The church described in the New Testament is the spiritual body of Christ. The Apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus Christ, says in Ephesians 1:22,23, "And gave him to be head over all things to the church which is his body". A body is a living organism. The church is divine in its origin, since it was built by Christ himself. Jesus told the Apostle Peter after Peter had confessed him to be the Christ, the son of the Living God, that he would build his church (Matthew 16:16-18).
The church is both divine and human since it was originated by our Lord and includes human beings. Just as a physical human body is a living organism, so is the church that Jesus built. Just as our physical bodies have structure and organization, so also the church has structure and organization. The church is not simply an organism, it is a well structured organization. When the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Philippi, he addressed it "to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons" - Philippians 1:1. Paul left Titus in Crete "to set in order the things that are wanting" and to "ordain elders in every city" - Titus 1:5. These passages show that the human side of the church is governed by elders, also called bishops, pastors, or shepherds, and that they are to be assisted by deacons. On the divine side, of course, Jesus is the head of the church.
The New Testament is very clear in setting out the qualifications of the men who are to guide the affairs of the church. There are two separate passages of scripture which give these qualifications. One is I Timothy 3:1-13. The other is found in Titus 1:6-9.
Let us first look at the qualifications of elders. Combining the two passages from I Timothy and Titus, it is easy to see that the qualifications of elders fall naturally into three groups. Some are positive, some are negative, and some are special. With the exception of the special qualifications, these are qualities which every Christian should strive to attain. The negative qualifications are: not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, not a brawler, not covetous, not self-willed, not soon angry. The positive qualifications include the following: blameless, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, one that rules well his own house, a good report of them without, a lover of good men, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word. The special qualifications are only four in number: The husband of one wife, having believing children, apt to teach, and not a novice. These last qualifications do show, incidentally, that although many people now use the terms elder and pastor to refer to the preacher, these terms were not used this way in Bible times. Although a preacher could also be an elder or pastor, if he were qualified, it is obvious that preachers did not have to be married nor have believing children to preach, while elders, or pastors, are required to be married and to have believing children. This is but another example of human changes which have been added to religion without God's authority since Bible times. It especially points out the need for a complete return to the direct teachings of the New Testamant.
The qualifications for deacons are found in I Timothy 3:8-13. They include the following: grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, they must first be proved, blameless, the husband of one wife, ruling their children and houses well.
These qualities set forth for both elders and deacons, with the exception of the special qualifications already mentioned, are the qualities that every Christian should already be cultivating in his life. Perhaps it can be said simply that leaders in the Lord's church should possess them to a greater degree of perfection than others in the church.