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1 Timothy 3:1-7

1. This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

1. Certus sermo, si quis episcopatum appetit, praeclarum opus desiderat.

2. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

2. Oportet ergo Episcopum irreprehensibilem esse, unius uxoris maritum, sobrium, temperantem, compositum, (vel, honestum,) hospitalem, aptum ad docendum.

3. Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

3. Non vinolentum, (vel, ferocem,) non percussorem, non turpiter lucri cupidum, sed aequum, alienum a pugnis, alienum ab avaritia.

4. One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

4. Qui domui suae bene praesit, qui filios habeat in subjectione, cum omni reverentia.

5. (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

5. Quodsi quis propriae domui praeesse non novit, ecclesiam Dei quomodo curabit?

6. Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

6. Non novicium, ne inflatus in condemnationem incidat diaboli.

7. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

7. Oportet autem illum et bonum testimonium habere ab extraneis, ne in probum incidat et laqueum diaboli.

1 It is a true saying Chrysostom thinks, that this is the conclusion of the preceding doctrine. But I do not approve of the opinion; for Paul commonly makes use of this form of expression as a prelude to what he is about to introduce, Besides, in the former discourse there was no need of so strong an affirmation; but what he is now about to say, is somewhat more weighty. Let these words, therefore, be received as a preface intended to point out the importance of the subject; for Paul now begins a new discourse about ordaining pastors, and appointing the government of the Church.

If any one desireth the office of a bishop 4646     “Ou, Si aucun a affection d’estre evesque.” — “Or, If any one hath a desire to be a bishop.” Having forbidden women to teach, he now takes occasion to speak of the office of a bishop. First, that it may be more clearly seen that it was not without reason that he refused to allow women to undertake so arduous a work; secondly, that it might not be thought that, by excluding women only, he admitted all men indiscriminately; and, thirdly, because it was highly proper that Timothy and others should be reminded what conscientious watchfulness ought to be used in the election of bishops. Thus the context, in my opinion, is as if Paul had said, that so far are women from being fit for undertaking so excellent an office, that not even men ought to be admitted into it without distinction.

He desireth an excellent work The Apostle affirms that this is no inconsiderable work, such as any man might venture to undertake. When he says that it is καλός, I have no doubt that he alludes to the ancient Greek proverb, often quoted by Plato, δύσκολα τὰ καλά, which means that “those things which are excellent, are also arduous and difficult;” and thus he unites difficulty with excellence, or rather he argues thus, that it does not belong to every person to discharge the office of a bishop, because it is a thing of great value.

I think that Paul’s meaning is now sufficiently clear; though none of the commentators, so far as I perceive, have understood it. The general meaning is, that a selection ought to be made in admitting bishops, because it is a laborious and difficult charge; and that they who aim at it should carefully consider with themselves, whether or not they were able to bear so heavy a burden. Ignorance is always rash; and a mature knowledge of things makes a man modest. How comes it that they who have neither ability nor wisdom often aspire so confidently to hold the reins of government, but because they rush forward with their eyes shut? On this subject Quintilian remarked, that the ignorant speak boldly, while the greatest orators tremble.

For the purpose of restraining such rashness in desiring the office of a bishop, Paul states, first, that this is not an indolent rank, but a work; and next, that it is not any kind of work, but excellent, and therefore toilsome and full of difficulty, as it actually is. It is no light matter to be a representative of the Son of God, in discharging an office of such magnitude, the object of which is to erect and extend the kingdom of God, to procure the salvation of souls which the Lord himself hath purchased with his own blood, and to govern the Church, which is God’s inheritance. But it is not my intention at present to make a sermon, and Paul will again glance at this subject in the next chapter.

Here a question arises: “Is it lawful, in any way, to desire the office of a bishop?” On the one hand, it appears to be highly improper for any one to anticipate, by his wish, the calling of God, and yet Paul, while he censures a rash desire, seems to permit it to be desired with prudence and modesty. I reply, if ambition is condemned in other matters, much more severely ought it to be condemned in “the office of a bishop.” But Paul speaks of a godly desire, by which holy men wish to employ that knowledge of doctrine which they possess for the edification of the Church. For, if it were altogether unlawful to desire the office of a teacher, why should they who spend all their youth in reading the Holy Scriptures prepare themselves by learning? What are the theological schools but nurseries of pastors?

Accordingly, they who have been thus instructed not only may lawfully devote themselves and their labors to God by a voluntary offering, but even ought to do so, and that too, before they have been admitted unto the office; provided that, nevertheless, they do not thrust themselves forward, and do not, even by their own wish, make themselves bishops, but are only ready to discharge the office, if their labors shall be required. And if it turn out that, according to the lawful order; they are not called, let them know that such was the will of God, and let them not take it in that others have been preferred to them. But they who, without any selfish motive, shall have no other wish than to serve God and the Church, will be affected in this manner; and, at the same time, will have such modesty that they will not be at all envious, if others be preferred to them as being more worthy.

If any one object, that the government of the Church is a matter of so great difficulty, that it ought rather to strike terror into the minds of persons of sound judgment than to excite them to desire it. I reply, that the desire of great men does not rest on confidence of their own industry or virtue, but on the assistance of

“God, from whom is our sufficiency,”

as Paul says elsewhere. (2 Corinthians 3:5.) At the same time, it is necessary to observe what it is that Paul calls “the office of a bishop;” and so much the more, because the ancients were led away, by the custom of their times, from the true meaning; for, while Paul includes generally all pastors, they understand a bishop to be one who was elected out of each college to preside over his brethren. Let us remember, therefore, that this word is of the same import as if he had called them ministers, or pastors, or presbyters. 4747     “Let us know that the Holy Spirit, speaking of those who are ordained ministers of the word of God, and who are elected to govern the Church, calls them Pastors. And why? Because God wishes us to be a flock of sheep, to be guided by him, hearing his voice, following his guidance, and living peaceably. Since, therefore the Church is compared to a flock, they who have the charge of guiding the Church by the word of God are called Pastors. And next, the word Pastor means Elder not by age, but by of office: as, at all times, they who govern have been called Elders, even among heathen nations. Now the Holy Spirit has retained this metaphor, giving the name Elder to those who are chosen to proclaim the word of God. He likewise calls them Bishops, that is persons who watch over the flock to show that it is not a rank unaccompanied by active exertion, when a man is called to that office, and that he must not make an idol of it, but must know that he is sent to obtain the salvation of souls, and must be employed, and watch, and labor, for that purpose. We see then the reason of these words; and since the Holy Spirit hath given them to us, we must retain them, provided that they be applied to a good and holy use.” — Fr. Ser.

2 A bishop, therefore, must be blameless The particle therefore confirms the exposition which I have given; for, on account of the dignity of the office, he concludes that it is requisite that he be a man endowed with rare gifts, and not any person taken out of the crowd. 4848     “Et non pas le premier qui se pourroit presenter.” — “And not the first that might offer himself.” If the expression used had been “a good work,” as the ordinary translation has it, or “an honorable work,” (honestam,) as Erasmus has translated it, the inference would not have been suitable.

He wishes a bishop to be blameless, 4949     ᾿Ανεπίληπτον — “This is properly an antagonistic term, signifying, ‘one who gives his adversary no hold upon him;’ but it is often (as here) applied metaphorically to one who gives others no cause justly to accuse him. So Thucydides, v. 17, τοῖς ἐχθροῖς ἀνεπίληπτον εἶναι. “Such (says a celebrated writer) is the perfect purity of our religion, such the innocence and virtue which it exacts, that he must be a very good man indeed who lives up to it.” And when we consider the still greater requirements in a teacher of religion, (who is to be an example to others,) and reflect on the injury done to religion through the side of false professors, how much reason will there appear that such a one should be, as the apostle says, blameless.” — Broomfield. instead of which, in the Epistle to Titus, He has used (Titus 1:7) the word ἀνέγκλητον, meaning by both words, that he must not be marked by any infamy that would lessen his authority. There will be no one found among men that is free from every vice; but it is one thing to be blemished with ordinary vices, which do not hurt the reputation, because they are found in men of the highest excellence, and another thing to have a disgraceful name, or to be stained with any baseness. In order, therefore, that a bishop may not be without authority, he enjoins that there shall be made a selection of one who has a good and honorable reputation, and not chargeable with any remarkable vice. Besides, he does not merely lay down a rule for Timothy what sort of person he must select, but likewise reminds every one of those who aspire to that rank, to institute a careful examination of himself and of his life.

The husband of one wife. It is a childish fancy to interpret this as meaning “the pastor of a single church.” Another other exposition has been more generally received, that the person set apart to that office must be one who has not been more than once married, that one wife being since dead, so that now he is not a married man. But both in this passage and in Titus 1:6, the words of the apostle are, “Who is,” and not “Who hath been;” and in this very Epistle, where he treats of widows, (1 Timothy 3:10,) he expressly makes use of the participle of the past tense. Besides, in this way he would contradict himself; because elsewhere he declares that he has no wish to lay a snare on the consciences.

The only true exposition, therefore, is that of Chrysostom, that in a bishop he expressly condemns polygamy, 5050     “Qu’il condamne en l’Evesque d’avoir deux femmes ensemble vivantes.” — “That he condemns in a bishop the having two wives living at the same time.” which at that time the Jews almost reckoned to be lawful. This corruption was borrowed by them partly from sinful imitation of the Fathers, (for they who read that Abraham, Jacob, David, and others of the same class, were married to more wives than one at the same time, thought that it was lawful for them also to do the same) and partly from neighboring nations; for the inhabitants of the East never observed that conscientiousness and fidelity in marriage which was proper. However that might be, polygamy was exceedingly prevalent among them; 5151     “La polygamie estoit une chose toute commune entre les Juifs.” — “Polygamy was a thing quite common among the Jews.” and therefore with great propriety does Paul enjoin that a bishop should be free from this stain.

And yet I do not disapprove of the opinion of those who think that the Holy Spirit intended to guard against the diabolical superstition which afterwards arose; as if he had said, “So far is it from being right and proper that celibacy should be enforced on bishops, that marriage is a state highly becoming in all believers.” In this way, he would not demand it as a thing necessary for them, but would only praise it as not inconsistent with the dignity of the office. Yet the view which I have already given is more simple and more solid, that Paul forbids polygamy in all who hold the office of a bishop, because it is a mark of an unchaste man, and of one who does not observe conjugal fidelity.

But there it might be objected, that what is sinful in all ought not to have been condemned or forbidden in bishops alone. The answer is easy. When it is expressly prohibited to bishops, it does not therefore follow that it is freely allowed to others. Beyond all doubt, Paul condemned universally what was contrary to an unrepealed law of God; for it is a settled enactment,

“They shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24.)

But he might, to some extent, bear with that in others which, in a bishop, would have been excessively vile, and therefore not to be endured.

Nor is this a law laid down for the future, that no bishop, who already has one wife, shall marry a second or a third, while the first wife is still living; but Paul excludes from the office of a bishop any one who shall be guilty of such an enormity. Accordingly, what had been once done, and could not be corrected, he reluctantly endures, but only in the common people. For what was the remedy for those who, under Judaism, had fallen into the snare of polygamy? Should they have divorced their second and third wives? Such a divorce would not have been free from doing wrong. Since, therefore, the deed was done, and could not be undone, he left it untouched, but with this exception, that no bishop should be blemished by such a stain.

Sober, temperate, modest The word which we have translated sober, Erasmus has translated (vigilantem) watchful. As the Greek word νηφάλεος 5252     “Νηφάλιον, ‘vigilant or circumspect.’ In which sense the word occurs in the later writers; as, for instance, Phavorinus. The force of the word is well expressed by the Pesch. Syr., ‘mente sit vigilanti’ Instead of νηφάλιον, (the reading of many of the best MSS. and all the early editions,) νηφάλεον was introduced by Beza, but without any sufficient reason; and the former has been rightly restored by Wetstein, Griesbach, Matthaei, Tittnhann, and Vater. Here, then, we have a quality suggested by the very term ἐπίσχοπος, which imports vigilant superintendence.” — Bloomfield. admits of either signification, the readers may make their own choice. I have preferred to translate σώφρονα, temperate, instead of sober, because σωφροσύνη has a more extensive meaning than sobriety. Modest means one who conducts himself with decency and propriety.

Hospitable 5353     “Recueillant volontiers les estrangers;” — “Willingly entertaining strangers.” The “hospitality” here spoken of, is toward strangers, and this was very common among the ancients; for it would have been reckoned disgraceful for respectable persons, and especially for those who were well known, to lodge in taverns. In the present day, the state of matters is different; but this virtue is and always will be highly necessary in a bishop, for many reasons. Besides, during the cruel persecution of the godly, many persons must have been constrained frequently to change their habitation; and therefore it was necessary that the houses of bishops should be a retreat for the exiles. In those times hard necessity compelled the churches to afford mutual aid, so that they gave lodgings to one another. Now, if the bishops had not pointed out the path to others in this department of duty, the greater part, following their example, would have neglected the exercise of humanity, and thus the poor fugitives would have been greatly discouraged. 5454     “Let every one know that the virtues which are here required in all ministers of the word of God, are in order to give an example to the flock. It is highly proper for every one to know that, when it is said that ministers should be wise, temperate, and of good moral behavior, it is in order that others may be conformed to their example; for it is not for three or four only, but for all in general, that these things are said. This is the way in which the example of men must be profitable to us, so far as they shall conduct themselves properly, according to the will of God. And if they depart from that will ever so little, we must not yield to them such authority as to follow them on that account; but we must attend to what Paul says, that we ought to follow men so far as they are entirely conformed to the pure word of God, and are imitators of Jesus Christ, to lead us in the right way.” — Fr. Ser.

Able to teach In the epistle to Titus, doctrine is expressly mentioned; here he only speaks briefly about skill in communicating instruction. It is not enough to have profound learning, if it be not accompanied by talent for teaching. There are many who, either because their utterance is defective, or because they have not good mental abilities, or because they do not employ that familiar language which is adapted to the common people, keep within their own minds the knowledge which they possess. Such persons, as the phrase is, ought to Sing to themselves and to the muses. 5555     “Il faut que tels s’employent a autre chose.” — “Such persons ought to be employed in something else.” They who have the charge of governing the people, ought to be qualified for teaching. And here he does not demand volubility of tongue, for we see many persons whose fluent talk is not fitted for edification; but he rather commends wisdom in applying the word of God judiciously to the advantage of the people.

It is worth while to consider how the Papists hold that the injunctions which the apostle gives do not at all belong to them. I shall not enter into a minute explanation of all the details; but on this one point what sort of diligence do they observe? And, indeed, that gift would be superfluous; for they banish from themselves the ministry of teaching as low and groveling, although this belonged especially to a bishop. But everybody knows how far it is from observing Paul’s rule, to assume the title of bishop, and boast proudly of enacting a character without speaking, provided only that they make their appearance in a theatrical dress. As if a horned mitre, a ring richly set in jewels, or a silver cross, and other trifles, accompanied by idle display, constituted the spiritual government of a church, which can no more be separated from doctrine than any one of us can be separated from his own soul.

3 Not addicted to wine. By the word πάροινον, 5656     “Some expositors, ancient and modern, take this to be equivalent to ὑβριστὴν or αὐθάδη; which is, indeed, much countenanced by three vices in this clause, standing opposed to the three virtues in the next. But considering that we have at 1 Timothy 3:8 the expression μή οἴνῳ προσέχοντας used of the deacons, here at least the physical sense must be included; and, according to every principle of correct exegesis, it must stand first. In the word πάροινος, the παρὰ means beyond, denoting excess. So the expression in Habakkuk 2:5, ‘he transgresseth by wine.” — Bloomfield. which is here used, the Greeks denote not merely drunkenness, but any intemperance in guzzling wine. And, indeed, to drink wine excessively is not only very unbecoming in a pastor, but commonly draws along with it many things still worse; such as quarrels, foolish attitudes, unchaste conduct, and other things which it is not necessary to describe. But the contrast which is added shortly afterwards, shews that Paul goes farther than this.

Not a striker, not wickedly desirous of gain 5757     “Ne convoiteux de gain deshonneste.” — “Not covetous of dishonourable gain.” As he contrasts with “a striker” one who is not quarrelsome, and with him who is covetous of dishonest gain (ἀφιλάργυρον) one who is not covetous, so with τῷ παροίνῳ, him who is addicted to wine, he contrasts one who is gentle or kind. The true interpretation is that which is given by Chrysostom, that men of a drunken and fierce disposition ought to be excluded from the office of a bishop. As to the opinion given by Chrysostom, that “a striker” means one who wounds with the tongue, (that is, who is guilty of slander or of outrageous reproaches,) I do not admit it. Nor am I moved by his argument, that it will be no great matter, if the bishop do not strike with the hand; for I think that here he reproves generally that fierceness which is often found in the military profession, and which is utterly unbecoming in the servants of Christ. It is well known to what ridicule they expose themselves, who are more ready to strike a blow with the fist, and — we might even say — to draw the sword, than to settle the disputes of others by their own sedate behavior. Strikers is therefore the term which he applies to those who deal much in threatenings, and are of a warlike temperament.

All covetous persons are wickedly desirous of gain; for, wherever covetousness is, there will also be that baseness of which the apostle speaks. “He who wishes to become rich wishes also to become rich soon.” 5858     “Dives fieri qui vult, Et cito vult fieri.” — Juvenal. The consequence is, that all covetous persons, even though this is not openly manifest, apply their minds to dishonest and unlawful gains. Accordingly, he contrasts with this vice the contempt of money; as there is no other remedy by which it can be corrected. He who will not patiently and mildly endure poverty will never escape the disease of mean and sordid covetousness.

Mild and not quarrelsome He contrasts with “the striker” the man who is “not quarrelsome.” Mild — which, we have said, is contrasted with being “addicted to wine” — is the term applied to him who knows how to bear injuries with a gentle and moderate disposition, who forgives much, who passes by insults, who neither makes himself be dreaded through harsh severity, nor exacts with full rigor. Not quarrelsome, one who avoids disputes and quarrels; for, as he elsewhere writes,

“the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome.”
(2 Timothy 2:24.)

4 Who ruleth well his own house Hence it is evident, that Paul does not demand that a bishop shall be unacquainted within human life, 5959     “Que I’Evesque ne sache que c’est de vivre au Monde.” — “That the bishop shall not know what it is to live in the world.” but that he shall be a good and praiseworthy master of a household; for, whatever may be the admiration commonly entertained for celibacy and a philosophical life altogether removed from ordinary custom, yet wise and thoughtful men are convinced by experience, that they who are not ignorant of ordinary life, but are practiced in the duties of human intercourse, are better trained and adapted for governing the Church. And, therefore, we ought to observe the reason which is added, (1 Timothy 3:5,) that he who does not know how to rule his family, Will not be qualified for governing the Church. Now, this is the case with very many persons, and indeed with almost all who have been drawn out of an idle and solitary life, 6060     “C’est a dire, de la moinerie.” — “That is, from monkhood.” as out of dens and caverns; for they are a sort of savages and destitute of humanity.

Who hath his children in subjection with, all reverence The apostle does not recommend a clever man, and deeply skilled in domestic matters, but one who has learned to govern a family by wholesome discipline. He speaks chiefly of children, who may be expected to possess the natural disposition of their father; and therefore it will be a great disgrace to a bishop, if he has children who lead a wicked and scandalous life. As to wives, he will speak of them afterwards; but at present, as I have said, he glances at the most important part of a house.

In the Epistle to Titus, (Titus 1:6,) he shows what is here meant by the word reverence; for, after having said that the children of a bishop must not be unruly and disobedient, he likewise adds,

“nor liable to the reproach of profligacy or of intemperance.”

He therefore means, in a word, that their morals shall be regulated by all chastity, modesty, and gravity.

5 And if any one know not how to rule his own house 6161     “The house of a believer ought to be like a little church. Heathens, who did not know what a church is, said that a house is but an image and figure of any public government. A poor man, living with his wife and children and servants, ought to be in his house like a public governor; but Christians ought to go beyond this. Every father of a family should know that God has appointed him to that place, that he may know how to govern his wife and children and servants; so that God shall be honored in the midst of them, and all shall do Him homage. Paul speaks of children; and why? Because he who wishes to discharge his duty as pastor of a church must be like a father to all believers. Now, let us suppose that a man cannot govern two or three children which he has in the house. They are his own children, and yet he cannot keep them in subjection; they are deaf to all that he says to them. How then shall he be able to govern those who are at a distance, and who may be said to be unknown to him, who even refuse to become wiser, and think that they have no need of being instructed? How shall he be able to keep men in dread when his own wife is not subject to him? Let us not, therefore, think it strange if it is required in all pastors, that they be good fathers of a family, and know what it is to govern their own children well. It is not enough to condemn the children, but we must condemn the fathers, when they permit their children to be worse than others.” — Fr. Ser. This argument, drawn from the less to the greater, is in itself manifest, that he who is unfit for governing a family will be altogether unable to govern a people. Besides that it is evident that he is destitute of the virtues necessary for that purpose, what authority will he have over the people, seeing that his own house makes him contemptible?

6 Not a novice There being many men of distinguished ability and learning who at that time were brought to the faith, Paul forbids that such persons shall be admitted to the office of a bishop, as soon as they have made profession of Christianity. And he shews how great would be the danger; for it is evident that they are commonly vain, and full of ostentation, and, in consequence of this, haughtiness and ambition will drive them headlong. What Paul says we experience; for “novices” have not only impetuous fervor and bold daring, but are also puffed up with foolish confidence, as if they could fly beyond the clouds. Consequently, it is not without reason that they are excluded from the honor of a bishopric, till, in process of time their proud temper shall be subdued.

Lest he fall into the condemnation of the devil. The judgment or condemnation of the devil may be interpreted in three ways; for some take Διαβόλου (of the devil) to mean Satan; and others, to mean slanderers. I give the preference to the former view; because it rarely happens that “judgment” means slander. But again, “the judgment of Satan” may be taken either actively or passively. This latter sense is adopted by Chrysostom, with whom I willingly agree There is an elegant contrast, which heightens the enormity of the case, “If he who is placed over the Church of God fall, by his pride, into the same condemnation with the devil.” Yet I do not reject the active signification, namely, that he will give the devil occasion for accusing him. But the opinion of Chrysostom is more correct. 6262     “The words εἰς κρῖμα ἐμπέσὟ τοῦ Διαβόλου are, by most expositors ancient and modern, understood of falling into the same condemnation and punishment that the devil fell into through pride, which is supported by the authority of the Pesch. Syr. Several eminent expositors, from Luther and Erasmus downwards, take τοῦ Διαβόλου to mean the “calumniator,” or slanderous enemy of the gospel, the noun being, they say, used generically of those who seek an occasion to calumniate the Christians; but, as Calvin observes, ‘it rarely happens that “judgment” means slander.’ Moreover, the expression Διάβολος would thus have to be taken of just condemnation.” — Bloomfield.

7 A good report from those who are without. This appears to be very difficult, that a religious man should have, as witnesses of his integrity, infidels themselves, who are furiously mad to tell lies against us. But the apostle means, that, so far as relates to external behavior, even unbelievers themselves shall be constrained to acknowledge him to be a good man; for, although they groundlessly slander all the children of God, yet they cannot pronounce him to be a wicked man, who leads a good and inoffensive life amongst them. Such is that acknowledgment of uprightness which Paul here describes. The reason is added, —

Lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil; which I explain in this manner: “lest, being subject to reproach, he begin to be hardened, and abandon himself the more freely to all iniquity, which is to entangle himself in the snares of the devil.” For what hope is left for him who sins without any shame?

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