I. Greeting (1-4)
II. Qualifications for elders (5-8)
I. Greeting (1-4)
• How does Paul introduce himself?
• What can you learn from his introduction?
• Why was Paul serving?
• What elements can you see in Paul’s life vision here?
• What promise might Paul be referencing in verse 2?
• When and how was this promise manifested?
• Explain how the concept of being “entrusted” with preaching is important.
• What relationship do we see between Paul and Titus?
2 Corinthians 7:6 – But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.
Galatians 2:1, 3 – Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Paul, a servant of God and an apostle – Paul starts off by identifying himself as an apostle. As such, his words carry weight and credibility.
He is also a servant. It was important for Titus, who was also a leader, to remember that leaders are servants. Jesus taught the disciples the concept of servant leadership, revolutionizing how ministry in the church was to be done.
2. For the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge – Here, Paul shares why he did what he did. His service was to build up the faith and knowledge of believers. He wasn’t motivated by money or popularity. He put others’ needs above his own.
3. In hope of eternal life which God promised before the ages began – The end goal of Paul’s calling was that those he ministered to would receive eternal life. Simply put, he was going to heaven and wanted as many as possible to go with him.
The promise Paul refers to may be the one made to Adam and Eve in the garden that their descendant would crush the serpent’s head. It is the first promise of the coming Savior recorded in Scripture.
4. Entrusted with preaching by the command of God – Paul viewed his preaching ministry as a calling God entrusted to him. The word “entrusted” shows that it did not belong to Paul. He was a caretaker. His preaching was through and for the Lord, not for himself. Because God had given Paul this task, his responsibility was to be faithful to carry it out to the best of his ability.
Most things that are entrusted to the care of others have great value. Children, important papers, or a business are all things that might be entrusted to others for a period of time. Entrusted contains the word “trust,” which shows that trust is placed in the person receiving these valuable things. And that person should act in a trustworthy manner.
Application – What has God entrusted to you? How does understanding you have been entrusted with a task affect your attitude toward that task?
5. Titus and his relationship with Paul – Titus was a frequent travel companion of Paul. He served on the team of disciple-makers and church planters that Paul led.
Paul viewed Timothy as his “true child in a common faith.” Most likely, Paul was single. However, he had many spiritual children with whom he shared a close relationship.
This is a reminder of Jesus’ promise about the rewards of sacrificing for God’s kingdom.
Matthew 19:29 – And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
Titus was not a tool that Paul used. Paul cared deeply about him. It is a reminder that a team is more powerful than an individual. Paul’s ministry multiplied over vast regions because he trained up like-minded disciples who reproduced.
Ministry is about relationships. A knowledgeable missionary who lacks love and care for others on a personal level is not likely to be successful. Love is the distinguishing mark of believers. It is by our love that others will know we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35).
Application – God does not call us to be lone rangers in His service. Rather, we are to be part of a team that loves and cares for one another while serving together. Are you part of a team like that? Do you care for others like that?
II. Qualifications for elders (5-9)
• What mission was Titus given?
• Where is Crete?
• What do you observe about the importance of elders?
• What are the benefits of an eldership structure to church governance?
• What other passages teach about the importance of elders?
• Is any other authority structure mentioned in the Bible?
• Are any other authority structures (such as congregational or single-head pastor) acceptable? Why or why not?
• What do you observe about the qualifications for elders?
• Why are these qualifications important?
• Evaluated together, do these mean that an elder must be perfect?
• Do you think this is an exhaustive list of requirements? Why or why not?
• What does it mean to be above reproach?
• What does it mean to be the “husband of one wife?” Must an elder be married?
• If a man has an adult child who turns away from the Lord, is he disqualified from being an elder (6)?
• What is the job of an elder (7)?
• What does an arrogant person look like?
• Why is hospitality important for an elder?
• How does this passage apply to someone who is not (and may never be) an elder?
1 Peter 5:1-5 – So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Acts 14:23 – And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Acts 20:28 – Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
1 Timothy 5:17-19 – Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Exodus 18:21 – Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Titus’ mission to appoint elders in every town – Paul left Titus in Crete (the largest and most populous of the Greek isles). Titus’ mission was to appoint elders in every town. At that time, there was generally one church in one city. Hence, there was an “Ephesian church,” “Colossian church,” etc. Every single church needed elders.
This statement shows us the importance of Biblical eldership in a church. It wasn’t an optional or merely advisable thing. Eldership was necessary for a healthy and functional church. We see no other model endorsed for church authority in the New Testament. The Biblical model is eldership.
2. The office of elder – The words overseer, elder, and shepherd in the New Testament refer to the same office. It is a position of leadership and oversight over a local church body. The New Testament distinctly outlines the method by which the local church is to be governed, and that is by a team, a plurality of elders.
The idea of a single head, a dominant pastor with all the authority, is not taught in the Bible. Neither is the concept of church voting taught. God’s design for the church is clearly instructed in 1 Timothy 3 and other New Testament passages as being led by a team of elders and deacons who function as servant leaders. The elders shepherd the body and look after spiritual needs, while the deacons assist by helping with physical needs such as facilities, caring for the poor, finances, etc. (Acts 7).
The concept of eldership was seen all the way back in the time of the Exodus when Jethro told Moses he could not do all the work alone (Exodus 18).
There are many reasons God established a team of elders as the Biblical model for church leadership. Here are just a few of the benefits:
• They can share the load – Leading a church is mentally, spiritually, and physically taxing. There is a lot of work to do. When there is a team to share the work, burnout is less likely. And as a team, they can accomplish more.
• Weaknesses and blind spots will be minimized – When one person has all the authority, his personal weaknesses and blind spots can cause severe issues for the church. If he is blunt, there is no one to temper his frankness. If he is a visionary and doesn’t think about practicalities, no one is able to be a voice of reason.
• Checks and balances – Having a team provides accountability. When one steps off the path, the other elders can correct and restore him before the whole church is involved and harmed.
• Forces more time to make decisions – Consensus and agreement need to be reached before decisions are made, which allows more time for discussion, prayer, and input. Things may happen more slowly, but it minimizes impulsiveness.
• Provides some protection from complaints – When one person makes the decisions on his own, he opens himself up to all kinds of complaints. People may blame him for making the wrong decision and ask, “Why is your opinion more important than mine?” When a team makes a decision together, there is strength in numbers. “I have decided that” turns into “the team has agreed together that.”
• More perspectives and more wisdom.
• Models “working together” and unity for the body – When elders from different backgrounds and opinions cooperate, they become an object lesson for the whole congregation. Thus, the congregation is encouraged that they can work together too.
3. Qualifications for elders (Many of the same qualifications are seen in 1 Timothy 3:1-7) –
A. Above reproach – This is a general character quality that covers any Paul does not mention specifically. It does not mean that an elder must be perfect. No one can attain that. It does mean that an elder should have a good reputation. But where is the exact line for being “above reproach”? Probably the best answer is, “you will know it when you see it.” Many things not on the list could disqualify a person under this principle. Embezzling money, abusing one’s wife, or having a dirty mouth would all subject a person to reproach. On the other hand, if people have good comments about the candidate and agree that he is a godly person, then he is above reproach.
B. Husband of one wife – Literally, this means “a one-woman, man.” There are actually two qualifications here. One is implied, and the other is stated. The implied qualification is that an elder should be male. We see this throughout the chapter, and the pronoun used to describe an elder is “he” in each case. In 1 Timothy 2, we saw the difference in roles (but not in value) between men and women in the local church.
The second qualification is that the man must be faithful to his spouse. Most Bible scholars agree that this does not mean an elder must be married. After all, Jesus was definitely single, and Paul probably was too. However, it does mean that if a man has a wife, he should be faithful to her. This would prohibit a divorced and remarried man from serving in this office. It would also prohibit a man who lives in adultery or a man who practices polygamy from being an elder.
In the modern age, the church is very lenient on these standards. As a result, the holy sanctity of marriage is not being respected. Divorce and remarriage are rampant in the evangelical church, and allowing men who engage in these practices to serve as leaders only reinforces this problem while giving a bad model to others. It gives implied permission to anyone in the church that this lifestyle is okay.
C. His children are believers – In 1 Timothy 3, a similar requirement reads, “he must manage his own household well.”
Jesus said in Luke 16:10, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” Managing one’s household is, of course, not a little thing, but it is “littler” than overseeing a church. If a man is faithful in managing his own household well, it is a good sign that he will also be a good shepherd of a church. On the other hand, if his kids are out-of-control brats, he should not be entrusted with caring for spiritual kids.
You can gain a lot of insight into a person by seeing how he treats his family. Is he harsh with his wife? Does he show her love and respect? Is he patient with his children? Does he yell at them loudly in public? Does he spoil them? Does he allow them to do wrong without any consequences? Do his children like him, or are they afraid of him?
Some ministers have neglected their families for the sake of serving the church. They are too busy doing ministry to minister to their own families. This passage is clear that this is wrong. The family comes first.
John Stott says, “The married pastor is called to leadership in two families, his and God’s, and the former is to be the training ground of the latter.”
What about a man whose grown-up children are prodigals? When kids are living with their parents, their behavior, to some extent, is the parents’ responsibility. As a teacher, I sometimes see young children who routinely hit, scratch, push, or bite other children. Their parents are responsible for this. Wise parents will deal with their children so that this doesn’t happen as a habit (all children are sinners, and even the best parents cannot prevent it from happening sometimes).
But it is entirely possible that a parent can pray for, teach, set an example for, and do everything else in their power to raise their child to know God, and when the child grows up, he may still reject God and rebel against Him.
Does this disqualify a man from being an elder?
There are two general views. The first is the most straightforward. That is to simply apply the text that says, “his children are believers.” If his children are believers, it would be an external sign that he is managing his house well. Thus, it sets a very high bar for a person to qualify for eldership, which is not necessarily bad. Being cautious in interpreting this phrase the most conservatively does have some merit.
The second view is that the word for believer can also mean “faithful.” The word used in Greek is “pistos.” Your Bible’s footnotes likely include this possible translation.
Let’s look at the whole verse.
Titus 1:6 – If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.
The second part of that verse, “and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination,” could be clarifying the fact that his children must be “pistos.” If a person’s children are rebellious and wild, it is a bad testimony for the church, and the father is disqualified from Biblical eldership.
That would fit closely with the instruction in 1 Timothy 3:4, “He must manage his own household well.” It would seem odd if Paul gave a seemingly looser instruction to Timothy than he did to Titus. Titus was actually choosing elders for churches that were newer and less mature. Holding them to a higher standard seems unlikely.
Understanding this as “faithful” would mean the two views are consistent. The father is responsible for his children’s external behavior. He can control or at least strongly influence their external behavior, whereas his children’s salvation is their own responsibility and beyond his control.
Each of the other Biblical qualifications for eldership is related to his personal responsibility. It would also fit the context that this one is about his responsibility toward his children. Even the best shepherds may have unbelievers in their church or family.
Therefore, my view is that a man is not unqualified as an elder purely because a grown-up child is not walking with God or a young child has not yet come to faith. He is unqualified if the children in his home are generally rebellious or out of control.
For more on this view, please see:
D. Not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination –
The word debauchery means “excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures.” In 1 Timothy 3, the requirements include similar qualifications, including being temperate, self-controlled, not violent, and gentle.
An elder should not live an immoral lifestyle. Sadly, some leaders of churches use their platforms to manipulate and exploit others as a means for satisfying their own lusts. It is shameful and brings dishonor to the church and the Lord. An elder must be careful to distance himself from even the hint of scandal.
Insubordination means “defiance of authority or refusal to obey orders.” Such an attitude demonstrates pride. If a person refuses to obey an authority that God has set up (a boss or government), how can he obey God? Put another way, before a person is permitted to lead as an elder, he must demonstrate that he can follow.
4. An overseer is God’s steward –
An overseer is a person who supervises. The thing that he supervises does not belong to him. This verse is a reminder that an elder is an under-shepherd. His calling is to watch over, protect, and build up what belongs to God. The church’s head is Jesus. He is its authority, and it belongs to Him.
An overseer must be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that the people are “his.”
Reflect – What are some attitudes or behaviors that may show a leader considers those he ministers to as belonging to him?
If a leader gets upset when someone leaves his church or his fellowship and joins another, that could be an indication of possessiveness. Other signs could be if a pastor demands personal loyalty or thinks that the people he serves owe him something.
In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, a line of stewards ruled over the realm of Gondor. They were supposed to be protecting the kingdom for when the true king returned. However, their thinking changed, and they wanted to remain in control. Denethor was the last steward and did not want to make way for the return of the king.
Some pastors are like this. Instead of serving the King, they start to serve themselves. Things begin to revolve around them instead of Christ.
A steward is charged with protecting and caring for that which belongs to another. He is serving someone else.
Elders should always remember that they are stewards. They watch over Christ’s sheep for Him. They are to do this not as lords but as servants (Matthew 20:25-28).
Application – What has God put under your care? What is your role as a steward in this area? Every believer is a steward in some way. Parents are entrusted with raising up their children to serve the Lord. A teacher is entrusted with providing a good education for her students. A homeowner (or renter) should use their home to serve the Lord by being hospitable. Maybe you own little, but the money you have should be used in a wise manner that pleases God.
5. More qualifications –
A. Not self-willed (NASB), not be arrogant (ESV) – Why do you think this quality is important? As an elder, you are, in a way, responsible for others. You cannot be selfish or put yourself over others. Pride says, “I am important. I am an elder. Listen to me!” Humility says, “How can I serve you?”
Also, there is a plurality of elders, meaning you can’t make all decisions on your own. Being a team player and cooperating harmoniously with other elders and the whole church is essential. This doesn’t mean an elder is weak, directionless, or compromising. Elders must also take a stand for what is right, even if that stance is unpopular.
B. Not quick-tempered – Do you think being an elder is easy? What makes it difficult? What might make an elder lose his temper?
It is not always easy being an elder. Some people who go to church take and don’t give. Others complain and criticize. Not all churchgoers are saints. An elder might get complaints about the seating structure, the music (it is too loud, it is not loud enough), the temperature (it is too hot, it is too cold), the preaching style, or Sunday school, etc. The list goes on and on.
An elder with a quick temper will often lose it and be a bad testimony. Someone might come to him to complain and he responds, “Fine, you don’t like how we do it. What about you? You don’t do anything! From now on, you do it your way. I quit!”
An elder needs to be long-suffering and patient. An elder with a short fuse is a recipe for disaster.
Application – How can a person overcome a short temper?
Not addicted to wine –
Ephesians 5:18 – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
By extension, an elder should not be addicted to any sins (that would mean he is not above reproach.) As believers, we should all seek to live a sin-free life, free of any addictions left from our old life (Romans 6:8-14).
It is not sin to drink, but it is sin to get drunk.
Not pugnacious (NASB) or not violent (ESV) – This means “ready to fight” and is quite similar to the one about not being quick-tempered. Elders need to be peacemakers in an authentic sense, making peace between people and God by sharing the gospel and making peace between people and people by encouraging tolerance over non-foundational issues.
Not greedy for gain (lover of money) –
1 Timothy 6:10 – The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Like all believers, elders can have only one master, not two, not both God and money. Unfortunately, in the history of the church, all kinds of problems and bad testimonies have been created by pastors/church leaders who obtained their positions because of a love of money rather than a love of God and His people.
For hundreds of years, many pastors became pastors because it was a stable, well-paid profession, not because they sought to spread God’s Word.
These leaders have the wrong goals and motivations. A person working for money will not have the same love and care for the flock. Jesus said that hired hands would run away when troubles come.
John 10:12 – He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
Reflect – What can a church do to help prevent a greedy person from exploiting his position for financial gain?
Keep finances above board and as public. Thoroughly investigate potential leaders/pastors before asking them to take the positions.
6. Positive qualifications –
We discussed some negative qualifications of what an elder should not be. Now we see some positive qualifications an elder should possess.
A. Hospitable – Why is this required? Elders will have many opportunities to show hospitality. They can open their homes to the people of the church and those in need, invite newcomers for meals, etc.
1 Peter 4:8-9 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
B. Loving what is good – This requirement is simple to understand but very important. It shows a certain passion. It is not just “doing what is good.” It is not just having the right actions and habits. It is enjoying doing what is good, doing them happily for the sake of doing right rather than for any selfish motivations. A person who loves good will do what is good most of the time.
C. Sensible – An elder should have common sense. He should be well-grounded. He should be able to think about things logically and analytically, as he will handle many requests and petitions. An elder must be able to practice discernment in decision-making.
D. Just/Upright –
Reflect – Why do you think this requirement is so important for a leader in the church? How might an elder who is unjust disrupt or harm a church?
By showing partiality to one group over another, he will create resentment and bitterness, and the church will be easily divided. An elder needs to be able to put his own emotions aside, listen to the whole story, and make a just and informed decision (James 2:1-7, Exodus 23:3).
One application from this is that an elder should hear both sides before making a decision.
Proverbs 18:17 – The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
Application – Hearing out both parties before coming to a conclusion is an important principle every person should follow, not just elders. It applies to parents mediating disputes among their children, employers, teachers, and anyone who receives a complaint or accusation.
E. Devout – An elder must be committed. Typically, elders are “recognized” more than chosen. This means they have proven these mature qualities over time, and the other elders recognize that they are already functioning as an elder in the church. “Devoutness” is not easy to fake for a long period of time.
F. Self-controlled – A fruit of the Spirit.
Application – How can you apply today’s passage? Most of us will never be elders, but this passage is still very applicable. Firstly, it is important that we understand what God expects of godly leaders and encourage our own churches to respect these standards.
Secondly, we see that this is God’s ideal for each person. We should all strive to live up to these standards. Choose one area discussed today you think you are weak in and write down how you think God would like you to improve in this area this week.
Titus Bible Study Guide – If this study is helpful, you can download the complete Titus study in PDF or get the paperback from Amazon.