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.
|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
|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
|3:2||husband of one
|1:6||husband of one
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
self-control and mastery of his
prizes freedom from enslavements to such a degree that no bondage is yielded
|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
|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
|3:2||able to teach||1:9||able to give
|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 . . .
|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.|
arrogant or quick-tempered
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
|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
|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
is a mature believer. There are evidences in his life that humility is a
fixed virtue and not easily overturned.
of by outsiders
meets the standards of the world for decency and respectability (as the
standards of the church are higher).
|1:8||a lover of
|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
|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.