The Example of Paul
Upon his departure from Ephesus, Paul could say to the Ephesian elders that he had taught them 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)
To qualify as an elder, a candidate for the eldership must also know “the whole counsel of God” as taught in Holy Scripture. One of the most important qualifications for a biblical elder is stated in Titus 1:9. A candidate for eldership “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”).
The two reasons given for this qualification are: 1) so that the elder can “give instruction in sound doctrine,” and 2) be able to “rebuke those who contradict” sound doctrine. An elder must be able to explain and defend the gospel, instruct people in sound doctrine, counsel people by means of Scripture, and answer fundamental questions regarding the Christian faith. So it is imperative for an elder to know the Bible.
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 either of these offices. As Paul says, “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 that 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 made in churches come from appointing elders who are actually in doctrinal disagreement with the church or lack basic Bible knowledge.
But how would those who examine a candidate for eldership know if the candidate holds to the apostolic gospel and is capable of teaching and protecting the church from false doctrine, if there are not some kinds of standard doctrinal questions asked for assessing the candidate’s proficiency in Scripture and doctrine?
A Guide for Testing
The following guide provides the local church and its leaders with a tool to assess an elder candidate’s knowledge of relevant Scriptures and Bible doctrine. This is not exhaustive, but it will provide a starting place for testing basic skills in handling Scripture and doctrine. You are welcome to add to this guide additional Scriptures you and your church feel elders must know in order to qualify and do the job effectively. For the downloadable copy of the booklet, click on:
Another use for this guide is as a tool for the elder candidate in preparing himself for the doctrinal examination by the elders. We also recommend using the book 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. One does not have to use the entire book, but sections can be selected by the elders for special attention in the candidate’s preparation.
For a good test of bible knowledge, click on: