True Shepherds, 1 Timothy 3. 1-7

Denis Clapham, Birmingham

"Bishop" and "elder" are descriptions of the same person. The term "elder" indicates mature spiritual experience and understanding; "bishop" or "overseer" indicates the character of the work. The same men are also called "presbyters" and "shepherds". The sixteen qualifications listed in this passage are:

  1. Blameless (only here and in 5. 7 and 6. 14 in the N.T.); without reproach, "giving no handle".
  2. Husband of one wife. Not husband of a wife, but of one wife. Either, therefore, of not more than one at a time, or of one only.
  3. Vigilant or temperate has to do with soberness in disposition; free from credulity and excitability. The word occurs again in v. 11 of deacons' wives, and in Titus 2. 2.
  4. Sober really means self-controlled or discreet.
  5. Of good behaviour is really one word, orderly. The opposite to this is roughness or uncouthness.
  6. Given to hospitality is, literally, loving strangers.
  7. Apt to teach implies an aptitude for imparting knowledge. It involves not merely the ability but the willingness.
  8. Not given to wine, one that is not drunk and disorderly.
  9. No striker is one who never becomes violent.
  10. Not greedy of filthy lucre; see parallel passage in Titus 1. 7.
  11. Patient is better rendered gentle, that is, anxious to show considerateness and forbearance.
  12. Not a brawler or aggressive; averse to disputing.
  13. Not covetous, that is, not a lover of money,
  14. One that ruleth well his own house implies presiding over, or superintending, and this is to be done with all gravity. It is to be done beautifully, finely. How shall he take care of is an important change from rule, and denotes a loving interest in the real welfare of the saints for what they are.
  15. Not a novice, or a recent convert, or one wanting in experience; maturity is essential. There is the danger of being puffed up with pride in the assembly.
  16. Having a good report or testimony in the world. He would otherwise incur scorn and would be sneered at. The snare of the devil indicates the readiness of the devil to trip up an elder. If a man has brought reproach upon the testimony by a single act, his restoration to the fellowship of the church is possible, and should be sought for, but his readmission as an overseer is quite another thing and should not be attempted.

Timothy was to observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing with partiality, 5. 21.