Rules as to Bishops (Overseers) AND
Deacons. The Church, and the Gospel
Mystery Now Revealed to It, Are the End
of All Such Rules.
1. Translate as Greek, "Faithful is the
saying." A needful preface to what follows: for the office of a bishop
or overseer in Paul's day, attended as it was with hardship and often
persecution, would not seem to the world generally a desirable and
desire—literally, "stretch one's self
forward to grasp"; "aim at": a distinct Greek verb from that for
"desireth." What one does voluntarily is more esteemed than what he
does when asked (1Co 16:15).
This is utterly distinct from ambitious desires after office in the
bishop—overseer: as yet identical with
"presbyter" (Ac 20:17, 28; Tit 1:5-7).
good work—literally, "honorable work."
Not the honor associated with it, but the work, is the prominent
thought (Ac 15:38; Php 2:30; compare 2Ti 4:5). He who aims at the office must
remember the high qualifications needed for the due discharge of its
2. The existence of Church organization and
presbyters at Ephesus is presupposed (1Ti 5:17, 19). The institution of Church widows
5:3-25) accords with this.
The directions here to Timothy, the president or apostolic delegate,
are as to filling up vacancies among the bishops and deacons, or
adding to their number. New churches in the neighborhood also
would require presbyters and deacons. Episcopacy was adopted in
apostolic times as the most expedient form of government, being most
nearly in accordance with Jewish institutions, and so offering the less
obstruction through Jewish prejudices to the progress of Christianity.
The synagogue was governed by presbyters, "elders" (Ac 4:8; 24:1), called also bishops or
overseers. Three among them presided as "rulers of the
synagogue," answering to "bishops" in the modern sense [Lightfoot, Hebrew and Talmudic
Exercitations], and one among them took the lead. Ambrose (in The Duties of the Clergy [2.13],
as also Bingham [Ecclesiastical
Antiquities, 2.11]) says, "They who are now called bishops were
originally called apostles. But those who ruled the Church after the
death of the apostles had not the testimony of miracles, and were in
many respects inferior. Therefore they thought it not decent to assume
to themselves the name of apostles; but dividing the names, they left
to presbyters the name of the presbytery, and they themselves
were called bishops." "Presbyter" refers to the
rank; "bishop," to the office or function. Timothy
(though not having the name) exercised the power at Ephesus then, which
bishops in the modern sense more recently exercised.
blameless—"unexceptionable"; giving no
just handle for blame.
husband of one wife—confuting the
celibacy of Rome's priesthood. Though the Jews practiced polygamy, yet
as he is writing as to a Gentile Church, and as polygamy was never
allowed among even laymen in the Church, the ancient interpretation
that the prohibition here is against polygamy in a candidate bishop is
not correct. It must, therefore, mean that, though laymen might
lawfully marry again, candidates for the episcopate or presbytery were
better to have been married only once. As in 1Ti 5:9, "wife of one man," implies a woman
married but once; so "husband of one wife" here must mean the same. The
feeling which prevailed among the Gentiles, as well as the Jews
(compare as to Anna, Lu 2:36, 37), against a second marriage would, on
the ground of expediency and conciliation in matters indifferent and
not involving compromise of principle, account for Paul's prohibition
here in the case of one in so prominent a sphere as a bishop or a
deacon. Hence the stress that is laid in the context on the
repute in which the candidate for orders is held among those over
whom he is to preside (Tit 1:16).
The Council of Laodicea and the apostolic canons discountenanced second
marriages, especially in the case of candidates for ordination. Of
course second marriage being lawful, the undesirableness of it
holds good only under special circumstances. It is implied here also,
that he who has a wife and virtuous family, is to be preferred to a
bachelor; for he who is himself bound to discharge the domestic duties
mentioned here, is likely to be more attractive to those who have
similar ties, for he teaches them not only by precept, but also by
example (1Ti 3:4, 5).
The Jews teach, a priest should be neither unmarried nor childless,
lest he be unmerciful [Bengel]. So in
the synagogue, "no one shall offer up prayer in public, unless he be
married" [in Colbo, ch. 65; Vitringa, Synagogue and Temple].
vigilant—literally, "sober"; ever on
the watch, as sober men alone can be; keenly alive, so as to foresee
what ought to be done (1Th 5:6-8).
of good behaviour—Greek,
"orderly." "Sober" refers to the inward mind; "orderly,"
to the outward behavior, tone, look, gait, dress. The new man
bears somewhat of a sacred festival character, incompatible with all
confusion, disorder, excess, violence, laxity, assumption, harshness,
and meanness (Php 4:8)
apt to teach—(2Ti 2:24).
3. Not given to wine—The Greek
includes besides this, not indulging in the brawling, violent
conduct towards others, which proceeds from being given to wine.
The opposite of "patient" or (Greek) "forbearing," reasonable to
others (see on Php 4:5).
no striker—with either hand or tongue:
not as some teachers pretending a holy zeal (2Co 11:20), answering to "not a brawler" or
fighter (compare 1Ki 22:24; Ne 13:25; Isa
58:4; Ac 23:2; 2Ti 2:24, 25).
not covetous—Greek, "not a
lover of money," whether he have much or little (Tit 1:7).
4. ruleth—Greek, "presiding
his own house—children and servants,
as contrasted with "the church" (house) of God (1Ti 3:5, 15) which he may be called on to
having his children—rather as
Greek, "having children (who are) in subjection" (Tit 1:6).
modesty on the part of the children [Alford]. The fact that he has children who
are in subjection to him in all gravity, is the recommendation
in his favor as one likely to rule well the Church.
5. For—Greek, "But."
the church—rather, "a church"
or congregation. How shall he who cannot perform the lesser function,
perform the greater and more difficult?
6. not a novice—one just converted. This
proves the Church of Ephesus was established now for some time. The
absence of this rule in the Epistle to Titus, accords with the recent
planting of the Church at Crete. Greek, "neophyte,"
literally, "a young plant"; luxuriantly verdant (Ro 6:5;
11:17; 1Co 3:6). The young
convert has not yet been disciplined and matured by afflictions and
temptations. Contrast Ac 21:16,
"an old disciple."
lifted up with pride—Greek,
literally, "wrapt in smoke," so that, inflated with self-conceit and
exaggerated ideas of his own importance, he cannot see himself or
others in the true light (1Ti 6:4; 2Ti 3:4).
condemnation of the devil—into the
same condemnation as Satan fell into (1Ti 3:7; 2Ti 2:26). Pride was the cause of Satan's
condemnation (Job 38:15; Isa
14:12-15; Joh 12:31; 16:11; 2Pe 2:4; Jude 6). It cannot mean condemnation or
accusation on the part of the devil. The devil may bring a
reproach on men (1Ti 3:7), but
he cannot bring them into condemnation, for he does not judge,
but is judged [Bengel].
7. a good report—Greek,
"testimony." So Paul was influenced by the good report given of Timothy
to choose him as his companion (Ac 16:2).
of them which are without—from the as
yet unconverted Gentiles around (1Co 5:12; Col 4:5; 1Th
4:12), that they may be the
more readily won to the Gospel (1Pe 2:12), and that the name of Christ may be
glorified. Not even the former life of a bishop should be open to
reproach and the snare of the
devil—reproach of men (1Ti 5:14) proving the occasion of his falling
into the snare of the devil (1Ti 6:9; Mt 22:15; 2Ti
2:26). The reproach
continually surrounding him for former sins might lead him into the
snare of becoming as bad as his reputation. Despair of recovering
reputation might, in a weak moment, lead some into recklessness
of living (Jer 18:12).
The reason why only moral qualities of a general kind are specified is,
he presupposes in candidates for a bishopric the special gifts of the
4:14) and true faith, which
he desires to be evidenced outwardly; also he requires qualifications
in a bishop not so indispensable in others.
8. The deacons were chosen by the voice
of the people. Cyprian [Epistle,
2.5] says that good bishops never departed from the old custom of
consulting the people. The deacons answer to the chazzan of the
synagogue: the attendant ministers, or subordinate coadjutors of
the presbyter (as Timothy himself was to Paul, 1Ti 4:6; Phm
13; and John Mark, Ac 13:5). Their duty was to read the
Scriptures in the Church, to instruct the catechumens in Christian
truths, to assist the presbyters at the sacraments, to receive
oblations, and to preach and instruct. As the "chazzan" covered and
uncovered the ark in the synagogue, containing the law, so the deacon
in the ancient Church put the covering on the communion table. (See
Chrysostom , Homily on Acts;
Theophylact on Luke 19; and Balsaman on Canon 22, Council of
Laodicea). The appointing of "the seven" in Ac 6:1-7 is perhaps not meant to describe the
first appointment of the deacons of the Church. At least the
chazzan previously suggested the similar order of deacons.
double-tongued—literally, "of double
speech"; saying one thing to this person, and another to that person
[Theodoret]. The extensive personal
intercourse that deacons would have with the members of the Church
might prove a temptation to such a fault. Others explain it, "Saying
one thing, thinking another" (Pr 20:19; Ga 2:13). I prefer the former.
not greedy of filthy lucre—All gain is
filthy (literally, "base") which is set before a man as a by-end in his
work for God [Alford] (1Pe 5:2). The deacon's office of collecting and
distributing alms would render this a necessary qualification.
9. the mystery of the faith—holding
the faith, which to the natural man remains a mystery, but
which has been revealed by the Spirit to them (Ro 16:25;
1Co 2:7-10), in a pure
conscience (1Ti 1:5, 19). ("Pure," that is, in which nothing
base or foreign is intermixed [Tittmann]). Though deacons were not ordinarily
called on to preach (Stephen and Philip are not exceptions to this,
since it was as evangelists, rather than as deacons, they
preached), yet as being office-bearers in the Church, and having much
intercourse with all the members, they especially needed to have this
characteristic, which every Christian ought to have.
10. "And moreover," &c. [Alford].
be proved—not by a period of
probation, but by a searching inquiry, conducted by Timothy, the
ordaining president (1Ti 5:22),
whether they be "blameless"; then when found so, "let them act as
"unexceptionable"; as the result of public investigation unaccused
11. their wives—rather, "the women,"
that is, the deaconesses. For there is no reason that special
rules should be laid down as to the wives of the deacons, and not also
as to the wives of the bishops or overseers. Moreover, if the wives of
the deacons were meant, there seems no reason for the omission of
"their" (not in the Greek). Also the Greek for "even so"
(the same as for "likewise," 1Ti 3:8, and "in like manner," 1Ti 2:9), denotes a transition to another class
of persons. Further, there were doubtless deaconesses at Ephesus, such
as Phœbe was at Cenchrea (Ro 16:1, "servant," Greek, "deaconess"),
yet no mention is made of them in this Epistle if not here; whereas,
supposing them to be meant here, the third chapter embraces in due
proportion all the persons in the service of the Church. Naturally
after specifying the qualifications of the deacon, Paul passes to those
of the kindred office, the deaconess. "Grave" occurs in the case of
both. "Not slanderers" here, answers to "not double-tongued" in the
deacons; so "not false accusers" (Tit 2:3). "Sober" here answers to "not given to
much wine," in the case of the deacons (1Ti 3:8). Thus it appears he requires the same
qualifications in female deacons as in deacons, only with such
modifications as the difference of sex suggested. Pliny, in his celebrated letter to Trajan,
calls them "female ministers."
faithful in all things—of life as well
as faith. Trustworthy in respect to the alms committed to them and
their other functions, answering to "not greedy of filthy lucre," 1Ti 3:8, in the case of the deacons.
12. husbands of one wife—(See on 1Ti 3:2).
ruling their children—There is no
article in the Greek, "ruling children"; implying that he
regarded the having children to rule as a qualification (1Ti 3:4;
their own houses—as distinguished from
"the Church of God" (see on 1Ti 3:5). In the case
of the deacons, as in that of the bishops, he mentions the first
condition of receiving office, rather than the special qualifications
for its discharge. The practical side of Christianity is the one most
dwelt on in the Pastoral Epistles, in opposition to the heretical
teachers; moreover, as the miraculous gifts began to be withdrawn, the
safest criterion of efficiency would be the previous moral character of
the candidate, the disposition and talent for the office being
presupposed. So in Ac 6:3, a
similar criterion was applied, "Look ye out among you seven men of
honest report." Less stress is laid on personal dignity in the case
of the deacon than in that of the bishop (compare Notes, see on
13. purchase to themselves a good
degree—literally, "are acquiring … a …
step." Understood by many as "a higher step," that is, promotion
to the higher office of presbyter. But ambition of rising seems hardly
the motive to faithfulness which the apostle would urge; besides, it
would require the comparative, "a better degree." Then the
past aorist participle, "they that used the office of deacon
well," implies that the present verb, "are acquiring to
themselves boldness," is the result of the completed action of using
the diaconate well. Also, Paul would not probably hold out to every
deacon the prospect of promotion to the presbytery in reward of his
service. The idea of moving upwards in Church offices was as yet
unknown (compare Ro 12:7, &c.; 1Co 12:4-11). Moreover, there seems little
connection between reference to a higher Church rank and the words
"great boldness." Therefore, what those who have faithfully discharged
the diaconate acquire for themselves is "a good standing-place" [Alford] (a well-grounded hope of
salvation) against the day of judgment, 1Ti 6:19; 1Co 3:13, 14 (the figurative meaning of
"degree" or "step," being the degree of worth which one has
obtained in the eye of God [Wiesinger]);
and boldness (resting on that standing-place"), as well for
preaching and admonishing others now (Eph 6:19; a firm standing forth for the truth
against error), as also especially in relation to God their coming
Judge, before whom they may be boldly confident (Ac 24:16; 1Jo 2:28; 3:21; 4:17; Heb 4:16).
in the faith—rather as Greek,
"in faith," that is, boldness resting on their own faith.
which is in Christ Jesus—resting
in Christ Jesus.
14. write I … hoping—that is,
"though I hope to come unto thee shortly" (1Ti 4:13). As his hope was not very confident
3:15), he provides for
Timothy's lengthened superintendence by giving him the preceding rules
to guide him. He now proceeds to give more general instructions to him
as an evangelist, having a "gift" committed to him (1Ti 4:14).
namely, than is presupposed in the preceding directions given to him.
See my Introduction on this verse.
This verse best suits the theory that this First Epistle was not
written after Paul's visit and departure from Ephesus (Ac 19:1-20:38) when he had resolved to winter at
Corinth after passing the summer in Macedonia (1Co 16:6), but after his first imprisonment at
28:17-31); probably at
Corinth, where he might have some thoughts of going on to Epirus before
returning to Ephesus [Birks].
15. But if I tarry long—before coming to
that—that is, I write (1Ti 3:14) "that thou mayest know,"
behave thyself—in directing the Church
at Ephesus (1Ti 4:11).
the house of God—the Church (Heb 3:2, 5, 6; 10:21; 1Pe 4:17; 1Co 3:16, "the temple of God"; Eph 2:22).
which is—that is, inasmuch as it
the church—"the congregation." The
fact that the sphere of thy functions is "the congregation of the
living God" (who is the ever living Master of the house, 2Ti 2:19, 20,
21), is the strongest motive
to faithfulness in this behavior as president of a department of
the house." The living God forms a striking contrast to the
lifeless idol, Diana of Ephesus (1Th 1:9). He is the fountain of "truth," and the
foundation of our "trust" (1Ti 4:10).
Labor directed to a particular Church is service to the one great house
of God, of which each particular Church is a part, and each Christian a
lively stone (1Pe 2:5).
the pillar and ground of the
truth—evidently predicated of the Church, not of "the
mystery of godliness" (an interpretation not started till the sixteenth
century; so Bengel); for after two
weighty predicates, "pillar and ground," and these substantives, the
third, a much weaker one, and that an adjective, "confessedly," or
"without controversy great," would not come. "Pillar" is so used
metaphorically of the three apostles on whom principally the Jewish
Christian Church depended (Ga 2:9;
3:12). The Church is "the
pillar of the truth," as the continued existence (historically) of the
truth rests on it; for it supports and preserves the word of truth. He
who is of the truth belongs by the very fact to the Church. Christ is
the alone ground of the truth in the highest sense (1Co 3:11). The apostles are foundations in a
secondary sense (Eph 2:20; Re 21:14). The Church rests on the truth as it is
in Christ; not the truth on the Church. But the truth as it is in
itself is to be distinguished from the truth as it is
acknowledged in the world. In the former sense it needs no
pillar, but supports itself; in the latter sense, it needs the
Church as its pillar, that is, its supporter and preserver [Baumgarten]. The importance of Timothy's
commission is set forth by reminding him of the excellence of "the
house" in which he serves; and this in opposition to the coming
heresies which Paul presciently forewarns him of immediately after
4:1). The Church is to be the
stay of the truth and its conserver for the world, and God's instrument
for securing its continuance on earth, in opposition to those heresies
16:18; 28:20). The apostle
does not recognize a Church which has not the truth, or has it only in
part. Rome falsely claims the promise for herself. But it is not
historical descent that constitutes a Church, but this only, to those
heresies (Mt 16:18; 28:20). The apostle does not recognize a
Church which has not the intermediate; the "ground," or "basement"
(similar to "foundation," 2Ti 2:19),
the final support of the building [Alford]. It is no objection that, having called the
Church before "the house of God," he now calls it the "pillar"; for the
literal word "Church" immediately precedes the new metaphors: so the
Church, or congregation of believers, which before was regarded
as the habitation of God, is now, from a different point of
view, regarded as the pillar upholding the truth.
16. And—following up 1Ti 3:15: The pillar of the truth is the Church
in which thou art required to minister; "AND (that thou mayest know how grand is that
truth which the Church so upholds) confessedly (so the
Greek for 'without controversy') great is the mystery of
godliness: (namely), He who (so the
oldest manuscripts and versions read for 'God') was manifested in (the)
flesh (He who) was justified in the Spirit," &c. There is set
before us the whole dignity of Christ's person. If He were not
essentially superhuman (Tit 2:13),
how could the apostle emphatically declare that He was manifested
in (the) flesh? [Tregelles,
Printed Text of the Greek New Testament]. (Joh
1:14; Php 2:7; 1Jo 1:2; 4:2).
Christ, in all His aspects, is Himself "the mystery of godliness." He
who before was hidden "with God" was made manifest (Joh 1:1, 14; Ro 16:25, 26; Col
1:26; 2Ti 1:10; Tit 2:11; 3:4; 1Jo 3:5, 8). "Confessedly," that is, by the
universal confession of the members of "the Church," which is in this
respect the "pillar" or upholder "of the truth."
the mystery—the divine scheme embodied
in Christ (Col 1:27), once hidden from, but now revealed to,
us who believe.
of godliness—rather, "piety"; a
different Greek, expresses godliness (1Ti 2:10). In opposition to the
ungodliness or impiety inseparable from error
(departure from the faith: "doctrines of devils," "profane
fables," 1Ti 4:1, 7;
6:3). To the victims of such
error, the "mystery of piety" (that is, Christ Himself) remains a
mystery unrevealed (1Ti 4:2). It
is accessible only to "piety" (1Ti 3:9): in relation to the pious it is termed
a "mystery," though revealed (1Co 2:7-14), to imply the excellence of Him who is
the surpassing essential subject of it, and who is Himself "wonderful"
9:6), surpassing knowledge
3:18, 19); compare Eph 5:32. The apostle now proceeds to
unfold this confessedly great mystery in its details. It is not
unlikely that some formula of confession or hymn existed in the Church
and was generally accepted, to which Paul alludes in the words
"confessedly great is the mystery," &c. (to wit), "He who
was manifested," &c. Such hymns were then used (compare Eph
5:19; Col 3:16). Pliny [1.10, Epistle, 97], "They are wont on
a fixed day before dawn to meet and sing a hymn in alternate responses
to Christ, as being God"; and Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 5.28]. The
short unconnected sentences with the words similarly arranged, and the
number of syllables almost equal, and the ideas antithetically related,
are characteristics of a Christian hymn. The clauses stand in
parallelism; each two are connected as a pair, and form an antithesis
turning on the opposition of heaven to earth; the order of this
antithesis is reversed in each new pair of clauses: flesh and
spirit, angels and Gentiles, world and glory; and
there is a correspondence between the first and the last clause:
"manifested in the flesh, received up into glory" [Wiesinger].
justified—that is, approved to be
righteous [Alford]. Christ, while "in
the flesh," seemed to be just such a one as men in the flesh, and in
fact bore their sins; but by having died to sin, and having
risen again, He gained for Himself and His people justifying
50:8; Joh 16:10; Ac 22:14; Ro 4:25; 6:7, 10; Heb 9:28; 1Pe 3:18;
4:1 1Jo 2:1) [Bengel]; or rather, as the antithesis to "was
manifest in the flesh" requires, He was justified in the Spirit at
the same time that He was manifest in the flesh, that is, He was
vindicated as divine "in His Spirit," that is, in His higher
nature; in contrast to "in the flesh," His visible human
nature. This contrasted opposition requires "in the Spirit" to be
thus explained: not "by the Spirit," as Alford explains it. So Ro 1:3, 4, "Made of the seed of David according to
the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power,
according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the
dead." So "justified" is used to mean vindicated in one's true
character (Mt 11:19; Lu 7:35; Ro 3:4). His manifestation "in the flesh"
exposed him to misapprehension, as though he were nothing more
6:41; 7:27). His
justification, or vindication, in respect to His Spirit
or higher being, was effected by ALL
that manifested that higher being, His words (Mt 7:29; Joh
7:46), His works (Joh 2:11;
3:2), by His Father's
testimony at His baptism (Mt 3:17), and
at the transfiguration (Mt 17:5), and
especially by His resurrection (Ac 13:33; Ro 1:4), though not by this exclusively,
as Bengel limits it.
seen of angels—answering to "preached
unto the Gentiles" (or rather "among the nations"; including the
Jews), on the other hand (Mt 28:19; Ro 16:25, 26). "Angels saw the Son of God with us,
not having seen Him before" [Chrysostom].' "not even they had seen His divine
nature, which is not visible to any creature, but they saw Him
incarnate" [Theodoret] (Eph 3:8, 10;
1Pe 1:12; compare Col 1:16,
20). What angels came to know
by seeing, the nations learned by preaching. He is a new
message to the one class as well as to the other; in the wondrous union
in His person of things most opposite, namely, heaven and earth, lies
"the mystery" [Wiesinger]. If the
English Version, "Gentiles," be retained, the antithesis will be
between the angels who are so near the Son of God, the
Lord of "angels," and the Gentiles who were so utterly "afar
believed on in the world—which lieth
in wickedness (1Jo 2:15; 5:19). Opposed to "glory" (Joh 3:16, 17). This followed upon His being
"preached" (Ro 10:14).
received up into glory—Greek,
"in glory." However, English Version may be retained thus,
"Received up (so as now to be) in glory," that is, into
glory (Mr 16:19; Lu 24:51; Ac 1:11). His reception in heaven answers to His
reception on earth by being "believed on."