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David Guzik's Commentaries
on the Bible

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A. Qualifications for a bishop.

1. (1) Introduction the good work of spiritual leadership.

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.

a. Paul has just written that women are not to hold positions of authority in the church; but he does not want to leave the impression that just any man is qualified! No man is qualified to be a spiritual leader in the church just because of his gender.

b. If a man desires the position of a bishop: The office Paul describes is that of bishop. Our religious culture has given us a particular idea of what a bishop is; but the word bishop in New Testament Greek [episkopos] literally means "over" (epi) "watcher" (skopos) - an overseer.

i. In Acts 20:17, we learn there were many bishops - that is, overseers - in one church in one city. Undoubtedly, these were men who had oversight over the many house-churches that met throughout the city. The idea of a "regional bishop" doesn't come from the Bible.

ii. Based on what bishop means, a bishop is someone with oversight in the church, a leader. Such a person may also be called an elder (presbuteros) or a pastor (poimen, which means "shepherd"), as in Acts 20:17, 28.

c. He desires a good work: The idea isn't, "good for you, you want to have a place of spiritual leadership," though that can be a godly desire. The idea is more like this: "This is a good, noble, honorable work. Timothy, you need to look for good, noble, honorable men."

i. "For it is no light matter to represent God's Son in such a great task as erecting and extending God's kingdom, in caring for the salvation of souls whom the Lord Himself has deigned to purchase with His own blood, and ruling the Church which is God's inheritance." (Calvin)

d. He desires a good work: Spiritual leadership in the church isn't all about titles and honor and glory; it's about work. As Jesus said If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all. (Mark 9:35)

2. (2a) Qualifications for bishops.

A bishop then must be . . .

a. A bishop then must be: God has specific qualifications for leaders in the church; leaders are not to be chosen at random, nor just because they volunteer, nor because they aspire to the position, nor even because they are "natural leaders" - but because they match the qualifications listed here.

i. The qualifications for leadership have nothing to do with giftedness. God doesn't say, "get the most gifted guys." Giftedness is "easy" for the Lord to do in us; gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11).

ii. Going to seminary doesn't make one qualified for spiritual leadership. Being a good talker doesn't make one qualified for spiritual leadership. Natural or spiritual gifts in themselves do not qualify one for spiritual leadership. What one gives in money or volunteer time does not qualify them for spiritual leadership. What qualifies a man for spiritual leadership is godly character - and godly character established according to these clear criteria.

iii. This list needs to be applied to anyone who would take a position of spiritual leadership - formally or informally! Who are the people who are your spiritual leaders? How does their character measure against these criteria?

b. However, this is not a rigid list which demands perfection in all areas; they are both goals to reach for and a general criteria for selection - does the man in question desire all these things with his whole heart? Does that desire show itself in his life?

c. As well, these qualifications are valuable for every person - not only those who aspire to leadership. They are clear indicators of godly character and spiritual maturity; they can give a true measure of a man.

3. (2b-7) A list of qualifications for leaders in the church.

Blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

a. Blameless: This word literally means, "nothing to take hold upon." There must be nothing in his life that others can take hold of and attack the church.

i. This is a broad term for a man who lives a righteous life that can be seen as righteous. No one can stand up and rightfully accuse the man of grievous sin.

ii. In 1 Timothy 3:10, in speaking about deacons, Paul uses the phrase being found blameless. This implies being blameless is demonstrated by a track record of behavior.

b. Husband of one wife: The idea here is of "a one-woman man." It is not that a leader must be married (if so, then both Jesus and Paul could not be spiritual leaders in our churches!). Nor is it the idea that leader could never remarry if his wife had passed away or was Biblically divorced.

c. Temperate: The idea is of someone who is not given to extremes. They are reliable and trustworthy, and you don't have to worry about wide swings of vision, mood, or action.

d. Soberminded: This describes the person who is able to think clearly and with clarity. They are not a constant jokester, but know how to deal with serious subjects in a serious way.

i. Wiersbe on soberminded: "This does not man he has no sense of humor, or that he is always solemn and somber. Rather it suggests that he knows the value of things and does not cheapen the ministry or the Gospel message by foolish behavior."

e. Of good behavior: The idea is "orderly." It is the same word translated modest in 1 Timothy 2:9.

f. Hospitable: They are willing and able to open up their home to both friends and strangers.

g. Able to teach: Skilled enough in the Bible to teach, either in a public or one-on-one setting.

h. Not given to wine: The idea is of not being addicted to wine or intoxicating drink.

i. Not violent: This is a man who is not given to violence either publicly nor privately; a man who can let God fight his cause.

j. Not greedy for money: The King James Versions puts it far more memorably: not greedy of filthy lucre.

i. "I repeat that the man who will not bear poverty patiently and willingly will inevitably become the victim of mean and sordid covetousness." (Calvin)

k. Gentle: The kind of man who takes Jesus as his example, not the latest action hero.

l. Not quarrelsome: The kind of person who is not always fighting over something or other.

m. Not covetous: This is a more encompassing thought than merely greedy for money. The covetous man is never satisfied with anything, always demanding something more or different. A man who is constantly dissatisfied is not fit for leadership among God's people.

n. Who rules his own house well: The leader demonstrates his leadership ability first in his own home; Paul recognizes that it is in the home where our Christianity is first demonstrated.

i. It is true that a child may rebel from even a good home; but is the rebellion because of the parents or in spite of their job as parents? This is the question that must be asked.

o. Not a novice: New converts (especially the "famous") should not be given leadership too quickly. Exactly how quick is "too quick" will depend on the setting.

i. Novice is literally "newly planted." When someone first comes to Jesus, it isn't good to put them into a place of leadership until they have been allowed to grow long enough to put down some deep roots!

ii. "Novices are not only bold and impetuous, but are puffed up with foolish self-confidence, as though they could fly beyond the clouds." (Calvin) Promoting a novice too quickly gives occasion to the great sin - pride, in imitation of the Devil himself.

p. A good testimony: These characteristics must be evident to all, even unbelievers to see; the potential leader must be a good Christian outside the walls of the church.

B. Qualifications for deacons.

1. (8a) Deacons are literally "servants," they are rather practical servants of the needs of the church family.

Likewise deacons must be . . .

a. An example of the appointment of deacons is in Acts 6:1-6, where the apostles saw the need for those to distribute the daily assistance to the widows among the church, yet did not have the time to distribute the aid themselves. They chose men to act essentially as deacons in that church.

b. Their qualifications are much the same as those for "bishops"; practical service (especially when recognized by an office) is leadership also.

c. It is a mistake to see one office as more prestigious than the other, though "bishops" have more responsibility before God. Each is more a matter of calling than status.

2. (8b-12) Qualifications for deacons.

Reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

a. Reverent: Showing proper respect towards both God and man.

b. Not double-tongued: A man who speaks the truth the first time, with no intent to deceive.

c. Holding the mystery of the faith: Those who can adhere to proper doctrine, out of sincere conviction.

d. First be proved: A man demonstrates his fitness for office in the church by his conduct. Deacons and bishops are more recognized than appointed.

e. Likewise their wives: It is difficult to know if Paul is referring here to female deacons (such as Phoebe, in Romans 16:1), or the wives of male deacons. The original wording will permit either choice.

i. If he is speaking mainly of a male deacon's wife, it is appropriate; a man's leadership in the home can be evaluated, in part, by his wife's conduct; is she reverent, not [one of the] slanderers, temperate, and faithful in all things?

ii. Not slanderers: Literally, this could be translated not devils. The title devil actually means "slanderer" or "accuser." Those who slander and accuse others are doing the devil's work!

3. (13) A promise for deacons.

For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

a. For those who have served well as deacons: God remembers their faithful service, even in tasks which some would consider "menial" - there is little doubt that you will see more deacons than bishops or pastors with great reward!

C. The mystery of godliness.

1. (14-15) Paul's reason for writing Timothy.

These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

a. These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly: Paul desired to speak these things to Timothy personally, but knowing he might not be able, he makes certain he says it in a letter.

b. How you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God: Paul's purpose for writing was to give Timothy, as a leader, practical information on how to run things in the Ephesian church.

c. The church is the house of God: The church is be, very consciously, the place where God is - this makes a church more attractive than anything else.

d. The church is the church of the living God: In Greek, church is a non-religious word for a group of people called together for a purpose; God has called us together for His purpose.

iii. The church is the pillar and ground of truth: The pillar and ground (foundation) of the church is truth. Tragically, many churches today sell truth short for the sake of "experience" - leaving too many churches with weak pillars and shaky ground.

i. "The Church is the pillar of the truth because by its ministry the truth is preserved and spread . . . Paul will not acknowledge the Church except where God's truth is exalted and plain." (Calvin)

ii. It isn't that the church is the foundation for the truth, but that the church "holds up" the truth so the world can see it. "Pillars also were of ancient use to fasten upon them any public edicts, which princes or courts would have published, and exposed to the view of all; hence the church is called, the pillar and basis, or seal, of truth, because by it the truths of God are published, supported, and defended." (Poole)

2. (16) What is the pillar and ground of truth? Paul quotes an early hymn to express the foundation of Christian truth.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.

a. God was manifested in the flesh: This is the essence of the incarnation - that God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, added to His deity humanity - and was thus manifested in the flesh.

b. Justified in the Spirit: We can say that Jesus was justified by the Spirit not in the sense that He was once sinful but made righteous, but in the sense that He was declared to be, by the Holy Spirit, what He always was - completely justified before the Father.

i. This declaration was made at His baptism (Matthew 3:16), and at His resurrection (1 Peter 3:18; Acts 2:32-33).

c. Seen by angels: When was Jesus seen by angels? There are many instances (Mark 1:13; Luke 22:41-43); but Paul probably has in mind the angelic witness to the resurrection (Matthew 28:2-7).

d. Preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world: Paul himself did his best to fulfill these statements.

e. Received up in glory reminds us of Jesus' ascension (Luke 24:51), His finished work on our behalf (Hebrews 1:3) and His present intercession for us (1 John 2:1).

i. Received up in glory: Jesus ascended into heaven in a resurrection body; yet a body that still retained the marks of His great work of love for us - the nail prints in His hands and feet, the wound in his side, all marks of His suffering on our behalf.

ii. This is the key to our own character transformation - beholding Jesus, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

iii. Use these lists as descriptions of Jesus. Don't they fit beautifully? Jesus will transform your life according to the same character, as you put your focus on Him. You may have wanted religion to build this character in you; but truly, relationship with Jesus is what really does it.


Copyright Statement
David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible are reproduced by permission of David Guzik, Siegen, Germany. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Guzik, David. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "David Guzik's Commentaries
on the Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/guz/view.cgi?book=1ti&chapter=003>. 1997-2003.  

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