A Higher Standard for Elders

Q:  Is a church elder held to a higher standard of personal conduct than the “average” Christian?

A:  It depends on what you mean by “higher standard.”

Anyone who is serious about the authority of Scripture would agree that a church elder must satisfy the requirements that Paul lists in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.

Some churches see these requirements as unique requirements for eldership, requirements that are not necessarily expected of all Christians.  Such churches might allow that there are cases where a Christian may legitimately divorce, but they would say that a divorcee may not be an elder, because an elder must be the “husband of one wife.”  Similarly, some churches acknowledge that, while the Bible warns about the dangers of intoxicating beverages, it does not forbid their consumption.  While acknowledging that the consumption of alcohol is a matter of Christian freedom, they may still require an elder to completely abstain from alcohol, because they believe that this is part of the “higher standard” to which elders are called.

I believe that this is a faulty view of the requirements for an elder.

There are not two different standards for Christian conduct: one for elders, one for everyone else.  All Christians are held to the same standard of conduct.  All Christians are expected to be chaste, hospitable, temperate, gentle, self-controlled, etc.  The standard is perfect conformity to the image of God.

However, no Christian can live up to that perfect standard.  Since no Christian actually meets the standard, should the role of elder be open to any Christian, regardless of how fall short they fall?  No, an elder should meet a “minimum” standard of maturity.  While no Christian is perfect, there is a range of Christian maturity.  The biblical requirements for an elder are a way of saying that an elder must be “this far along” in their sanctification.

So, if by “higher standard” you mean that an elder must meet certain requirements not expected of other Christians, then I say, no, the Bible does not teach that.

But, if by “higher standard” you simply mean a greater degree of conformity to the one high standard of Christian living, then I will agree that the “entrance requirements” for eldership are higher than say, the entrance requirements for church membership.

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