2 Tim 3.16-17
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

The Biblical Requirements for Elders

The Significance of the Present Tense in the List of Requirements for Elder in 1 Tim 3.1-7 and Tts 1.5-9

In a previous article, I documented the use and significance of the predicate accusative construction used in this pair of canonical passages detailing the requirements of that man who desires the office of the elder. In this article, I document the use of present tense verbs and their occurrence in the requirements lists. In yet another article, I’ll show the significance of verb tense specifically as it relates to the requirement of children.

As a summary statement: all the verbs or verb forms that bear directly on the predicate accusative construction and individual elements of the requirements are in the present tense! Stated another way: at the time when the overseer candidate is being evaluated, the full list of 26 requirements must be true! This is by the direction and command of the Holy Spirit and is not subject to interpretation or any other attempts to mitigate the importance of that list. This fact is crucial when considering the requirement of children.

So, let’s look at all the occurrences of verbs and verb forms; all are present tense:

1 Tim 3

the overseer must [verb, present active indicative, 3rd person singular] to be [verb, present active infinitive]

his own household ruling [present middle participle, accusative singular masculine] well

having [present active participle, accusative singular masculine] children in subjection with all gravity

 [it] must [verb, present active subjunctive, 3rd person singular] good testimony to have [present active infinitive]

Tts 1

the man is [present active indicative 3rd person singular]

having [present active participle, nominative singular masculine] believing children

the overseer must [verb, present active indicative, 3rd person singular] to be [verb, present active infinitive]

holding fast [present middle participle, accusative singular masculine]

that he should be [verb, present active subjunctive, 3rd person singular] able
to exhort 
[present active infinitive] ...
and to refute [present active infinitive]

In addition to the consideration of the time during which the overseer candidate was evaluated, it should also be obvious that the Holy Spirit’s use of the present tense unambiguously teaches that the requirements to be evaluated and found in the overseer candidate must be maintained by the overseer in his active function as overseer. The use of the present tense teaches us that if a man ceases to demonstrate the required characteristics, he must step down from his office. If, for example, an elder becomes abusive, a drunk, inhospitable, a brawler, etc., then he must resign (or be forced from the office).

[I encountered a case in a church Richardson, TX in which the son of one of the elders was arrested for B&E. He refused to step down as an elder; at least the 2 or 3 other elders properly saw the responsibilities and force him out. By that event, he demonstrated that he had lost the management of his family. In that same church, the daughter of the long-time pastor became a drug addict; at least he resigned without further incident.]

I believe that it is also noteworthy that the Holy Spirit, through Paul, does not specify a length of time for the office of elder. The inference is that a faithful overseer should serve as long as he is able and remains faithful. His faithfulness and leadership as a husband and father is the critical requirement of the office of elder. He is a husband and for the duration of his life; it should follow that he may hold his position as elder for the duration of his life.

[I’m not ignoring the sometime debilitation of disease or old age that may force a man to “retire” from his position as elder. However, continuing in the illustration of the family, a man doesn’t “trade up” families every few years to find a “better, bigger, richer” family as many so-called elders are accustomed to do in their position as elders in modern churches.]

There is yet another consideration, introduced in the passage in 1 Tim 3:

… if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do …

This implies that any overseer who consistently no longer views his position with the same “aspiration” and “desire” as he had initially should step down.

[I am not advocating here that the overseer should resign over his first bad experience as an elder. Rather, if the elder/overseer typically/naturally finds himself “wishing” that he was no longer an elder, then it is time that he step down from the office for another vocation. In these cases, his evaluation as a candidate was probably lacking in the first place and did not expose one or more failures to meet all the requirements. An elder should regard his position and responsibilities with the same gravity that he shows as a husband and father.]

In another article in which I detail the aggregate requirement of wife, children, and a well-managed home, I’ll also deal with the fact that the overseer candidate must currently be raising children; that is, if at the time the overseer candidate is being evaluated that his children have already grown and moved away, then his opportunity to be considered for the office of elder has passed; he can’t seriously be considered for the office. The "present tense rule" must apply: the congregation no longer may affirm that he manages (present tense!) his family well.

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