Choosing Elders

(Part VI)

Elders’ Wives: The Often Overlooked Qualification

By Randy Blackaby

Brethren often look meticulously at the lives of the men being considered for the work of the eldership, but fail to look carefully at their wives. Many a congregation has come to rue the day they made this mistake. It is one that can be avoided by looking carefully at the directions given by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3:11.

There Paul wrote, “Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.”

This passage often is ignored with respect to elders because it is situated in the midst of the continued instructions concerning the qualifications of deacons. So, some have assumed it refers only to deacons’ wives. Such a conclusion is both unlikely and illogical.

Note that the “their” has been added to the English text in an effort to clarify. It is useful if we see it in the context of the qualifications of both elders and deacons, somewhat confusing if viewed only in regard to deacons. All Christian wives should seek to achieve these attitudes and behaviors, but the wives of elders and deacons are required to possess these. Thus, indirectly, their behavior and attitude constitute yet another qualification for a man who would serve in either capacity.

It doesn’t make sense to assume that this divinely ordained requirement applies only to the wives of deacons. The example of elders and their family relationship is all the more crucial in leading and correcting and overseeing the local flock of God.

In previous articles we’ve examined the importance of an elder demonstrating in the context of his family his ability to lead, rule and guide. As we usually focus on his ability to exercise authority over his children, it also is important that we explore how he has done with respect to leading his wife.

It is one thing to authoritatively direct one’s children, who are, children. It is another matter to examine how a man has been able to choose a godly mate, exercise loving leadership and create an environment for godliness. As it will be in leading a congregation, so it is in leading a wife. It isn’t done solely by issuing commands.

And, without considering the husband’s direct role, it will be important that the elder’s wife be a true “helper” in his work. She won’t be doing the same function as the elder himself, but she may necessarily be privy to much of that which the elder will be dealing. So, we certainly can see why she should not be a malicious gossip.

The work of an elder is sometimes enormous. He needs a companion as dedicated to the cause of the Lord as himself.

She Can’t Be Indifferent To Her Duties

She is to be “grave” (KJV), “reverent” (NKJV) or “serious” (NRSV). These words suggest a person who is prudent, dignified, quiet, of sound judgment and not giddy. The jobs of wife, mother and a Christian all require a certain seriousness.

This doesn’t imply that such a woman can’t enjoy a joke or possess a sense of humor, but it does clearly assert that she must not be foolish or indifferent toward any of her responsibilities.

Fulfillment of this requirement will be reflected in her language, dress and manners.

She Must Have Control Of Her Tongue

An elder’s wife can’t be a woman who is a “slanderer.” W.E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says of the word used here, “accusing falsely…in 1 Timothy 3:11, where the reference is to those who are given to finding fault with the demeanor and conduct of others, and spreading their innuendos and criticisms in the church.”

Women with such a weakness wreak havoc in any church. How much more so a woman whose husband is an elder, who may know more about the spiritual problems of some members than other women, and who, along with her husband, is being looked to as an example of Christ-like living?

If elders see their work as that of shepherds and not mere administrators, they will be regularly working with brethren who have weaknesses, who are involved in sins that need to be privately admonished in the teaching phase of an overall process of positive discipline.

Just imagine how such efforts will be turned completely upside down and damaged by slanders, inappropriate and ill-timed criticisms and the like.

Elders’ wives are not church officers themselves but they are “one flesh” with the men who do serve in that capacity. So, the sinful conduct of such a wife won’t stand alone, at least as regards its impact.

Wives Need To Be Self-Controlled

The King James Version uses the word “sober” and the New King James the word “temperate” to describe an approach to life that is discreet, chaste, moderate, having control of oneself and curbing one’s desires and impulses.

Interestingly, this is the exact same qualification required of their husbands, who serve as elders (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).

 Elders, by reason of age, likely will have wives who are “older” as well. So, this makes Paul’s admonition in Titus 2:3-5 fitting here also. He wrote, “the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

That makes demonstrably clear that an elder’s wife, as an older woman, certainly has an active, though authoritatively subordinate, role in the work of the local church. Her example, like that of her husband, will be observed and used as a model. And that being the case, she must be sober or temperate in her life.

She Must Be Faithful In All Things

This, certainly, is a broad-ranging qualification. It covers (1) faithfulness to the Lord in behavior, worship and teaching; and (2) faithfulness to her husband, morally, as a suitable helper, in obedience and sometimes in the care of children still at home.

At the risk of becoming redundant, it is worth emphasizing again that God expects all women to be faithful in all things. But if a woman is still “working on” achieving this, she isn’t yet the woman that an elder must have to be able to do his work effectively.

Need For Such Women Most Critical Today

God did not create a man to be alone. He needs help. Being an elder is hard, strenuous work at times. He needs support.

He can’t effectively do his work if his own wife is one of his greatest problems. He will come home, sometimes, after discussions, studies, confrontations and meetings quite stressed. He critically needs a woman who understands those stresses, who can help him not become discouraged by failures and setbacks and who helps however she can.

An elder is to be hospitable. It may not be impossible for an elder to be hospitable without his wife’s assistance, but it certainly would be difficult.

Women who don’t possess the qualifications here studied will serve their husbands poorly when their husbands must be away for many hours helping others, when they agonize over souls and when they must confront challenges and opposition to the truth and be unpopular in so doing.

Next: The logistics of choosing and ordaining elders


Randy Blackaby
Randy Blackaby lives in Medway, OH and preaches for the New Carlisle church of Christ. He also serves this congregation as one of its elders. He has preached full-time for about 18 years and part-time for that many more. During the period from 1971 to 1988 he was a reporter and later managing editor of The Xenia Daily Gazette in Ohio. He preached for 14 years in Kokomo, IN and has written a number of newspaper columns as a preacher, including Bible Q&A and op-ed pieces on current issues from a biblical perspective. He is a staff writer for Truth Magazine and writes monthly columns for the New Carlisle Sun, the Knollwood Messenger and this magazine. He has written a host of workbooks on Bible texts and themes, including recent ones on the book of Galatians and the Life of Moses. Currently, he is working on another on what the Bible teaches about “Money and Possessions.” After the fall of the Soviet Union, he made five preaching trips to Lithuania between 1994 and 2000. He can be contacted at randyblackaby@sbcglobal.net.


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