To qualify as an elder, a candidate must also know “the whole counsel of God” as taught in Holy Scripture. One of the most important elder qualifications is stated in Titus 1:9: he “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).
In other words, an elder candidate must know and hold firmly to orthodox, apostolic doctrine (“the trustworthy word as taught”).
An elder must be able to explain and defend the gospel, instruct people in sound doctrine, counsel people using Scripture, and answer fundamental questions regarding the Christian faith. So it is imperative for an elder to know the Bible.
The Example of Paul
When he left Ephesus, Paul could say he that had taught the Ephesian elders the whole counsel of God and that they were fully equipped to do the work of teaching and protecting the church:
“I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house . . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:20, 27)
Need for Examination
Before an elder or deacon is eligible to serve, he must be examined by the church and its leaders as to his fitness for office:
“Let them also [like the elders] be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless” (1 Tim. 3:10).
We should never assume we know what a person believes about various doctrines or lifestyle issues. The existing elders need to ask, question, and assess a candidate for eldership (1 Tim 5:24-25). Some of the worst mistakes in churches come from appointing elders who disagree with the church’s doctrine or who lack basic Bible knowledge.
The only way to know if the candidate holds to the apostolic gospel—and is thus capable of teaching and protecting from false doctrine—is to use a set of standard doctrinal questions to assess his proficiency in Scripture and doctrine.
A Guide for Testing
Key Doctrinal Verses: We created this downloadable guide to help you assess an elder candidate’s doctrinal knowledge, or to help a candidate prepare himself for the doctrinal examination by the elders. It is not exhaustive but provides a starting point for testing basic skills in handling Scripture and doctrine. You can add to this guide Scriptures you feel elders must know in order to qualify and do the job effectively.
Bible Memory App: This free app is a great way to help elder candidates memorize key doctrinal verses. It is designed to engage three separate cognitive areas: audio, visual, and kinesthetic (touch) memory. You can memorize and review verses anytime, anywhere. Import any verse from ten different translations, or choose verses from more than fifty categories. The review system keeps you current, and you can sharpen your memory by recording verses and playing them back, drawing illustrations, or reviewing with flash cards.
Decide for Yourself: A Theological Workbook by Gordon Lewis: This book presents the texts of Scripture that a candidate should know for each major doctrinal category. Sections can be selected for special attention in the candidate’s preparation.
100 Bible Knowledge Questions: These questions from The Gospel Coalition provide a good test of overall Bible knowledge.