1 Timothy 3:1-7: God’s Good Design for Elders

Now, you may be wondering: why, when there are people who are without Christ, who haven’t heard the gospel, why would we spend an entire message about elders? Well, there are four reasons at least, why we would spend an entire message about elders in a sermon at [this church]. The first reason is, Paul talks about it in the Bible, in the passage we’re about to read. And if we’re going to faithfully expound the word of God, then we’ve got to talk about what the word of God talks about. That’s really what expository preaching is. It’s making the subject of the sermon based upon the subject of the passage before us. A lot of times a preacher will open up the Bible, read you a verse, close his Bible, and then talk for a half hour, and he might as well never have opened his Bible in the first place, because what he says has absolutely nothing to do with the passage he read! But in expository preaching, our goal is to preach what the Bible says. And so the first reason we talk about it is, the Bible talks about it.

The second reason is this. Paul makes it clear (you can check me on this) in Titus, chapter one, verse five, he makes it clear to Titus that elders are to be appointed in every church started in every city. So elders in churches are clearly something very important to Paul. He thinks it’s important for the life of a local congregation. And for that reason it’s appropriate for us to spend a sermon on elders.

Thirdly, in Ephesians four, verses eleven and twelve, Paul makes it clear that Jesus gave officers to the church. Among those officers are elders, pastors, and teachers. Now, when Jesus gives you a gift, you need it. Jesus doesn’t give unnecessary gifts, and if He gave the gift of officers to the church, He must think that His church needs officers. 

And if Jesus thinks His church needs officers, then it behooves Jesus’ Church to know why He thinks His Church needs officers. And sure enough, in Ephesians 4:12,13 and following down, Paul explains at least two reasons why we need officers. And that’s the fourth reason why it’s appropriate for us to study this. Not only because Paul talks about it in I Timothy 3:1-7; not only because Paul, in Titus 1:5, says that elders ought to be appointed in every church; not only because in Ephesians 4:11ff Jesus gives elders as gifts to the church; but because in that very passage in Ephesians 4, Paul tells us at least two reasons why God gave elders to the church. One: for our discipleship. Two: for God’s glory to be displayed in the church. And so, for all those reasons it’s appropriate for us to think about the subject of elders.

Now, you may be thinking: “I’m not an elder, why do I need to hear this?” Because in God’s wisdom and providence, it is His plan that you–every communing member of this congregation–would have the responsibility of adding your “amen” in the selection of elders in the church. Paul and Jesus and Peter don’t spell it out exactly. We do it by voting. But they do make it clear in the New Testament that it is the congregation that will select the men who will serve as elders in the church. 

The qualifications are set out in the Bible. The elders of the church screen men for those qualifications, but ultimately the congregation determines who those elders will be. Why? Because the congregation is recognizing those qualifications in those men. So, at [this church] you actually have a chance to vote. So there’s one reason why you need to think about this. 

Ligon Duncan


Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7.  If you were going to make a list of qualities of a spiritually mature person (independently of 1 Tim. 3:1-7), how would your list have differed from Paul’s?  If you had to single out just one of these qualities in choosing a man for church leadership, which one would it be? Why?

Be Thou My Vision – Nathan Pacheco

Posted on: July 2, 2021 - 12:00PM

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