In Ecclesiastes 4:12 we learn that a cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart or easily broken. It is interesting to note how many times we see this principle applied in the Scriptures. One of the applications of this principle is in the requirements for the elders given in Titus 1:5-9.
In verses 6-7 we see he is to be a man of moral integrity. These verses are governed by the term above reproach, which means not that he is sinless, but that he is held blameless from the charge of moral impurity. What is stressed in these verses is in what the man of God is not.
In verse 8 we see he is to be a man of spiritual integrity. What is stressed here is what the man of God is, with the word devout governing the verse. Devout means to be pious, clean, and pure. It also denotes devotion and loyalty to the Lord, and emphasizes that he lives his life in conformity with the word of God.
In verse 9 we see that he is a man of biblical and doctrinal integrity. What is stressed here is his biblical and doctrinal fidelity, which is demonstrated by what he holds to. His teaching and preaching are always in conformity with the body of doctrine given in the Scriptures. He does not deviate from the faith once for all delivered to the saints; and just as he is a one woman man, he is also a one word, one doctrine, one faith, and one Lord man. He is a man of unwavering devotion to the faith that is contained and presented in the Scriptures and he will not teach anything that contradicts it.
Also of note in these verses are the three words describing the role of a church leader:
First is elder, which denotes dignity, maturity, and leadership. This word gives us a picture of his role and the gravitas of the office. It says this person is to be looked to for leadership, and his persona should be able to bear the weight of the mantle of leadership. Implicit in this word is the earned respect and trust of the people he leads.
Secondly, we see the term overseer. The word means superintendent, magistrate, or watchman; and gives us a picture of the authority and function of the office. This person is to be able to watch over, guide, and direct the church. This word shows us that the church leader is responsible for the protection and direction of the church.
Thirdly, we see the term God's steward. The word steward means house manager, one who manages the affairs of another, who is in charge of another's property, including slaves; and he is usually a slave himself. This term gives us the understanding of the responsibility and accountability of the office. This man is responsible to God for the household of God, as the church is not his property but God's. It is the Lord's church, the people of God whom God has called out to be His possession. This means that the church leader is accountable to God for the well being, the spiritual prosperity, of God's property.
As leadership goes, so goes the church, which is why the Lord gives Titus these guidelines for the men who would be the leaders in the church. The church is only as strong as its leadership, and when leadership fails, or leads poorly then the church is weakened and the flock is left unguarded or misguided. It then becomes vulnerable and is at risk for being defenseless and directionless. .
In the three elements of integrity we see a strength and quality of character combined with commitment to the Lord and commitment to His word as given in the Scriptures. The combination of these qualities of integrity affirm and strengthen each other and make the church leader strong in resisting the attack of the enemy , who seeks to devour him. When possessing these strands of integrity the church leader will lead ethically, will lead spiritually, and will lead biblically. This is the type of man people will want to follow, who will be trusted to follow, and will be safe in following.
In the three terms for church leader given here we see the strength of balance. These descriptive terms define role, function, authority, and accountability, with each of them governing the other two. They not only define the role of church leader, but in defining the role give it its parameters and boundaries. An understanding of his role, function, authority, and accountability keeps the church leader from misusing or abusing his office; and it also gives the church a benchmark from which to evaluate and measure his ministry; and will give them the knowledge to keep themselves from being taken advantage of or abused.
Yes, a cord of three strands is not easily broken! How wise is our God in His design for the leadership of the church.