In Paul’s epistles, he has 5 faithful sayings that he wants Christians to remember. A faithful saying is a saying that is true and trustworthy. For example, Paul would write: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly” (Titus 3:8). Because the saying is true and important, Paul desires that it be repeated constantly! In the previous article, we examined the first faithful saying, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). In Part 2, we will examine Paul’s faithful saying in 1 Timothy 3:1, where Paul writes to us about the noble office of the elder.
1. A Vital Office
The office of the elder is a noble office because it is vital towards the church. It is vital because of the work that the elders do. The elders feed the flock, through teaching and ensuring they receive the adequate spiritual food that they need (1 Peter 5:2). The elders oversee the flock; they inspect and look after the sheep, and make decisions to ensure their welfare (1 Peter 5:2). The elders are examples to the flock, leading the way for them to follow (1 Peter 5:3). The elders watch for the souls of the flock; they protect the sheep from wolves within and without, and they have to give account to God for those under their charge (Hebrews 13:17).
Truly, it is a faithful saying, that the office of a bishop is a noble office, because the work of the elders is vital towards the church. It is so vital that God has instructed that elders be ordained in every congregation (Titus 1:5). Through the work of the elders, the church can be edified and the saints can be perfected (Ephesians 4:11-12). Every congregation will fare much better if they have elders installed; therefore, churches ought to be continually reminded of the importance of having elders, especially if no elders have been installed yet.
2. A Qualified Office
The office of the elder is a noble office because of its qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7). In order to be qualified to enter this office, one must possess excellent moral qualities: blameless, vigilant, sober, good behaviour, hospitable, apt to teach, not an alcoholic, not violent, not greedy for dishonest gain, patient, not a brawler, and not covetous. Furthermore, there are qualifications regarding his family: he must be the husband of one wife, rule well his own house, have his children in subjection with all gravity, and his wife is to be grave, not a slanderer, temperate, faithful in all things (cf. 1 Timothy 3:11). Furthermore, the elder must not be a novice, but rather a matured Christian. Also, concerning his reputation, he must have a good report among those outside the church.
Truly, it is a faithful saying that the office of the elder is a noble office, because of the qualifications they need to possess. Elders cannot be men who are spiritually immature, or babes-in-Christ. Those who can become elders are men who are morally excellent, men who have good families, men who are matured and experienced, and men who have honourable reputation. Therefore, churches need to be continually reminded of the excellent qualities that the elders need to possess, so that Christians can appreciate this honourable office, and so that men can prepare themselves in order to enter this office.
3. A Prepared Office
The office of the elder requires preparation. We can prepare this office by performing our duty towards the current elders. Christians have a duty to obey and submit to the elders (Hebrews 13:17). Christians have a duty to honour them (1 Timothy 5:17). Christians have a duty to know and esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). If the congregation does not perform its duty towards the elders, then it will hinder the work of the elders, and hinder others from stepping up to be elders.
We can also prepare the office by grooming young men (or yourself, if you are a young man). Having examined the qualifications of the elder, it is obvious these qualities do not come overnight. These qualities require years of growth and dedication to appear. We need to prepare ourselves by daily meditation and active service. Furthermore, we need to prepare young men and children through proper spiritual training, so they can grow up to be profitable and mature Christians, and eventually become elders.
Truly, it is a faithful saying that the office of the elder is a noble office. It is a vital office because of the work the elders do for the church. It is a qualified office because of the qualities the elders need to possess to enter this office. Therefore, there is a need for us to prepare the office. We prepare by performing our duty towards the current elders. We also need to prepare ourselves and the young ones to eventually become elders in the future. Since the eldership takes time to develop, churches need to be continually reminded of the need to make preparations today, to ensure we have elders tomorrow. May God bless every church with good and qualified elders.