in the counsel and
instructing of others, it is imperative that he should also be able to teach the truth to others
clearly and faithfully so that brethren may also grow spiritually.

As a pre-requisite to instructing others in the Word of God, an elder should possess a deep
knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scriptures. He must have a thirst for the Word
and to engage in the diligent study of the Bible. If every believer should desire the sincere
milk of the Scriptures like newborn babes (1 Peter 2:2), then the elder must be foremost in
the life-long quest to understand God’s Word. He must keep himself ahead of all subjects
on which he is instructing the congregation The teacher must know eight times more than
the student (Timothy Tow).

Nevertheless, a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures is no guarantee that a man will be
able to teach others. A man who has no gift of teaching will end up confusing the Bible
class. A man who is apt to teach will be empowered by the spirit to teach clearly the truth so
that the hearers may benefit spiritually. Not only will it be a clear exposition of the truth,
but it will be accurate and faithful to biblical doctrine. He must not be one who scratches
itching ears but be longsuffering in instructing others (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Rules His Own House Well (v.4-5)

To rule over a house (προΐστημι; proistēmi) means “to be set over or exercise leadership”
over one’s family. This follows naturally from the man’s role as head of the family (Eph.
5:23). He ought to nourish and cherish his wife and take the lead with respect to her
spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. His wife, on the other hand, ought to display
submission to his role as the head of the family.

The argument here is from the lesser to the greater. If a man cannot even handle his own
family, how then can he handle the church which is a spiritual witness on a far grander

One must avoid men of two extremes to be candidates for eldership. First is the man who is
afraid of the wife or one who lets his wife have free rule in the house. He will soon make
decisions according to his wife’s liking, who will become the true overseer of the church.
This goes against the express teachings of God’s Word in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, “Let the
woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp
authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And
Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and
holiness with sobriety.

The other extreme would be a man who does not look after his own wife and is apathetic to
her needs. He may even be abusing his spouse. Such behaviour reveals his lack of concern
of his God-given responsibility to exercise his headship. If a man cannot love his wife, who
is supposed to be the flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones, how will he love others of the
flock of God? The way he treats his wife will reflect how he will conduct himself among
members of the congregation.

The other factor to consider will be the elder’s children. Are they submissive and respectful
to his leadership? Or are they riotous and unruly (Titus 1:6), with behaviour akin to that of
the unsaved (ἀσωτία; asōtia)? It is the father’s responsibility to discipline and educate his
children in spiritual things (Prov. 22:6). The key here then is whether there is any evidence
of a concerted effort made by the father to bring up his children based upon the principles of
the Scriptures. How he brings up his children will be a good indicator of how he will build
up the church of God. It is also his responsibility to be a model of how to bring up children
in the Lord. If a derelict elder is installed, the rest of the families will soon follow his
example to the hurt of the church.

Blameless (v.2)

The term ἀνεπίλημπτος (anepilēmptos) has the sense of being “that which cannot be
reprehended, not open to censure”. Used in a legal context, it refers to one who cannot be
faulted by the law and has no criminal record. Here it refers to an all-encompassing term that
covers all the qualifications from verse 2-7. It refers to how no flaw is found in the elder’s
character and conduct when stood up to scrutiny. This does not mean that the elder is
perfectly sinless, but no one should be able to bring just criticism against him whether for
past or current conduct. The elder must also continue to be above board in his future
conduct, with a whole-hearted dedication to a life of integrity. He is characterised by
consistent spiritual maturity, with no room given for reproach.

A One-Woman Man

The expression “a man of one wife” is literally “a one-woman man”. An elder must be
martially and sexually above reproach. He must be wholly devoted to his wife if he is
married, who cherishes, cares and nourishes his wife in all her needs, whether spiritual or
physical. If a husband cannot look after his own wife, of whom he is supposed to be of one
flesh, how then is he able to look after the church of God? He must not be guilty of any form
of adultery. This also means that any man who is divorced should not be considered for

Vigilant and Sober

The term “vigilant” (νηφάλιον; nēphalion) means “self-controlled or level-headed”. It has
the picture of one who abstains from wine and is controlled in his emotions and passions. On
the other hand, the term “sober” (σώφρονα, sōphrona) refers to “a sound and healthy mind”.
When we combine the two terms together, it has the idea of a man who has good control of
his emotional and mental faculties. He does not make rash decisions, but considers
everything carefully in the light of God’s Word. He does not pander to the philosophy of the
world, but will think and act like Christ. This can only come if the man is a diligent student
of God’s Word. The Word of God must dwell in the elder in all wisdom and guide his heart
and mind in making decisions for the benefit of the flock of God.


The adjective κόσμιος (kosmios) has the idea of something being well-arranged and
organised. Here, it refers to the elder leading a well-ordered life and conducting himself with
decorum. He is disciplined in his mind and habits. As a result, his conduct evokes respect
and righteous admiration, winning the approval of those who are godly.


The adjective (φιλόξενος; philoxenos) literally means a lover of strangers. Christian
travellers in those days often found it hard as inns were “places of brawl and vice”. They
were also often persecuted, making it unsafe for them to remain outside. Therefore, it
became important for believers to open their homes to lodge the brethren. The elders must
be an example in this particular area of ministry.

The epistle of 3 John is most excellent for a study on hospitality with the contrasting
examples of Gaius and Diotrephes. Gaius was a well-respected elder who was charitable to
strangers including John and his co-labourers who were visiting the church. On the other
hand, Diotrephes wanted pre-eminence among the saints. As a result, he spoke malicious
words against John and his co-labourers. Instead of receiving them, Diotrephes threw them
out of the church. The elder must be like Gaius and not like Diotrephes.
As an application, the elder today must be a man who is willing to welcome all into the
church. He must be willing to reach out to others, whether they be unbelievers or believers.

Not Given to Wine (v.3)

The term refers to one who is not seen alongside wine. Herein is another requirement for a
person to be careful to maintain temperance and sobriety. In this case, it has to do with what
he drinks. In the days of Paul, the widespread practice was to add a little wine of very low
alcohol content (about 2 percent) to water to sterilise it. However, some men, in order to
find a roundabout way to satisfy their lust for alcohol, would take to drinking much of this
water simply to get their desired dose of alcohol. An elder must not be such a man. He must
not have such thoughts to drink wine.

Some think that it is possible for a man to drink alcohol in moderation, so long as he does
not get drunk. Those who hold on to these views need only to consider the example of
Timothy who took care not even to have even any wine in his drinking water. Alas, his
stomach could not take the unsterilized water. Hence, Paul advised Timothy that he should
take a little wine in his drinking water for his stomach’s sake (1 Tim. 5:23). If Timothy was
careful to practise total abstinence from wine, likewise the elder should be careful. Those
who seek to be elders must be total abstainers of alcoholic drink.

Not a Violent Man

A striker (πλήκτην; plēktēn) is a man who is quick-tempered and loves to pick fights with
his fists. On the other hand, a person who is not “contentious” (ἄμαχον) is one who is not
aggressive nor quarrelsome with his words, whether spoken or written. An elder must
therefore not be a violent man, nor should he be eager to damage another’s man character.
He would instead be one who is gentle in disposition (ἐπιεικῆ, epieikē), with much patience
and forbearance with those whom he will encounter.

Not a Novice

The term for “novice” (νεόφυτος; neophutos) is where we get the English word “neophyte”.
In this context, it refers to not just one who is young in age, but rather one who is a recent
convert or immature in the faith. There may be some who may be Christians for many years,
or advanced in age, but are deficient in terms of spirituality. Such men should not be
installed in office. The focus of neophutos though is that of recent converts, or those who
newly enter into the ministry of the Word. Some may possess head knowledge of God’s
Word, but practical wisdom often comes with experience and testing. Others may also have
an outward appearance of zeal and holiness, but time reveals that to be pretence. Promoting
a person too soon may thus result in him being complacent and falling into pride, which is
the condemnation of the devil (Isa. 14:12-15). When this novice falls, the church will fall
with him. It is good to be patient with those who are inexperienced so that both the neophyte
and the congregation may be protected.

Of Good Report (v.6)

It is essential for an elder to have a good testimony, for once his testimony is gone, it will
lead others to stumble and fall with him. Therefore, in the appointment of elders, every
candidate must be screened to ensure that his testimony is Christ-like. The key here though is
a good testimony not just inside the church, but also outside of it. A man may maintain his
testimony within the church where there is godly influence around him. However, it may be
very different in the workplace, where he may conform himself to the world. An elder with a
horrid testimony outside would greatly corrupt the testimony of Christ and the gospel. People
would then surmise, that if an elder of the church behaves this way, then the rest of the
congregation would be no better. The name of Christ would be put to an open shame.
Therefore, it is most necessary to find out how a man’s conduct is like outside of the
workplace, lest the candidate and the church fall into the trap of the Devil.