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1Timothy 3 (web)

3:1 This is a faithful saying:

if a man seeks the office of an overseer{Or, bishop}, he desires a good work.

  • 3:2 The overseer therefore must be without reproach,
  • the husband of one wife,
  • temperate,
  • sensible,
  • modest,
  • hospitable,
  • good at teaching;
  • 3:3 not a drinker,
  • not violent,
  • not greedy for money, but
  • gentle,
  • not quarrelsome,
  • not covetous;
  • 3:4 one who rules his own house well, having children in subjection with all reverence;
  • 3:5 (but if a man doesn't know how to rule his own house,
  • how will he take care of the assembly of God?)
  • 3:6 not a new convert, lest being puffed up he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.
  • 3:7 Moreover he must have good testimony from those who are outside,

  • to avoid falling into reproach and the snare of the devil.

    3:8 Deacons{The word for "deacons" literally means "servants."}, in the same way,

  • must be reverent,
  • not double-tongued,
  • not addicted to much wine,
  • not greedy for money;
  • 3:9 holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
  • 3:10 Let them also first be tested;

  • then let them serve as deacons, if they are blameless.
  • 3:11 Their wives in the same way must be
  • reverent,
  • not slanderers,
  • temperate,
  • faithful in all things.
  • 3:12 Let deacons be husbands of one wife,

  • ruling their children and their own houses well.

    3:13 For those who have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing,
    and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    3:14 These things I write to you, hoping to come to you shortly;
    3:15 but if I wait long, that you may know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

    3:16 Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great:

  • God was revealed in the flesh,
  • Justified in the spirit,
  • Seen by angels,
  • Preached among the nations,
  • Believed on in the world,
  • And received up in glory.

  • Discussion Questions

    Though eternal life is a free gift, it seems it takes certain qualifications to be a servant of God. Not just anyone can be a servant of God, they have to be qualified first.

    Do you reckon yourself to be qualified to serve God?

    How might you develop a brief prayer list based on this section which you could use when praying for those in positions of spiritual authority?

    What is "the devil's trap" that is mentioned in this section?


    Unfortunately, there are very few places in the Bible where these words are used in contexts in which bring out their meaning. Most are just found in lists as in this chapter.
    vs 2 (Interpretations from the greek)
  • "of but one wife" - Polygamists are disqualified from the eldership. This may have been a common phenomenon given the culture of the early church. Today, I would think this would disqualify "serial polygamists" - (those who remarry after divorce). The phrase "but one" (actually a single word "mia" in the greek) does not disqualify single men, as Paul even recommends singleness as it frees one to servce God from from the distractions of marriage. (1Cor 7:32).
  • "temperate" - literally "sober-minded" same as in vs 11.
  • "self-controlled" - literally "of a sound mind" - not insane
  • "respectable" - literally "modest, of good behavior"
  • "not given to much wine" - not an alcoholic
  • (3:3) not a lover of money = (3:8) not pursuing dishonest gain = aischrokerdes (gr.)
    Example: Titus 1:11

    Evaluating Spiritual Leaders

    Their Desires Attitude Discipline: Ability: Are they able to teach?

    Experience:  Has their faith been tested sufficiently to characterize them as "mature" christians?

    Reputation: Do they have a good reputation in the society?

    Faith: Do they practice what they preach?

    Additional Comments

    Overseer to DO good works

    1Tim 3:1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.

    For the next couple of weeks well be considering Paul's commands concerning the requirements for positions of oversight in the church.

    Paul speaks of two categorical positions of oversight in the church - that of overseeing spiritual matters (bishops), and that of overseeing practical matters (deacons). This chapter alludes to a distinction between the two, as does Php 1:1 "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons."

    The word "bishop" here in the NKJV means "overseer", and is translated as such in many other versions. I take this position to refer to the overseeing of spiritual matters. In Titus we see that overseers are also referred to as "elders". I take the title "overseer" (or "bishop") to point to the FUNCTION of the role, and "elder" to point to the SPIRITUAL MATURITY required of the role.

    The roles that Paul is referring to here are exclusive to men. For he introduced this topic with 1Tim 2:11-14 in which he excludes women from such roles.

    Now there may be a number of reasons why a man may desire a position of spiritual oversight in the church - and not all of such reasons are good. But if its good works that he wants to do, then such a position can be an excellent place to carry them out. And that's what such positions are SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT - DOING GOOD WORKS

    Qualifications for an Overseer Part 1

    1Tim 3:2  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;

    So starts the beginning of Paul's lists of credentials for an overseer - very little of which has to do with one's educational credentials, and very much of which has to do with one's character.

    1. First of all what does he mean by "blameless"? He doesn't mean "sinless", nor does he mean one who is simply positionally righteous but rather in the sense in which Paul even spoke of himself saying, "I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men."Acts 24:16 And thus he even urged the Thessalonians to evaluate him saying, "You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers"1Th 2:10 Blamelessness has to do with the person's behavior. While there are a number of nuances to the word "blameless", the particular Greek word here means irreprehensible, designating one who affords nothing upon which an adversary might seize, in order to make a charge against him.

    2. The requirement of being the husband of one wife is actually not a requirement that the man be married. Neither Paul nor Timothy were married and yet they both functioned as overseers of the churches. Rather it's the word "one" (mia) - or more literally "only one" which Paul is emphasizing. This as apposed to having more than one wife. Thus polygamists were excluded from the position of overseer. For such would be a reflection of his misunderstanding or misbehavior with regards to the marriage relationship. I would think Paul is including not only the parallel form of polygamy, but even the serial form commonly practiced in Western society today as Jesus spoke of in Luke 16:18.

    3. To be temperate is to abstain from wine, either entirely or at least from its immoderate use.

    4. To be sober-minded is to be of a sound mind, sane, in one's senses, curbing one's desires and impulses.

    5. To be of good behavior is the Greek word meaning to conform to standards of conduct and good taste with a disinclination to call attention to oneself. We had seen a previous usage of this Greek word in 1Tim 2:9 where Paul advised women to dress modestly.

    6. The Greek word for "hospitable" literally means to be a friend of strangers. This character quality is largely a function of one's generosity.

    7. "To be able to teach" is more accurately "apt and skilful in teaching". Obviously the role of teaching is not unique to overseers. Rather they are chosen among those who show themselves skillful at teaching. The overseer will manage the teachers and thus must himself be skilled at teaching.

    Qualifications for an Overseer Part 2

    1Tim 3:3 "not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;"

    The first three appear to correspond to the second three.

    1. not given to wine  4. gentle
    2. not violent          5. not quarrelsome
    3. not greedy            6. not covetous

    Actually concerning these the situation is more serious than merely excluding one from the office of overseer. In 1Cor 6:9,10 as well as Gal 5:19-22 Paul indicates that if these be characteristic of their life, such people will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    While he had already covered the character quality of "temperance" in verse 2, here in contrasting drunkenness with gentleness here he is speaking of a person who is reasonable, equitable, fair-minded.

    The attribute of "violence" may be discerned most readily by one's speech when dealing with opposing ideas. Does the person end up misrepresenting or slandering his opposition? Does he swear at the person or other such defamation?

    And does have an ambition to accumulate unnecessary resources to himself? Or is he generous?

    There are many examples throughout history where people have been misassigned to religious office. Why is that?

    A person given over to the passions of the flesh might be misassigned such a position as he may deceptively portray himself as simply a person passionate for his cause.

    A violent person may portray himself as simply very religiously zealous, such a Paul was prior to his conversion.

    And a greedy person may portray himself as simply a very resourceful person.

    Thus one must be discerning when evaluating character.

    Qualifications for an Overseer Part 3

    1Tim 3:4,5 "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence. (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)"

    An overseer is a manager, and one way to discern one's management abilities is how well one manages one's children. And in fact the role of "overseer" is much like that of a father raising children. Of course for those in Westernized cultures it's quite an achievement today if one's children were to be characterized as submissive and reverent, which are counter to the culture. But that is one of the goals and challenges of raising children.

    However I would imagine that Paul is referring to appropriate effort rather than necessarily to actual achievement, else God himself would not qualify for such a position as He himself says, "I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me." Isaiah 1:2

    Qualifications for an Overseer Part 4

    1Tim 3:6  "not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil."

    By "novice" he is not speaking of someone's age, but rather of their level of maturity as a Christian - a maturity which is a function of one's ministry experience. "Overseers" were also referred to as "elders" for good reason. Regardless of the enthusiasm of those recently converted or such believers who are otherwise inexperienced or immature, they are not qualified to manage the Christian community. Rather they should focus on laboring and learning in submission to the direction of their overseer.

    Those who have not learned under submission, but are too soon elevated to positions of authority, these almost inevitably fall into pride. Their leadership becomes one of lording it over the flock. And not having learned to listen in submission, they are not open to being corrected. So also, the young are characteristically more gullible than the experienced, nor have they thought through all the important questions in life in light of the Word of God.

    So if offered positions of church leadership, Christians inexperienced in ministry are wise to turn them down.

    Qualifications for an Overseer Part 5

    1Tim 3:7
    "Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."

    That is, he should have a good reputation among non-Christians. Jesus had such a reputation. For even while Pilate had him crucified, he did declare him innocent. While Christians will have those who will speak evil of them illegitimately, let it not be that they be spoken evil of legitimately. For such is the case for a number of institutional church leaders today, whose sinfulness is so obvious that non-Christians take note of it. In fact hypocrisy among the religious elite is often claimed as the main hinderance against people converting to Christianity. So it's important for church leaders be of good repute.

    Qualifications for a Deacon Part 1

    1Tim 3:8 "Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money"

    The role of "deacon" is slightly different than that of "overseer" in that I take it that deacons oversee the material or practical affairs of the church, while overseers oversee the spiritual affairs. An example of a deacon would be in Acts 6 where "there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, 'It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.'" Acts 6:l-4

    Though I'm not completely certain if that is the distinction between bishops and deacons, seeing as the greek word "deacon" is used many times in the New Testament and most commonly translated "minister", and its usage is often not limited to practical matters, such as in Colossians 1:23-25 where Paul speaks of himself as a minister of the gospel.

    Not surprisingly there is not a lot difference between the qualifications for that of deacon as for overseer - both heavily dependent upon one's character.

    To be reverent actually is referring to being revered or honored for one's deeds and character, much as it is written of Timothy when Paul first met him, "He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium." Acts 16:2 and for thus Paul chose him to go with him.

    To be double-tongued is saying one thing with one person another with another (with the intent to deceive)  And thus a deacon should be sincere. This is somewhat challenging when it comes to positions of institutional authority - where there's pressure to be politically correctness or otherwise a crowd-pleaser.

    Again Paul mentions of the issues of drunkenness and greediness, just as he said in verse 3.

    Qualifications for a Deacon Part 2

    1Tim 3:9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

    It is not that there is some hidden mystery to the Christian faith. Rather the Christian faith is a mystery revealed - "the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints." Col 1:26 But to declare that mystery with a clear conscience we must walk consistently with it, with an application oriented mindset and free from hypocrisy.

    Today you might consider whether you feel right in your conscience with respect to what you've been doing with the mystery of Christ.

    Qualifications for a Deacon Part 3

    1Tim 3:10  But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.

    As with any position of responsibility whether spiritual or secular the person must show themselves qualified. Such is the case in the kingdom of God now. And such is even the case in the coming Kingdom, as the parable of the minas indicates

    Your Christian life is a test. How well you do will determine what position of service you will hold in God's coming Kingdom. "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless." 2Peter 3:14

    The Deacon's Wife

    1Tim 3:11 Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.

    I take it that this requirement presumes the deacon's wife will be involved in his ministry in those areas which don't involve teaching or otherwise exercising authority over men, which would be contrary to his command in 1Tim 2:11,12.

    Once again the primary things of importance for service in the kingdom of God has to do with one's character. And while there is a diversity of giftedness and personality, there is but one ideal Christian character, the attributes of which are listed throughout the New Testament, but the example being Christ.

    The wife who serves must be honorable. She must not be prone to falsely accusing others. She must not be the kind of person who develop fleshly habits as in the regular consumption of wine. And she must be one who is trustworthy in all things.

    And for those young men looking for a wife, I say these are the kind of characteristics you should look for.

    The Deacon's Family

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

    Again as with the overseer the deacon must not be a polygamist (of which I would include the serial form commonly practiced today)

    "Ruling" is an interesting way of putting it. As much of society has been feminized today, husbands are less viewed as having legitimate authority over their wife, and fathers less viewed as having authority over their children. So Christians need to keep the proper Biblical roles in mind. Before men can rule their children and household well, they first must be allowed to rule at all. They must be accepted as the legitimate authority figure which God has placed over the household. Husbands and fathers rightly resent it when their wives and children usurp their God-given position of authority.

    Good Service, Good Reputation

    1Tim 3:13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    A good example of this is Acts 6 where Stephen was assigned a deacon's job of overseeing the distribution of food to the Hellenistic widows. And note also that Philip (not the apostle) was likewise assigned the task. Then suddenly the following chapters 7,8 focus on Stephen and Philip's ministry.

    In fact I find it rather interesting that while the apostles claimed "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables." Acts 6:2, somehow Stephen and Philip found no problem in doing both these things. Thus God honors those who BOTH "wait on tables" (as Jesus himself had set the example in the Last Supper - John 13), AND minister the Word.

    We note of Stephen it says, "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.  Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke." Acts 6:8,9

    Planning a Visit

    1Tim 3:14 "These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly;"

    Always a challenge to find something significant to say about what ordinarily looks like a trivial verse. But in fact this expresses a general attitude towards the value of face-to-face ministry.

    Paul on Face-to-Face ministry:

    1Th 2:17  But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.

    1Th 3:10  night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?

    John on Face-to-Face ministry:
    2John 1:12  Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.

    3John 1:13,14 I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

    We can thank God that circumstances led the apostles to write letters, else we wouldn't have had the New Testament. But while writings have their place, such as this email ministry, God sent his Son in the likeness of man. The Word became flesh. Thus one should not rely on a purely word-based ministry. For the greatest impact one needs to put flesh on the word and live a life worthy of being an example to follow.

    Uphold the Truth

    1Tim 3:15 
    "but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

    The house of God is that place which God dwells. In the Old Testament he dwelt in the temple at Jerusalem. Now he dwells in the church. Realize of course that "church" is not referring to a building, much as many have a misconception on this point. The word "church" is the Greek word ekklesia which simply means an assembly. The church is the collective assembly of the believers.

    It is also significant to realize that the "church" is not simply the institutional leaders of institutional churches which form the pillar and ground of truth, but rather the entire of the genuinely Christian community even to the least member. For it is through the Christian community that the New Testament was written, and through the Christian community Biblical truth is revealed both in word and in life. And this as opposed to the Catholic idea which presumes truth to evolve over time with the opinions of the institutional leadership. Christians are not the origin, but the pillars of the faith. We uphold the truth. We don't generate it. Likewise will be our destiny.

    Re 3:12  "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God."

    The Fundamental Truths of the Faith

    1Tim 3:16  "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory."

    There is a textual variant among the Greek manuscripts of 1Timothy 3:16. Namely the word "God" in some manuscripts appears as "He" in others - referring to Christ, of course. In any case the incarnation of Christ into human flesh is a significant aspect of the gospel, as John writes, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made ... And the Word became 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." John 1:1,14 And of the Son it is written, "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands."Heb 1:10 He through whom all things were made - the Lord and Cre! ator, Jesus Christ - became a man. And no one can debate the fact that this is a great mystery revealed.

    He was justified or vindicated in the Spirit through the miracles he did.

    The idea of being seen by angels is the fact that through the gospel God is teaching the angels a mystery about Himself. 1Peter 1:12 speaks of the gospel as containing "things which angels desire to look into."

    Preached among the Gentiles - is yet another mystery revealed, as Paul writes in Ephesians 3 "by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel." Eph 3:3-6 This may not be much of a revelation today, but prior to New Testament times it was unclear what the status of Gentiles were in God's kingdom.

    He was believe on in the world, but only among a few - those to whom the mystery of the gospel was revealed - or as Jesus would say - those who had ears to hear.

    He was received up in glory where he now dispenses the Holy Spirit upon the believers.

    The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

    Sep 12,2020