The Character of an Elder (Titus 1:7-9)

The Character of an Elder (Titus 1:7-9)


Skipping his typical thanksgiving, Paul’s urgent need is to instruct Titus to appoint elders. An elder’s ability to shepherd his home reveals his ability to shepherd the church. Similarly, his ability to manage himself reveals his ability to manage the church.

As Paul delineates the qualifications for elder, he specifies several vices and virtues that apply to all of us to varying degrees.

Read Titus 1:5-9

Early on, a church needs biblically qualified leaders. How will we choose? What are the important factors to consider? We find three primary lists of qualifications in Scripture. And, in every list, character outweighs skill.

The qualifications of an elder are determined as much by the vices he avoids as the virtues he possesses.

These are characteristics the Spirit works in us because of what Christ has accomplished for us. We can’t separate the moral command from the gospel reality (1:1-2).

Vices An Elder Must Avoid (7)

Above Reproach Means blameless, not open to accusation. Titus is to look for exemplary men with good reputations.

Not Arrogant Stubborn with self-interest. Literally self-hedonist. Devoted to himself above all. Unable to empathize. Unable to care for others, unless it leads to some selfish gain. People feel used rather than shepherded.

Not Quick-Tempered Inclined to quick outbursts of anger. People walk on egg shells around them.

Not A Drunkard Addiction to alcohol is the problem, not the consumption of alcohol in moderation. However, unfortunately, this remains a genuine problem for pastors.

Not Violent Cruel, brutal, bully.

Not Greedy For Gain A shameful pursuit of wealth, seeking dishonest gain, promoting themselves as a brand.

These are ministry destroying characteristics.

So how can you overcome them?

  • Vulnerable honesty: bring your sin into the light before it destroys you and your family.
  • Gospel-centered counseling: grace leads to transformation, not condemnation and shame.

Let’s take anger for example.

  1. Admit your problem with anger and seek help.
  2. Consider the horizontal provocation of your anger, past and present. Ponder and grieve over the destruction you’ve experienced and caused.
  3. Recognize the vertical component, that anger itself is not the root problem. It was the wrath of God that crucified Jesus. Our anger comes from God. Being created in the image of God means anger affects all of us. Anger is never neutral, but it doesn’t have to be sinful.
  4. Apply the gospel to our hearts, apprehending the mercy of God in Christ. Enjoy restoration and reconciliation!
  5. Finally, as the gospel begins to penetrate more deeply into our hearts, the vices lose their grip. Instead of being quick-tempered, we learn to use righteous anger to destroy evil, rather than perpetuate it.

Although the solution isn’t complicated, it’s never that simple to process and apply.

When quadriplegia ambushed my life, it felt as though God were smashing me underfoot like a cigarette butt. Chronic pain on top of quadriplegia became the extra plate I could not handle, and my anger turned into deep despair. Those were nights I would thrash my head on my pillow, hoping to break it at some higher level and end my misery. Those were mornings I refused to get out of bed; I told my sister, Jay, “Just close the drapes, turn out the light, and shut the door…leave me alone.” Finally, after almost a year, I realized I couldn’t face one more day of hopelessness. I cried out in anguish, “God, if I can’t die, please show me how to live.” It was the prayer God was waiting for.1

I don’t know all the details of your story, but I know that you have one. Childhood abuses, devastating losses, and painful conflicts have formed deep roots in your life that may bear the fruit of destructive behavior patterns. But, if you’ve been broken by your vices, know that you have a Savior ready to restore you, who says,

“A bruised reed I will not break, and a smoldering wick, I will not snuff out.”

Not only are their vices an elder must avoid, but their are also…

Virtues An Elder Must Possess (8-9)

These are characteristics that all Christian should possess, but elders are to treat them as a vocation, a divine calling.

Hospitable Shows love to others, especially strangers. Accepts foreigners as guests.

Lover of Good as opposed to delighting in evil.

Self-Controlled Moderate, in control of passions. Emphasized later (2:2, 4-6, 12).

Upright Just, righteous.

Holy Pious, pursues moral purity.

Disciplined Able to exercise self-control like the athlete competing for a perishable wreath, while our reward is imperishable (1 Cor. 9:25).

Paul transitions from the topic of practicing godliness to preaching the Gospel.

Devoted to the Word This virtue is highlighted above the others. The candidate for elder so clings to God’s Word that he is able to instruct others (both privately and publicly) with sound/healthy/accurate doctrine as well as rebuke those who contradict it.

Calvin A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means for doing both, and he who has been rightly instructed in it will be able both to rule those who are teachable and to refute the enemies of the truth.

Prayer In James 5:14, Paul instructs those who are sick to call upon the elders to pray for them. Why? Because the elders were to be known for their dependence upon God in prayer.

These characteristics should flow from deep reflection upon the attributes of God, and the character of His Son:

  • We show hospitality because God has adopted those who were his enemies and received them as his children.
  • We love what is good, because we are drawn to what our Heavenly Father loves.
  • His patient dealing with us teaches us self-control.
  • When we understand the work of a just and holy God we seek to live upright and holy lives.
  • We learn discipline as a Sovereign God transforms our hearts.
  • This is the God revealed in Scripture which causes us to be devoted to the Word.



  1. Vices An Elder Must Avoid (7)
  2. Virtues An Elder Must Show (8-9)

The affections of our old nature can be put to death because Christ put our old Adam, together with his desires, to death on the cross (Rom. 6:6). Because of our union with Christ, our old man has no more power.

Leadership doesn’t suddenly appear, it develops over time as knowledge of gospel promises take root and godliness grows (2:11-12).

The Church in every place, at all times, needs men who are devoted to this message. Let us be diligent to pray for them now!