1st Timothy Chapter 3



THE object of this chapter is to give directions respecting the qualifications and duties of the officers of the Christian church. As it is evident that Timothy was to be partly employed in the appointment of suitable officers for the church at Ephesus, and as the kinds of officers here referred to were to be permanent in the church, it was important that a full statement should be put on record, under the influence of inspiration, respecting their qualifications and duties. The chapter embraces the following subjects:—

I. The qualifications of a bishop, 1 Ti 3:1-7. The enumeration of his qualifications is preceded by a general statement that the office was an honourable one, and that he who aspired to it, sought an employment that was, in itself, to be regarded as desirable, 1 Ti 3:1. The qualifications specified for this office, are the following:—

(1.) He must be a man of good private character; possessing and illustrating the Christian virtues, or, as we would say now, an upright man, and a Christian gentleman, 1 Ti 3:2,3.

(2.) He must be a man who ruled his own house well, and who thus showed that he was qualified to preside as the first officer in the church of God, 1 Ti 3:4,5.

(3.) He must be a man of suitable age and experience—one who would not be likely to fall into the temptations that are laid for the young, 1 Ti 3:6.

(4.) He must have a fair reputation among those who were not Christians —as it is intended that the influence of his ministry shall reach them, and as it is impossible to do them good unless he is believed to be a man of integrity, 1 Ti 3:7.

II. The qualifications of deacons, 1 Ti 3:8-10,12,13.

They must be,

(1.) Men of fair character—serious, temperate, candid, 1 Ti 3:8.

(2.) Men who hold to the doctrines of the gospel with a pure conscience, 1 Ti 3:9.

(3.) Men who have been proved, and who have shown that they are qualified to serve the church, 1 Ti 3:10.

(4.) Men whose wives are of such a character that their example will contribute to the promotion of the common cause, 1 Ti 3:11.

(5.) Men not living in polygamy, and who exercise exemplary family government, 1 Ti 3:12,13.

III. The reason why Paul gave these instructions to Timothy, 1 Ti 3:14,15. It was, that he might know how he ought to demean himself in the important station which he was called to occupy. Paul hoped to be able to come to him before long, and to complete the work which he had commenced at Ephesus; but, in the mean time, he gave him these written counsels, that he might understand particularly the duty which was required of him.

IV. The chapter closes with a statement which seems to have been intended to impress the mind of Timothy with the importance of the duties in which he was engaged, 1 Ti 3:15,16. The statement is, that the church is the great defender of the truth in the world, 1 Ti 3:15, and that the truth which the church is to maintain is of the greatest importance. It relates to the incarnation of the Son of God, and to the work which he accomplished on earth—a work which excited the deepest interest in heaven, and the true doctrine respecting which it was of the utmost importance to keep up among men, 1 Ti 3:16. This reason is further urged in the following chapter, by showing that the time would come when, under the influence of Satan, these great doctrines would be denied, and the truth be corrupted and perverted.

Verse 1. This is a true saying. Gr., "Faithful is the word"—the very phrase which is used in 1 Ti 1:15. See Barnes "1 Ti 1:15".

The idea here is, that it was worthy of credence; it was not to be doubted.

If a man desire. Implying that there would be those who would wish to be put into the ministry. The Lord, undoubtedly, by his Spirit, often excites an earnest and irrepressible desire to preach the gospel—a desire so strong, that he in whom it exists can be satisfied in no other calling. In such a case, it should be regarded as one evidence of a call to this work. The apostle, however, by the statements which follow, intimates that wherever this desire exists, it is of the utmost importance to have just views of the nature of the office, and that there should be other qualifications for the ministry than a mere desire to preach the gospel. He proceeds, therefore, to state those qualifications; and no one who "desires" the office of the ministry should conclude that he is called to it, unless these qualifications substantially are found in him. The word rendered desire here, (oregw,) denotes, properly, to reach or stretch out—and hence to reach after anything, to long after, to try to obtain. Heb 11:16.

The office of a bishop. The Greek here is a single word— episkophv. The word episkophepiscoe—whence the word Episcopal is derived—occurs but four times in the New Testament. It is translated visitation in Lu 19:44, and 1 Pe 2:12; bishoprick, Ac 1:20; and, in this place, office of a bishop. The verb from which it is derived, (episkopew) occurs but twice. In Heb 12:15, it is rendered looking diligently; and in 1 Pe 5:2, taking the oversight. The noun rendered bishop, occurs in Ac 20:28; Php 1:1; 1 Ti 3:2; Tit 1:7; 1 Pe 2:25.

The verb means, properly, to look upon, behold; to inspect, to look after, see to, take care of; and the noun denotes the office of overseeing, inspecting, or looking to. It is used to denote the care of the sick, Xeno. Oec. 15, 9; comp. Passow; and is of so general a character, that it may denote any office of overseeing, or attending to. There is nothing in the word itself which would limit it to any class or grade of the ministry; and it is, in fact, applied to nearly all the officers of the church in the New Testament, and, indeed, to Christians who did not sustain any office. Thus it is applied

(a) to believers in general, directing them to "look diligently, lest any one should fail of the grace of God," Heb 12:15;

(b) to the elders of the church at Ephesus, "over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers," Ac 20:28;

(c) to the elders or presbyters of the church in 1 Pe 5:2, "Feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof;"

(d.) to the officers of the church in Philippi, mentioned, in connection with deacons, as the only officers of the church there, "to the saints at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons," Php 1:1;

(e.) to Judas, the apostate, Ac 1:20; and

(f.) to the great Head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Pe 2:25, "the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." From this use of the term it follows,

(1.) That the word is never used to designate the peculiarity of the apostolic office, or so as to have any special applicability to the apostles. Indeed, the term bishop is never applied to any of them in the New Testament; nor is the word in any of its forms ever used with reference to them, except in the single case of Judas, Ac 1:20.

(2.) It is never employed in the New Testament to designate an order of men superior to presbyters, regarded as having any other functions than presbyters, or being in any sense "successors" to the apostles. It is so used now by the advocates of prelacy; but this is a use wholly unknown to the New Testament. It is so undeniable that the name is never given in the New Testament to those who are now called "bishops" that even Episcopalians concede it. Thus, Dr. Onderdonk (Tract on Episcopacy, p. 12) says, "ALL that we read in the New Testament concerning 'bishops' is to be regarded as pertaining to the 'middle grade;' that is, to those who are now regarded as 'priests.'" This is not strictly correct, as is clear from the remarks above respecting what is called the 'middle grade;' but it is strictly correct so far as it affirms that it is never applied to prelates.

(3.) It is used in the New Testament to denote ministers of the gospel who had the care or oversight of the churches, without any regard to grade or rank.

(4.) It has now, as used by Episcopalians, a sense which is wholly unauthorized by the New Testament, and which, indeed, is entirely at variance with the usage there. To apply the term to a pretended superior Order of clergy, as designating their peculiar office, is wholly to depart from the use of the word as it occurs in the Bible.

(5.) As it is never used in the Scriptures with reference to prelates, it should be used with reference to the pastors, or other officers of the church; and to be a pastor or overseer of the flock of Christ, should be regarded as being a scriptural bishop.

He desireth a good work. An honourable office; an office which it is right for a man to desire. There are some stations in life which ought never to be desired; it is proper for any one to desire the office of a bishop who has the proper qualifications. Comp. See Barnes "Ro 11:13".


{a} "bishop" Php 1:1

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