1 Timothy 3
Bishops and Deacons.
SUMMARY.--The Qualifications of Bishops.
The Reason for Writing to Timothy of These Matters.
The Mystery of Godliness.
1. If a man desire the office of a bishop. Here, for the first
time in the New Testament, is there a delineation of the qualifications
and duties of bishops and deacons. Both offices have been alluded to in
and both are named in the
first verse of the Epistle to the Philippians.
To form a correct idea of the New Testament bishop we must get away
from modern episcopacy. The New Testament bishop was not diocesan, but
in charge of a single church. Each church had a plurality. Elders or
presbyters, and bishops were only different designations for the same
office. This arrangement was not changed until after the close of the
first century and the death of the last of the apostles. Of these
statements, admitted by the candid learned even of episcopal bodies,
the following proofs may be submitted: (1) Paul
summons the "elders" of the church at Ephesus, and in
calls them "bishops." (2) In the church of Philippi the "bishops and
deacons" are named as the officers
(3) Paul in this Epistle names bishops and deacons as the officers
names "elders" as officers intrusted with the same duties already named
as those of the bishops. (4) In the Epistle to Titus, Paul commands
to "ordain elders in every city," but in turn describing the
qualifications of an elder he calls him a bishop
(1 Peter 5:1, 2)
addresses "elders" and commands them to
exercise the office of "bishops" over the flock. The Greek word
as well as the word bishop, etymologically means to act as an
overseer, or to take the oversight. (6) I might add that Clement of
Rome, who wrote to Corinthians about the beginning of the second
century, uses the terms interchangeably.
Desireth a good work. A very important duty.
2-7. A bishop then must be blameless. None must be appointed
because they desire the place. None are eligible unless they fill the
Blameless. Not under charges; of good repute.
The husband of one wife. A married man, and having only one wife.
In those loose times of divorce, men might be converted who had
successively several wives. Divorce for unscriptural reasons would not
free a man from his first, lawful wife. Hence the limitation to those
who had only one living wife. I do not think there is any reference to
re-marriage after the death of a wife.
Vigilant. Temperate. See Revision.
Given to hospitality. Often saints by persecution were made
homeless. The bishops must set the example of receiving such.
Apt to teach. Men who have the knowledge and discretion which
fit them to teach the flock.
3. Not given to wine. Not a drunken brawler, is the idea of the
Greek. We must always bear in mind that the church had been formed of
Gentiles whose morals had been at a very low standard.
4. One that ruleth well his own house. This implies that he must
be a man of family.
Having his children. He must be a father with obedient
5. For if a man know not. The order of his own house will show
whether he is fit to have a charge in the house of God. The sins of
Eli's sons showed that Eli, though a good man, was unfitted to rule.
6. Not a novice. One recently converted. Those chosen for
bishops must be old and tried. Paul and Barnabas did not ordain elders
until their second visit to the churches
Lifted up with pride. A novice, suddenly exalted, was in danger
of undue elation.
7. Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are
without. Have an established character which speaks well for the
church among the unconverted.
Lest he fall into reproach. Into some snare of the devil, some
improper conduct, which will bring reproach on the church.
8-10. Likewise must the deacons. The ancient church understood
that the seven appointed in
Acts, chapter 6
were the first deacons. They were not called deacons, but filled a
we find deacons existing. Their office seemed to have been to look
after the temporal matters of the church, and especially to care for
the poor and the widows.
Not double-tongued. Not saying one thing to one man, and another
thing to others.
Not greedy of filthy lucre. Men who are covetous and
unscrupulous as to modes of getting money are not to be chosen.
9. Holding the mystery of the faith. The gospel, God's revealed
mystery to all believers.
10. Let these also first be proved. Not novices, but men fully
tested. Before they
use the office of a deacon, their character must be thoroughly
examined, and they must be found
11. Even so must their wives. The word in the Greek
may mean women or wives. It is
rendered wife in
The Revision says, "Women must be, etc." I believe that the Old Version
is nearer right. The duties of women generally are not spoken of in the
midst of a discussion of elders and deacons. Either deaconesses are
meant, or the wives of bishops and deacons; more likely the latter. We
know that an injudicious wife may mar the work of a church officer.
Not slanderers. Not given to tattling.
12, 13. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife. The same
is used in the Greek here for wife that is used in
See notes on "one wife" under
Ruling their children. See notes on
verses 4 and 5.
13. For they that, etc. These demands for the office are high,
for those who exercise it
well purchase a good degree. Secure a high position in the
church and in God's favor.
And great boldness in the faith. To fill these duties well gives
strength, and often fits for higher duties. Stephen
14-16. These things I write, . . . hoping to come unto
thee shortly. It is not certain that he was ever able to visit
Ephesus again, though it is thought that he did on his way to
15. But if I tarry. In that case he wrote that Timothy might
understand how to act.
Behave thyself in the house of God. Conduct thyself in the
management of the church.
Which is the church of the living God. The house of God is not
the temple of Diana, which stood there at Ephesus.
The pillar and ground of the truth. The church is the pillar and
support of the truth because it preaches it to the world, preserves it,
and transmits it from generation to generation.
16. Without controversy. Undoubtedly.
Great is the mystery of godliness. The mystery that God has
revealed to us in the gospel in order to make men godly. The great
things revealed in this mystery are next named, certainly wonderful
things, well called great.
God was manifest in the flesh. Was manifested in Jesus Christ.
Justified in the Spirit. When, after his condemnation to death,
the power of God raised him from the dead.
Seen of angels. The angels were at the open tomb and told the
women of his resurrection.
Preached unto the Gentiles. A wonderful fact in the mind of a
Jew like Paul, who had been trained to believe that the Gentiles were
Received up into glory. At the Ascension. Six elements enter
into this mystery of godliness, elements all of which were fully
revealed in the gospel. The mystery is not something incomprehensible,
but the hidden wisdom of God revealed in the gospel; a sense similar to
that in which mystery is always used in the Scriptures. Compare
Rev. 1:20; Rev. 17:5, 7.