1 Timothy Chapter 3
Verses 1-13: Paul’s purpose in writing this letter was to instruct Timothy regarding the church (verses 14-15). Of primary importance to any church is that its leaders be qualified to teach and set the example for the rest. These verses delineate those qualifications for pastors and deacons (see also notes on Titus 1:5-9).
1 Timothy 3:1 “This [is] a true saying, If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”
“This is a true saying” (see note on 1:15).
“Desire … desireth”: Two different Greek words are used. The first means “to reach out after.” It describes external action, not an internal motive. The second means “a strong passion,” and refers to an inward desire. Taken together, these two words aptly describe the type of man who belongs in the ministry, one who outwardly pursues it because he is driven by a strong internal desire.
“Bishop”: The word identifies the men who are responsible to lead the church (5:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:7). In the New Testament, the words “bishop,” “elder,” “overseer”, and “pastor” are used interchangeably to describe the same men (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-2).
Bishops (pastors, overseer, elders), are responsible to lead (5:17), preach and teach (5:17), help the spiritually weak (1 Thessalonians 5:12-14), care for the church (1 Peter 5:1-2), and ordain other leaders (4:14).
We could render the verse as follows: “This is a reliable statement: if anyone strives for the position of overseer, he desires a noble task” (see the note on Philippians 1:1 for “bishops” and “overseers).”
The pastor, who shepherds today’s church, also fulfils the New Testament role of elder and bishop (overseer), and is responsible to God for the spiritual welfare of the church (Acts 20:28). When Christ returns, He will judge and reward these pastors (elders), according to their faithfulness in leading the church to accomplish God’s will (1 Peter 5:4).
There are at least seven different titles for the New Testament pastor. The term elder is used over 20 times, emphasizing the pastor’s wisdom and maturity. The title bishop emphasizes the administrative function of the office. The word pastor emphasizes the responsibility of caring for the church, as a shepherd cares for the sheep.
The word preacher emphasizes the ministry of publicly proclaiming God’s Word. The title teacher emphasizes that the pastor should be “apt to teach.” The pastor is also called a servant, reminding him that he is to minister to others; and he is a steward, managing the property of others (the church of Christ).
Both Timothy and Titus were pastors of churches started by Paul, who wrote Pastoral Epistles to them.
Christians should be supportive of their pastors, as they attempt to fulfil their biblical ministry (Jeremiah 2:8; 1 Timothy 3:1-7).
1 Timothy 3:2 “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”
“Must” The use of this Greek particle stresses emphatically that living a blameless life is necessary for church leaders.
“Blameless”: Literally “not able to be held” in a criminal sense; there is no valid accusation of wrongdoing that can be made against him. No overt, flagrant sin can mar the life of one who must be an example for this people to follow (verse 10; 4:16; 5:7; Psalm 101:6; Philippians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:3).
This is the overarching requirement for elders. The rest of the qualifications elaborate on what it means to be blameless. Titus (1:6-7), uses another Greek word to mean the same thing.
“The husband of one wife”: Literally in Greek a “one-woman man.” This says nothing about marriage or divorce (for comments on that see verse 4). The issue is not the elder’s marital status, but his moral and sexual purity. This qualification heads the list because it is in this area that leaders are most prone to fail.
Various interpretations of this qualification have been offered. Some see it as a prohibition against polygamy. An unnecessary injunction since polygamy was not common in Roman society and clearly forbidden by Scripture (Gen. 2:24), the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 19:5-6; Mark 10:6-9), and Paul (Ephesians 5:31).
A polygamist could not even have been a church member, let alone a church leader. Others see this requirement as barring those who remarried after the death of their wives. But, as already noted, the issue is sexual purity, not marital status. Further, the Bible encourages remarriage after widowhood (5:14; 1 Corinthians 7:39).
Some believe that Paul here excludes divorced men from church leadership. That again ignores the fact that this qualification does not deal with marital status. Nor does the Bible prohibit all remarriage after divorce (see notes on Matthew 5:31-32; 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15).
Finally, some think that this requirement excludes single men from church leadership. But if that were Paul’s intent, he would have disqualified himself (1 Corinthians 7:8). A “one-woman man” is one totally devoted to his wife, maintaining singular devotion, affection and sexual purity in both thought and deed. To violate this is to forfeit blamelessness and no longer be “above reproach” (Titus 1:6-7; Proverbs 6:32-33).
“Sober”: The Greek word means “wineless,” but is here used metaphorically to mean “alert,” “watchful”, “vigilant” or “clear-headed.” Elders must be able to think clearly.
“Vigilant”: A “vigilant” man is disciplined, knows how to properly order his priorities, and is serious about spiritual matters.
“Good behaviour”: The Greek word means “orderly.” Elders must not lead chaotic lives; if they cannot order their own lives, how can they bring order to the church?
“Hospitality”: From a compound Greek word meaning “love of strangers” (see notes on Rom. 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). As with all spiritual virtues, elders must set the example; their lives and homes are to be open so all can see their spiritual character.
“Apt to teach”: Used only here and (in 2 Timothy 2:24). The only qualification relating to an elder’s giftedness and spiritual ability; and the only one that distinguishes elders from deacons. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word is the overseer/pastor/elder’s primary duty (4:6, 11, 13; 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:15, 24; Titus 2:1).
We see that the leader of the church must be someone who has a very high moral character. “Vigilant” means sober. The reason sober is mentioned twice is, possibly, because it means to be sober in spirit and in flesh.
Given to hospitality is a description of what every Christian should be. You may read of this (in Romans chapter 12 beginning with verse 5). To teach the Word of God is a high calling. The great powers in this world are the written and the spoken Word of God.
1 Timothy 3:3 “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;”
“Not given to wine”: More than a mere prohibition against drunkenness (see note on Eph. 5:18). An elder must not have a reputation as a drinker; his judgment must never be clouded by alcohol (Prov. 31:4-5; 1 Cor. 6:12), his lifestyle must be radically different from the world and lead others to holiness, not sin (Rom. 14:21; see note on 5:23).
“No striker” means not physically violent. Literally not a giver of blows. Elders must react to difficult situations calmly and gently (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
Not greedy” means not fond of dishonest gain. Literally, “not a lover of money”: His main priority is not the acquisition of money. Materialism ill befits one called above all to care for the spiritual welfare of souls.
“Patient” means not quarrelsome, peaceable; that is, does not argue over minor matters or always seeks to have his way. But defers to the wishes of others when no cardinal doctrine or policy is sacrificed.
“Patient”: “Peaceful,” “reluctant to fight”; one who does not promote disunity or disharmony.
“Not a brawler”: Considerate, genial, gracious, quick to pardon failure, and one who does not hold a grudge.
“Not covetous,” These are more things showing that the character of the leader of the church must be an example to the members. Strong drink causes the person drinking to not be able to make sound judgments. Some of the things here mentioned come from losing control of your own will.
Elders must be motivated by love for God and His people, not money (Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2). A leader who is in the ministry for money reveals a heart set on the world, not the things of God (Matt. 6:24; 1 John 2:15). Covetousness characterizes false teachers (1Titus 1:11; 2 Peter 2:1-3, 14; Jude 11), but not Paul’s ministry (Acts 20:33; 1 Corinthians 9:1-16; 2 Corinthians 11:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:5).
We should be careful to note (not greedy for filthy lucre). Greed for money has been the downfall of many. To covet is specifically spoken against in the 10 commandments. When you want anything that belongs to someone else, you are coveting.
Fighting should not be part of the minister’s vocabulary. These things go against a tender kind, the patient spirit that the minister needs.
1 Timothy 3:4 “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;”
“One that ruleth well his own house”: The elder’s home life, like his personal life, must be exemplary. He must be one who “manages” (presides over, has authority over), “his own household” (everything connected with his home, not merely his wife and children), “well” (intrinsically good; excellently).
Issues of divorce should be related to this matter A divorced man gives no evidence of a well-managed home, but rather that divorce shows weakness in his spiritual leadership. If there has been a biblically permitted divorce, it must have been so far in the past as to have been overcome by a long pattern of solid family leadership and the rearing of godly children (verse 4, Titus 1:6).
“In subjection”: A military term referring to soldiers ranked under one in authority. An elder’s children must be believers (see note on “faithful” in Titus 1:6), well-behaved, and respectful.
“Ruleth well, his own house” means that he manages his family rightly. “Having his children in subjection” means that he brings about “with all gravity” (in a dignified manner), obedience in his children.
The leadership that the minister would need to lead the church members should be evident in the home, as well. Children obey your parents. Parents, make your children obey you.
1 Timothy 3:5 “(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)”
“Take care of the church of God”: An elder must first prove in the intimacy and exposure of his own home his ability to lead others to salvation and sanctification. There he proves God has gifted him uniquely to spiritually set the example of virtue, to serve others, resolve conflicts, build unity and maintain love.
If he cannot do those essential things there, why would anyone assume he would be able to do them in the church?
Paul’s reasoning is from the lesser to the greater: a man poorly managing his own family is incapable of giving proper leadership to the church family.
This just means that someone who cannot take care of his own personal affairs should not be the leader of the church, because he has proven that he is not leadership material.
1 Timothy 3:6 “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he falls into the condemnation of the devil.”
Not a novice … lifted up with pride”: Putting a new convert into a leadership role would tempt him to pride. Elders, therefore, are to be drawn from the spiritually mature men of the congregation (see notes on 5:22).
“Fall into the condemnation of the devil”: Satan’s condemnation was due to pride over his position. It resulted in his fall from honour and authority (Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:11-19; Prov. 16:18). The same kind of fall and judgment could easily happen to a new and weak believer put in a position of spiritual leadership.
“Not a novice:” He is not a new convert or young Christian. We may render the last part of the verse: “lest, being conceited, he fall into judgment incurred by the Devil.” As Satan fell through pride, similarly a neophyte could be ruined by pride after being promoted to leadership too swiftly.
This would be someone who had not been grounded in the Word of God. This would be someone who wanted this job for the power to rule over others.
A novice means newly planted. A tree that has been recently planted does not have deep solid roots. The roots that are necessary to lead a church would be grounded solidly in the Word of God. Winds of false doctrine would not be able to uproot him, because he would be solidly planted (over much time), in the teachings of the Word of God.
Lucifer fell to the temptation of pride. This is possible, what is meant here.
1 Timothy 3:7 “Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he falls into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
“A good report”: A leader in the church must have an unimpeachable reputation in the unbelieving community, even though people there may disagree with his moral and theological stands. How can he make a spiritual impact on those who do not respect him? (Matthew 5:48; Philippians 2:15).
The overseer must not be the object of justified criticism (Luke 6:26), by non-Christians (“them that are without”). Otherwise, he is likely to become a target for “reproach” or “disgrace”, “and the snare” sprung by “the devil.”
“The devil goes around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”. All eyes will be on the leader of the church. The leader of the church must live without even giving the appearance of evil. Any misconduct upon the part of the leader opens the gate for the devil to deceive the members.
Paul had said before, to follow him as he followed Jesus. This should be the pattern of all who minister. They should live a life free from sin.
Verses 8-13: The word deacon derives from a Greek word for a servant; hence, the deacons are a serving officer in the church. In order to free the apostles for the more important duties of prayer and ministry of the word, seven men were appointed to care for the church. These are generally thought to have been deacons (Acts 6:1-4).
While there is no “job description” for a servant, the nature of a deacon’s qualifications gives insight into his duties (Acts 6:1-8; 1 Timothy 3:8-13).
The first deacons performed routine labours in the church and were responsible for promoting harmony among various groups within the assembly. Deacons may also have served in an advisory capacity, and they engaged in spiritual ministries, including preaching and church planting.
In one sense, every Christian should act as a deacon in encouraging church harmony and helping others serve Christ more effectively (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13; Ephesians 4:11).
1 Timothy 3:8 “Likewise [must] the deacons [be] grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;”
“Deacons”: from a word group meaning “to serve”. Originally referring to menial tasks such as waiting on tables (see notes on Acts 6:1-4), “deacon” come to denote any service in the church.
Deacons serve under the leadership of elders, helping them exercise oversight in the practical matters of church life. Scripture defines no official or specific responsibilities for deacons; they are to do whatever the elders assign them or whatever spiritual ministry is necessary.
“Must be grave”: Serious in mind and character; not silly or flippant about important matters and worthy of respect.
“Not double-tongued” means saying the same thing to one party as to the other. Their speech must not be hypocritical, but honest and consistent.
“Not given to much wine”: Not preoccupied with a drink (see note on verse 3).
“Not greedy of filthy lucre” means not being fond of dishonest financial profits. The same word is used (in verse 3). Deacons must not abuse their office to make money. Such a qualification was especially important in the early church, where deacons routinely handled money, distributing it to those in need.
When we think of someone who is double-tongued, we think of a two-faced person. They are unstable in all of their ways. They cannot be trusted, because they say whatever is convenient to say at the time, whether it is true or not. We see from the description above that this person needs to be in full control of his thoughts at all-time (not given too much drink).
Greed certainly must not be a character trait of a deacon. One of the jobs of the deacon of the church is to see to the financial needs of the church. The minister should not be involved with raising money for the church to function on. That is the job of the deacon.
The minister should be interested in the souls of the people. His time should be spent in prayer and the study of the Word of God. He is like the shepherd who sees to the need of the flock.
1 Timothy 3:9 “Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.”
“The mystery” (see notes on Matthew 13:11; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:4-5). Appearing frequently in Paul’s writings (Romans 11:25; 16:25; Ephesians 1:9; 3:9; 6:19; Colossians 2:2), the word “mystery”, describes truth previously hidden but now revealed.
Including Christ’s incarnation (verse 16), Christ’s indwelling of believers (Corinthians 1:26-27), the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the church (Ephesians 3:4-6), the gospel (Colossians 4:3), lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:7), and the rapture of the church (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
“A pure conscience” (see note on 1:5).
“Holding the mystery of the faith:” As capable apologists and defenders, deacons must preserve the truth as God revealed it.
What is a mystery? Something not understood. We know that Jesus opened our understanding of the mystery of God when He sent the Holy Spirit to instruct us into all Truth. A Christian with a clear conscience is one who is allowing Christ in them to live through them.
A pure conscience is one not worried over whether you are doing right, or wrong. You know you are doing right because you have turned your will over to the Lord.
1 Timothy 3:10 “And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being [found] blameless.”
“First be proved”: The present tense of this verb indicates an ongoing evaluation of deacons’ character and service by the church.
“Found blameless” (see note on verse 2).
The verse may be translated, “and let these too, first be examined; then let them serve as a deacon, if found blameless.” This probably refers not to a probationary period, but to an examination of the required qualities of character. The word “too” implies that this requirement applies also to overseers (elders).
Some ministers will not let anyone serve as a deacon until they have attended their church for several years. This is so they can get to know them, and find out how they react in a time of crisis. The deacon must be of very high moral character. He must be of such a nature that he will be an upright representative of the church.
Before he is given this office there must be an examination of his character so there will not be something come up unexpectedly in the future. When found of high moral character, and then he should be awarded the job of deacon.
1 Timothy 3:11 “Even so [must their] wives [be] grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.”
Paul likely here refers not to deacons’ wives, but to the women who serve as deacons. The use of the word “likewise” (verse 8), suggests a third group in addition to elders and deacons. Also, since Paul gave no requirements for elders’ wives, there is no reason to assume these would be qualifications for deacons’ wives.
“Grave” (see note on verse 8).
“Not slanderers”: Or Malicious gossips. “Malicious gossips are a plural form of diabolos, a title frequently given to Satan (Matthew 4:5, 8, 11; 13:39; Luke 4:3, 5-6, 13; 8:12; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 2:10; 12:9, 12; 20:2, 10). The women who serve must not be slanderous and malicious in their speech.
“Sober” (see note on verse 2).
“Faithful in all things”: Women servants in the church, like their male counterparts (see note on verse 2), must be absolutely trustworthy in all aspects of their lives and ministries.
We see in this, that the entire family must be godly people for the husband to be a deacon. It is always important for the husband and wife to be totally agreed before a married person answers the call to serve God. It would be impossible to serve the way it is necessary to serve, without this agreement.
There are requirements pertaining to the entire family when one serves the Lord. Husbands and wives are one in the flesh, so it is absolutely necessary for them to agree. They must both be of very high character.
1 Timothy 3:12 “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.”
“Husbands of one wife” (see note on verse 2).
“Ruling their children and their own houses” (see note on verse 4).
Again, we see the necessity for the home to be on solid ground before one is called to serve. To be in leadership in the church, it is important to show your leadership in the family first.
1 Timothy 3:13 “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.”
The verse may be translated, “For they who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and much joyful confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” This “good standing” is spiritual progress acquired by faithful church service.
It is especially important for the deacon to be bold in the Lord since he is responsible for seeing to the needs of the church. We do know that men who are chosen out for this job have a big task to do. Their faith in Christ Jesus is extremely important. They must believe in the work that is going on, to be able to feel free to work to keep it going.
Verses 14-16: These verses mark a transition point between the positive instruction of the first 3 chapters and the warnings of the last 3. They reveal the heart of the church’s mission (verse 15), and message (verse 16).
In (verses 14-15): “Hoping to come unto thee shortly”: The Greek grammar suggests Paul’s meaning is “These things I write, although I had hoped to come to you sooner.” Delayed in Macedonia, Paul sent Timothy this letter.
1 Timothy 3:14 “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:”
Paul loved Timothy, and really wanted to be with him. We think why did Paul not go if he wanted to? The answer is that Paul followed the will of God, not what he desired to do in the flesh.
1 Timothy 3:15 “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.”
“How thou oughtest to behave thyself”: The second half of this verse expresses the theme of this epistle, setting things right in the church.
“House of God”: Believers are members of God’s household (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 4:17), and must act accordingly. This is not a reference to any building, but to the people who make up the true church.
“Church of the living God”: The church is God’s possession (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:14; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). The title “the living God” has a rich Old Testament heritage (Deuteronomy 5:26; Joshua 3:10; 1 Samuel 17:26, 36; 2 Kings 19:4, 16; Psalms 42:4; 84:2; Isaiah 37:4, 17; Jerimiah 10:10; 23:26; Daniel 6:20, 26; Hosea 1:10).
“Pillar and ground”: Paul’s imagery may have referred to the magnificent temple of Diana (Artemis), in Ephesus, which was supported by 127 gold-plated marble pillars. The word translated “support” appears only here in the New Testament and denotes the foundation on which a building rests. The church upholds the truth of God’s revealed Word.
“The truth”: The content of the Christian faith recorded in Scripture and summed up (in verse 16).
If Paul should delay (“tarry long”), in visiting Timothy, this epistle instructs him how he must “behave” himself “in the house of God.” That is, how to properly order his personal conduct in the church, and how to manage church affairs as a leader.
Timothy must comply with Paul’s directions because “the church’ belongs to “God” and is “the pillar” [support] “and ground” [foundation] “of the truth”. If church members and affairs do not conform to the standards set forth in this epistle, the bulwark of the truth (the church), will be seriously undermined.
Paul was aware that he might not be able to go and tell Timothy personally all the things he wanted him to know. The letter would bring instructions to this young minister from his teacher, Paul. We see in this letter, that the meeting place of the believers in Christ was spoken of as the church of the living God.
The Word “living” says a lot in itself. It means that Christians believe the Lord Jesus Christ is alive. We believe he rose from the grave. Paul is explaining to Timothy that he must behave in such a way as to be an example for the others on how they should live. The church is to be the pillar and the truth in this world.
1 Timothy 3:16 “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.”
This verse contains part of an early church hymn, as its uniformity, rhythm, and parallelism indicate. Its 6 lines from a concise summary of the truth of the gospel.
“Mystery of godliness”: “Mystery” is that term used by Paul to indicate truth hidden in the Old Testament age and revealed in the New Testament (see note on verse 9). “Godliness” refers to the truths of salvation and righteousness in Christ, which produce holiness in believers; namely, the manifestation of true and perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ.
“God … manifest”: This reference is clearly to Christ, who manifested the invisible God to mankind (John 1-4; 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 2 Peter 1:16-18).
“In the flesh”: Not sinful, fallen human nature here (Romans 17:18, 25; 8:8; Galatians 5:16-17), but merely humanness (John 1:14; Romans 1:3; 8:3; 9:5; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7).
“Justified in the Spirit”: “Justified” means “righteous”, so that “spirit” may be written with lower case “S”, indicating a declaration of Christ’s sinless spiritual righteousness (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 5:9; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:21-22; 1 John 2:1), or it could refer to His vindication by the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4).
“Preached unto the Gentiles” (see Matthew 24:14; 26:13; 28:19-20; Mark 13:10; Acts 1:8).
“Received up into glory” (see Acts 1:9-10; Philippians 2:8-11; Hebrews 1:3). Christ’s ascension and exaltation showed that the Father was pleased with Him and accepted His work fully.
Should he fail to do so, the heralding of the Christian faith will be hindered. “God was manifest in the flesh:” Jesus was revealed in human form. “Justified in the Spirit:” The Holy Spirit vindicated Jesus in that His true nature was disclosed and His messianic claims substantiated.
“Seen of angels”: They witnessed Jesus’ whole earthly career. “Preached unto the Gentiles:” The gospel of Jesus has been proclaimed to the nations. “Believed on in the world:” Multitudes have accepted the gospel by trusting in Jesus. “Received up into glory:” Jesus was divinely taken back into heaven.
The mystery of godliness was revealed by Jesus Christ to His followers. The veil to the Scriptures was removed. The Spirit of God opens the understanding of the believers to the godliness, which is still a mystery to those of the world who do not accept Jesus as Saviour.
God the Word took on the form of flesh and dwelt among us. His body was crucified on the cross for our sins. He preached the good news of the gospel 40 days on the earth before He went back to heaven. In the book of Acts, we read about his heavenward journey.
Acts 1:9-11 “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
The great promise, to me, is what the angels told the disciples as they saw Him going up.
“And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;” “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”