“If there is one who is irreproachable, a husband of one wife, whose children have faith, not open to the accusation of reckless living or undisciplined behavior, for it is required that the overseer is irreproachable as God’s steward, not intractable, not short-tempered, not violent, not greedy, but hospitable, a lover of good, prudent, upright, pious, disciplined, being devoted to the faithful Word as taught, that he might be able to exhort people in doctrine that is sound and reprove those who deny it.”
Our final character trait is that the Elder must be devoted to the Word of God as taught (implied…, as taught by the Apostle Paul). We will look to the reason that the Elder must be devoted as such a little later as it is important to understand the kind of devotion of which Paul is speaking.
The word which we translate as “devotion” in Greek is ἀντέχω (antecho). It refers to having a strong attachment to something or to taking a deep interest in something. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is consistently used to refer to one’s clinging onto something of value…for example, to the Covenant of God (Isaiah 56:4) or to the Sabbath day (Isaiah 56:6). It is only used four times in the New Testament, two of which are parallel passages that point out that we cannot try to serve two masters, for we will be devoted to one and hate the other (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).
The final usage of ἀντέχω (antecho) in the New Testament is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, where the ESV unfortunately translates the word as “help” when it comes to the weak (the KJV does a better job when it speaks of “supporting” the weak or in the NKJV, “upholding” the weak). Paul’s point to the Thessalonians is that they must not dismiss those who are weak or feeble, but must be devoted to them and thus must sincerely minister to their needs. One might argue that such ministry is truly “helping” the weak, as the ESV and other modern translations will render it, but I would argue that such a devotion implies a sacrificial helping and that is a level of commitment that is far greater than the word “help” carries with it in modern English.
When one is devoted to something, it refers to more than just a passing interest or than to an interest that is somehow obligatory. The Elder does not begin to take on a devotion to the Word because he is an Elder, but he is made an Elder because the congregation sees a devotion to the Word of God in him. And, I would argue that once an Elder, this devotion will grow even more profound due to the application of this devotion that Paul lists in the text to follow.
One who is devoted to something also desires that it be preserved in a healthy way. When parents are devoted to their children, they do all they can to protect their children from harm and to raise them up in the fear and instruction of the Lord. Similarly, when children are devoted to their parents, they demonstrate that devotion in their obedience to their parent’s instructions. We too, as Christians, must demonstrate a similar devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ and his instructions.
And thus, the Elder must be committed to the scriptures. He must love them, desire to know them better and more fully, and desire that others around him may know it better. He must desire that the instruction in and around the scriptures remains pure and unadulterated by humanistic ideas and other false teachings.
Sadly, too many church Elders are devoted in all of the wrong ways. They are devoted to their ideas of what the Word says, rather than to what the word actually states. They are devoted to the book itself, not to the contents of the book. They are devoted to God (at least to an idea of God) but not devoted to the Word. They are devoted to the church (at least to their definition of the church) but not to the church as is described and taught in the Bible. And some like the idea of being considered “devoted” to the Word in the eyes of men, but never devote themselves. In the end, an Elder must be a man who knows his Bible and who desires to know it better and better. Further, he must be a man who seeks to apply the Bible to every area of life, defending the Truth against error and living in a way that honors God.
How different would the landscape of our world would be were all church Elders devoted as such.How different would the landscape of our world would be if all those who serve as Elders, but who are not devoted as such, would repent and step down from their positions of authority.