Biblical Qualifications of Overseers (Titus 1:5)
So let’s talk about the qualifications of a Christian Pastor. Titus 1 and I Timothy 3 talk about the offices of a Bishop and Deacon. This is a subject not often given much deep study. Mostly, we assume that seminary alone prepares a person for this position. A person can go or not go to seminary, but the importance in scripture is on character, integrity and the effective functioning as a Shepherd.
Let’s start with some definitions:
The Greek work for pastor is “poimen”. The literal meaning of the word poimen isshepherd. English translations of the Bible translate poimen as the English word “pastor” onlyone time in the New Testament in Ephesians 4:11 when referring to it as an office:
Ephesians 4:11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers (KJV).
This word “Poimen” (Poy-mane) however itself appears 17 times in the New Testament: 4 times it is used of literal shepherds caring for literal sheep; 8 times it refers to Jesus as the Great Shepherd of the church; 4 times it refers to leadership of true believers, as either true or false leaders; 1 time it is as an office in the church.
www.Studylight.org gives these two definitions for the Greek:
a herdsman, esp. a shepherd
a. in the parable, he to whose care and control others have committed themselves, and whose precepts they follow
a. the presiding officer, manager, director, of any assembly: so of Christ the Head of the church
1. of the overseers of the Christian assemblies
2.of kings and princes
The Near Eastern shepherd had the task of watching for enemies trying to attack the sheep; to defend the sheep from attackers; to heal the wounded and sick sheep; to find and save lost or trapped sheep ; to love them, sharing their lives and so earning their trust.*
It is clear from these definitions that a Pastor was a caretaker.
Little is discussed in the New Testament about this role and how it was to be carried out except the indication of Shepherding. The office is mentioned in Ephesians 4 as a function or role to be performed and not as an official title.
Let’s get straight to the Bible on this subject.
Paul wrote Titus and Timothy some qualifications for an overseer.
The King James Version states:
For this cause left Ithee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order) the things that are wantingand ordain) elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, thehusband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;8 Buta lover of hospitality,a lover of good men,sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fastthe faithfulword as he hath been taught,that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers
Let’s use the Amplified Bible for more clarity:
5For this reason I left you [behind] in Crete, that you might set right what was defective and finish what was left undone, and that you might appoint elders and set them over the churches (assemblies) in every city as I directed you.
6[These elders should be] men who are of unquestionable integrity and are irreproachable, the husband of [but] one wife, whose children are [well trained and are] believers, not open to the accusation of being loose in morals and conduct or unruly and disorderly.
7For the bishop (an overseer) as God's steward must be blameless, not self-willed or arrogant or presumptuous; he must not be quick-tempered or given to drink or pugnacious (brawling, violent); he must not be grasping and greedy for filthy lucre (financial gain);
8But he must be hospitable (loving and a friend to believers, especially to strangers and foreigners); [he must be] a lover of goodness [of good people and good things], sober-minded (sensible, discreet), upright and fair-minded, a devout man and religiously correct, temperate and keeping himself in hand.
9He must hold fast to the sure and trustworthy Word of God as he was taught it, so that he may be able both to give stimulating instruction and encouragement in sound (wholesome) doctrine and to refute and convict those who contradict and oppose it [showing the wayward their error]. (Titus1:5-9).
The reason for these directions can be seen in the nature of the office. The idea of an official office is that this person should be above reproach because they are a standard bearer for what they represent. They are to provide the church leadership and so be representatives of what is taught and cannot afford to be guilty of certain things. This was not the average pew sitter and so the standards for this position were higher.
A Pastor as a church leader has the task of convincing those that oppose sound doctrine of the correct teachings of Jesus Christ, and cannot put himself in a position where people will not have confidence in his testimony. At the very least, no one should be able to point a finger at his conduct within the church, or outside the church, with any unresolved issues. All saints have an obligation to right any wrongs, but a Pastor especially because of his position must go to the furthest extent to correct this so that the message of the gospel will move forward unhindered.
These requirements put great emphasis on integrity.
As we keep go through these qualifications, let’s keep in mind that the person must already possess these qualities when they are acknowledged in their ministry.
Let’s start with Verse 7: A bishop must be blameless:
This is a quality that has to do with integrity, perfect in conduct; no one (saved or unsaved) can say that this person has stolen from me, wronged me, behaved in appropriately toward me, or treated me unfairly. If such charges are made they must be addressed and resolved. They should be above reproach in conduct at the time they are ordained or acknowledged in their ministry. By default, this cannot be a person that is causing offenses in the church.
Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: I Cor 10:32; Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed 2 Cor 6:3; It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbles or is offended, or is made weak. Romans 14:22; Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend I Cor 8:13.
The love shown to the body of Christ is extremely important not just for the Christian but doubly so for Overseer who is charged with caring for their soul. How many Pastors and ministers do we see today that live their lives as if they have no connection to the body of Christ or how their actions will affect others. We could go down a list of public pastor figures that have made this mistake by bad conduct, numerous divorces, lewd behavior; financial misdeeds with little care how this affects the flock. It is one thing when a fellow pew sitter does something erroneous, but another altogether when a minister or pastor does the same thing and they are your spiritual caretaker. Paul was giving Titus and Timothy qualifications for a very public office. It is an office of high ambassadorship.
Here is one example of an integrity issue a person can have that would affect the church. I was asked one time, about a person being qualified to be ordained. According to my understanding of the scripture, and what I had seen of their conduct, they were barely qualified to even be acknowledged as a minister at the time. They habitually accused people without much proof, and consistently brought charges about people to the ministerial body without discussing the problem with the person first. I had personally brought these deficiencies to their attention, and at the time I was asked this question, they had never corrected this behavior. This behavior from a non minister , even though unbiblical, could be a matter of growth and prayer. However, if a minister practices ignoring scriptural procedures and fairness (Matthew 18:17) they cannot be qualified to help teach the church. These principles have to be a part of their very being and they should not have to be constantly reminded to follow scripture. The desire to uphold scripture should be lifeblood of their heart and not a last minute thought. This neglect would cause too many offenses and hurts in the body of Christ, and if supported, damage the reputation of the ministry.
It should be natural for a minister or aspiring elders to love the Word of God and to want to exhibit biblical conduct.They should be addicted to obeying the Holy Spirit and word of God, and even if mistakes are made, it should be straightened up immediately.
A person who represents the gospel should have integrity in: scriptural application (sound in teaching), humility, money matters, fairness toward others, a willingness to correct wrongs, and must be easy to approach and discuss issues with. A congregant should never feel threatened by their behavior and they should certainly hold a reputation for being even handed in judgment.
As a minister, there have been times, I have apologized or worked on resolving matters where I have not felt I was in the wrong, but apologized anyway, for the sake of integrity. Which is more important? My being right and proven right or this person being able to receive messages God has given me that will help them? I think the latter would be more important, and it is. Especially if I were called to Shepherd and care for souls, this should be first on my heart and not an afterthought.
So God will teach a minister/and especially an overseer how to be blameless and stay above reproach. When it comes to the care of men’s souls, as we go into these scriptures, we will see why Paul says this person cannot be “self-willed”.
Next time: The husband of one wife.