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1 Timothy 3:8-13

8. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

8. Diaconos similiter graves, non bilingues, non multo vino deditos, non turpiter lucri cupidos:

9. Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

9. Habentes mysterium fidei in pura conscientia.

10. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

10. Et hi probentur primum; deinde ministrent ubi irreprehensibiles comperti fuerint.

11. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

11. Uxores similiter graves, non calumniatrices, sobrias, fideles in omnibus.

12. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

12. Diaconi sint unius uxoris mariti, qui honeste praesint liberis et domibus suis.

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.

13. Nam qui bene ministraverint gradum sibi bonum (vel, honestum) acquirunt, et multam libertatem in fide, quae est in Christo Iesu.

8 Likewise the deacons There is no reason why the diversity of interpretations should lead us to entertain any doubt. It is certain that time Apostle speaks of those who hold a public office in the Church; and this refutes the opinion of those who think that domestic servants are here meant. As to the view given by others, that it denotes presbyters who are inferior to the bishop, that is without foundation; for it is manifest from other passages, that the term bishop belongs alike to all presbyters. 6363     “Que le nom d’Evesque estoit commun a tons prestres. et qu’entre prestre et evesque il n’y a nulle difference.” — “That the term bishop was common to all presbyters, and that there is no difference between presbyter and bishop.” All are constrained to acknowledge this; and more especially a passage in the first chapter of the Epistle to Titus proves clearly that this is the meaning. (Titus 1:7.) It remains to be stated that we understand “the deacons” to be those who are mentioned by Luke, (Acts 6:3,) and who had the charge of the poor. But those who wish to have a more full account of the duties of deacons may consult the Institutes. 6464     See Calvin’s Inst. of the Christian Religion, vol. 3.

Grave, not double-tongued The first four virtues, with which he wishes them to be endowed, are of themselves sufficiently well known. Yet it ought to be carefully observed that he advises them not to be double-tongued; because it is a vice which it is difficult to avoid in the discharge of that office, and yet ought, more than anything else, to be kept at a distance from it.

9 Holding the mystery of faith As if he had said, “Holding the pure doctrine of religion, and that from the heart, with a sincere fear of God;” or, “Being well instructed in the faith, so as not to be ignorant of anything which it is necessary for Christians to know.” He gives to the sum of Christian doctrine the honorable appellation of a mystery; as indeed God, through the gospel, reveals to men on earth a wisdom which angels in heaven behold with admiration, and, therefore, we need not wonder if it exceed human capacity.

Let us therefore remember that it ought to be embraced with the deepest reverence; and because we could never, by our own strength, ascend to such a height, let us humbly entreat God to impart it to us by the Spirit of revelation. On the other hand, when we see wicked men either ridicule those doctrines or have no relish for them, let us acknowledge that it is owing to the grace of God that those things which have been hidden from others are in our hearts, and before our eyes, as Moses says, (Deuteronomy 30:11.)

Thus he wishes that deacons should be well instructed in “the mystery of faith;” because, although they do not hold the office of teaching, yet it would be exceedingly absurd to hold a public office in the Church, while they were ill informed in the Christian faith, more especially since they must frequently be laid under the necessity of administering advice and consolation, if they do not choose to neglect their duties. It is added, in a pure conscience, which extends to the whole life, but chiefly that they may know how to obey God.

10 And let those be first tried He wishes that they who are chosen should not be unknown, but that their integrity should be ascertained, like that of the bishops. And hence it is evident, that they are called blameless who are not stained by any marked vice. Besides, this trial is not for a single hour, but consists in long experience. In a word, when deacons are to be ordained, the choice must not fall at random, and without selection, on any that come to hand, but those men are to be chosen who are approved by their past life in such a manner that, after what may be called full inquiry, they are ascertained to be well qualified.

11. Likewise the wives He means the wives both of deacons and of bishops, for they must be aids to their husbands in their office; which cannot be, unless their behavior excel that of others.

Let the deacons be Since he mentioned wives, he lays down the same injunction about deacons as he had formerly down about bishops; namely, that each of them — satisfied within having but one wife — shall set an example of a chaste and honorable father of a family, and shall keep his children and his whole house under holy discipline. And this refutes the error of those who understand this passage as referring to domestic servants. 6565     “Des serviteurs domestiques, et non pas des diacres de l’Eglise.” — “To domestic servants, and not to the deacons of the Church.”

13. For they who have served well Owing to a practice which came into use one or two centuries after the death of the apostles, of choosing presbyters from the order of deacons, this passage has been commonly interpreted as describing elevation to a higher rank, as if the Apostle called to the honor of being presbyters those who had faithfully discharged the office of a deacon. For my own part, though I do not deny that the order of deacons might sometimes be the nursery out of which presbyters were taken, yet I take Paul’s words as meaning, more simply, that they who have discharged this ministry in a proper manner are worthy of no small honor; because it is not a mean employment, but a highly honorable office. Now by this expression he intimates how much it is for the advantage of the Church to have this office discharged by choice men; because the holy discharge of it procures esteem and reverence.

How absurd is it for Papists to maintain that, in making deacons, they do what Paul enjoins! First, why do they make deacons but to carry the cup in a procession, and to feed the eyes of the ignorant with I know not what ridiculous exhibitions? Besides, they do not even observe this; for not a single deacon has been made, during the last five hundred years, except that, after taking this step, he may immediately rise to the priesthood. What impudence is it, to boast of elevating to a higher rank those who have ministered well, when they confer their priesthood on none but those who have never touched a single part of the former office!

And much liberty in the faith. With good reason does he add this; for there is nothing that tends so much to produce liberty as a good conscience and a life free from crime and reproach; as, on the contrary, timidity must be the lot of those who have a bad conscience. And if they sometimes make a valiant boast of liberty, yet it is not uniform and constant, nor has it any weight. For this reason he describes also the kind of liberty. “In the faith,” says he, which is in Christ; that is, that they may serve — Christ with greater boldness; as, on the other hand, they who have acted basely in the discharge of their office may be said to have their mouth shut and their hands tied, and are unfit for doing good; because no reliance — no authority is given to them.


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