The Scriptorium

Qualifications for Overseers

Elders must be an example for all the flock. 1 Timothy 3.2-7

The Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy 3 (2)

Pray 102.12-15.

But You, O LORD, shall endure forever,
And the remembrance of Your name to all generations.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion;
For the time to favor her,
Yes, the set time, has come.
For Your servants take pleasure in her stones,
And show favor to her dust.
So the nations shall fear the name of the LORD,
And all the kings of the earth Your glory.

Read and meditate on 1 Timothy 3.2-7.


1. How many different kinds of qualifications for being and elder can you identify?

2. What must those who would be elders guard against?

The role of an overseer – an elder or shepherd, like the Lord Jesus (1 Pet. 2.25) – is to “take care of the church of God”. But what kind of care does that require?

We can get a sense of the kind of care a church needs by looking at the requirements for those who would be elders. First, they must be blameless. This means they must be grounded in and obedient to the Law of God, so that no part of their life is contrary to the basic spiritual and moral constitution of the church (cf. Lk. 1.6). Churches need to be grounded in God’s Law as well, and blameless men can lead them.

Second, the elder must the “husband of one wife” (v. 2). This indicates a man who is faithful and caring, and who rules his own house so that his children, while they reside at home, are in submission to the Lord (v. 4). The idea of a divine order comes up here again, as it is a root meaning of “to rule” and thus suggests that the role of elders is to make sure the divine order is in place in church, just as in their families. The church needs to hew to the divine order of things, and elders must be able to take care of the church accordingly.

Elders must be men of integrity, even tempered, serious, and exemplary in their personal and moral lives. They should be easy to talk with – gentle and not quarrelsome – and generous to a fault. They must maintain a humble disposition and guard against pride, lest they fall into sin (v. 6). And even those who are outside the body of Christ – co-workers, neighbors, members of the larger community – must consider the elders to be men of good character and testimony. Such good works, exemplified and taught, will help the church realize more of its fullness as the Body of Christ.

Jesus said that disciples will rise to the level of those who disciple them (Matt. 10.24, 25). When the elders of a church fit the bill Paul outlines here, they will work to help the members of the church rise to a similar plateau of discipleship. Peter says that the shepherd’s example is a key component of his work (1 Pet. 5.1-3). Get men of this quality who have the skills to teach (v. 2), develop the Lord’s order, and serve in all humility, and you’re on your way to having a church that will grow in unity and maturity in the Lord (Eph. 4.11-16).

1. Rule, order, teach, serve: Use these four words to summarize the work of a shepherd or elder.

2. Why is it important that elders be men of good character, both within the church and in the larger community?

3. How would you explain to a new member of your church what the elders of the church should do?

Blameless: every virtue is implied in this word. If anyone is conscious to himself of any sins, he does not well to desire an office for which his own actions have disqualified him.… For why did no one say of the apostles that they were fornicators, unclean or covetous persons, but that they were deceivers, which relates to their preaching only? Must it not be that their lives were irreproachable? This is clear. John Chrysostom (344-407) Homilies on 1 Timothy 10

I know, Lord, that You have called me to serve others as well. Help me today to…

Pray Psalm 102.12-21.

The servants of God must love the “dust and stones” of God’s city, and they should all work together to build His Church for His glory. 

Sing Psalm 102.12-21.
Psalm 102.12-21 (Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
But You, O Lord, abide forever in Your place.
Arise and stand on Zion’s side and lavish us with grace!
Revive Your Church, O Lord! Let all her dust and stones
be strengthened by Your mighty Word, and compact be as one.

Then let the nations fear the glory of the Lord!
For He shall in His Church appear to heed our sighing words.
Then let our children learn to praise the Lord above.
He hears their groans and knows they yearn to dwell within His love.

T. M. Moore

Whatever our calling in life, we are sent to bring the joy of Christ to the people around us. Our book, Joy to Your World!, can show you how to fill your Personal Mission Field with more of the Presence, promise, and power of Christ and His Kingdom. Order your copy, as a supplement to our study of 1 Timothy, by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.