After telling Titus to appoint elders in every city, Paul further explained the qualifications for these elders. The first major qualification was in verse 6 – an elder must have a good home. His relationship with his wife and children must stand as an example of obedience to the teaching of Scripture, so that with full confidence he might be able to exhort the families under his care. Continuing the list of qualifications for those in leadership, Paul switched to the term “bishop” (the Greek word episkopos), but it is clear that he is using “elder” and “bishop” interchangeably.
These church leaders must be blameless. Their life should be marked by such godliness and good works that they are unaccusable. Any reproach that any person could bring against them should be unsustainable because it does not match their character. Conversely, a person who is divisive, rude, crass, or nearly criminal in personality has no place in leadership in the church. Destructive leadership will corrupt the church, but disciplined leadership will cultivate godliness and bring glory to God.
Describing what a blameless bishop looks like, in verse 7 Paul uses a few character traits that a bishop will not have – not self-willed (arrogant), not soon angry (short-tempered), not given to wine (drunkard), no striker (quarrelsome), not given to filthy lucre (greedy and money-seeking). On the other hand, a bishop will be marked by more than the character traits he does not have, rather, in verse 8, Paul continues his list with things that a pastor must have – a lover of hospitality (always willing to serve guests), a lover of good men (promoter of right and honest men), sober (self-controlled), just (innocent and righteous), holy (fully devoted to Godliness), temperate (rarely dogmatic, balanced).
The bishop will have a very specific character. He may differ in his tastes and preferences, but there are some areas of character that cannot be sacrificed. As Titus searched out men in each church, the task would be a difficult one, but for the health of the church it was a necessary one. Having the wrong men in leadership could lead to hurt and wounding and the damaging of the church, but having rightly qualified men would lead to flourishing and life and health in the church.
After explaining that a God-ordained elder in a church must be a good family man, and must be a man of impeccable character, Paul finalizes the list with a key component of being a good elder/bishop/pastor. In order to be a qualified elder, a bishop must be able to handle the word of God well. He must not just have a love for the word of God, but rather, he must know the word of God inside and out. He must be able to teach the truth of God from the Word of God through exhortation and admonition. It is not good enough to simply be a man of character. In order to lead the people of God, an elder must know clearly and definitively what the word of God says and how it applies to the life of a Christian.
As Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit set the bar of expectation for the elders and bishops on the island of Crete, it seemed that it is almost a difficult thing to qualify to be a bishop or elder. Perhaps after seeing a list of these character traits many people might shy away from it and self-deprecatingly acknowledge, “well, I’ll never qualify.” But that is not the point of this text. It does not exist as a standard that should seem insurmountable. Rather, through submission to the word of God, and surrender to the Spirit of God, each Christian should strive to grow in these areas that clearly demonstrate the desire of God.
While this list is primarily for helping churches determine who is biblically qualified to lead their congregation (and it should be used as such), it also can serve as an explanation of the character traits that God desires in every Christian. All believers should strive to model their families and relationships after scripture. All believers should seek to live blameless lives. All believers should strive to know the Word of God and the truths of God so they can encourage themselves and the other people of God. This is not character that is simply relegated to leadership, it is the explanation of a holy and right Christian.
Reflect: Read back through the qualifications listed in today’s text. Do you know of any men who would be qualified to be an elder? Do you know of any men who are bishops who are clearly unqualified?