Also available as MP3: The Ordaining of Elders – Titus 1:5-7
To figure out the role of an “elder” (v.5), notice that before Paul ordained some elders he confirmed the disciples and exhorted them to continue in the faith despite tribulation (Acts 14:21-23). When he then ordained elders next, that means he expected elders to carry that work on when he was gone. So elders are the Bible teachers in an assembly.
“Blameless” (v.6) means saved (cf. I Cor. 1:7,8). What else would be at the top of the list of qualifications? This was important in view of the power struggle I believe was going on in Crete. We know the Jews causing trouble (Tit. 1:10) were unsaved, for if they were saved, God wouldn’t have let Paul go there, any more than he let him go to other places where there were saved Jewish kingdom saints (Acts 16:6,7 cf. I Pet. 1:1). And these unsaved Jews were teaching unsound doctrine to try to gain leadership in the churches.
They were probably also suggesting an elder could be the husband of more than one wife, based on their Hebrew Scriptures. Titus had to set that in order too. “Husband of one wife” (1:6) can’t mean divorced, by the way. “One wife” doesn’t mean there wasn’t a wife before any more than “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5) means there were no baptisms before. If it doesn’t mean one wife at a time then widowers can’t be elders. We know it also doesn’t mean a man must be married, for neither Paul, Timothy or Titus were. There are advantages to being single (I Cor. 7:32) and there are advantages to being married (Pr. 18:22).
The word faithful in “faithful children” (1:6) is defined in this context by “not accused of riot or unruly.” The word “riot” means we’re talking about older children. An elder’s kids can’t be “unruly” because the kids of those unsaved Jews were, just like their fathers (Tit. 1:10). The “rule” they didn’t want to observe is that circumcision didn’t mean anything (Gal. 6:15,16). Since “riot” just means to be in a highly excited uproar, Paul is saying that an elder’s older children can’t be starting doctrinal riots like that.
When Paul switches from “elders” to “bishops” (v.7) it shows these terms were interchangeable, such as “pastor” and “minister” and “preacher” are today. Because of this, we can call our leaders whatever we want, just not “father” (Mt. 23:9) or “reverend,” for that’s God’s name (Ps. 111:9).
Spiritual leaders were also called “stewards” (1:7). A steward took care of a wealthy man’s goods (Gen.44:1), and a steward in the local church took care of God’s goods, the things in His Word (I Cor. 4:1). “Mysteries” there is plural for there are seven sub mysteries in the overall mystery given to Paul. But unruly talkers of the circumcision would want to be stewards of the prophecies of God, not His mysteries, so they were disqualified from leadership on this count too.
An elder must be “blameless” in dispensing God’s mysteries. Here the word means scrupulous (cf. Lu. 1:6). He also can’t be “selfwilled” (1:7). The only other time that exact word is used defines it as being rebellious against the government (II Pet. 1:10). That describes unsaved Jews in that day (Mt. 22:17; Acts 5:36,37). Peter calls such men “beasts” (II Pet. 2:12), and Jude agrees (Jude 1:8-10), and there were some in Crete (Tit. 1:12). Only a wild beast refuses to let a man impose his will on him.
A leader also can’t be “soon angry” (1:7). The unsaved Jews were, just as Paul was when he was an unsaved Jew (Acts 16:11). The law he worshiped “worketh wrath” (Rom. 4:15) in unsaved Gentiles because they don’t like God telling them what to do. But it worked wrath in unsaved Jews because it pointed to Jesus as their Christ, and Saul didn’t want to admit that. His anger about that spilled over into all areas of his life, and in the Jews in Crete as well, meaning they couldn’t be leaders on this count either. That may have driven them to drink, and Paul says a leader can’t be “given to wine” (1:7)
You wouldn’t think Paul would have to say that a leader can’t be a “striker,” but unsaved Jewish leaders struck the Lord (Mark 14:63-65) and Paul (Acts 23:2). Religious power goes to a man’s head and prompts violence against those with whom he disagrees, but a leader in the church can’t be a striker, or “greedy of filthy lucre” (1:7) like the unsaved Jews on Crete (Tit. 1:10,11).