As Christians, we all want to grow in spiritual maturity and Christlikeness. At least, I hope we do. We all want to become what we are in Christ, to put aside patterns of sin and unrighteousness and to replace them with patterns of holiness. Ultimately, we want to become like Christ, to think how he thought and to behave how he behaved. We do well to aspire to the highest standards of holiness and godliness.
The Bible holds out one group of people who are to serve as models of Christian maturity: Elders (referred to at times as elders, and at other times as pastors or overseers). Elders are qualified to the office primarily on the basis of their character. While the Bible provides one quality related to skill (the ability to teach) and one related to the amount of time a man has been a Christian (not a recent convert), all of the other qualifications are related to character. Yet while these traits are demanded of elders, they are not unique to elders.
D.A. Carson has said that the list of qualifications for elders is “remarkable for being unremarkable.” Why is that? Because these traits are repeated elsewhere as qualities that ought to be present among all believers. Carson says, “The criteria mentioned are demanded of all Christians everywhere. Which is another way of saying, elders are first of all to be exemplars of the Christian graces that are presupposed as mandated on all Christians.” Every church is meant to be full of men and women who display these traits.
This means that if you want to grow in holiness, one great place to begin is by knowing and imitating the character qualifications of elders. Today I am beginning a new series on the character of a Christian, and I will structure the series around these character qualifications. I want to answer questions like these: In what ways do the qualifications of an elder and the calling of all Christians overlap? Very practically, what do those qualities look like in the life of the believer? How can I know if I am displaying these graces? And how can I best pray for them in my own life?
I hope you will join me as we consider how to spur one another on to love, good works, and great Christlikeness! I hope you will join me as we learn together how we can exemplify the highest Christian virtues. Here is how I anticipate progressing through the series:
- Above Reproach
- A One-Woman Man (and One-Man Woman)
- Sober-Minded, Self-Controlled, Respectable
- Sober, Gentle, Peacemaking
- Not a Lover of Money
- A Leader at Home
- Mature and Humble
- Respected by Outsiders
This series will kick off next week with the qualification that serves as a summary or an umbrella for the rest of them—the quality of being above reproach, of being blameless and free of any great defects in character and behavior.
(Note #1: There are three texts we look to when discussing the qualifications of an elder: 1 Timothy 3:2-7, Titus 1:6-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-3. Each of these overlaps with the others but each also has unique elements. We come to the fullest understanding of the elders’ qualifications when we hold the three of them together. This is what we will do in the weeks ahead. Note #2: For the breakdown of the character qualities, I intend to follow the pattern Thabiti Anyabwile uses in his 2012 work Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons.)