The stage. The platform. The pulpit. Social media likes and follows. Preaching and teaching. Much of what an elder does necessarily requires public presence. And yet, the first requirement of an elder in the New Testament book of Titus is utterly private and deeply personal.
…if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife…”
Committed, personal, intimate, comprehensive faithfulness is to mark the leaders of Jesus’ church. Not because faithfulness is an honorable virtue or pragmatically effective. Elders in the local church are required to be faithful to their wives because God is a faithful husband — and the church is the bride of Christ. Elders are to be so satisfied by the faithfulness of God that they would love being faithful. And that, in deep and robust ways.
It’s possible to never cheat on your spouse and still be a crappy spouse.
As a pastor myself, how do you think my wife would feel if the primary reason I did not cheat on her was in order to obey this “law”? No one wants a spouse who is only faithful to them because they have to be. Everyone wants their spouse to delight in them. Everyone wants to be loved intimately, thoroughly, by someone who wants to love them intimately and thoroughly.
The only place any of us can experience this pure love is in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is satisfying and settling in ways no one or nothing can ever be. You see, the reason we want to be faithfully loved is because we have been created in the image of a God who is a faithful lover. We want to be loved by God — because God wants to love us.
But we have given ourselves to lesser lovers. We have and continue to try find our identity in so many lesser things. Our frustrations and disappointments expose that our hearts worship the creation instead of the Creator. Our prayer lives expose that we believe God is either distant and disinterested or impotent and inept. Our budgets expose that we treasure personal comfort more than the Kingdom of Christ.
And the cross exposes that God knows all of this — and loves us anyway. The cross reveals that God will persistently pursue us to death. Not because we deserve it or will ever be worthy of it on our own. The love of God is so powerful that He will love us into being lovely.
Jesus took on our flesh, so that He could take on our adulterous shame and our abused stains.
If you look at how Jesus was crucified, you can see that He was given away to an unholy matrimony. He was given a crown of shame filled thorns — so that we could be given the veil of a pure bride. He was stripped of His dignity, hung naked on a cross, so that we could be adorned with His righteousness.
He was physically assaulted, so that we could be completely healed. He carried the burden of our sin up the hill of Calvary, so that we could walk down the aisle of paradise. On the cross, Jesus was divorced from the love of God the Father, so that our souls could be eternally married to God.
There is nothing in this world that compares to the love of God. Jesus died for us so that He could remove everything that could ever threaten Him from fully loving us.
This is why God requires the elders of the local church to be faithful husbands.
Once the love of the gospel grips your heart, you will LOVE being faithful. You won’t have to be told to be faithful. You will be eager to receive and extend the faithfulness of God so that others can enjoy Him — and you can enjoy their enjoyment of Him!
The church exists to enjoy the fullness of God. As the Spirit of God increasingly renews our hearts through the power of the gospel, we will grow in loving faithfulness. While faithfulness is required of elders, it is available to be enjoyed by all. Elders are only to set the pace. And God alone is to receive the praise.