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  • David Lee Brown

Deacon, Elder, and Pastor Qualifications

When a church chooses new leadership, they must review the Deacon, Elder, and Pastor Qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-12. This choice should be a very straightforward and relatively easy decision, except for the phrase husband of one wife. This phrase has been a stumbling block for many pastors and deacon boards. But the straightforward meaning is best. A one-woman man. In other words, a person that is not a polygamist, not recently divorced, and not recently widowed. He needs a track record of being either a godly single man or a godly married man with a virtually impeccable reputation.


Henderson Hills Baptist Church's "The 21 Qualifications of Elders"[1]


HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE. (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) The Greek words, which we translate as "the husband of one wife," addresses the subject of fidelity in marriage, not marital status. Directly translated, the Greek phrase says "a one-woman man." If married, the elder must be absolutely committed to his wife. Famed Southern Baptist Seminary professor and linguist A. T. Robertson, John MacArthur, J. Vernon McGee, and Charles Swindoll agree this phrase addresses the issues of polygamy or fidelity in marriage, not divorce. The other biblical experts agreeing with the view are Drs. Ed Glasscock, Fritz Rienecker, Albert Barnes, and Eric Titus.


So, a repentant and forgiven divorced and remarried man can be a Deacon, Elder, or Pastor if they have a proven track record of complete fidelity to their current wife and meet all other qualifications. These include not being a recent convert, not recently widowed, and not recently divorced. For further information, refer to "The Meaning of "The Husband of One Wife" in 1 Timothy 3"[2] by Randy Alcorn.


Deacon, Elder, and Pastor Qualifications

1. Above Reproach. (I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) When a Christian applies the principles of God's Word and desires to deepen his relationship with Christ, the result will be a lifestyle that is above reproach.

2. Temperate. (I Tim. 3:2) Self-controlled. (Titus 1:8) It speaks of a man who lives a balanced life, not prone to extremism.

3. Prudent. (I Tim. 3:2) Sensible. (Titus 1:8) An elder must use sound judgment.

4. Respectable. (I Tim. 3:2) An elder must be well-behaved, well-organized, a man whose life is in order.

5. Hospitable. (I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8) When a person is benevolent, he will keep his life, home, and heart open to others.

6. Able to Teach. (I Tim. 3:2) Able to Exhort in Sound Doctrine and Refute Those Who Contradict. (Titus 1:9)

7. They are not Addicted to Wine. (I Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7) This characteristic sets down the absolute prohibition of drunkenness in an elder's life. Or, better yet, abstaining from alcohol use as a beverage.

8. Not a Striker. (I Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7) An elder must not be quick-tempered.

9. Gentle and Patient. (I Tim. 3:3) A gentle person is non-combative, kind, and patient.

10. Uncontentious. (I Tim. 3:3) This word means "not quarrelsome, not debating, selfish, or sinfully jealous.

11. Free from the Love of Money. (I Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7) The Bible teaches us a great deal about the appropriate and inappropriate use of, and desire for, money.

12. He Rules His Household Well. (I Tim. 3:4) Above Reproach as a Steward. (Titus 1:7) "Ruling" refers to how a man provides leadership for his family.

13. His Children are under Control with Dignity. (I Tim. 3:4) Having Children Who Are Not of Dissipation or Rebellion. (Titus 1:6) The elder's children must bring honor to their parents.

14. Not a New Convert. (I Tim. 3:6) The elder cannot be a new convert. Spiritual maturity is of the greatest importance due to elders' spiritual responsibilities.

15. Of Good Reputation Outside the Church. (I Tim. 3:7) The term "outside the church" refers to unbelievers. People who do business, play sports, or participate in other activities with a potential elder must think highly of him.

16. Not Self-willed. (Titus 1:7) When a person is obstinate, he stubbornly follows his opinions, arrogantly refusing to listen to others. An elder must be willing to change his views and receptive to the convictions, feelings, and interests of others.

17. Not Quick-tempered. (Titus 1:7) This is an essential qualification for a spiritual leader. Spiritual leaders must be slow to anger.

18. He Loves What Is Good. (Titus 1:8) An elder must be a man devoted to what is good and right.

19. Just. (Titus 1:8) The elder must know Christ and live a life that reflects an intimate relationship with the Lord. It is not enough to believe right, the elder must act right.

20. Devout. (Titus 1:8) This trait refers to a holy life. When selecting elders, a prime consideration must deal with the potential candidate's attitude, character, and activities. An elder is a man who loves the Lord and reveals that love through how he lives.


These 20 qualifications, plus being the husband of one wife or single, are the 21 qualifications of a Deacon, Elder, or Pastor. Please take note that the Bible says nothing about women within these qualifications. The one reference to a female deacon is in Romans 16:1, referring to Phebe, "I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea." The word rendered here in the King James version as "servant" other versions of the Bible translate as "Deacon," but it probably does not refer to the office of Deacon, but simply as a servant of the church – a ladies or children's minister perhaps but not holding the office of Deacon.

[1] Gospel Light Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Accessed January 21, 2023. https://gospellight.org/wp-content/uploads/The-21-Qualifications-of-Elders.pdf. [2] Alcorn, Randy. "The Meaning of The Husband of One Wife in 1 Timothy 3 - Resources - Eternal Perspective Ministries." Eternal Perspective Ministries. Last modified February 23, 2010. https://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Feb/23/meaning-husband-one-wife-1-timothy-3/.

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