Pastor Scott Andrews | September 19, 2021
Titus 1:5-9, Part 2
He was hailed as a once-in-a-generation kind of guy. At the onset of online pastors, he was ahead of the pack, leading the rest. His was a household name among young evangelical preachers – especially the young, restless and Reformed. People gobbled up his sermons and laughed at his edginess. He was called the cussing pastor by Donald Miller in his own edgy book, Blue Like Jazz. He was a lightning rod, and he like it. He heralded and was himself the picture of Christian masculinity. In his heyday, Christianity Today called him culturally hip, theologically conservative. He bemoaned feminine, wimpy leaders. He said Jesus wasn’t a Savior in a dress – He was a man’s man who made a whip and overturned tables in the Temple. His influence was so great, he said of himself, “I am the brand.” The brand of Mars Hill. I’m speaking of course of Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington.
He founded the church as a Bible study in his living room in 1996. It took off. Three years later, it was running 350 in weekly attendance. By 2014, it had grown to 15 campuses in five states, via simulcast. Average weekly attendance had grown to 14,000. Driscoll was the heralded Senior Pastor – people came from all over to hear him preach. You never knew for sure what he’d say, or how he’d go off. Along the way, Driscoll started the Acts 29 Network – a coalition of Reformed churches committed to church planting. It is said that movement of church planting in the early 2000’s saw unprecedented success – perhaps the greatest in all history. A few years later, he founded Resurgence, a ministry providing resources for conservative, Reformed pastors. By 2007, Forbes Magazine listed him as one of this country’s most prominent pastors; Preaching Magazine listed him one of top 25 most influential pastors in the previous 25 years. Mark Driscoll had it going on.
Until…things began to unravel. Oh, not with moral failure and deconversion usually cited when big-name pastors fall. For Driscoll, it was his oppressive, dictatorial, abusive, arrogant leadership. It was his way, or the highway. To be sure, from the beginning, Mars Hill was governed by Elders. But Mark, well, he was clearly the leader – first among equals, whatever that means. Soon, as the church grew, an executive board of elders was named who would assist Driscoll in making the day-to-day decisions of the church. It wasn’t long till they were making all the decisions, and the rest of the board of elders was sidelined. In 2007, having appointed yes-men to the Executive Board, Driscoll introduced a by-law change which would make the terms of the Executive Board, indefinite. He would solidify his control. When two pastors vocally objected to the change, they were summarily fired.
Charges of Driscoll’s harsh and oppressive leadership reached its peak in 2014. An internal investigation was conducted by the Elders. It was determined that Driscoll, indeed, had “been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner,” but had “never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.”
Elder leadership had taken its time, but in the end, had rightly held Driscoll accountable. Their goal was to see him rightly confronted, corrected and restored. Instead, Driscoll resigned. Two years later, he started Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, where recently, some of the same charges are being leveled. This time, his church has no elder board.
I share that story, not to drag his name through the mud, but to highlight the challenge of church leadership – and the necessity of a biblical plurality of godly elders, who are equal in authority, to lead the church. I will tell you, our Elders are currently working on an update of our church by-laws, and one of the concerns is to make sure there is no room for a staff takeover of this church. By God’s grace, this will always be a church led by godly, faithful elders. Two weeks ago, I suggested church governing structures can be grouped under the following four types:
- The Episcopal Model which uses a hierarchy, with a bishop as the presiding head over the local church or groups of churches.
- Next is the Congregational Model which fits our US Constitution and democratic leanings. It sees the authority of a church vested in its congregation – everyone gets a vote.
- Third is the CEO/Senior Pastor Model, which intentionally or unintentionally lines up under a single, usually charismatic leader. He’s in charge, and everyone knows it.
- And fourth is the Presbyterian Model, which sees the responsibility for oversight and shepherding of the church vested in a plurality of godly elders.
What kind of church government do we have at Alliance? The answer is, a Presbyterian or an elder form of church leadership. Remember, I said an elder is a spiritual leader in the church who has the responsibility to oversee (overseer), shepherd (pastor) and manage (steward) the church. As such, the role of elder carries significant responsibilities. Therefore, only qualified men should be selected for the task. What are those qualifications? That brings us to back to Titus this morning.
We remember at some point in the recent past, Paul and Titus had evangelized some of the many cities on the island of Crete. Paul had apparently left Titus there and writes to remind Titus to set things in order in the churches on the island. This included appointing elders in every church in every city. By the way, it will be clear godly elders are needed when we get to verses 10-16 where we see, once again, the church is under siege from false teachers. So, what then are the elders’ qualifications? Titus 1:5-9.
Now, you may sitting there thinking – great, another sermon on Elders. I could have skipped a couple weeks ago, and today. This has nothing to do with me. Which is not true, for at least two reasons. First, Paul is giving qualifications we should look for in the men we choose to lead us in this church. You see, there is sort-of a three-step process for serving as an elder. Back in Acts 20, Paul noted the Holy Spirit had made these men elders. We’re not sure exactly what that means, but in some way the Spirit directed the appointment of these men to serve. It’s likely the Spirit directed Paul and Timothy and Titus as they appointed Elders to serve in every church.
The second step, and these aren’t necessarily a chronological order – but second, there is the affirmation of the church. What does that mean? Well, it means elders meet these qualifications. It means we have observed their lives and affirm they are qualified to serve. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect – of course not. But the overall character of their lives is a pursuit of Christ, seen in these character qualities. As Titus was appointing elders in every city, he could not possibly know all the men in the church – it would take the affirmation of the church family.
So, let me tell you how we affirm elders at Alliance. Elders here serve in a two-year term. They can continue to serve, but every two years they have to be re-affirmed by the congregation. So, there is a sense in which the church does have a say – a vote, if you will – into who their leaders will be. Every year a Nominating Committee of five people meet to consider those who are up for reaffirmation, and to consider others nominated by the church family for various positions in the church – elders, deacons, and the like. The Nominating Committee presents a list of men to serve as Elders to the congregation, who then vote on these men – an affirmation vote – affirming that these do fit the qualifications set forth here. So hopefully, as we do this every year, as you vote, you are considering these qualifications. So in that sense, the passage does apply to you.
But second, every one of these qualifications – except one, able to teach – is expected of every follower of Jesus Christ. Elsewhere in the New Testament, all of us are called to be above reproach. To be committed to our marriage vows. To be temperate, prudent, respectable, etc. So, not only should we listen with an ear toward our elders, but toward ourselves. You can measure your own spiritual lives against these qualifications. An article appeared a couple weeks ago on the Gospel Coalition website which said:
“If you aspire to be a pastor, aim to be mistaken for an elder before you are appointed an elder…. You do not apply to be an elder, get hired, and only then start to do the work. Instead, a church appoints elders. Though the term is not explicitly used in Scripture, I think it is helpful to say that a church ‘recognizes’ elders. No individual or church can make a man an elder. Sure, a church can appoint whoever it wants to the office, but if a man does not fulfill the biblical qualifications, if a man does not desire and do the work of an elder, then whatever you call him, he is not an elder. A man is an elder only if his character and spiritual labor say so. That means every elder is an elder before he is an elder. Every legitimate elder shows himself qualified in character and competence before being appointed to the office.”
I think that is spot on. I suggested becoming an elder is a three-step process which includes the call of the Spirit, the affirmation of the church, but third, the desire to serve. That’s from I Timothy 3, “If any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” The word aspires speaks of reaching out – of stretching yourself out for the office. Now, we’re not talking about undue, prideful ambition – we’re talking about the calling of God on your life to serve in this office. Certainly men can have wrong motives to serve – for power or they see ministry as means to financial gain – we’ll talk about that shortly. But Paul acknowledges, there is an aspiration, a desire to serve that is a good thing. He calls it a fine work – and indeed it is. There is nothing better than the privilege of serving God’s people in this way. It serves God’s people and preserves the Gospel.
With all that, what are the qualifications of an elder, an overseer, or a pastor? Again, as we go through these, you’ll be tempted to think of the elders you know, and measure them against these qualifications. And that’s okay – we do need to hold our elders to these qualifications – that’s why Paul gives them. I’m graciously and gently calling us to graciously and gently hold each other – especially our elders – accountable. To be holy, not perfect, but holy. But, as you understandably and rightly think of elders, think also of yourself. Now, let’s divide the qualities into the following manageable chunks:
- In verse 6, Elder Character Observed in His Family Behaviors – We saw an overarching qualification, to be above reproach. From there, Paul focuses on family life – an elder’s relationship to his wife and his children. His family is a microcosm – how he treats his wife and children is indicative of how he’ll treat the church.
- In verse 7, Elder Character Observed in Avoided Behaviors – After restating the need to be above reproach, he lists five negative qualities – that is, these are qualities that disqualify a man from the office.
- Then in verse 8 and 9, Elder Character Observed in Pursued Behaviors – Paul gives seven necessary qualities. Notice I called these avoided and pursued behaviors. That means no one will keep all these perfectly, but they should be the overall character of the Elder’s life.
First, as we saw a couple weeks ago, let me remind you the elder is to be above reproach. So important is it that Paul repeats the qualification in verse 7. The word speaks of not being open to attack or criticism – irreproachable. In other words, the overall character of his life is one of blamelessness. Again, he’s not perfect – but he knows the joy of sins forgiven, and by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, pursues Christ-likeness in every area of life.
Which brings us to the first, and perhaps most challenging of the personal qualifications found in verse 6 – The Elders Character Observed in His Family Behaviors. First, he is to be the husband of one wife. The first thing I would note, very gently, is this obviously requires the elder be a man, the husband of one wife. Now, what is this, husband of one wife? A literal translation of the phrase is, the elder is to be a one-woman man. But, what does this one-woman man mean? There are basically five interpretations – I’ll go through these quickly:
- First, some say this means an elder has to be married. He must be the husband of one wife. By the way, this is the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church, while the Western Church, the Roman Catholic Church, says he must be single. Those who say he must be married suggest this is a carry-over from the Sanhedrin – in order to be a member of that Jewish ruling body, you had to be married.
There are a couple of problems with this first idea. Number one, Paul himself was not married – there is a sense in which he would be disqualifying himself from leadership. Not only that, in I Corinthians 7, he lauds singleness – he holds it high as a lofty position. You see, the single person has opportunity to devote more time and resources without the distractions of marriage to ministry. So, Paul is rather saying, if you are married, you are to be a one-woman man.
- The second interpretation is you can’t be polygamous – that is, you can’t have more than one wife at a time – what we could call simultaneous polygamy. And that would certainly be true – you can’t be a one-woman man and be married to two or more women. But polygamy was not an issue in the Roman world, and had started to fall out of favor with the Jews by this time. And there’s no evidence that polygamy was a problem in the early church. It would be Paul prohibiting what no one did.
Now, to be clear, polygamy has never been God’s plan for humanity. Yes, it appears in the OT – but it always created problems – ask Jacob, ask Solomon. God created one man for one woman. He didn’t create Adam and Eve and Sally – for him to have two wives – but he created Adam and Eve for him to have one wife who was his complementary companion and who fully completed him. And by the way, this was meant to be a permanent arrangement – one man to one woman for life. What God has joined together, let man not separate.
- Which leads to the third and fourth interpretations, and this is a bit of a challenge. I think we would all agree an elder cannot be involved in simultaneous polygamy – that is, having more than one wife at one time. But what about successive polygamy? That is, what about a man who has had more than one wife. Two ways that can happen – the third and fourth interpretations of this passage.
Let’s take the easier one first: that a man cannot be an elder if he is married a second time after his first wife died. You say, really? What’s the problem with that? Well, there was big movement in the early church that said, if you wanted to be godly, you marry once, even if your wife died. Lots of problems with this one and most reject the interpretation, although it was held by the early church. In other words, being a remarried widower does not disqualify you.
- Which leads to a fourth, commonly held interpretation of the passage. This interpretation says, if a man is divorced and remarried, then he is disqualified from being an elder. He has not been a one-woman man. This gets very complicated, even tricky. Here’s my take. Having studied the text, I don’t think Paul is talking about divorce and remarriage. I do think there are challenges to unbiblical divorce and remarriage – whether that be pre- or post-salvation. It does imply you have not been a one-woman man. However, I don’t think that’s Paul’s point. I will go further – I would suggest that a man who has been the innocent victim of a divorce should not be disqualified from serving as an elder.
- What then is Paul’s point in this phrase? The fifth interpretation is a married man must be committed to his marriage vows, faithfully committed to his wife.
This has been a problem throughout all generations – to the present day – unfortunately, even among elders and pastors. Men have not been faithful to their wives. And can I remind you this call to be faithful is not just required of elders, but of all men who claim to be followers of Christ. Be faithful.
But in this context, think of the untold damage done by elders or pastors who have been unfaithful – sexually immoral. It seems quite often we hear of some pastor falling into sexual sin. And there are lots of ways to be unfaithful – not just the act of adultery, but the attitude of adultery. What do I mean? Jesus said, to look at a woman with lust is to commit adultery in your heart. And so, lust, pornography, is to be unfaithful. So, this is a sobering command. Elders – men – we must be one-woman men. Faithful to our marriage vows, faithful to our wives.
Obviously, I need to go quickly here. The second characteristic regarding his family is the Elder must have children who believe and are not accused of dissipation or rebellion. Several points to be made. First, the word children speaks of little children – that is, children still in your home, under your authority. He’s not referring to adult children. Secondly, the words children who believe could be, and I think should be translated, children who are faithful. Why do I say that? Because, salvation is God’s job. And it requires faith. You can’t make God save your children, and you can’t make your children believe.
You can, however, make them obey, as a way of life, when they are under your care. They are obedient and respectful, not accused of dissipation, which means debauchery or wildness, pursuing a depraved life – nor can they be accused of deep-seated rebellion against parental authority. He’s not talking about occasional disobedience but what one called outright mutiny. Paul said it this way to Timothy, “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” Elders should have children who are respectfully obedient.
Which brings us to Elder Character Observed in Avoided Behaviors. Meaning, Elders should not have these characteristics as a way of life. First, he must not be self-willed, stubborn, or arrogant, that is, always seeking to get his own way. Hmm, maybe that’s why I started my introduction with someone who clearly does not meet the qualifications of an elder. One author writes, “The record of Christianity, and especially evangelical churches in the last century, is greatly marred by self-serving, domineering leaders of great ability, who needlessly divided believers and grew unhealthy celebrity empires.”
Second, he is not quick-tempered, rather, he is slow to anger – slow to wrath. He is not irritable or impatient. He must guard against hostility, resentment and anger. Listen – to be an elder or pastor is to invite much criticism. But he is not to respond with anger or resentment. He should rather be a man of kindness, patience and gratitude. That sounds like the Fruit of the Spirit to me.
Third, the elder is not addicted to wine – that is, alcohol is not something he needs; he is not a drunkard. While the Bible may not condemn alcohol entirely, it strongly denounces drunkenness. Paul said, don’t be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit. In other words, don’t be controlled by drugs or alcohol, rather, be controlled by the Spirit of God. Can I say it this way without getting anyone mad? Anytime you say, I need a drink, I need a beer, I need a glass of wine – you are in dangerous territory. You never need those things – you need Christ and the filling of His Spirit.
Fourth, the elder should not be pugnacious – that is, combative or violent. That seems clear enough, but the elder should never use his position to force his will or his way. He is not an authoritarian, he is not a bully.
Fifth and last, he is not fond of sordid gain. He is not greedy for money. While elders who serve vocationally need to provide for their families – and Paul endorses that by saying that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel; and an elder who teaches is worthy of double honor – literally, double pay – the vocational elder – we call them pastors – should not be in it for the money. Ministry in the church should never be for personal enrichment or personal gain or wealth. Since I’m running out of time, I’ll simply take this pot-shot at the health, wealth and prosperity teachers – read the Bible. You are disqualified. John Stott summarizes:
“Paul lists five negatives first. They relate to five areas of strong temptation, namely pride, temper, drink, power and money. Exposure to them is an occupational hazard attached to Christian leadership. All five challenge us to self-mastery. The principle now is not that ministerial candidates cannot manage the church if they cannot manage their own family, but that they cannot control the church if they cannot control themselves.”
Which brings us to verses 8 and 9 – Elder Character Observed in Pursued Behaviors, and there seven of them. Very quickly, first, he is hospitable. We talked about this a lot recently, so I won’t belabor the point – but hospitality is having others in your home for the purpose of caring for them. This may be unbelievers – people you don’t even know – but also believers, as we are admonished to show hospitality to one another. To care for one another, because we live in a very selfish world. Elders are to lead in showing hospitality. One author suggested a good question to ask a prospective elder is how many people, outside of family and closest friends, can describe the inside of your house?
Second, he is to love what is good. Very simply, he loves, he is drawn to that which is virtuous and commendable. He loves the good, he’s not drawn to evil. Third, he is sensible. Paul uses this word over and over in this letter, because the Cretans were not known for being sensible. The word speaks of being sober-minded and wise – not silly. It concerns me when a pastor is described first as being funny, humorous, tells good jokes. There’s nothing wrong with a sense of humor, but first he should be known for being sensible – sober. Committed to the word and not entertainment.
Fourth and fifth are clear enough – he is to be just or upright in his dealings with people. By the way, Paul tells Timothy he is to have a good reputation with those outside the church – in the business world, in the community, he is to be just, upright, trustworthy. He is also to be devout – literally, holy as relates to piety and worship. Pious is typically and mistakenly seen as a negative quality, for the Elder, he is to be holy, sanctified, displaying a life of bridled character and a pursuit of personal holiness.
Sixth, he is to be self-controlled, or self-disciplined. In his relationships with others, he is controlled by the Spirit, as seen in the last of the fruit of the Spirit – self-controlled, or controlled by the Spirit. Which leads to the other fruit, namely patience, kindness and gentleness.
Which leads to the last pursued behavior by any present and would-be elder in verse 9, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with teaching…” I’m tempted to preach an entire message on this one verse. It demonstrates the supreme importance of the apostolic teaching passed onto us in the Word of God. A church if first faithful if it is committed to the Bible. An elder must be faithfully and tenaciously committed to the faithful word which we have received.
This is a significant challenge in the church today. Too often, churches grow because of the charisma of the leader – whose talks sound more like a Ted Talk then the clear preaching and teaching of the Word of God. People go to be entertained, to pick up a few pointers on how to be a better person, how to live life to its full, to live the abundant life. And little attention is given to the clear proclamation of biblical truth. If you leave church week after week, and never feel convicted with a desire to Holy Spirit change, there is a problem.
And why is the Word received faithfully taught? To exhort in sound doctrine. The word sound could be translated healthy – hence the title of our Titus study – healthy doctrine leads to holy living. So that we can be exhorted – the word exhort is stronger than encouraged, although it includes that. But it also includes admonishment, accountability, and where necessary, confrontation. It is true the Gospel loves us right where we are – that we don’t have to clean up our acts to come to Christ. But the Gospel loves us too much to leave us where we are – it seeks to change us into the image of Christ.
And so not only does it exhort, it also corrects those who contradict sound teaching. Those who contradict the Bible. That is a shepherd’s job – to protect the sheep. I’m out of time, but let me close with these words of Dr. Steve Lawson, professor of divinity at the Master’s Seminary, “There are only two kinds of preachers. Those who preach the Bible. And those who need to resign.”