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THE FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY
“REQUIREMENTS OF THOSE WHO MINISTER
IN GOD’S HOUSEHOLD”
1 Timothy 3:1-7 – Qualifications of Overseers
1TM3:1 This statement is trustworthy:97
If any [man] aspires to [become]98
he desires an excellent work!100
This statement is trustworthy: Or, it has been said, and said truly [BAR]. This phrase occurs elsewhere. [1 Timothy
1:15; 2 Timothy 2:11] Some view it as coming upon the former statement regarding women, others the statement which follows regarding overseers. Or, NEB: there is a popular saying.
If any [man] aspires to [become]: Or, ambitious to be the leader and guardian of the community. The context and the gender mean a male. We may assume Paul means a Christian
man. A man already embarked on the course of Nazarene discipleship. Or, desire, longs for, eager. There is a delicate balance and tension between political ambition and a godly desire to serve others in the Church in an appointed position.
An overseer: The Greek is EPI-SCOPES [Strong’s Concordance #1984 (from 1980), over + view, inspect, go and see,
visit, superintendent]. Or, KJV: office of bishop; NASB: office of overseer; RHM: oversight; TCN: Presiding Officer; GDS: superintendent; MON: minister; WMS: pastor; BEC: office of overseer; BAR: superintendent of the community. “Bishop” is an Anglicized corruption of episcopes. Comparing Paul’s instructions in Titus 1:5ff it suggest the overseer is the same as an elder, though these two were later separated in the following centuries. The “bishop” became a supervisor over many congregations, while the elders were local. There seems no Scriptural basis for this. Note how a single congregation in Philippi had “overseers and deacons” – plural. [Philippians 1:1] Overseers, or elders, also held other offices: apostle, prophet, teacher, shepherd, and missionary. [Compare notes on 1 Corinthians 12:27-29 and Ephesians 4:11, 12.] See notes on Titus 1:5: overseers or elders were not appointed by a congregational vote but by those authorized to make such appointments. The argument is ancient but the early church was less congregational [majority rule of the ecclesia] and more presbyterian [appointment and oversight by elders]. The later was in harmony with the example of Israel. [Exodus 18:21; Deuteronomy 1:13] Beginning with Genesis 50:7 [Matthew 16:21] research elder(s) or older men, occurring about 160 times in the Bible. Overseer(s) occurs only at Acts 20:28, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:7, 1 Peter 2:25 in the Christian Bible.
He desires an excellent work: Or, good, noble, fine. It is unfortunate that some men desire, not the “work,” but the office. What is being recommended is WORK after the role models of Christ and Paul [1 Corinthians 11:1] – selfless and untiring slaves for the spiritual community. By reading the Gospels, and the life of Paul, a modern overseer or elder will realize how he must humbly sacrifice himself for the fellowship. They do well to meditate on Jeremiah 3:15 and Acts 20:28.
1TM3:2 Therefore, it is a necessity the overseer be:101
a husband of one wife,103
skillful in teaching,108
Without reproach: Or, whom no one can criticize [BAR]. The Greek is AN-EPI-LEMBTON [Strong’s Concordance #423,
not arrest, inculpable, blameless]. Or, without reproach, irreproachable, blameless character, no fault can be found, no grounds for accusation, irreprehensible. Others have been so described, including Job. [Luke 1:6; Philippians 2:15] Compare 1 Timothy 6:14.
All Christians should be without reproach, but the elder more so. Paul does not consider the foolish accusations of the super critical and judgmental, or those with a hidden agenda, who would find fault in every man.
A husband of one wife: Or, MOF: he must be married only once. A parallel is found in the widow of 1 Timothy 5:9 where she is “the
wife of one husband,” that is married only once – never divorced and remarried. Thus, this man may be married, not a polygamist, but if his wife has died, or he is divorced from her, he has not remarried. Note this is not a requirement of a deacon
Temperate: The Greek is NEPHALION [Strong’s Concordance #3524 (from
3525), remain sober, circumspect, discreet. Or, self-controlled, moderate. This is a moderate and balanced man, not given to extremes].
Sensible: The Greek is SOPHRONA [Strong’s Concordance #4998, sound mind, moderate as to opinion and passion]. Or, prudent, master of himself, discreet, self-restrained, serious-minded. Compare Romans 12:3. [1 Peter 4:7] Most people recognize
a sensible man when they see one. Good sense and reasonableness characterize this man.
The Greek is KOSMION from cosmos [Strong’s Concordance #2887, by arrangement, or orderly]. Or, good behavior, respectable, dignified, unruffled, well-ordered, having respect for order. This is a man whose life is not in disarray. He knows how to organize
himself and others. He is consistent, trustworthy, and on time. Compare Romans 4:12; Galatians 5:25; Philippians 3:16.
Hospitable: The Greek is PHILO-XENON [Strong’s Concordance #5382, fond of guests or strangers, friendly]. Or, BAS: opening his house freely to guests. The Middle Eastern peoples were renowned for their hospitality to strangers and this
is featured in the Bible in several examples. [Genesis 18:1ff; Genesis 19:1ff; Judges 19:1ff; 1 Kings 17:8ff; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 10:33ff; Acts 28:7] Amidst such a people the Christians themselves were well known for their kind hospitality. So, the elder
must be head and shoulders above the average Christian as an example to others. [Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; Hebrews 13:2] Judging from the Bible’s general description of hospitality, the elder must be a man who opens his home to entertain strangers, guest, and the needy.
Skillful in teaching: The Greek is DIDAKTIKON [Strong’s Concordance #1317, instructive, didactic, apt to teach]. Or, skilled in teaching, a gift for teaching, qualified to teach, a good teacher. “Teacher” was a special office among elders though all elders should be capable of instructing others. [1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; James 3:1] Some men, for a variety of reasons, lack the character or qualifications to teach. Such a man needs time and experience in the Word of God. He needs to have learned patience and love in his course of Christian living. Some men can teach an audience of thousands but lack one-to-one abilities; while another man is quite able in a one on one situation, falters when before thousands. Both are teachers. Compare notes on 1 Timothy 5:17 and 2 Timothy 2:24. The early Church trained men to become qualified teachers. [2 Timothy 2:2] Such a man will have studied the teaching manner of Jesus well.
1TM3:3 not given to [drunkenness with] wine,109
but rather, forbearing,111
not a lover of money,113
Forbearing: The Greek is EPI-EIKE [Strong’s Concordance #1933, appropriate, mild, gentle, moderating, patient]. Or, considerate, genial, peaceable, not a controversialist, yielding. This man is a gentleman who learned good manners from his mother. [Philippians 4:5; James 3:17] He is tolerant and forgiving.
Not quarrelsome: The Greek is HAMAKHON [Strong’s Concordance #269, peaceable, not a brawler]. Or, not belligerent, not contentious, averse to strife, avoiding quarrels, conciliatory, not a controversialist. Some men are confrontational or adversarial by nature and must learn to overcome such a disposition. The elder is easy to approach and speak to without worrying about starting an argument. This does not mean he must agree with everyone as though “tickling their ears.” [1 Timothy 4:1-3] Compare notes on Romans 12:18 and James 3:18.
Not a lover of money: The Greek is APHILARGYRON [Strong’s Concordance #866, unavarice, without covetousness, not greedy]. Or, KJV: not greedy of filthy lucre; BAR: money must have no attraction for him. While it is natural for men to provide for their families, the Christian elder cannot be characterized like the farmer in Jesus’ parable. [Luke 12:13-21] Solomon writes, “money is a protection” [Ecclesiastes 7:12] and yet Paul is to go on in this letter to warn of the love of money. [1 Timothy 6:7-10] The man who would be elder has already studied the teachings of the Nazarene on the subjects of money, riches, the poor, and charity. [Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 5:2] If he be a man possessed of riches, he has also meditated on 1 Timothy 6:17-19 and is thus characterized as a giver, a sharer, a charitable man as was Job. [Job 29:12-17] Such a man has made Friends in heaven. [Luke 16:9] It is said that “time is money” and if this sort of man does not have the time to attend to the congregation, but rather devotes himself wholly to commercial business, it is best he not serve as an elder. Some rich elders believe this gives them a certain authority over others, whereas our Master counseled his apostles as he did in Luke 12:33, “Sell your belongings and give to charity.”
1TM3:4 managing his own household well,114
having his children in subjection with all respect,115
Managing his own household well: The Greek is PROISTAMENON [Strong’s Concordance #4291, to stand before,
preside, rule, be over]. Or, KJV: one that ruleth his own home; RHM: presiding well; KNX: one who is a good head to his own family. There is no question that in the Biblical Christian home the husband is head of his wife and the loving father of his children.
[1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-5] This is a man known as the head of his home, ruling as a benevolent sovereign who provides for, protects, and spiritually guides his Christian household. If it be known or understood that his wife is really
the true head of the household, then it would be better not to appoint such a man as an elder, or his wife will assume she has some control over the elders. See the Biblical Article The Godly Husband.
1TM3:5 (Now, if any man does not know how to manage116
his own household, how will he care for God’s Church?)
Know how to manage: Or, rule, preside, superintend, control. If this man’s house is in disarray, with
wife and children showing no respect, then it is best he not be appointed as an elder. Paul’s parenthetical question is most appropriate: if a man cannot rule and control his own household how will he manage or preside over a much larger group of people?
1TM3:6 not a new convert,117
lest he become puffed up118
and fall into the Devil’s condemnation.119
Not a new convert: The Greek is NEOPHYTE [Strong’s Concordance #3504, newly planted, young convert]. Or, recent convert, a beginner. Paul does not state an age requirement though he may have had in mind certain Jewish traditions. It is clear Timothy was an elder and at the same time a young man. However, Timothy was raised in a godly home and likely was baptized when very young. Thus, Timothy was no “neophyte.” Paul’s concern is that someone so new to Christianity would get puffed up and full of himself by being given an office before he is ready for it. This is not a requirement of a deacon as will be seen below. Surely, the man who would be an elder has already served as a deacon and been “tested first.” The other elders have had plenty of time to test and examine this man regarding his fitness as an associate elder. An example of a neophyte who fell into the Devil’s snare is Simon. [Acts 8:13] Since the danger is pride and arrogance, the elders will look for evidence of humility and modesty in this man who desires to be an elder.
Puffed up: Or, become inflate with a sense of his own importance [BAR]. The Greek is TYPHOTHEIS [Strong’s Concordance #5187, inflate with self-conceit, proud, high-minded, lifted up with pride]. Or, beclouded, blinded with pride, becoming conceited, high opinion of himself. Ambition for office is one of the most dangerous attitudes that can destroy the person and the unity of the spiritual community. Humility and obedience must rule the Church even as Jesus set the model. [Philippians 2:5-7] Note Simon again at Acts 8:19. Satan’s own example is parallel to Ezekiel 28:17. It may be that such a prideful man will never qualify for the office of overseer. The longer this is postponed the worse his character becomes as he insists he qualifies. Sooner or later he will leave the Church. Better not to have him from the beginning, lest he bring Satanic attitudes into the Church.
The Devil’s condemnation: This is a serious matter. [Matthew 25:46]
1TM3:7 Now, it is also a necessity [that he] have an excellent testimony from those outside120
[the Church], otherwise he will fall into reproach and the Devil’s snare.121
Excellent testimony from those outside: Or, KJV: good report of them which are without; RHM: honourable testimony; BAS: a good name; BER: a favorable reputation; KNX: good character; GDS: good standing. It would be necessary to hear such testimony within the community and the man’s neighbors. There may be no better way to know about a man than talking to those who have lived around him for years. How do those at work view this man? What is his known reputation in the community? Is he honest in business? Is he known to keep his word? Is he an honorable man in civic matters? This is a man respected in his neighborhood. An example of this kind of man is Ananias at Acts 22:12. Compare 2 Corinthians 8:21 and 1 Thessalonians 4:12. Anyone can see that this man described above is of sublime and princely character to whom any woman would want to be married. No person in the Christian Church must have a more a godly character than the elder.
Fall into reproach and the Devil’s snare: Compare notes on 2 Timothy 2:26. The cause for Paul’s concern is appointing a man as an elder in the local congregation who has a bad reputation in the community. For example, unknown to the elders and the congregation, this man may be a cheat in commercial business. Such will bring reproach, first on the congregation, then upon Christ, the Head of the Church. Every Christian must be on guard against ever bringing reproach on that One who carried the reproaches against God. See notes on Romans 15:3.
1 Timothy 3:8-13 – Assistant Ministers
1TM3:8 In similar manner, deacons must be:122
not indulging in a lot of wine,125
not fond of dishonest gain,126
Deacons must be: The Greek for “deacon” is DIAKONOUS from which the English is derived. The meaning
is literally “one dusty from doing the errands of his master.” Or, ministers, assistant-officers, helpers. The office of “deacon” was first more of a job description and found in the women who ministered to Jesus and his apostles. Note
Luke 8:3, “… and many different women who were serving [DIEKONOUN] [Jesus and the apostles] from their belongings.” Early in the Church’s history the first deacons were appointed by the apostles themselves. [Acts 6:3-6]
The office of deacon was a non-teaching position, which was devoted to the physical needs of the congregation. It seems very likely that qualified Christian women were also appointed as deaconesses. [See notes below.] This is a true “servant” running
here and there in the service of their master – the Christian fellowship.
Or, serious men [BAR]. The Greek is SEMNOUS [Strong’s Concordance #4586, venerable, honorable, grave, honest]. Or, dignified, serious outlook, high principle. This is a person [man or woman] who takes this assignment seriously and approaches their duty
to the congregation in sober and respectable manner, whether it be cleaning, distributing food to the needy, preparing for meetings, visiting the ill, and a multitude of other tasks which often go unnoticed.
Not double-tongued: Or, they must not be the kind of men who say one thing to one person and another to another [BAR]. The Greek is DILOGOUS [Strong’s
Concordance #1351, equivocal, telling a different story]. One of the major problems in an atmosphere of political ambition is having two faces. This is a newer Christian who does not put on two faces. Or, speak one way in one situation, and another way in a different one. He/she does not speak behind one’s back. That is, saying pleasant and mannerly things to someone’s face, and something else when the person is not present. No double-talk.
Not indulging in a lot of wine: Compare notes above. In other words: a person who is habitually drunk.
Not fond of dishonest gain: Or, to make money by disreputable methods [BAR]. The Greek is ME AISKHROKERDEIS and literally means greedy in business or other matters. Or, sordid gain, base gain, ill-gotten gains, questionable moneymaking, money-grubbing. It is noteworthy that the deacon is not required not to be a lover of money. He/she can have no taint of questionable business practices. Nor can they display any evidence of another kind of dishonest gain: ambition or glory of office. In Titus 1:7 the elder must also meet this qualification. [1 Peter 5:2]
1TM3:9 keeping the mystery of the Faith with a clean conscience.127
Keeping the mystery of the Faith with a clean conscience: Or, KJV: pure conscience; NEB: these must be men who combine a clear conscience with a firm hold on the deep truths of our faith. The deacon is not limited in knowledge but is completely familiar with “the elementary doctrine of the Christ.” [Hebrews 6:1-3] The phrase “mystery of the Faith” is also rendered: RHM: sacred secret of; GDS: divine truth; TCN: deep truths. This is not just a new Christian man or women, but one who has at least a fundamental understanding of this “mystery.” [Regarding this “mystery” see Ephesians 3:3, 6 and 1 Timothy 3:16.] In addition, they feel they have a clean or pure conscience. Note Paul’s conscience at Acts 24:16. See notes on 1 Timothy 1:5, 19; 2 Timothy 1:3; 1 Peter 3:16.
1TM3:10 Also, let these be tested first,128
then let them serve,129
being found irreproachable.130
Let these be tested first: Or, proved, examined, undergo probation, undergo a scrutiny. BAR: a period of probation.
Whether this is before or after beginning to serve as a deacon is not clear. Some would understand this to mean a prior examination before appointment as a deacon. [See the next phrase.] [2 Corinthians 8:22] The wording indicates the degree the early Church
went to in order to maintain a high degree of godly candidates for service in the Church.
them serve: Or, KJV: then let them use the office of a deacon. The privilege of serving in the local congregation is something that only comes after testing and examination by the elder(s).
Found irreproachable: The Greek is ANEGKLETOI [Strong’s Concordance #410, unaccused, irreproachable, blameless]. Or, TCN: no objection is
raised against them; GDS: no fault to be found. Compare Daniel 6:5. [1 Peter 2:12] Like the candidate for overseer there can be no legitimate charge against the prospective deacon.
women must be:133
trustworthy in everything.137)
Likewise, [their wives]: The Greek is literally “woman” and there are at least two views: a) the
wives of the elders and deacons; or, b) women who may qualify as a deaconess. Compare various translations. If it is the former, then the overseer’s wife must also meet certain requirements. Or, KJV: wives; CON: their wives; BER: the wives; PME: their
Women must be: If this refers to “wives” then the following involves an elder’s wife. If it involves female deacons then these are additional requirements,
though some overlap with those above.
Respectable: Or, grave, dignified, worthy of respect. See notes above on 1 Timothy 3:8. Both male and female servants in the congregation must be respectable in their character so that no reproach is brought on the ecclesia. These are ladies respected in the community.
Not slanderous: Or, not be given to malicious scandal-mongering. The Greek is DIABOLOUS [Strong’s Concordance #1228, devil, false accuser]. Or, talk scandal, not gossips, malicious gossips, saying no evil of others. This caution does not appear in the requirements of an elder or male deacon. Why is left to each reader to determine. However, this Christian lady is known in the community not to be involved in gossip and slander. She never speaks ill or falsely of another. She is no party to the latest tidbit that circulates in the community. See notes on 1 Timothy 5:13. [Proverbs 11:13].
Temperate: The Greek is NEPHALOUS [Strong’s Concordance #3524, sober, circumspect]. Or, self-control, moderate. She controls her tongue in the congregation and community. She is not known as the woman to approach regarding the latest story circulating.
Trustworthy in everything: Or, KJV: faithful in all things; BAS: true in all things; PME: women who can be trusted. As a servant in the congregation the elders must be able to trust her in her duties and speech. She will destroy all trust in her if she violates confidentiality or is found spreading slanders in the congregation. She is a reliable woman when given a duty to perform does it faithfully. Compare notes on Titus 2:3.
1TM3:12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife,138
managing well their households and children.139
Deacons must be husbands of one wife: Like the elders, deacons must have been married only once. See the notes
above on 1 Timothy 3:2. It is not said of the deaconess that she ought to be the “wife of one husband” as it is of elderly widows later.
Managing well their households and children: See the notes above on 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6. Deacons rule, manage, or control their households. This is not said of the female servant here, though
note 1 Timothy 5:14.
1TM3:13 For those who serve well acquire an excellent standing140
for themselves, as well as a confident faith in Christ Jesus.141
Those who serve well acquire an excellent standing: Or, KJV: for they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree; WMS: good service; BER: helpful service as deacons;
MON: honourable position; BER: step upward; NEB: claim a high standing; KNX: sure footing. It seems fair to conclude that all elders were first deacons. This excellent and trustworthy service to the Christian community has provided some years for a man to mature and demonstrate those qualifications listed above for elders. We note Paul mentions nothing about preaching or teaching in the congregation as that is the duty of the elders. These men also acquire an excellent standing with God and Christ.
A confident faith in Christ Jesus: Or, KJV: great boldness in the faith; RHM: freedom of speech in the faith; NEB: right to speak openly on matters of the Christian faith. Such people are not constantly conflicted with doubt or distrust.
1 Timothy 3:14-16 – Conduct in God’s House
1TM3:14 Despite writing these things to you I expect to visit you soon.
1TM3:15 So, if I am delayed you may know how one ought to conduct oneself in God’s House142
– which is [the] Church of a Living God,143
the pillar and foundation of the Truth.144
Know how one ought to conduct oneself in God’s House: Or, KJV: ought to behave; WMS: how people ought
to conduct themselves. The wording is not limited to Timothy but also to all those within the Nazarene community. The Church, or congregation [ecclesia], is often compared to a Household and several related words are associated: steward, house administration.
Compare notes on Ephesians 2:19 and Hebrews 3:6. What Paul has just written are the inspired “commandments” of the Master Jesus by means of the promised spirit-helper. [1 Corinthians 14:37; John 16:13]
The pillar and foundation of the Truth: Or, ground of, support, buttress, bulwark, mainstay. One cannot separate the Truth from the Church. This Truth is later rejected
by the vast portion of the Church as foretold. See the notes on 1 Timothy 4:1-3 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3ff. [2 Peter 2:1ff; 1 John 4:1, 2] There is a specific set of doctrines which are related to the Truth – a Truth Jesus promised to reveal. [John 16:13]
1TM3:16 Great is the Confession of this awe-inspiring mystery!145
Great is the Confession of this awe-inspiring mystery: Or, KJV: without controversy great is the mystery of godliness;
RHM: confessedly great is the sacred secret of godliness; WMS: the mystery of our religion is a great wonder; NEB: great beyond all question if the mystery of our religion; GDS: no one can deny the profundity of the divine truth of; NWT: godly devotion; BAR:
the greatness of the truth of our religion. The Greek often translated “religion” is EU-SEBEIAS [Strong’s Concordance #2150, well-reverent]. Dictionary of New Testament Theology [Colin Brown], Volume 2, page 91, comments on the root
meaning of this word: “The root seb- meant originally to step back from someone or something, to maintain a distance… developed the metamorphical idea of trepidation ranging from shame, through wonder, to something approaching fear.”
Thus, this awe [wonder/fear] inspires worship of the Creator which some call religion. The Greek for “mystery” is MYSTERION [Strong’s Concordance #3466].
[He] became visible in flesh,146
vindicated as a spirit-being,147
seen by angels,148
preached to the non-Jews,149
believed upon in [the] world order of humanity,150
and, received up in glory.151
[He] became visible in flesh: Paul begins a list which some feel is an ancient hymn or affirmation of convictions. [NJB ftn] The KJV has “God” based on faulty texts. Most either render this “who” or “he.” Or, appeared, manifested, was seen, revealed. This would be impossible for that one called the “invisible” God in 1 Timothy 1:17. [1 Timothy 6:16] Jesus Christ became visible or manifest at his birth [John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-7], upon his resurrection [Acts 10:40], and again upon his future parousia. [Hebrews 9:26, 28; 1 John 2:28; 3:2]
Vindicated as a spirit-being: Or, justified in the Spirit, declared righteous in spirit, pronounced righteous in spirit, by the Spirit, in the spirit. Renderings vary depending on Trinitarian influence. Based on Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:40, 44, 45-50 the Risen Master was a spirit or pneuma. Peter agrees at 1 Peter 3:18. [Romans 1:4]
Seen by angels: Or, appeared to angels, made visible to messengers, beheld by. Though this may refer to the angels of the resurrection, or of the ascension, it may more directly refer to what 1 Peter 3:22 describes. [Daniel 7:13; Revelation 5:6, 7, 11, 12] This would have first begun in the tomb, as angels were the first to witness the resurrection.
Preached to the non-Jews: Or, preached unto the Gentiles, preached among the nations. [Matthew 28:19; Colossians 1:23] See notes elsewhere on ETHNOS. Within three decades the Evangel had reached most of the civilized world.
Believed upon in [the] world order of humanity: Or, believed on in the world, trusted in throughout the world. [Colossians 1:6] The quick and wide spread of Christianity impresses most historians.
Received up in glory: Or, into glory, in glory taken up, received back. The Greek for “received up” is ANELEMPHTHE and is related to those similar words in John 14:3, Luke 17:34, 35; Acts 1:11. That is, the ascension. [Daniel 7:13; Acts 1:9-11]
Review Questions on Chapter Three
What is a fine work a Christian man may desire?
What kind of man is qualified to become an overseer?
What are some requirements before a man becomes an overseer?
What is required before a man or woman may serve as a deacon?
What is Paul’s main reason in writing Timothy?
How does Paul describe the “mystery of the faith”?
Summary of Chapter Three
After discussing men and women in chapter 2, Paul now adds more details to offices within the Church. He begins with a list of 15 qualifications in order for a man to be appointed as an overseer (or, elder). He then provides a brief list regarding deacons
[and, possibly deaconesses]. Paul ends this chapter with the theme verse of the whole letter [1 Timothy 3:15] – How to conduct oneself in God’s House, the Church. He breaks forth in something of a hymn or creed on six elements to the mystery of