After King Solomon’s death Israel was divided into 2 kingdoms: The northern kingdom of Israel & the southern kingdom of Judah. Both of them fall into idolatry (spiritual adultery). About 200 years latter God judged Israel & Syria conquered them. But still the Lord in His mercy was calling them to repentance.
I see the same happening today to the believers or body of Christ, falling into idolatry, following after all kind of men doctrines, in apostasy, falling away from the truth of God as was prophesied in the Scriptures about the latter days. 1 Tim, 4:1-3, 2 Thess. 2:3, etc.
Still because of the long-suffering & mercy of God He is pleading, calling us back to Him, but sadly as with Israel, only a remnant will listen and return to Him.
And the Lord said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:11-15
We see here the word pastors or shepherds used for leadership (not only religious but also political, because Israel was a theocracy). And we also notice a contrast between the pastors that a backsliding Israel had with the pastors the Lord want for His people.
The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. Jeremiah 2:8
If we turn from our ways, acknowledge our sins & obey God He will give us pastor according to His heart. The phrase translated as “after my heart” in Jeremiah means, literally, “like my heart” (kelibbi). Let us remember the heart includes the mind, emotions & will (choices) of a person. Godly leaders, no matter the setting, will be people whose lives have been shaped by God ‘s Word, & His Holy Spirit.
To the Lord this is a matter of great importance, in the New Testament we see the emphasis in the qualifications for the men who are to guide the affairs of the church. God has placed a high standard for those in pastoral oversight. Not just anyone can be an elder, we cannot appoint men as elders because they are our friends or because we want to honor a person for perfect attendance or obedience. Nor should we place as elders people because they are rich or have influence or power.
We need to understand what is the church. The Greek word that is translated “church” in our Bibles is the word “ekklesia” and refers to a local assembly or congregation of people meeting together in a particular geographical location. “The church which is in Jerusalem” Acts 11:22, “the church of the Thessalonians” 1 Thess. 1:1, “The churches of Asia salute you” 1 Cor. 16:19, see also Gal 1:2 & 1:22. The word “ekklesia” is not a building, but a group of people.
The word pastors is found only once in the New Testament (Ephe. 4:11), it refers to a shepherd who takes care of sheep or flock, by the definition that we learned from the Old Testament we know it was used for leadership of God’s people. The New Testament churches were made up of:
1/ A group of elders/bishops. From that group of elders, some were teachers of the Word (what are called ‘pastors’ today), others administrators, etc.
2/ appointed servants called ‘deacons‘ these deacons needed to be found blameless in order to qualify to serve as elders later.
3/ believers. Needed to first be proven in order to serve as deacons.
The main reasons for the qualifications were to protect the church from unfit men in leadership, (example : “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous – 1 Tim. 3: 3 ), to help improve moral and spiritual character & to correct deficiencies in the church (Titus 1:5). One of the biggest mistakes made by churches today is that they do not adequately examine candidates for leadership or eldership.
‘And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless‘ 1 Tim.3:10. Then after being found blameless in the office of deacon they can become elders or leaders or pastors. Today we see many pastors that come from a different country, estate, etc. to open a church without the backing up of their church were they already served, believer ought to know if they are biblically qualified.
The Greek word “presbuteros” It is an adjective, referring to age as an old man, an elder. Growing older, however, did not necessarily mean growing wiser. Therefore elders had to be chosen carefully. Some use 1 Timoteo 4:12 ‘Let no man despise thy youth’ to say an elder can be young, but when Paul commissioned Timothy as an elder and said this words Timothy was about the age of 40-45 years old. Most probably young among the other elders. Also in the Old Testament the minimum age for priesthood was 30 years old. (That was also th age when Jesus started His ministry), until 50 years old, when they had to retire from priesthood (Num,4:3). Once retired some of them would help in the training of new priests or Levites. For this reason many believe that elders in the bible were normally 50 years and older.
The priests in the Old Testament were mediators between God and his people, but in the New Covenant Jesus brought many changes. (Heb. 6:9; 7:19, 22; 8:6-13). Priests were no longer needed because Jesus became the only mediator and our High Priest (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6, Heb. 6:19-20; 7:23-28; 9:11-28). Under the Old Covenant on the day of atonement, once a year, only the High Priest (a specially appointed, male Levite) could enter the Most Holy Place in the Temple. Under the New Covenant, Jesus is the High Priest and all believers (regardless of gender, ethnicity, social status, etc), can enter the Most Holy Place, continually through the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19-22). All believers are now the priesthood:
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 1 Peter 2:9
Authority in the church is very different from worldly authority, leaders within the church must, first of all, be humble servants.
Moral and Spiritual Character Requirements to be church leaders :
Firstly the motivation should not be greed, personal gain or power, but a desired to serve the family of God motivated by the Holy Spirit –
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” Acts 20:28.
‘Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it NOT be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. ‘ Matthew 20: 20-28 & Mark 10:35-45.
1/ They should have a good reputation & personal integrity:
“Blameless” (irreproachable) (1 Tim. 3:2 , Titus 1:6),
“good behaviour” (1 Tim. 3:2 ),
“Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without (outsiders)” (1 Tim. 3:7).
“Being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3)
“not given to filthy lucre” (Titus 1:7),
“Just” (Titus 1:8),
“Holy” (Titus 1:8)
2/ Family life without reproach:
“The husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2 &12, Titus 1:6). Many interpret this as not been in adulterous relationship, but because this is obvious for any believer & it doesn’t use the word adultery, it is also believed that a pastor or elder cannot be a divorced man that married other woman. This makes sense since he is suppose to be an example to the flock, & without reproach.
‘One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?’ 1 Tim. 3:4-5,
“ruling their children and their own houses well” vs.12.
“having faithful (G4103= trustworthy, believers) children not accused of riot or unruly.” (Titus 1:6).
The Greek word G4103=pistos, is translated faithful but also can mean believers (full of faith). Either way, we are not able to see this requirements of Titus 1 if the children are too small. Children are a test of a man’s leadership. No father is perfect, but a Christian father who is an elder must be above reproach as a father.
3/ Spiritual Maturity & biblical knowledge
“apt to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2 )
“Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil”. vs 6 – Cannot be a new convert or an untrained man. It takes time and study of the Word of God to mature in the Lord.
“Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. vs 9 (faith)
“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught” (Titus 1:9). (He has been taught biblical doctrine not men doctrine)
“be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (vs 9). An elder must be able to teach and defend the faith.
4/ An elder must be a man who displays self-control:
Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, ( love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (or self control), so this qualifications are also about having Spirit-led leaders.
“Sober-minded” (1 Tim 3:2)
“Not given to wine” vs 3
“no striker” vs 3
“not greedy of filthy lucre” vs 3, & Titus 1:7, “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” 1 John 2:15
“but patient”, vs 3 – (longsuffering)
“not a brawler” vs 3 (peaceable)
“not covetous” vs 3 – not loving money, cars, etc.
“not doubletongued”, vs.8. Telling one thing at front & another behind
“not soon angry”
“not given to wine” vs 8
“Steward of God” (Titus 1:7)
“Not selfwilled” -Not self pleasing (Titus 1:7)
“not soon angry”, (vs 7)
“no striker”, (vs 7)
“Temperate ” (vs 8), – (Self Control)
5/ Good treatment of People, who serve them in the love of Christ, not proud or abusing authority:
“Gentle” (1 Tim. 3:3), – (gentleness)
“Not quarrelsome” (1 Tim. 3:3)
“a lover of hospitality”, (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8)
“a lover of good men” a promoter of virtue, loving goodness, Titus 1:8 (love)
“Not quick tempered” (Titus 1:7)
“Not arrogant” (Titus 1:7), – (meekness)
“Just” (Titus 1:8) – (goodness)
“Neither as being lords over God’s heritage,” (1 Peter 5:3)- -Not worldly authority, they don’t own God’s people but as older brothers taking care of the younger ones.
Spiritual maturity takes time, there are not short cuts. We need to look for the fruit of the Spirit in the leaders we choose to learn from. Any religious leader, even non-believers can have works or pretend that they have. The church today more than ever needs true character leadership. Character that only comes by submitting continually to God’s Word & His Holy Spirit. See Psalm 101.
It is by no means easy for a young man to become a Shepherd, and he ought not be discouraged if he cannot become one in a day or a year. An orator he can become without difficulty. A reformer he can become at once. In criticism of politics and society he can do a flourishing business the first Sunday. But a shepherd he can become only slowly, and by patiently traveling the way of the cross. – Charles Jefferson, 1860-1937.