As I hope you’ll remember from last Monday’s Bible Study on Titus, ladies, the apostle Paul left Titus in Crete with the task of appointing elders in every town. Paul instructed that these be men who were above reproach. Today we will take a more detailed look at how elders could actually be above reproach.
But before we examine Titus 1:7-8, let’s read these verses in their immediate context.
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ~~Titus (ESV)
You can see from this passage that Paul repeats his injunction for overseers to be above reproach, as if to emphasize the importance of this characteristic. Overseers, or elders, must be above reproach, we see in verse 7, because they are God’s stewards. A steward cares for and manages someone else’s property or affairs. Therefore, they need reputations that make accusations against them difficult to believe.
How are elders to cultivate such reputations? Interestingly, Paul introduces this practical discussion by enumerating ways that an elder should not behave.
To begin with, an elder mustn’t be arrogant (some translations say self-willed). The sense conveys an arrogance that presumes on the office. In appointing elders, Titus should avoid men who would rule as autocrats.
Going along with that thought, Paul continues by instructing that an elder must not be quick-tempered. Amid the inevitable frustrations of ministry, anger could expose an attitude of self-will. He needs the ability to bridle his temper.
A steward of God’s Church must not be a drunkard. Believers Bible Commentary points out that First Century Mediterranean culture used wine as a common beverage (probably like we use coffee). So Paul’s point here really focuses, not on abstinence, but on self-control.
Along with sobriety in terms of wine, an elder mustn’t be violent. This refers specifically to physical violence .
Lastly in this list of negatives , an elder must not be greedy. Paul doesn’t want these men exploiting the Gospel as a way to make money. Many false teachers did (and still do) use religion as a means of personal profit. That motive is unacceptable.
In contrast to these negative qualities, in verse 8 Paul lists characteristics that actually do befit an elder.
Firstly, an elder must be hospitable. In first Century Mediterranean culture, hospitality had a special importance, and Christians needed to open their homes to strangers. Elders had the responsibility to set an example of such hospitality.
Next, Paul says that an elder must be a lover of good. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown tell us that the Greek implies that they are a lover of all that is good, whereas Barnes expands this notion with the idea that an elder should love people of good character regardless of their outward appearance or circumstances.
Following this quality, an elder should be sober, which carries the idea of being sensible enough to make sound judgments.
Additionally, an elder must be upright, or just. By this we mean that he is able to deal fairly and honestly with others, particularly as a steward of God’s Church.
An elder must also be holy. One might consider this as an obvious point, but Paul has reason for including it.This idea points to an attitude of devotion towards the Lord. Therefore, a steward of God’s Church must maintain a deep and robust relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, Paul directs that an elder must be disciplined, or able to control his passions as well as his outward behavior. Perhaps this point sums up these two verses.
Before we conclude that verses 7 and 8 apply exclusively to elders, please remember that elders serve as examples to the rest of us. God calls all Christians to live obedient lives in accord with Scripture and by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. Our elders merely demonstrate how we can live above reproach.