1 Timothy 3
In this chapter our apostle treats of church-officers. He specifies,
I. The qualifications of a person to be admitted to the office of a
1 Timothy 3:1-7.
II. The qualifications of deacons
(1 Timothy 3:8-10),
and of their wives
(1 Timothy 3:11),
again of the deacons,
1 Timothy 3:12,13.
III. The reasons of his writing to Timothy, whereupon he speaks of the
church and the foundation-truth professed therein,
1 Timothy 3:14-16.
|Duties of Bishops and Deacons.
||A. D. 64.|
1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a
bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,
vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre;
but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in
subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall
he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into
the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are
without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
The two epistles to Timothy, and that to Titus, contain a
scripture-plan of church-government, or a direction to ministers.
Timothy, we suppose, was an evangelist who was left at Ephesus, to take
care of those whom the Holy Ghost had made bishops there, that is, the
presbyters, as appears by
where the care of the church was committed to the presbyters, and they
were called bishops. It seems they were very loth to part with Paul,
especially because he told them they should see his face no more
for their church was but newly planted, they were afraid of undertaking
the care of it, and therefore Paul left Timothy with them to set them
in order. And here we have the character of a gospel minister, whose
office it is, as a bishop, to preside in a particular congregation of
Christians: If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a
1 Timothy 3:1.
I. The ministry is a work. However the office of a bishop may be now
thought a good preferment, then it was thought a good work.
1. The office of a scripture-bishop is an office of divine appointment,
and not of human invention. The ministry is not a creature of the
state, and it is a pity that the minister should be at any time the
tool of the state. The office of the ministry was in the church before
the magistrate countenanced Christianity, for this office is one of the
great gifts Christ has bestowed on the church,
2. This office of a Christian bishop is a work, which requires
diligence and application: the apostle represents it under the notion
and character of a work; not of great honour and advantage, for
ministers should always look more to their work than to the honour and
advantage of their office.
3. It is a good work, a work of the greatest importance, and designed
for the greatest good: the ministry is conversant about no lower
concerns than the life and happiness of immortal souls; it is a good
work, because designed to illustrate the divine perfections in bringing
many sons to glory; the ministry is appointed to open men's eyes, and
to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto
4. There ought to be an earnest desire of the office in those who would
be put into it; if a man desire, he should earnestly desire it for the
prospect he has of bringing greater glory to God, and of doing the
greatest good to the souls of men by this means. This is the question
proposed to those who offer themselves to the ministry of the church of
England: "Do you think you are moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you
II. In order to the discharge of this office, the doing of this work,
the workman must be qualified.
1. A minister must be blameless, he must not lie under any scandal; he
must give as little occasion for blame as can be, because this would be
a prejudice to his ministry and would reflect reproach upon his office.
2. He must be the husband of one wife; not having given a bill of
divorce to one, and then taken another, or not having many wives at
once, as at that time was too common both among Jews and Gentiles,
especially among the Gentiles.
3. He must be vigilant and watchful against Satan, that subtle enemy;
he must watch over himself, and the souls of those who are committed to
his charge, of whom having taken the oversight, he must improve
all opportunities of doing them good. A minister ought to be vigilant,
because our adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking
whom he may devour,
1 Peter 5:8.
4. He must be sober, temperate, moderate in all his actions, and in the
use of all creature-comforts. Sobriety and watchfulness are often in
scripture put together, because they mutually befriend one another:
Be sober, be vigilant.
5. He must be of good behaviour, composed and solid, and not light,
vain, and frothy.
6. He must be given to hospitality, open-handed to strangers, and ready
to entertain them according to his ability, as one who does not set his
heart upon the wealth of the world and who is a true lover of his
7. Apt to teach. Therefore this is a preaching bishop whom Paul
describes, one who is both able and willing to communicate to others
the knowledge which God has given him, one who is fit to teach and
ready to take all opportunities of giving instructions, who is himself
well instructed in the things of the kingdom of heaven, and is
communicative of what he knows to others.
8. No drunkard: Not given to wine. The priests were not to drink
wine when they went in to minister
lest they should drink and pervert the law.
9. No striker; one who is not quarrelsome, nor apt to use violence to
any, but does every thing with mildness, love, and gentleness. The
servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle towards all, &c.,
2 Timothy 2:24.
10. One who is not greedy of filthy lucre, who does not make his
ministry to truckle to any secular design or interest, who uses no
mean, base, sordid ways of getting money, who is dead to the wealth of
this world, lives above it, and makes it appear he is so.
11. He must be patient, and not a brawler, of a mild disposition.
Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, is so. Not apt to be
angry or quarrelsome; as not a striker with his hands, so not a brawler
with his tongue; for how shall men teach others to govern their tongues
who do not make conscience of keeping them under good government
12. Not covetous. Covetousness is bad in any, but it is worst in a
minister, whose calling leads him to converse so much with another
13. He must be one who keeps his family in good order: That rules
well his own house, that he may set a good example to other masters
of families to do so too, and that he may thereby give a proof of his
ability to take care of the church of God: For, if a man know not
how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of
God. Observe, The families of ministers ought to be examples of
good to all others families. Ministers must have their children in
subjection; then it is the duty of ministers' children to submit to the
instructions that are given them.--With all gravity. The best
way to keep inferiors in subjection, is to be grave with them. Not
having his children in subjection with all austerity, but with all
14. He must not be a novice, not one newly brought to the Christian
religion, or not one who is but meanly instructed in it, who knows no
more of religion than the surface of it, for such a one is apt to be
lifted up with pride: the more ignorant men are the more proud they
are: Lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation
of the devil. The devils fell through pride, which is a good reason
why we should take heed of pride, because it is a sin that turned
angels into devils.
15. He must be of good reputation among his neighbours, and under no
reproach from former conversation; for the devil will make use of that
to ensnare others, and work in them an aversion to the doctrine of
Christ preached by those who have not had a good report.
III. Upon the whole, having briefly gone through the qualifications of
a gospel-bishop, we may infer,
1. What great reason we have to cry out, as Paul does, Who is
sufficient for these things?
2 Corinthians 2:16.
Hic labor, hoc opus--This is a work indeed. What piety, what
prudence, what zeal, what courage, what faithfulness, what watchfulness
over ourselves, our lusts, appetites, and passions, and over those
under our charge; I say, what holy watchfulness is necessary in this
2. Have not the best qualified and the most faithful and conscientious
ministers just reason to complain against themselves, that so much is
requisite by way of qualification, and so much work is necessary to be
done? And, alas! how far short do the best come of what they should be
and what they should do!
3. Yet let those bless God, and be thankful, whom the Lord has enabled,
and counted faithful, putting them into the ministry: if God is pleased
to make any in some degree able and faithful, let him have the praise
and glory of it.
4. For the encouragement of all faithful ministers, we have Christ's
gracious word of promise, Lo, I am with you always, even unto the
end of the world,
And, if he be with us, he will fit us for our work in some measure,
will carry us through the difficulties of it with comfort, graciously
pardon our imperfections, and reward our faithfulness with a crown of
glory that fadeth not away,
1 Peter 5:4.
|Qualifications of Deacons.
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8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued,
not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the
office of a deacon, being found blameless.
11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers,
sober, faithful in all things.
12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their
children and their own houses well.
13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase
to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith
which is in Christ Jesus.
We have here the character of deacons: these had the care of the
temporal concerns of the church, that is, the maintenance of the
ministers and provision for the poor: they served tables, while the
ministers or bishops gave themselves only to the ministry of the word
Of the institution of this office, with that which gave occasion to it,
you have an account in
Now it was requisite that deacons should have a good character, because
they were assistants to the ministers, appeared and acted publicly, and
had a great trust reposed in them. They must be grave. Gravity
becomes all Christians, but especially those who are in the office in
the church. Not doubled-tongued; that will say one thing to one
and another thing to another, according as their interests leads them:
a double tongue comes from a double heart; flatterers and slanderers
are double-tongued. Not given to much wine; for this is a great
disparagement to any man, especially to a Christian, and one in office,
unfits men for business, opens the door to many temptations. Not
greedy of filthy lucre; this would especially be bad in the
deacons, who were entrusted with the church's money, and, if they were
covetous and greedy of filthy lucre, would be tempted to embezzle it,
and convert that to their own use which was intended for the public
service. Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience,
1 Timothy 3:9.
Note, The mystery of faith is best held in a pure conscience. The
practical love of truth is the most powerful preservative from error
and delusion. If we keep a pure conscience (take heed of every thing
that debauches conscience, and draws us away from God), this will
preserve in our souls the mystery of faith. Let these also first be
1 Timothy 3:10.
It is not fit that the public trusts should be lodged in the hands of
any, till they have been first proved, and found fit for the business
they are to be entrusted with; the soundness of their judgments, their
zeal for Christ, and the blamelessness of their conversation, must be
proved. Their wives likewise must have a good character
(1 Timothy 3:11);
they must be of a grave behaviour, not slanderers, tale-bearers,
carrying stories to make mischief and sow discord; they must be
sober and faithful in all things, not given to any excess, but
trusty in all that is committed to them. All who are related to
ministers must double their care to walk as becomes the gospel of
Christ, lest, if they in any thing walk disorderly, the ministry be
blamed. As he said before of the bishops or ministers, so here of the
deacons, they must be the husband of one wife, such as had not
put away their wives, upon dislike, and married others; they must
rule their children and their own houses well; the families of
deacons should be examples to other families. And the reason why the
deacons must be thus qualified is
(1 Timothy 3:13)
because, though the office of a deacon be of an inferior degree, yet it
is a step towards the higher degree; and those who had served tables
well the church might see cause afterwards to discharge from that
service, and prefer to serve in preaching the word and in prayer. Or it
may be meant of the good reputation that a man would gain by his
fidelity in this office: they will purchase to themselves great
boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. Observe,
1. In the primitive church there were but two orders of ministers or
officers, bishops and deacons,
After-ages have invented the rest. The office of the bishop,
presbyter, pastor, or minister, was confined to prayer and to the
ministry of the word; and the office of the deacon was confined to, or
at least principally conversant about, serving tables. Clemens Romanus,
in his epistle to the Christian (cap. 42, 44), speaks very fully
and plainly to this effect, that the apostles, foreknowing, by our Lord
Jesus Christ, that there would arise in the Christian church a
controversy about the name episcopacy, appointed the
forementioned orders, bishops and deacons.
2. The scripture-deacon's main employment was to serve tables, and not
to preach or baptize. It is true, indeed, that Philip did preach and
baptize in Samaria
but you read that he was an evangelist
and he might preach and baptize, and perform any other part of the
ministerial office, under that character; but still the design of the
deacon's office was to mind the temporal concerns of the church, such
as the salaries of the ministers and providing for the poor.
3. Several qualifications were very necessary, even for these inferior
officers: The deacons must be grave, &c.
4. Some trial should be made of persons' qualifications before they are
admitted into office in the church, or have any trust committed to
them: Let these also first be proved.
5. Integrity and uprightness in an inferior office are the way to be
preferred to a higher station in the church: They purchase to
themselves a good degree.
6. This will also give a man great boldness in the faith, whereas a
want of integrity and uprightness will make a man timorous, and ready
to tremble at his own shadow. The wicked fleeth when no man
pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion,
|The Mystery of Godliness.
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14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee
15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest
to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the
living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of
angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world,
received up into glory.
He concludes the chapter with a particular direction to Timothy. He
hoped shortly to come to him, to give him further directions and
assistance in his work, and to see that Christianity was well planted,
and took root well, at Ephesus; he therefore wrote the more briefly to
him. But he wrote lest he should tarry long, that Timothy
might know how to behave himself in the house of God, how to
conduct himself as became an evangelist, and the apostle's substitute.
I. Those who are employed in the house of God must see to it that they
behave themselves well, lest they bring reproach upon the house of God,
and that worthy name by which they are called. Ministers ought to
behave themselves well, and to look not only to their praying and
preaching, but to their behaviour: their office binds them to their
good behaviour, for any behaviour will not do in this case. Timothy
must know how to behave himself, not only in the particular church
where he was now appointed to reside for some time, but being an
evangelist, and the apostle's substitute, he must learn how to behave
himself in other churches, where he should in like manner be appointed
to reside for some time; and therefore it is not the church of Ephesus,
but the catholic church, which is here called the house of God,
which is the church of the living God. Observe here,
1. God is the living God; he is the fountain of life, he is life in
himself, and he gives life, breath, and all things to his creatures; in
him we live, and move, and have our being,
2. The church is the house of God, he dwells there; the Lord has chosen
Zion, to dwell there. "This is my rest, here will I dwell, for I have
chosen it;" there may we see God's power and glory,
II. It is the great support of the church that it is the church of the
living God, the true God in opposition to false gods, dumb and
1. As the church of God, it is the pillar and ground of truth;
that is, either,
(1.) The church itself is the pillar and ground of truth. Not that the
authority of the scriptures depends upon that of the church, as the
papists pretend, for truth is the pillar and ground of the church; but
the church holds forth the scripture and the doctrine of Christ, as the
pillar to which a proclamation is affixed holds forth the proclamation.
Even to the principalities and powers in heavenly places is made
known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
(2.) Others understand it of Timothy. He, not he himself only, but he
as an evangelist, he and other faithful ministers, are the pillars and
ground of truth; it is their business to maintain, hold up, and
publish, the truths of Christ in the church. It is said of the apostles
that they seemed to be pillars,
[1.] Let us be diligent and impartial in our own enquiries after truth;
let us buy the truth at any rate, and not think much of any pains to
[2.] Let us be careful to keep and preserve it. "Buy the truth, and
sell it not
do not part with it on any consideration."
[3.] Let us take care to publish it, and to transmit it safe and
uncorrupted unto posterity.
[4.] When the church ceases to be the pillar and ground of truth, we
may and ought to forsake her; for our regard to truth should be greater
than our regard to the church; we are no longer obliged to continue in
the church than she continues to be the pillar and ground of truth.
2. But what is the truth which the churches and ministers are the
pillars and grounds of? He tells us
(1 Timothy 3:16)
that without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. The
learned Camero joins this with what goes before, and then it runs thus:
"The pillar and ground of the truth, and without controversy great
is the mystery of godliness." He supposes this mystery to be the
pillar, &c. Observe,
(1.) Christianity is a mystery, a mystery that could not have been
found out by reason or the light of nature, and which cannot be
comprehended by reason, because it is above reason, though not contrary
thereto. It is a mystery, not of philosophy or speculation; but of
godliness, designed to promote godliness; and herein it exceeds all the
mysteries of the Gentiles. It is also a revealed mystery, not shut up
and sealed; and it does not cease to be a mystery because now in part
(2.) What is the mystery of godliness? It is Christ; and here are six
things concerning Christ, which make up the mystery of godliness.
[1.] That he is God manifest in the flesh: God was manifest in the
flesh. This proves that he is God, the eternal Word, that was made
flesh and was manifest in the flesh. When God was to be manifested to
man he was pleased to manifest himself in the incarnation of his own
Son: The Word was made flesh,
[2.] He is justified in the Spirit. Whereas he was reproached as
a sinner, and put to death as a malefactor, he was raised again by the
Spirit, and so was justified from all the calumnies with which he was
loaded. He was made sin for us, and was delivered for our
offences; but, being raised again, he was justified in the Spirit;
that is, it was made to appear that his sacrifice was accepted, and so
he rose again for our justification, as he was delivered for our
He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit,
1 Peter 3:18.
[3.] He was seen of angels. They worshipped him
they attended his incarnation, his temptation, his agony, his death,
his resurrection, his ascension; this is much to his honour, and shows
what a mighty interest he had in the upper world, that angels
ministered to him, for he is the Lord of angels.
[4.] He is preached unto the Gentiles. This is a great part of
the mystery of godliness, that Christ was offered to the Gentiles a
Redeemer and Saviour; that whereas, before, salvation was of the Jews,
the partition-wall was now taken down, and the Gentiles were taken in.
I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles,
[5.] That he was believed on in the world, so that he was not
preached in vain. Many of the Gentiles welcomed the gospel which the
Jews rejected. Who would have thought that the world, which lay in
wickedness, would believe in the Son of God, would take him to be their
Saviour who was himself crucified at Jerusalem? But, notwithstanding
all the prejudices they laboured under, he was believed on, &c.
[6.] He was received up into glory, in his ascension. This
indeed was before he was believed on in the world; but it is put last,
because it was the crown of his exaltation, and because it is not only
his ascension that is meant, but his sitting at the right hand of God,
where he ever lives, making intercession, and has all power, both in
heaven and earth, and because, in the apostasy of which he treats in
the following chapter, his remaining in heaven would be denied by those
who pretend to bring him down on their altars in the consecrated
wafers. Observe, First, He who was manifest in flesh was God,
really and truly God, God by nature, and not only so by office, for
this makes it to be a mystery. Secondly, God was manifest in
flesh, real flesh. Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh
and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same,
And, what is more amazing, he was manifest in the flesh after all flesh
had corrupted his way, though he himself was holy from the womb.
Thirdly, Godliness is a mystery in all its parts and branches,
from the beginning to the end, from Christ's incarnation to his
ascension. Fourthly, It being a great mystery, we should rather
humbly adore it, and piously believe it, than curiously pry into it, or
be too positive in our explications of it and determinations about it,
further than the holy scriptures have revealed it to us.