Can a single person be an elder?

Can a single person be an elder?

Yes. If the Spirit has developed shepherd care in the heart of a single brother and the brother expresses that care in a character consistent with 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9, and 1 Peter 5:13, God apparently has called him to that work.

This question stems from the words, "the husband of one wife" (1Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:6). Three considerations clarify this statement: the context; a comparison; a construction. The context in 1 Timothy 3:2 describes moral character. The overseer’s character must be blameless, vigilant, sober, of good behavior. Dealing with hospitality, Paul doesn’t say he must show hospitality (that would describe acts), but that he must be given to hospitality (describing a characteristic). "Apt to teach," judging by its only other usage (2 Timothy 2:24), likewise appears to describe character. The following verse also deals with character and that seems to be the emphasis through verse 6.

By comparison, the expression in 1 Timothy 5:9 is "the wife of one husband." The description of the woman here and of the man in 3:2 is consistent. First, this can hardly apply to polygamy, since that doesn’t involve a woman’s being married to more than one man. It hardly seems fair for Paul to state that a true widow who will receive financial support from the assembly can only have been married once. Five verses later, he advises younger widows to marry. If, in later life, they were again widowed, by obeying God’s Word to remarry they became ineligible for financial assistance, even though they otherwise qualified. The expression then must describe her as a woman who was obviously faithful to her husband before her widowhood and retained that dignity when she became widowed. The overseer, by comparison, must be above reproach in relating to women.

The construction of Titus 1:6 and 7 is instructive. Verse 7 insists on the irreproachable character of an overseer. Verse 6 is a conditional clause, "if any be blameless" in family life. If married, he must evidently be faithful; if a parent, the respect in which his children hold him supports his character.

D. Oliver