What Are the Requirements to Be an Elder?


In 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9, the apostle Paul sets forth a number of characteristics that men must possess in order to be pastors, elders, overseers, shepherds. (In the New Testament, these terms are all equivalent—elder connotes the man’s dignity and standing; overseer his function and duty; pastor his calling of shepherding, protecting, and feeding of the flock through teaching.)

Several years ago, John Piper did a seminar on biblical eldership and worked through these qualifications. I thought it might be helpful to adapt the comparative chart from the ESV Study Bible collating the qualifications and then listing Piper’s corresponding definitions.

I hope this is as helpful for others as it has been for me as we think through the requirements of this high and holy calling.

1 Timothy Titus
3:1 one who has aspiration to the office He aspires to the role of being an elder, bishop, overseer, pastor, shepherd. This does not exclude the possibility that he is sought out and urged to be an elder. But no pressure should be used that would result in an unwilling, half-hearted service.
3:2 above reproach 1:6, 7 above reproach He lives in a way that gives no cause for others to think badly of the church or the faith or the Lord.
3:2 husband of one wife 1:6 husband of one wife The question is probably one of notoriety. What is this man’s reputation with regard to whether he has had one wife or not?



not a drunkard




not . . . a drunkard

He exercises self-control and mastery of his appetites. He prizes freedom from enslavements to such a degree that no bondage is yielded to.
3:2 self-controlled 1:8 self-controlled He is sensible. He is prudent. He is reasonable. He has good judgment. He sees things as they really are. He knows himself well. He understands people and how they respond. He is in touch with reality, such that there are no great gaps between what he sees in himself and what others see in him.
3:2 respectable He is honorable and dignified. He comports himself in situations so as not to step on toes unnecessarily. He does not offend against propriety.
3:2 hospitable 1:8 hospitable He loves strangers. He is given to being kind to newcomers. He makes them feel at home. His home is open for ministry. He does not shrink back from having guests; he is not a secretive person.
3:2 able to teach 1:9 able to give instruction He is an apt teacher, skilled in teaching. He knows biblical doctrine well and is able to explain it to people. He is astute enough theologically that he can spot serious error and show a person why it is wrong and harmful.
3:3 not violent 1:7 not . . . violent He is not pugnacious or belligerent. His temper is under control. He is not given to quarreling or fighting. He has a conciliatory bent. His feelings are not worn on his sleeve. He does not carry resentments. He is not hypercritical.
3:3 gentle He is not harsh or mean-spirited. He is inclined to tenderness. He resorts to toughness only when the circumstances commend this form of love. His words are not acid or divisive but helpful and encouraging.
3:3 not quarrelsome 1:7 not arrogant or quick-tempered He is peaceable. He is lowly in his demeanor, not speaking much of himself or his achievements. He counts others better than himself and is quick to serve. He sincerely gives God the credit and honor for any accomplishments.
3:3 not a lover of money 1:7 not . . . greedy for gain He puts the kingdom first in all he does. His lifestyle does not reflect a love of luxury. He is a generous giver. He is not anxious about his financial future. He is not so money-oriented that ministry decisions revolve around this issue.
3:4–5 a good manager of his own household; cares for God’s church; keeps his children submissive 1:6–7 a steward; his children are faithful, not insubordinate He is the leader of a well-ordered household. If he has children, they are submissive (not perfect, but well-disciplined, so that they do not blatantly and regularly disregard the instructions of their parents). His children revere him. He is a loving and responsible spiritual leader in the home. He respects and tenderly loved his wife, if he is married. Their relationship is openly admirable.
3:6 not a recent convert He is a mature believer. There are evidences in his life that humility is a fixed virtue and not easily overturned.
3:7 well thought of by outsiders He meets the standards of the world for decency and respectability (as the standards of the church are higher).
1:8 a lover of good He loves to be involved in doing good. More than merely doing good, he has a bent and love to see goodness done. He is an expansive person.
1:8 upright He cares about whether people are treated fairly. He wants to see justice in the world at all levels.
1:8 holy He is a person of devotion to Christ with a life of prayer and meditation. He loves worship and has a deep personal relationship with the Lord.


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