Qualifications for Elders
It stands to reason that if one is to be a leader in the church of God that he be a godly man, which is what this letter is all about. This is one of the very reasons Paul left Titus in Crete: To put things in order by appointing elders. This tells us that a church of Jesus Christ is not a composed of a group of people who may organize themselves any ole way they wish. There must be elders/overseers/bishops (which we generally call pastors) and deacons, providing the church grows large enough to need them. (The office of deacon came later in Acts 6:1-7 and is not even mentioned here suggesting that the church in Crete was rather small.) After these two offices, a church may create others but only as guided by wisdom and the Holy Spirit and always under the dominion of the elder(s) and not vice-versa.
The qualifications for elder (1:5, “overseer,” 1:7) are virtually the same as 1 Timothy 3:1-7. He must be a “one-woman man,” that is, a man who is married must be faithful to his wife. Later in history, this came to mean men who had never been remarried due to death or divorce, but such an interpretation squeezes the text for more than it says. And if he is married with children, he must have children “who are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.” Again, a toddler would not be a believer, nor would an elder have power over a grown man or woman who had left his household, so we must not torture Paul’s words. But the obvious point is that a Christian man’s house is his church over which he is pastor; no man can escape this without being called out for dereliction of duty.
Paul then lists some negative requirements, such as, “above reproach” (meaning respectable and honorable in deportment and behavior). Then come a quick host of others: arrogant, quick-tempered, a drunkard, violent, and greedy for gain. What could be more opposite the conduct of a Christian, much less an elder, than such vicious behavior! The positive list sets off the differences in a stark manner: hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Thus, opposed to malice is behavior characterized by love of others and sacrifice.
But the last qualification sums up the list in such a manner fitting the letter: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Again, saving faith and knowledge precedes godly living, and he must teach the faith so that others may live in a godly manner.