Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
RULES AS TO
CHURCH, AND THE
1. Translate as Greek, "Faithful is the saying." A needful
preface to what follows: for the office of a bishop or overseer in
Paul's day, attended as it was with hardship and often persecution,
would not seem to the world generally a desirable and "good work."
desire--literally, "stretch one's self forward to grasp"; "aim at":
a distinct Greek verb from that for "desireth." What one does
voluntarily is more esteemed than what he does when asked
This is utterly distinct from ambitious desires after office in the
bishop--overseer: as yet identical with "presbyter"
(Ac 20:17, 28;
good work--literally, "honorable work." Not the honor associated
with it, but the work, is the prominent thought
He who aims at the office must remember the high qualifications needed
for the due discharge of its functions.
2. The existence of Church organization and presbyters at Ephesus is
(1Ti 5:17, 19).
The institution of Church widows
accords with this. The directions here to Timothy, the president or
apostolic delegate, are as to filling up vacancies among the
bishops and deacons, or adding to their number. New churches in
the neighborhood also would require presbyters and deacons. Episcopacy
was adopted in apostolic times as the most expedient form of
government, being most nearly in accordance with Jewish institutions,
and so offering the less obstruction through Jewish prejudices to the
progress of Christianity. The synagogue was governed by presbyters,
(Ac 4:8; 24:1),
called also bishops or overseers. Three among them
presided as "rulers of the synagogue," answering to "bishops" in the
modern sense [LIGHTFOOT, Hebrew and Talmudic
Exercitations], and one among them took the lead. AMBROSE (in The Duties of the Clergy [2.13], as
also BINGHAM [Ecclesiastical Antiquities,
2.11]) says, "They who are now called bishops were originally called
apostles. But those who ruled the Church after the death of the
apostles had not the testimony of miracles, and were in many respects
inferior. Therefore they thought it not decent to assume to themselves
the name of apostles; but dividing the names, they left to presbyters
the name of the presbytery, and they themselves were called
bishops." "Presbyter" refers to the rank;
"bishop," to the office or function. Timothy (though not having
the name) exercised the power at Ephesus then, which bishops in the
modern sense more recently exercised.
blameless--"unexceptionable"; giving no just handle for blame.
husband of one wife--confuting the celibacy of Rome's
priesthood. Though the Jews practiced polygamy, yet as he is writing
as to a Gentile Church, and as polygamy was never allowed among even
laymen in the Church, the ancient interpretation that the prohibition
here is against polygamy in a candidate bishop is not correct. It must,
therefore, mean that, though laymen might lawfully marry again,
candidates for the episcopate or presbytery were better to have been
married only once. As in
"wife of one man," implies a woman married but once; so "husband of one
wife" here must mean the same. The feeling which prevailed among the
Gentiles, as well as the Jews (compare as to Anna,
Lu 2:36, 37),
against a second marriage would, on the ground of expediency and
conciliation in matters indifferent and not involving compromise of
principle, account for Paul's prohibition here in the case of one in so
prominent a sphere as a bishop or a deacon. Hence the stress that is
laid in the context on the repute in which the candidate for
orders is held among those over whom he is to preside
The Council of Laodicea and the apostolic canons discountenanced second
marriages, especially in the case of candidates for ordination. Of
course second marriage being lawful, the undesirableness of it
holds good only under special circumstances. It is implied here also,
that he who has a wife and virtuous family, is to be preferred to a
bachelor; for he who is himself bound to discharge the domestic duties
mentioned here, is likely to be more attractive to those who have
similar ties, for he teaches them not only by precept, but also by
(1Ti 3:4, 5).
The Jews teach, a priest should be neither unmarried nor childless,
lest he be unmerciful [BENGEL]. So in the
synagogue, "no one shall offer up prayer in public, unless he be
married" [in Colbo, ch. 65; VITRINGA,
Synagogue and Temple].
vigilant--literally, "sober"; ever on the watch, as sober men alone
can be; keenly alive, so as to foresee what ought to be done
of good behaviour--Greek, "orderly." "Sober" refers to the
inward mind; "orderly," to the outward behavior, tone, look,
gait, dress. The new man bears somewhat of a sacred festival character,
incompatible with all confusion, disorder, excess, violence, laxity,
assumption, harshness, and meanness
apt to teach--
3. Not given to wine--The Greek includes besides
this, not indulging in the brawling, violent conduct towards
others, which proceeds from being given to wine. The opposite of
"patient" or (Greek) "forbearing," reasonable to others (see on
no striker--with either hand or tongue: not as some teachers
pretending a holy zeal
answering to "not a brawler" or fighter (compare
2Ti 2:24, 25).
not covetous--Greek, "not a lover of money," whether he have
much or little
4. ruleth--Greek, "presiding over."
his own house--children and servants, as contrasted with "the church"
(house) of God
(1Ti 3:5, 15)
which he may be called on to preside over.
having his children--rather as Greek, "having children (who are)
gravity--propriety: reverent modesty on the part of the
children [ALFORD]. The fact that he has
children who are in subjection to him in all gravity, is the
recommendation in his favor as one likely to rule well the Church.
5. For--Greek, "But."
the church--rather, "a church" or congregation. How shall he who
cannot perform the lesser function, perform the greater and more
6. not a novice--one just converted. This proves the Church of
Ephesus was established now for some time. The absence of this rule in
the Epistle to Titus, accords with the recent planting of the Church at
Crete. Greek, "neophyte," literally, "a young plant";
(Ro 6:5; 11:17;
The young convert has not yet been disciplined and matured by
afflictions and temptations. Contrast
"an old disciple."
lifted up with pride--Greek, literally, "wrapt in smoke," so that,
inflated with self-conceit and exaggerated ideas of his own importance,
he cannot see himself or others in the true light
condemnation of the devil--into the same condemnation as Satan fell
Pride was the cause of Satan's condemnation
Joh 12:31; 16:11;
It cannot mean condemnation or accusation on the part of the
devil. The devil may bring a reproach on men
but he cannot bring them into condemnation, for he does not
judge, but is judged [BENGEL].
7. a good report--Greek, "testimony." So Paul was
influenced by the good report given of Timothy to choose him as his
of them which are without--from the as yet unconverted Gentiles around
that they may be the more readily won to the Gospel
and that the name of Christ may be glorified. Not even the former life
of a bishop should be open to reproach [BENGEL].
reproach and the snare of the devil--reproach of men
proving the occasion of his falling into the snare of the devil
The reproach continually surrounding him for former sins might
lead him into the snare of becoming as bad as his reputation.
Despair of recovering reputation might, in a weak moment, lead
some into recklessness of living
The reason why only moral qualities of a general kind are specified is,
he presupposes in candidates for a bishopric the special gifts of the
and true faith, which he desires to be evidenced outwardly; also he
requires qualifications in a bishop not so indispensable in
8. The deacons were chosen by the voice of the people.
[Epistle, 2.5] says that good bishops never departed from the old
custom of consulting the people. The deacons answer to the chazzan of
the synagogue: the attendant ministers, or subordinate coadjutors of
the presbyter (as Timothy himself was to Paul,
and John Mark,
Their duty was to read the Scriptures in the Church, to instruct the
catechumens in Christian truths, to assist the presbyters at the
sacraments, to receive oblations, and to preach and instruct. As the
"chazzan" covered and uncovered the ark in the synagogue, containing
the law, so the deacon in the ancient Church put the covering on the
communion table. (See CHRYSOSTOM ,
Homily on Acts; THEOPHYLACT on Luke 19; and
BALSAMAN on Canon 22, Council of
Laodicea). The appointing of "the seven" in
is perhaps not meant to describe the first appointment of the
deacons of the Church. At least the chazzan previously suggested
the similar order of deacons.
double-tongued--literally, "of double speech"; saying one thing
to this person, and another to that person
[THEODORET]. The extensive personal intercourse
that deacons would have with the members of the Church might prove a
temptation to such a fault. Others explain it, "Saying one thing,
I prefer the former.
not greedy of filthy lucre--All gain is filthy (literally,
"base") which is set before a man as a by-end in his work for God
The deacon's office of collecting and distributing alms would render
this a necessary qualification.
9. the mystery of the faith--holding the faith, which to the
natural man remains a mystery, but which has been revealed by the
Spirit to them
in a pure conscience
(1Ti 1:5, 19).
("Pure," that is, in which nothing base or foreign is intermixed
[TITTMANN]). Though deacons were not ordinarily
called on to preach (Stephen and Philip are not exceptions to this,
since it was as evangelists, rather than as deacons, they
preached), yet as being office-bearers in the Church, and having much
intercourse with all the members, they especially needed to have this
characteristic, which every Christian ought to have.
10. "And moreover," &c. [ALFORD].
be proved--not by a period of probation, but by a searching inquiry,
conducted by Timothy, the ordaining president
whether they be "blameless"; then when found so, "let them act as
blameless--Greek, "unexceptionable"; as the result of public
investigation unaccused [TITTMANN].
11. their wives--rather, "the women," that is, the deaconesses. For there is no reason that special rules should be laid down as to the
wives of the deacons, and not also as to the wives of the bishops or
overseers. Moreover, if the wives of the deacons were meant, there seems
no reason for the omission of "their" (not in the Greek). Also the
Greek for "even so" (the same as for "likewise,"
and "in like manner,"
denotes a transition to another class of persons. Further, there were
doubtless deaconesses at Ephesus, such as Phœbe was at Cenchrea
"servant," Greek, "deaconess"), yet no mention is made of them
in this Epistle if not here; whereas, supposing them to be meant here,
the third chapter embraces in due proportion all the persons in the
service of the Church. Naturally after specifying the qualifications of
the deacon, Paul passes to those of the kindred office, the deaconess.
"Grave" occurs in the case of both. "Not slanderers" here, answers to
"not double-tongued" in the deacons; so "not false accusers"
"Sober" here answers to "not given to much wine," in the case of the
Thus it appears he requires the same qualifications in female deacons
as in deacons, only with such modifications as the difference of sex
suggested. PLINY, in his celebrated letter to
Trajan, calls them "female ministers."
faithful in all things--of life as well as faith. Trustworthy in
respect to the alms committed to them and their other functions,
answering to "not greedy of filthy lucre,"
in the case of the deacons.
12. husbands of one wife--(See on
ruling their children--There is no article in the Greek,
"ruling children"; implying that he regarded the having children to
rule as a qualification
their own houses--as distinguished from "the Church of God"
In the case of the deacons, as in that of the bishops, he mentions the
first condition of receiving office, rather than the special
qualifications for its discharge. The practical side of Christianity is
the one most dwelt on in the Pastoral Epistles, in opposition to the
heretical teachers; moreover, as the miraculous gifts began to be
withdrawn, the safest criterion of efficiency would be the previous
moral character of the candidate, the disposition and talent for the
office being presupposed. So in
a similar criterion was applied, "Look ye out among you seven men of
honest report." Less stress is laid on personal dignity in the case
of the deacon than in that of the bishop (compare Notes, see on
13. purchase to themselves a good degree--literally, "are
acquiring . . . a . . . step."
Understood by many as "a higher step," that is, promotion to the higher
office of presbyter. But ambition of rising seems hardly the motive to
faithfulness which the apostle would urge; besides, it would require
the comparative, "a better degree." Then the past aorist
participle, "they that used the office of deacon well," implies that
the present verb, "are acquiring to themselves boldness,"
is the result of the completed action of using the diaconate well.
Also, Paul would not probably hold out to every deacon the prospect of
promotion to the presbytery in reward of his service. The idea of
moving upwards in Church offices was as yet unknown (compare
&c.; 1Co 12:4-11).
Moreover, there seems little connection between reference to a higher
Church rank and the words "great boldness." Therefore, what those who
have faithfully discharged the diaconate acquire for themselves is "a
good standing-place" [ALFORD] (a well-grounded
hope of salvation) against the day of judgment,
1Co 3:13, 14
(the figurative meaning of "degree" or "step," being the degree of
worth which one has obtained in the eye of God
[WIESINGER]); and boldness (resting on that
standing-place"), as well for preaching and admonishing others
a firm standing forth for the truth against error), as also especially
in relation to God their coming Judge, before whom they may be boldly
1Jo 2:28; 3:21; 4:17;
in the faith--rather as Greek, "in faith," that is, boldness
resting on their own faith.
which is in Christ Jesus--resting in Christ Jesus.
14. write I . . . hoping--that is, "though I hope to
come unto thee shortly"
As his hope was not very confident
he provides for Timothy's lengthened superintendence by giving him the
preceding rules to guide him. He now proceeds to give more general
instructions to him as an evangelist, having a "gift" committed to him
shortly--Greek, "sooner," namely, than is presupposed in the
preceding directions given to him.
on this verse. This verse best suits the theory that this First Epistle
was not written after Paul's visit and departure from Ephesus
when he had resolved to winter at Corinth after passing the summer in
but after his first imprisonment at Rome
probably at Corinth, where he might have some thoughts of going on to
Epirus before returning to Ephesus [BIRKS].
15. But if I tarry long--before coming to thee.
that--that is, I write
"that thou mayest know," &c.
behave thyself--in directing the Church at Ephesus
the house of God--the Church
(Heb 3:2, 5, 6; 10:21;
"the temple of God";
which is--that is, inasmuch as it is.
the church--"the congregation." The fact that the sphere of thy
functions is "the congregation of the living God" (who is the ever
living Master of the house,
2Ti 2:19, 20, 21),
is the strongest motive to faithfulness in this behavior as
president of a department of the house." The living God
forms a striking contrast to the lifeless idol, Diana of Ephesus
He is the fountain of "truth," and the foundation of our "trust"
Labor directed to a particular Church is service to the one great house
of God, of which each particular Church is a part, and each Christian a
the pillar and ground of the truth--evidently predicated of
the Church, not of "the mystery of godliness" (an interpretation
not started till the sixteenth century; so
BENGEL); for after two weighty predicates, "pillar
and ground," and these substantives, the third, a much weaker one, and
that an adjective, "confessedly," or "without controversy great," would
not come. "Pillar" is so used metaphorically of the three apostles on
whom principally the Jewish Christian Church depended
The Church is "the pillar of the truth," as the continued existence
(historically) of the truth rests on it; for it supports and preserves
the word of truth. He who is of the truth belongs by the very fact to
the Church. Christ is the alone ground of the truth in the highest
The apostles are foundations in a secondary sense
The Church rests on the truth as it is in Christ; not the truth on the
Church. But the truth as it is in itself is to be distinguished
from the truth as it is acknowledged in the world. In the former
sense it needs no pillar, but supports itself; in the latter
sense, it needs the Church as its pillar, that is, its supporter and
preserver [BAUMGARTEN]. The importance of
Timothy's commission is set forth by reminding him of the excellence of
"the house" in which he serves; and this in opposition to the coming
heresies which Paul presciently forewarns him of immediately after
The Church is to be the stay of the truth and its conserver for the
world, and God's instrument for securing its continuance on earth, in
opposition to those heresies
(Mt 16:18; 28:20).
The apostle does not recognize a Church which has not the truth, or has
it only in part. Rome falsely claims the promise for herself. But it is
not historical descent that constitutes a Church, but this only, to
(Mt 16:18; 28:20).
The apostle does not recognize a Church which has not the intermediate;
the "ground," or "basement" (similar to "foundation,"
the final support of the building [ALFORD]. It is
no objection that, having called the Church before "the house of God,"
he now calls it the "pillar"; for the literal word "Church" immediately
precedes the new metaphors: so the Church, or congregation of
believers, which before was regarded as the habitation of God,
is now, from a different point of view, regarded as the pillar
upholding the truth.
16. And--following up
The pillar of the truth is the Church in which thou art required to
minister; "AND (that thou mayest know how grand is
that truth which the Church so upholds) confessedly (so the
Greek for 'without controversy') great is the mystery of
godliness: (namely), HE WHO (so the oldest
manuscripts and versions read for 'God') was manifested in (the) flesh
(He who) was justified in the Spirit," &c. There is set before us the
whole dignity of Christ's person. If He were not essentially superhuman
how could the apostle emphatically declare that He was manifested
in (the) flesh? [TREGELLES, Printed
Text of the Greek New Testament].
1Jo 1:2; 4:2).
Christ, in all His aspects, is Himself "the mystery of godliness." He
who before was hidden "with God" was made manifest
(Joh 1:1, 14;
Ro 16:25, 26;
Tit 2:11; 3:4;
1Jo 3:5, 8).
"Confessedly," that is, by the universal confession of the members of
"the Church," which is in this respect the "pillar" or upholder "of
the mystery--the divine scheme embodied in CHRIST
once hidden from, but now revealed to, us who believe.
of godliness--rather, "piety"; a different Greek,
In opposition to the ungodliness or impiety inseparable
from error (departure from the faith: "doctrines of devils,"
1Ti 4:1, 7;
To the victims of such error, the "mystery of piety" (that is, Christ
Himself) remains a mystery unrevealed
It is accessible only to "piety"
in relation to the pious it is termed a "mystery," though
to imply the excellence of Him who is the surpassing essential subject
of it, and who is Himself "wonderful"
(Eph 3:18, 19);
The apostle now proceeds to unfold this confessedly great mystery in
its details. It is not unlikely that some formula of confession or hymn
existed in the Church and was generally accepted, to which Paul alludes
in the words "confessedly great is the mystery," &c. (to wit),
"He who was manifested," &c. Such hymns were then used (compare
PLINY [1.10, Epistle, 97], "They are wont
on a fixed day before dawn to meet and sing a hymn in alternate
responses to Christ, as being God"; and
EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 5.28].
The short unconnected sentences with the words similarly arranged, and
the number of syllables almost equal, and the ideas antithetically
related, are characteristics of a Christian hymn. The clauses stand in
parallelism; each two are connected as a pair, and form an antithesis
turning on the opposition of heaven to earth; the order of this
antithesis is reversed in each new pair of clauses: flesh and
spirit, angels and Gentiles, world and glory; and
there is a correspondence between the first and the last clause:
"manifested in the flesh, received up into glory" [WIESINGER].
justified--that is, approved to be righteous
[ALFORD]. Christ, while
"in the flesh," seemed to be just such a one as men in the flesh, and in
fact bore their sins; but by having died to sin, and having risen
again, He gained for Himself and His people justifying righteousness
Ro 4:25; 6:7, 10;
1Pe 3:18; 4:1
[BENGEL]; or rather, as the antithesis to "was
manifest in the flesh" requires, He was justified in the Spirit at
the same time that He was manifest in the flesh, that is, He was
vindicated as divine "in His Spirit," that is, in His higher
nature; in contrast to "in the flesh," His visible human
nature. This contrasted opposition requires "in the Spirit" to be
thus explained: not "by the Spirit," as ALFORD
explains it. So
Ro 1:3, 4,
"Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to
be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness,
by the resurrection from the dead." So "justified" is used to mean
vindicated in one's true character
His manifestation "in the flesh" exposed him to misapprehension,
as though he were nothing more
(Joh 6:41; 7:27).
His justification, or vindication, in respect to His
Spirit or higher being, was effected by ALL
that manifested that higher being, His words
(Joh 2:11; 3:2),
by His Father's testimony at His baptism
and at the transfiguration
and especially by His resurrection
though not by this exclusively, as BENGEL
seen of angels--answering to "preached unto the Gentiles" (or
rather "among the nations"; including the Jews), on the other
Ro 16:25, 26).
"Angels saw the Son of God with us, not having seen Him before"
[CHRYSOSTOM].' "not even they had seen His divine
nature, which is not visible to any creature, but they saw Him
(Eph 3:8, 10;
Col 1:16, 20).
What angels came to know by seeing, the nations learned by
preaching. He is a new message to the one class as well as to
the other; in the wondrous union in His person of things most opposite,
namely, heaven and earth, lies "the mystery"
[WIESINGER]. If the English Version,
"Gentiles," be retained, the antithesis will be between the
angels who are so near the Son of God, the Lord of
"angels," and the Gentiles who were so utterly "afar off"
believed on in the world--which lieth in wickedness
(1Jo 2:15; 5:19).
Opposed to "glory"
(Joh 3:16, 17).
This followed upon His being "preached"
received up into glory--Greek, "in glory." However,
English Version may be retained thus, "Received up
(so as now to be) in glory," that is, into glory
His reception in heaven answers to His reception on earth by being