Monday, November 24, 2014

Are the Qualifications for the Office of the Pastor Also Disqualifications?

The Apostle Paul in two of the pastoral epistles lists qualifications for the office of the pastor of a church.  In 1 Timothy 3:2-7, in the form of a list, they are

the husband of one wife
of good behaviour
given to hospitality
apt to teach
not given to wine
no striker
not greedy of filthy lucre
not a brawler
not covetous
one that ruleth well his own house
having his children in subjection with all gravity
not a novice
have a good report of them which are without

Then in Titus 1:
the husband of one wife
having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly
not selfwilled
not soon angry
not given to wine
no striker
not given to filthy lucre
lover of hospitality
lover of good men
holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught

These two lists have been called the qualifications of the pastor.  Pastors know about them.  The context of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 deals with a man entering or receiving the office.  It doesn't say anything about these being a basis for removal from office.  However, I believe that these lists imply disqualification in light of other passages, mainly 1 Corinthians 9:27 and 1 Timothy 5:19-20.

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

The implication is that what qualifies a man to be a pastor can also disqualify him.  It makes sense. "Castaway" seems to mean "disqualified.'  What are the accusations against an elder?  They would again seem to be violations of the qualifications.  1 Timothy 5:22 later says, "Lay hands suddenly on no man."  It seems that once a pastor has been disqualified, he has to prove himself again.  He's not immediately allowed back into the office.  He's got to show he's qualified for a period of time. However, he can be qualified again.  In many instances, he is not permanently disqualified if he's willing to repent of the actions that disqualified him, show that he's qualified again.

Truth is antithetical.  For every right, there is a wrong, for every good, there is a bad, and for every truth, there is an error.  Every qualification is also a disqualification.

This is also the historic position.  You can see that men believed this in the past, so this has been the understanding in Christian history.  Joseph Lathrop writes in 1811 what I believe has been the common understanding of qualifications as disqualifications for those already in the office:

But against one already in office a bare report is not to be received; there must be an accusation supported by two or three witnesses, to eject him from office, or bring him under censure.

You read the following language in 1808:

But before a minister can be justly deposed from office, there must be deduced full and indubitable evidence of his disqualification.

Certain of the qualifications will be violated by everyone.  Keeping all of the qualifications perfectly would constitute a sinlessly perfect life, and that is not what they are requiring.  A pastor might not be in every instance sober.  He might become angry in a sinful way.  He might have his moments lacking love of hospitality.  For the most part, the qualifications are habits, characteristics, or a lifestyle. Someone might violate them (I know I have) and still be qualified.  It isn't that a man participates in one act of self-will, but that he is a self-willed man.  Self-willed men can't be or shouldn't be pastors.

Desiring the office (1 Timothy 3:1) means desiring to live out the qualifications.  Sometimes men desire the office, obtain it, and then along the way stop desiring it, as seen in the lack or loss of a qualified lifestyle.  They had it, but they didn't remain vigilant in it, perhaps just taking the office for granted, and losing the desire.  Some men really want it, and then swerve off the path toward some other desire, perhaps many other worldly desires.   The other desires are what often disqualify.  For every man, it's going to be a struggle.

All the qualifications should be taken seriously.  Every pastor should daily consider them. However, if someone were to regularly, as a lifestyle, and without repentance, break one or some or all of these, he might disqualify himself.  In this way, the judgment of these qualifications is far more subjective.  Men would have to discern a pattern in a man's life in seeing that he isn't qualified any longer.

On the other hand, certain of the qualifications are very objective, like a line drawn, such as "the husband of one wife."  There may be more to this qualification than just marital status, because the Greek words can literally mean, "one woman man."  However, he at least cannot be a polygamist or bigamist.  Others, I among them, would say that he cannot be divorced and then remarried, based on this qualification.  He is married to one woman as long as she lives, if he wants to stay a pastor.

As well, at least one of the sets of qualifications and, hence, disqualifications, brings characteristics of the children of a pastor:  "having his children in subjection with all gravity" and "having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly."  Do these apply only to children in the home?  I don't think so.  If your children are "faithful," that means they are saved.  Once someone is saved, he'll always be saved, so if one of his children depart from the faith, that means that child is not a faithful child.  "Riotous" would also apply to older children.  No matter how well a man obeys the other qualifications, if he has a child, who is one of these, he becomes disqualified, even though the characteristic is true not of him, but of his child.

I believe that the qualifications, as they apply to a man's children, are very fair.  I think the bar isn't high.  While his children are at home, they must submit to his authority and leadership characteristically.  As his children grow up, at some point, they must be converted.  They've got to believe in Jesus Christ like He does.  I recognize that this will bother a Calvinist, but it isn't my job to fit scripture into Calvinism.  If one of a pastor's children is not converted, he can't be a pastor.  Again, I think that is fair.  It's not saying the children are sinlessly perfect or that they might not struggle in their sanctification.  It isn't even saying that they must believe just like he does.  They've just got to be saved at some point. That means he's doing what it takes to evangelize his own family.

From my perspective, I rarely read anything about pastoral qualifications.  They are a sensitive subject. Disqualification means losing your job and maybe your livelihood.  If you haven't been trained or schooled to do anything else, that can be a very tough situation.  However, to protect the office of the pastor, we've got to protect the qualifications.  They must be disqualifications, because the office and the truth of scripture is bigger than any one man.


KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor Brandenburg,


I think that the following information, which is part of my study of Proverbs 22:6 here:

is relevant support for your comments on the pastor's children:

The requirement that the minister have te÷kna . . . pista¿, “faithful children,” includes the fact that their children must be believers, not unsaved people, but it is not limited to belief—backslidden and unfaithful regenerate children also disqualify the minister, for such are certainly able to be “accused of riot” and are “unruly” (Titus 1:6) and are not in “subjection with all gravity” and well “rule[d]” (1 Timothy 3:4-5). The other references to pisto/ß in Titus signify “faithful,” not simply “believing” (1:9; 3:8). Note also that in the very large majority of the uses of pisto/ß by Paul in syntactical constructions similar to that in Titus 1:6, the word means “faithful”; out of 22 uses (1 Corinthians 1:9; 4:2, 17; 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Timothy 1:12, 15; 3:1, 11; 4:9; 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:11, 13; Titus 1:6, 9; 3:8; Hebrews 3:5; 10:23; 11:11), only one possibly means simply “believing” (1 Timothy 6:2), and even this instance could reasonably be viewed as “faithful.” Likewise, either 90% or 100% (depending, again, on 1 Timothy 6:2) of the uses of pisto/ß in the accusative case, as it is in Titus 1:6, signify “faithful” (Acts 13:34; 16:15; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:12; 3:11; 6:2; Titus 1:6; Hebrews 3:2; 11:11; 3 John 5). In the very close linguistic parallel to Titus 1:6 in 1 Corinthians 4:17, employing both pisto/ß and te÷knon, “faithful” is the idea conveyed. The broader use of pisto/ß in the New Testament supports the truth established by the immediate context of Titus 1:6 that the children of overseers, elders, or pastors must be not only regenerate but also obedient. Furthermore, Scripture teaches that people are to treat those who are rebellious and backslidden, and consequently subject to church discipline, as heathen men and publicans (Matthew 18:15-20), so children who are riotous and unruly are to be treated as unregenerate persons, not as true believers, for at least as long as they remain in their rebellious state. . . .

The qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are not limited to the time that the children are in their parents’ house. The qualification is not limited to “young children,” “infants,” or the like; it simply says that the elder’s “children” must be walking in the way of holiness, without any limitation as to age. As long as the elder is a parent and his children are his children—that is, for the entire course of their lives—so long do the requirements of 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and Titus 1:6 last, even as in the Old Testament Samuel was responsible when his adult, married sons made themselves vile (1 Samuel 3:13). The word employed for “children” in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, te÷knon, is employed in Scripture for those who are descended from their parents, without regard to age, and without a limitation to children still at home (cf. Matthew 23:37; 27:25; Luke 13:34; 19:44; Romans 9:8; Galatians 4:25). It is used in Acts 13:33 for the apostle Paul and for other “men of Israel” (Acts 13:16) for “men and brethren” (Acts 13:26), and even for one who grows up, becomes rich, rules a wealthy household, grows older, and is already dead (Luke 16:25). Furthermore, it is easy to hide the rebellion of children when they are very young and still at home; it is when they are older and their rebellion becomes obvious that parenting failures become public. It is entirely unreasonable to say that as soon as a pastor’s children become rebellious enough to reject his authority, run away from home, and totally give themselves to the world, the requirement of his office to have a godly seed comes to an end—and certainly it is very difficult to argue that a man with such children is “blameless” in his parenting (Titus 1:6-7).

Jonathan Speer said...

Brother Brandenburg,

I am a younger man and I am looking forward to being a pastor when God's providence works so in my life.

This post addresses a sobering idea. The thought of qualifications necessarily implying disqualifications is an concept in which I firmly believe. I also believe that your indication that it is good for a man to view these passages of scripture from a perspective of intentionally ordering his steps in such a way that his character is equal to the qualifications for this office is a good perspective to take. Thank you for this challenge.


I agree with much of what you have said. However, I wanted to raise a question: what do you think the first half of 1 Samuel 3:13 may have said about God's treatment of Eli if the second half of this verse said "...because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them."

To me, it seems like this particular incident indicates that Eli was being held responsible for his own lack of action and not necessarily the vile behavior of his sons.

You know Hebrew far better than I, so I will depend upon your parsing of this verse for grammatical clarity where needed. :-)

In Christ,

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Thomas and Jonathan.

For George,

I know you keep commenting and I keep not publishing, because I think we need to try to be firm on our commitment to delete your comments. You have an unfaithful view of the Trinity and, therefore, the gospel. I know you get angry with that, but it's what you believe, and you should maybe try to understand. You could email me if you really want to talk, and it's pretty easy to find my email.

George thinks I'm not publishing his comments because they are too difficult to answer, and I'm trying to cover for my unscriptural position, which he would easily expose with his work. Not true, George. It still comes back to the Trinity and your rejection.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I am very easy to get a hold of, and if someone wants to initiate conversation that I will not publish here, it's easy, but I'm not going to keep publishing stuff from people who are not listening. That must go private if conversation at all will continue. I wrote George here because I want him to know why I'm not publishing his material. He proceeded to send four more comments, espousing his and his group's view of the trinity.

I had not at all looked into George's group, and it is difficult to put your finger on, but I see it as a sect that poses as some kind of ancient or historical anabaptist group. There are those who call themselves Baptist today, who do not believe and practice the Bible -- many. If you put them in a time capsule and they were opened up in three or four hundred years, they would be called Baptist, and someone might think they are Baptist, when we know they are not Baptist.

Some anabaptist groups were either non-trinitarian or anti-trinitarian. There have been offshoots outside of the state church, sometimes called Baptist, that are not in the line of truth. They are wrong enough on the identity of God, so as to result in their condemnation. They use the name anabaptist. I haven't met one in person, but George is part of that sect.

I apologize for hijacking my own comment section, but I got a comment from George trying to correct this post, and when I didn't post it, he posted again, going after me for not posting it. He has finally told me that he's a unique man who doesn't care if I post his comments. I don't see this group as a major threat to the truth, but they are wrong. I'm fine talking to George in private, but he still has not emailed me.

Terry Basham, II said...

Generally I agree with you on this but on in every point. I feel that you're a little off on the application of the child passages...

I do think that many men enter the pastorate too soon, by that I mean too young and not too newly saved. Maturity that comes from living prepares men for ministry and a man who is saved at 35 and pastoring at 37 is more mature than the boy saved at 15 and pastoring at 22.

I wish that I hadn't entered the ministry until I was 30, that would have put me at married for 11 years and the father of 4 children ranging in age from 9 to 1.

Now the - Faithful = saved. I'm going to think that over, the ESV and the ASV both say plainly that the children must be saved.

Since both the letters to T and T are to tell them who should be chosen or nominated for the ministry, I would thing that these things including saved children should already be present.