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1 Timothy
Chapter 3

Theme: Officers in the churches

The object of this chapter is to give directions regarding the qualifications and duties of the officers of the Christian church. It is clear that Timothy was to be partly employed in the appointing suitable officers for the church at Ephesus, and since the officers were to be permanent in the church, it was important that they fulfilled the qualifications and duties.
The qualifications specified for bishops, are as follow:

  • He must be a man of good private character; possessing and illustrating the Christian virtues, or, as we would say, an upright man (verses 2-3).
  • 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 (verses 4-5).
  • 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 (verse 6).
  • He must have a good reputation among those who were not Christians, since 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 (verse 7).  

The qualifications of deacons must be:

  • Men of fair character, serious, temperate, honest (verse 8)
  • Men who hold to the doctrines of the Gospel with a pure conscience (verse 9).
  • Men who have been proven, to show that they are qualified (verse 10).
  • Men whose wives are sober, do not slander, and are faithful (verse 11).
  • Men with one wife, and who exercise model family government (verses 12-13).  

The reason why Paul gave these instructions to Timothy, was that he might know that he must not degrade himself in the important station which he was called to fill. Paul hoped to be able to come to Timothy before long, to complete the work he had started at Ephesus; but, in the meantime, he gave him these written instructions, that he might better understand the seriousness of the duty which was before him.
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 (verses 15-16). The church is the great defender of the TRUTH in the world, and that TRUTH is to be maintained because of its great importance. It conveys the incarnation of the Son of God, and the work which he accomplished on Earth . . . a TRUE doctrine respecting that which it was of the utmost importance to keep up among men. This reason is further urged in the chapter 4, by showing that the time would come when, under the influence of Satan, these great doctrines would be denied, and the TRUTH would be corrupted and perverted.

Requirements of Elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. (KJV)

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work . . . a faithful saying, meaning a saying that you can depend upon. If a man desire the office of a bishop . . . he must be qualified. He desireth a good work . . .  he is seeking a place where he can serve in the church.

1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; (KJV)

A bishop then must be blameless . . . a bishop has the government of the church entrusted to him (verses 4-5), and he is also a preacher of the Gospel. Must be blameless (1 Tim.3:2,10; 5:7; Tit.1:6-7). A bishop should have no charge of immorality, or of holding false doctrine. His conduct should be spotless or faultless. He should be a man of irreproachable character for truth, honesty, chastity and general uprightness.
The husband of one wife . . . none who at the same time had more wives than one, for many of the Jews had; nor was polygamy only common among the Jews, but among the other Eastern nations, but, this was contrary to the institution of marriage. The apostle commanding ministers to be the husbands but of one wife, does not force them to marry, if God hath given them the gift of continence, but it established that it was lawful to marry, against the doctrine of devils, and in particular, what the Church of Rome teaches.
Vigilant . . . one that watches his flock, and is attentive to his work; one that will not be a long time absent from his flock, nor lazy while he is with them.
Sober . . . one that is prudent, modest and self-controlled, that can govern his affections and passions.
Of good behaviour . . . a man of a calm, decent behavior, not proud or arrogant, not one that despises others, not a gloomy, distrustful man.
Given to hospitality . . . one who is ready to express his love to strangers.
Apt to teach . . . one that is able to instruct others, and who has an ability for it, not an ignorant nor a lazy man.

1 Timothy 3:3  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; (KJV)

Not given to wine . . . not a drunk, not a wine-bibber, no sitter at wine.
No striker . . . not one to quarrel, not violent or aggressive, not one to raise his fists to one that provokes him.
Not greedy of filthy lucre . . . (1 Tim.6:10) He should not have a love of money. The love of money is a root of all evil. He should hate all filthy and dishonest gain of any kind, in any way.
But patient . . . an easy going, fair, equal man, who will not exact the rigor of what he might; a patient, gentle, courteous man, far from argument, that he will rather part with what is his right. He should be a reasonable man, someone you can talk to or reason with.
Not a brawler . . . one that will not fight, whether it be with his hand or tongue. He should not be a person who is constantly stirring up trouble in a church. Such a person should never be selected as church officers.
Not covetous . . . again, this refers to the love of money, but it also suggests idolatry, actually the worship of money. He should not be a man who puts the pursuit (the lust) of wealth above everything else.

1 Timothy 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (KJV)

One that ruleth well his own house . . . an elder should have the authority in his own home, without being a dictator.
Having his children in subjection with all gravity . . . one that does not let his children behave rudely, indecently and rebelliously, but keep them in order by a serious manner towards them.

Sometimes Christian workers and volunteers get so involved in their work that they neglect their families, especially the firm discipline of their children. Spiritual leadership must begin at home. If a man is not willing, or able to care for, discipline and teach his children, he certainly is not qualified to lead the church.

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?) (KJV)

For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?. . .  a church resembles a family, but is larger, and there is a larger variety of dispositions in it than there is in a family. The authority of a preacher of the Gospel in a church is also less complete than that of a father, but still there is a resemblance. If a man cannot govern his own family, how can he be expected to take charge of the bigger household of faith with proper views and feelings? A man cannot rule the house of God if he cannot rule his own home.

1 Timothy 3:6  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. (KJV)

Not a novice . . . means not a recent convert, not someone who has recently been saved. A man who was converted last week, should not be made a church officer the next week. He is not ready for it. This is a caution that needs to be heeded today.
Lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil . . . pride was the devil's great sin (Isa. 14:13-14). Also it is often the sin of officers in the church and of many preachers. It is a danger for us all, but it is most disgraceful when it is in the church.

1 Timothy 3:7  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (KJV)

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without . . . Paul wanted pastors of good reputation among them which are without, meaning those who are not believers(1 Cor.5:12; 1 Thes.4:12). God was greatly concerned in the reputation of such persons being put into the churches, for they were as lights set upon a hill (Mat.5:14).
Lest he fall into reproach . . . lest men criticize such persons for their former shameful life, and so prejudice others against the doctrine they bring.
And the snare of the devil . . . the snare of some accuser or of the devil, or in case he is tempted to revenge, hatred, undue anger, or a coward in the discharge of his duty.

Requirements of Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13)

1 Timothy 3:8  Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; (KJV)

Likewise must the deacons be grave . . . deacon means a minister, a pastor. Must be grave . . . is serious, Paul requires that they should be persons NOT of light, airy tempers, but serious and composed, men of a meek, modest, proper presence. (Tit.2:2)
Not doubletongued . . . not two faced, not excessive talkers, not gossips. It can be dangerous when a man tries to please everybody or does not have the courage to stand on his own two feet.
Not given to much wine . . . (verse 3).
Not greedy of filthy lucre . . . (verse 3).

1 Timothy 3:9  Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. (KJV)

Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience . . . in the Bible, mystery (1 Cor.2:7) means that which had been concealed, or hidden, but which was now revealed. The Messiah, and the Gospel were a mystery in the Old Testament, which were revealed in the New Testament. The word faith is one and the same as the Gospel, and the sense is, that Timothy should hold firmly the great doctrines of the Christian religion, which had been so long concealed from men, but which were now revealed. In a pure conscience (1 Tim.1:5; 2 Tim.1:3). A mere traditional faith was not all that was necessary, for it is possible that a man might be apparently firm in the belief of the truths of the Gospel, and yet be corrupt at heart.

1 Timothy 3:10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. (KJV)

And let these also be first proved . . . meaning tried or tested in regard to the things which were the proper qualifications for the office. This does not mean that they were to be employed as preachers, but that they were to undergo a proper trial in regard to their fitness for the office which they were to fill.
Then let them use the office of a deacon . . . once the men were proved, they would be appointed to this office, and fulfil its duties.
Being found blameless . . . nothing bad should be found against their character (verse 2).

1 Timothy 3:11  Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. (KJV)

Even so must their wives be grave . . . (verse 4, 1 Tim.3:8,11; Tit.2:2)
Not slanderers . . . not false accusers (2 Tim.3:3; Tit.2:3).
Sober . . . (verse 3).
Faithful in all things . . . to their husbands, to their families, to the church, to the Saviour.

1 Timothy 3:12  Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. (KJV)

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife . . . (verse 2) 
Ruling their children and their own houses well . . . (verses 3-5)

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. (KJV)

For they that have used the office of a deacon well . . . (verses 8,10,12)
Purchase to themselves a good degree . . . a good degree of honor, so that none has reason to decline or to despise that office. It properly means a step, as of a stair; and the meaning is that of going up higher, or taking another step of dignity, honor or standing. These may have shown much piety, good sense and ability to preside over the church, that it was judged that they should be advanced to the office of bishops or pastors of the churches. This would not be unnatural, but it was far from teaching that the office of a deacon is a lesser office, with a view to an ascent to a higher grade.
And great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus . . . boldness sin the faith is boldness in speaking out the Gospel (Acts 4:13; 2 Cor.3:12; Phil.1:20), but it could also mean boldness of any kind: honesty, truthfulness, confidence, assurance (Jn.7:13,26; Mk.8:32; 2 Cor.7:4). I think boldness in the faith here means not so much public speaking, but an independent exercise of faith in Christ. Are you bold in your faith?

Report of Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:14-16)

1 Timothy 3:14  These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: (KJV)

These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly . . . Paul was in Macedonia, and Timothy was in Ephesus. Paul was hoping to be able to join Timothy shortly. Paul hoped to come there to Ephesus to give instructions personally, but had to leave unexpectedly. This verse proves that the apostle Paul did not regard Timothy as the permanent bishop of Ephesus. If Timothy was the permanent bishop of Ephesus, Paul would not have stated that he expected to come soon and take up the work of completing the arrangements there with his own hands. (1 Tim.1:3).

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. (KJV)

But if I tarry long . . . it seems Paul was uncertain as to how long he would be absent. He expected to return, but his hope of returning soon could be disappointed.
That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself . . . that Timothy might have just  and right views about settling the affairs of the church.
In the house of God . . . this refers to the church as a body of believers, and how he should communicate with them. The church is called the house of God, because it is where He dwells. In the past, God’s special residence was in the Temple at Jerusalem; but now that the Temple is destroyed, God’s Presence is in Christ’s church, among His people.
Which is the church of the living God . . . this seems to have been added to impress the mind of Timothy with the solemn nature of the duty which he was to perform. What Timothy did affected the honor and welfare of the church of the living God, and so he should feel the importance of a correct manner and right administration of its affairs. Living God (Mat.16:16; 26:63; Jn.6:69; Acts 14:15; Rom.9:26; 2 Cor.3:3; 6:16; 1 Tim.3:15; 4:10; 6:17; Heb.3:12; 9:14; 10:31; 12:22; Rev.7:2).
The pillar and ground of the truth . . . pillar means the stay, the prop or the foundation. Paul is saying that the church is the pillar, the bedrock and support of the Truth. He warns Timothy that IF the officers do not represent the Truth, the church has NO foundation, NO prop, and it cannot hold up the TRUTH of God. Pillar: (Gal.2:9; Rev.3:12). Some men seem to represent the truth, but they really do NOT represent the truth by the way they lead their lives. Just because a man carries a big Bible wherever he goes, does NOT mean he follows the instructions in that Book. Paul is writing to tell Timothy how the church should act so that it can represent and proclaim the Truth of God to the world on the outside.

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. (KJV)

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness . . . without controversy means without a doubt, or obviously. The mystery of godliness . . . means the Gospel, which is the doctrine of godliness, which teaches how to rightly worship God, and walk before Him. A mystery means a thing sacred and secret thing now made known. The mystery of godliness is that God in the Person of Christ Jesus entered this world in which we live, paid the penalty of sin (our sin), and is making men and women godly, with Godlikeness. Only Jesus can do this for us.
God was manifest in the flesh . . . Paul is teaching the virgin birth of Christ (Isa.7:14; Jn.1:14), but he is also speaking of Christ's existence before His incarnation (Jn.1:1). That existence was spiritual: He was ". . . . in the form of God" (Phil.2:6). Hebrews speaks of Christ as ". . . being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person . . . " (Heb.1:3). The Lord Jesus Himself said, "God is a Spirit . . . " (Jn.4:24).
Now from this condition of God, as Spirit, not seen with human eyes, Christ came into BEING, into sight, in the Flesh (Jn.1:14; 1 Pet.4:1; 1 Jn.4:2).
He became a man and entered into human conditions. And under these human conditions the attributes of His essential spiritual personality were veiled. John 1:14  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (KJV)
Just as God was not visible in the tabernacle in the wilderness, so too was Christ Jesus veiled when He tabernacled among us in human flesh as Man. He did not appear to men what He really was. Man did not recognize Who He was. This One who in the beginning with God, was with God, and who made all things (Jn.1:1-2), became a helpless, little Baby. He was the image of the invisible God and had all power in Heaven and in Earth, but down here He took upon Himself human flesh. Because He was not recognized for who He was, He was treated as an imposter, a usurper and a blasphemer. He was hated, persecuted and murdered. God manifest in the flesh (Jesus), was poor, was tempted and tried, and actually shed tears.
Seen of angels . . . who declared His conception (Lk.1:32-33); sang and glorified God when He was born (Lk.2:10-11); ministered to Him when He was tempted by Satan (Mat.4:11); who comforted Him in His passion, declared His resurrection (Mat.28:1-20); and attended Him on His ascension (acts 1:10).
Preached unto the Gentiles . . . Christ's being preached to the Gentiles was also a mystery, so great, that Peter would not believe it to be the will of God, until it was proven to him by a vision (Acts 10:1-48).
Believed on in the world . . . that Christ should, with the ministry of a few, lowly fishermen, be received and embraced by the world as their Saviour, was another great a mystery, yet many trusted Him as their Saviour, then and now.
Received up into glory . . . today Jesus is at God's right hand. At this very moment, that is where He is! He is there as our Mediator, our Advocate (1 Jn.2:1). Have you talked to Him today? Have you told Him that you love Him? Have you thanked Him for all He has done? Do you really know just how wonderful He is? Right Hand of God: (Mk.16:19; Acts 2:33; 7:55-56; Rom.8:34; Col.3:1; Heb.10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet.3:22)

1 Timothy

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