1 Timothy 3. 1 to 13
W. E. Vine, Bath
Introductory Note to Chapter 3
In the second chapter, injunctions were given as to the conduct of men and women in the local church. Since such a church was designed to be under the pastoral care of a number of elders, or bishops (otherwise called overseers), the Apostle now lays down the necessary qualifications of such, in order that the testimony both of those in this responsibility and those under their care, might be consistent with the Name of the Lord and the doctrines of the faith. As to the qualifications of overseers, these are stated first positively (v. 2), then negatively (v. 3); then in relation to domestic life (v. 4, 5); to spiritual maturity (v. 5); and to external testimony (v, 7). So in regard to deacons, the qualifications are positive and negative (v. 8, 9); deacons are to be proved before being approved as fit for their service (v. 10); their domestic life is to be worthy of their function (v. 12); their faithfulness gains for them a rich reward (v. 13).
Verse 1. Faithful is the saying,—this is the second of the faithful sayings, which characterize the Pastoral Epistles. See Note at 1. 15.
If a man seeketh the office of a bishop,—there is no mention of an office in the original, either here or in connection with the deacons. Literally, the phrase is “seeketh overseership.” The word orego, to reach, stretch out, is here used metaphorically in the sense of aspiring to. It does not convey the bad sense of grasping, but that of simple aspiration.
Episkope primarily signifies a visiting, or visitation; then, oversight. In this respect the Scripture lays stress not upon the function, but upon the character of the service; not upon the position, but upon devotion to the work.
“Bishop” and “elder” are descriptions of the same person. In saying farewell to the elders of the Church at Ephesus, the Apostle reminded them that the Holy Spirit had made them bishops, Acts 20. 17 and 28. The term elder indicates mature spiritual experience and understanding: bishop or overseer indicates the character of the work. That there were to be elders in every local church, see Acts 14. 23; Phil. 1. 1; Tit. 1. 5; Jas. 5. 14. Where the singular is used, as in the present case, the passage is describing what a bishop should be; cp. Tit. 1. 7. Christ Himself is spoken of as ” the … Bishop of your souls,” 1 Pet. 2. 25. The corresponding verb, episkopeo, is found in 1 Pet. 5. 2, where the R.V., “exercising the oversight,” is preferable to the A.V., “taking the oversight.”
he desireth a good work.—the word translated “good” is kalos: see on 1. 18 and 2. 3; here it is virtually equivalent to “a noble work.” The mention of ‘work’ rather than ‘thing’ suggests labour and toil.
Verse 2. The bishop, therefore,—the definite article does not point to a single functionary, it indicates a general use of the term. Similarly in 5. 5 the phrase “she that is a widow is,” lit, “the widow”; so here we might translate “he that is the bishop.”
The word “therefore” points back to the last words of verse 1. Since his service is “a good work,” he must have the qualifications compatible with it.
must be without reproach,—the word anepilemptos (or, -leptos) literally means “not to be laid hold of,” i.e., not open to censure, irreproachable, irreprehensible. It is found elsewhere in the N.T. only in 5. 7 and 6. 14. It describes one who gives no just cause for blame. A similar word is anenkletos, which is found in 1 Cor. 1. 8 (R.V, “unreproveable”; A.V., “blameless”), Col. 1. 22. verse 10 of the present chapter, and Tit. 1. 6, 7. Synonymous words are amomos, e.g. Col. 1. 22, without blame, and amemptos, unblamed, e.g. 1 Thess. 3. 13. The difference between this last word and the former three is that those move “not in the subjective world of the thoughts and estimates of men, but in the objective world of facts” (Trench).
the husband of one wife,—this does not mean that the overseer must be married. It refers to one who is related as a husband to only one woman at the same time. Again, it does not enjoin that, having lost his first wife by death, an overseer should never take another. As against this, see Rom. 7. 2, 3. Most of those in the churches had been accustomed to the Pagan condition of things in which polygamy was common. To eradicate the effects of this was difficult. A rigid prohibition was applied to anyone who rendered service of a public character in the assembly, and the example thus set became attended to all the members of an assembly, and remains binding.
temperate,—the word nephalios primarily has to do with abstinence from strong drink; it acquired, however, the more general sense of soberness in disposition. The corresponding verb nepho is used, in the N.T., only in a metaphorical sense, signifying freedom from credulity and from excitability. Cp. the stronger verb ananepho translated “Awake up” in 1 Cor. 15. 34, and a synonymous verb ananepho translated “may recover themselves” in 2 Tim. 2. 26. Nephalios is used again in verse 11 of this chapter of the wives of such as take the lead among the saints, and in Titus 2. 2 of aged men.
soberminded,—this translates the adjective sophron, lit. of sound mind, i.e., self-control led, or discreet. The word occurs elsewhere three times in the Epistle to Titus, 1. 8; 2. 2, 5, in each of which the R.V. translates it “soberminded” for the three renderings in the A.V., “sober,” “temperate,” “discreet.”
orderly,—the adjective kosmios (A.V., “of good behaviour”) is translated “modest” in 2. 9, where see Note, The opposite to this is roughness or uncouthness, which is always discountenanced in Scripture.
given to hospitality, -this translates the word philoxenos, which lit. means “loving stranger.” It occurs elsewhere only in Tit. 1. 8 and 1 Pet. 4, 9. Christians travelling from one place to another resorted whenever possible to the houses of fellow-believers, so as to avoid association with idolators in the public inns. Hence the need of cultivating hospitality and of setting an example in this respect by overseeing brethren, for others to follow. “It would be hardly possible to exaggerate the share which frequent intercourse, from, a very early stage between the separate congregations, had in moulding the development of the Church. From the first the Christian idea, was to annihilate the separation due to space, and hold the most distant brother as near as the nearest ” (Prof. Ramsay in “The Church in the Roman Empire,” p. 288).
apt to teach,—the word didaktikos is used elsewhere only in 2 Tim, 2. 24. It gives us the word “didactic.” The quality mentioned implies aptitude for imparting knowledge. In the list here mentioned it is the only direct reference to the exercise of spiritual gifts. Not merely a readiness to teach is implied, but the spiritual power to do so as the outcome of prayerful meditation in the Word of God and the practical application of its truth to oneself.
Verse 3. no brawler,—the list of positive qualities in verse 2 is followed by five others in this verse, four of which are negative. Paroinos, translated “given to wine” in the A.V., denotes not simply drunkenness but rather the effects of fondness for the cup, such as impulsiveness, rude self-assertion, and anger, frequent indeed in drunken brawls.
no striker;—plektes (connected with the verb plesso, to smite, found in Rev. 8. 12) represents a common occurrence in brawls, though it has the more general sense here.
but gentle,—epieikes primarily denotes what is seemly, fitting, and hence signifies fair, moderate, forbearing, in contrast to contentiousness. In Tit. 3. 2 it is associated with meekness; in Jas. 3. 17 it is a quality of heavenly wisdom; in 1 Pet. 2. 18 it is associated with “the good”; in Phil, 4. 5, where it is used as a noun with the article, it is rendered “forbearance” (A.V. moderation); Matthew Arnold suggests the rendering, “sweet reasonableness.”
not contentious,—amachos literally means “non-combatant.” It represents the man who is not pugnacious and avoids strife. In Tit. 3. 2 the word and the last are in the opposite order.
no lover of money;—the word aphilarguros is used elsewhere only in Heb. 13. 5; it represents one who has no regard for money simply for money’s sake. The overseer is to be a true follower of Him Who “though He was rich yet for your sakes became poor.”
Verse 4. one that ruleth well his own house,—the verb proistemi, lit. “to stand before”; and hence, to lead, to care for, attend to, has the meaning of presiding overse It is used with reference to the assembly in 5. 17 and Rom. 12. 8. The words “his own” stand in a position of emphasis in the original, and. as in verse 5, are antithetic to “of God.”
having his children in subjection with all gravity;—this does not intimate that an overseer must he a married man whose wife has borne him children; it contemplates what is normal, and represents the ideal condition of the household, an ideal possible where there is a family. The presence of children makes a true home, with this proviso that, in accordance with the fifth commandment, they art maintained in a state of obedience. Subjection to parents is not effected by the exercise of mere rigorous authority; that would contravene what is set forth by the word “well” in the preceding clause.
The word rendered “gravity” was used in verse 2, where see Note. What is inculcated is that seemliness of demeanour, which combines authority with benevolence, and helps children to find a delight in honouring their parents.
Verse 5. (but if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of he church of God?)—the change from “rule” to “take care of” is significant. While the word here translated “rule” is used in 5. 17 with regard to the assembly (see above), yet in this verse there is stress on the devotedness of exercising a loving interest in the real welfare of the members of an assembly. “The well-ordered household, the decent modest behaviour, the reverent, affectionate relations between parents and children, between the master and the dependents,—these things are to be the test of a man’s fitness” for caring for God’s children.
The church of God?—this phrase and its plural. “the churches of God,” are used only of local companies of believers, see Acts 20. 28; 1 Cor. 1. 2; 10. 32; 11. 16, 22; 15. 9; Gal. 1. 13 (where the reference is to the church at Jerusalem); 2 Thess 1. 4. In the present passage, while the term is used in a general way, of any such company (see also verse 15), yet the immediate reference is to the church at Ephesus, where Timothy was at the time. The phrase indicates that each local assembly (ekklesia, a company called out from the world} is God’s possession, just as the phrase “the churches of Christ,” Rom. 16. 16, shows that they are Christ’s possession, being purchased “with His own blood” (Acts 20. 28). In the Divine purpose, as revealed in the N.T., each company is to be under the care of a plurality of elders or overseers, spoken of in this and other passages as “bishops.”
Verse 6. not a novice,—i.e. not a recent convert; the word neophutos, found here only in the N.T, literally signifies “newly planted,” and is so used in the Septuagint, of newly-planted trees, Psalm 144. 12; in Psalm 128. 3 children in a family are spoken of as “young olive-plants.” In the present passage, however, the word refers rather to want of experience than merely to youthfulness. Maturity of experience is not necessarily limited to men of elder years; what is essential is that one whose duty it is to take care of an assembly should have had years of experience in things of God; that is to say, in the practical apprehension of the truths of Scripture and in matters relating to Christian life, as well as in those connected with a local assembly; thus, having been proved, he will be approved of God.
lest being puffed up—tuphoo primarily denoted to wrap in smoke; hence it became used metaphorically of being puffed up or beclouded with pride. Just as smoke blinds the eyes, so pride blinds the spiritual sight as to the will of God, and leads one to act in opposition to Him.
he fall into the condemnation of the devil.—diabolos denotes an accuser or slanderer; the word is not to be understood here, however, as applied to human beings, as some have suggested, but to Satan, as in Matt. 4. 1, 5, 8, 11; 13. 39; 2S. 41, etc. Having lifted himself in pride against God, the Devil fell under condemnation (cp. Ezek. 28. 17). For a novice to undertake the work of overseership, or to be encouraged to do so would involve him in the danger of similar pride and ambition, with its consequent condemnation. The word krima here denotes the sentence pronounced, a verdict.
Verse 7. Moreover-or rather, “but also.”
he must have a good testimony from them that are without;—the preceding verses have spoken of the relation of the overseer to the local church; this verse speaks of his relation to those outside, i.e. to the world. Those “that are without” are careful to observe the moral life of believers, and often are able to form a fairly shrewd and accurate estimate of their real character. It is needful therefore that one who is called to exercise the oversight should exhibit exemplary conduct in this respect.
The word marturia, “testimony” (A.V. “report”), is frequently translated “witness.” and is sometimes rendered “record” in the A.V., where “witness” would always be more suitable, e.g., John 1. 19; 8, 13, 11; 19. 35; 1 John 5. 10, 11; 3 John 12. The word translated “good” is kalos, for which see Note on 1. 8,18; 2. 3 and 3. 1.
lest he fall into reproach—without the preceding qualification, any delinquency on the part of such a person would draw upon him the scorn of the outsider and the sneers especially of those who perhaps knew him in his former manner of life.
and the snare of the devil - This phrase runs parallel to that at the end of verse 6; the two declare, (a) the personality of the Evil One, (b) the fact of his fall and condemnation, (c) and this caused by overweening pride, (d) the fact that he lays snares for men and proceeds to tempt them.
There is a suggestion here also of the danger that one sin exposes the transgressor to another. 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. Hence the necessity of the utmost care in regard to the recognition of any brother as an elder. The special efforts of the spiritual foe are directed against such, and this is intimated in the phrase “the snare of the devil.” The phrase occurs again in. 2 Tim. 2. 26.
Verse 8. Deacons in like manner—the word diakonos primarily denotes a servant, whether as doing servile work or as an attendant rendering free service. It is probably connected with the verb dioko, to hasten after, pursue. It is, generally speaking, to be distinguished from doulos, a bondservant. Diakonos views a servant in relationship to his work; doulos in relationship to his master. There are no specific statements in the N.T, as to the exact functions of deacons in the assemblies. That they are distinct from bishops or elders in clear, both from this passage and from Phil. 1. 1. Their duty was undoubtedly to render service in material things in the assemblies, and especially in regard to the handling of funds. While the men spoken of in Acts 6 are not called deacons, the qualifications there mentioned, and the circumstantial evidences, suggest that their ministry was of a diaconal character. That the word is here mentioned in the plural, in contrast to the singular number used of the bishop in verse 2, affords no intimation that there was one bishop over a church; it suggests perhaps that then: were usually more deacons than elders or bishops. The plurality of elders is made quite clear throughout the Epistles of the N.T. (see the Introductory Note to this chapter, and Notes on verse 1).
The phrase “in like manner” points to the fact that similar requisites were necessary in respect of character and conduct to those regarding an elder. These similar requisites are set out in verses 8 and 9.
must be grave,—the word semnos first denoted venerable, august; then, serious, grave. No English word exactly conveys the meaning of semnos, which combines the thoughts either of gravity and dignity, or, as Moule points out, both of seriousness of purpose and self-respect in conduct.
not double tongued,—the word dilogos is found here only in the Greek Bible; it primarily means “saying the same thing twice,” and hence denotes “saying a thing to one person, and giving a different view of it to another,” or, as Bengel puts it, “saying some things to some men, and other things to others.” Such a habit would mar the usefulness of anyone, especially one who was called upon to discharge the function of a deacon.
not given to much wine,—indicating the necessity of the strictest sobriety and the habit of self-denial.
not greedy of filthy lucre;—see Note on verse 3, where the same word is translated “no lover of money.”
Verse 9. holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. In Scripture a mystery denotes, not the mysterious, as with the English word, but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a. time appointed by God, and to those only who arc illumined by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense a mystery implies knowledge withheld; its Scriptural significance is truth revealed. Hence the terms especially associated, e.g., “made known,” “manifested,” “revealed,” “preached,” “understand,” “dispensation.” The mystery of the faith, then, signifies the spiritual truths or doctrines of Scripture which are made known only to those who believe, who alone can perceive the things revealed.
For the word kathara, pure, see Note on 1. 5, and for the word suneidesis, conscience, see the same verse. A pure conscience is that which has been cleansed by the blood of Christ, Heb. 10. 22, and is exercised to avoid offence towards God and men. Acts 24. 16. One of the special features of this Epistle is the close connection it gives between a good conscience and a sound faith. There is intimation here, too, that the adoption of error in regard to the faith produces defilement of the conscience.
Verse 10. And let these also first be proved;—the verb dokimazo usually signifies to prove with a view to approval. It was often used of metals, as in the Septuagint of Prov. 5. 10 and 17. 3. In Phil. 1. 10 the Apostle prays that the saints may “approve the things that are excellent,” or, as it may be rendered “things that differ,” i.e. approve after distinguishing and discerning. A further important illustration of the meaning is in 1 Thess. 2. 4, where the Apostle and his fellow-missionaries were “approved of God to be in trusted with the gospel” (not “allowed,” as in the A.V.); not permission to preach, but Divine approval after testing, is intended. So with deacons. Before they were appointed to render their service, it was necessary to have evidence that they fulfilled the requisite qualifications mentioned in verses 8, 9, and the qualification at the end of verse 10.
then let them serve as deacons,—the phrase represents one word in the original, lit. “Let them serve.” No previous official scrutiny as to claims is suggested, but simply an appointment to the service, with the recognition of the assembly, upon the evidence of their character and conduct.
if they be blameless.—the word anenkletos signifies that which cannot he called to account, or having nothing laid to one’s charge. In Tit. 1. 6, 7, it is mentioned as a qualification of elders; see also 1 Cor. 1. 8 and Col. 1. 22, where it is rendered “unreproveable.” Cp. the synonymous word anepileptos in verse 2, where see Note.
Verse 11. Women in like manner—there is no article in the original to indicate that the women mentioned here are the wives of deacons, as is indicated by the insertion of the italicised words in the A.V, Whilst, however, this meaning is probable, the alternative reference to women who were recognized by an assembly as discharging certain special duties or undertaking certain responsibilities in connection with the gathering, requires consideration Phoebe mentioned in Rom. 16. 1 is one such, and is there spoken of as “a servant” (diakonos), a word, which could not have been, used here in verse 11, as in the plural it would be exactly the same as the word rendered “deacons.” In each case the qualifications mentioned were necessary for the maintenance of consistent church testimony.
must be grave,—semnos, which is translated “honourable” in the R.V. of Phil. 4. 8, hardly finds an adequate corresponding word in English. Moule gives a good suggestion: “the word points to seriousness of purpose and to self-respect in conduct.”
not slanderers,—diabolos, an accuser, is used in the N.T. 34 times as a title of Satan as the Devil, once of Judas, John 6. 70, who acted the part of the Devil; otherwise it is used only here and in 2 Tim. 3. 3 and Tit. 2. 3, where the A.V, has “false accusers.” The reference is to slanderous gossip or malignant misrepresentations.
temperate,—this is the same word as in verse 2, rendered in each place “sober” in the A.V.
faithful in all things.—this is the fourth occurrence of this word in the Epistle, see 1. 12, I5; 3. 1, R.V. The exhortation is the warning against anything like laxity or superficiality in the discharge of duty-a common snare ever to be guarded against.
Verse 12. Let deacons be husbands of one wife,—see Note on the similar exhortation in verse 2.
ruling their children and their own houses well.—Compare what was said in verse 5. With regard to bishops, stress was laid upon the incompatibility of failure to “rule” one’s own house with “taking care” of the church of God. As to the deacons, theirs is not the responsibility of taking care of the assembly but of discharging duties connected with material circumstances, the handling of finance, etc. In both cases there must be no occasion for reproach on the part of the world. The distribution of money or any other such service for the church calls for men both of strict integrity and of tact and discretion. White overseeing brethren care for the saints, deacons are the representatives of the assembly. If a man’s children grow up to be unruly and insubordinate, it affords a strong presumption that there has been failure in bringing them up. The work both of overseers and deacons involves occupation to some extent in the family circumstances of other people. How needful then that the character of both and of their wives, and the upbringing of their children, be such that the Lord’s Name and the testimony of His people be not brought into dishonour.
Verse 13. For they that have served well as deacons—compare a similar phrase in verse 10. There is nothing in the original about using an office, as in the A.V.
gain to themselves—the verb peripoieo, rendered “purchase” in the A.V., means to gain or get for oneself. It is translated “He hath purchased” in Acts 20. 28.
a good standing,—the primary meaning of bathmos, rendered “degree” in the A.V., is a step. The “standing” referred to would seem to include both the honourable esteem of the assembly on whose behalf they act, and the favour and power bestowed by God in regard to their service and testimony. This latter appears to be borne out by what follows and is in keeping with the Lord’s word, “if any man serve Me, him will the Father honour” (John 12. 26); but the reference here probably looks on to the higher service hereafter, which is the reward of faithful service here; cp. Luke 19. 16, 17.
and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.—the word parrhesia boldness, primarily means freedom of speech unreservedness of utterance; then, the absence of fear in speaking boldly, or, in general, confidence, cheerful courage, without any connection necessarily with speech. For boldness of utterance, compare what is said of Peter and John in Acts 4. 13 and of Stephen in Acts 6. 10, 15.
Some regard the word “faith” here as the exercise of faith or trust in Christ. The definite article is omitted before the noun in the original but is used after the word “faith” and before the phrase, “which is in Christ Jesus.” Thus the meaning would be boldness in their own faith, that, namely, which rests in Christ Jesus, faith being the source of their boldness. Others regard the reference as being to boldness or confidence in making the faith known, the body of Christian doctrine, an unhesitating declaration of the faith, and, in view of what is said in verse 9, that deacons must be those who hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, this would seem to be the meaning here, for they could hardly be expected to hold it without declaring it. Moreover this meaning is not ruled out by the absence of the article before the noun, in view of its use immediately afterwards and of the likelihood of the connection with verse 9, Cp. Eph. 6. 19.