What qualifications does an elder need that a deacon does not?
In regards to the family, an elder must have "faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (Titus 1:6) and be "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence" (I Timothy 3:4) while a deacon must be "ruling their children and their own houses well" (I Timothy 3:12). We first notice that an elder's children must be faithful. "Faithful" is one of several words used to describe a Christian. See "Does "faithful children" mean faithful to God or faithful to the parent?" for a thorough discussion of the word. However, this qualification is not placed on a deacon's children. The implication is that while an elder needs to be an older man, a deacon does not need to be as old. Also, where an elder is given oversight of a congregation and needs to demonstrate the ability to lead people into faithful service to the Lord, a deacon is serving the church and needs to demonstrate the ability to manage people. A more subtle difference between the qualifications is in the wording of "children." The Greek phrasing for an elder indicates two or more children while a deacon indicates one or more. See "Must elders have more than one child?" for a detailed discussion of this matter.
A deacon must be a man who is reverent, which translates the Greek word semnous, meaning "worthy of respect, dignified, honorable, and holy." This word is not used to describe an elder, but an elder must be sober-minded (the Greek word sophron) and holy (the Greek word hosios), which covers similar territory.
Where an elder cannot be a new Christian (I Timothy 3:6), such a restriction is not placed on a deacon.
There are several qualifications that must be present in an elder because of the nature of his duty. While a deacon might have these same characteristics, his duty is different and so demonstration of the ability is not as crucial. An elder must be:
- Hospitable (philoxenos) - a lover of guests
- Able to teach (didaktikos) - able to give instruction
- Patient (epieikes) - gentle, able to endure ill-treatment, forbearing, long suffering
- Not violent (amachos and me plektes) - in control of his temper, does not settle problems with his fists.
- Not quarrelsome (me orgilos) - not easily angered
- Just (dikaios) - equitable, even-handed, a fair-minded man
- Not self-willed (me authades) - not self-pleasing, not arrogant.
- Lover of good men (philagathos) - a promoter of virtue in others
- Temperate (egkrates) - strongly in control of himself