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Bible Commentaries

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

1 Timothy 3

 

 

Verses 1-7

Qualifications of Bishops

Paul turned from leadership in worship to leadership in the church. Men are not to be drafted into this work against their will but must desire this work. Spain says the word desire "means to long for or eagerly desire. Such desire and aspiration is commendable when it issues from a heart filled with love for Christ and his church." The bishop is an overseer or shepherd of God"s people, thus the same as pastor. In Acts 20:1-38, Paul called for the elders of the church in Ephesus in verse 17 but referred to their job as that of being bishops, or overseers, over the flock of God in verse 28. The office of bishop is not an honorary one but is referred to by Paul as a task. An elder does not have to be sinlessly perfect, but certainly should have a good reputation. The A. S. V. uses the words "without reproach" and Roberts says, "In the meaning of the original a man is blameless when no charge which had not been corrected can be brought against him." This qualification may actually refer to how a man meets the rest of the items listed.

A bishop must be a one-woman man, or one who has kept God"s marriage law. He must also be vigilant, or temperate, which suggests self control. This man must keep his desires in check as Paul told the Corinthians he had to keep his body under him (1 Corinthians 9:27). He further should be a sober-minded man, or one who knows how to be serious when such is called for. Good behavior implies a well-ordered outward life that reflects the inward Lordship of Christ. A man given to hospitality would be concerned about the needs of others (Matthew 25:31-46). He must be a man well acquainted with God"s word and ready to use it to the benefit of the flock of God (1 Timothy 3:1-2).

An elder cannot be a man who is addicted to the use of wine. Neither can he be a man with a quick temper that would cause him to strike someone in anger. Also, he cannot be a lover of money who would do anything for personal gain (; Colossians 3:5). A man who is "gentle" is sensitive to the feelings of others and ready to listen. Elders must not be argumentative or constantly seeking a word fight, which is the meaning of “quarrelsome.” A constant desire to possess those things that belong to others is not a characteristic desirable in elders (1 Corinthians 5:10).

Naturally, a man"s leadership experiences at home will play a crucial role in how he will lead the church. His children should respect and be subject to him. That the plural form "children" can be Biblically used of people with only one child is evident from a simple reading of Genesis 21:7. If one cannot direct his own family at home, how could he possibly be expected to direct the family of God (1 Timothy 3:3-5)?

An inexperienced Christian should not be considered for the office of bishop because he might fall prey to pride (1 Corinthians 13:4). A man who assumed too much self importance because he was selected as a leader by God"s people would find himself in the same condemnation as the devil (Revelation 20:10). Even those outside the body of Christ should recognize the potential elder as a good man. Non-members do not exercise authority in the church because of this statement. Instead, it recognizes our desire to reach the world and the fact that it will be hindered by our selecting leaders who are known as scoundrels to those we try to teach. The snare of the devil may either be a snare laid by him or the same one he fell into. In either case, it would lead to a bad result for the one in it (1 Timothy 3:6-7).


Verses 8-13

Qualifications of Deacons

By using the word "likewise," Paul made it clear that the qualifications of deacons are as important as those of elders. The word deacon comes from the original diakonos, which Vine says "primarily denotes a servant, whether as doing servile work, or as an attendant rendering free service." The word is used of Christ (Romans 15:8), his followers actions toward one another (Matthew 20:26), those who serve the church whether from an appointed office or as one who just loves the body (Romans 16:1; Philippians 1:1) and of various others. In this place, Paul obviously has an office in mind. These men must be serious and reverent. He must not say one thing when he means another or say different things to different people. He must not be a man addicted to, or having his mind occupied with, wine. Neither should he be one who is hungry for evil money, or money acquired in a dishonest way (1 Timothy 3:8).

Throughout the Old Testament period, the way of salvation was hidden from man, thus a mystery. That mystery is made known in the gospel of Christ. A man qualified to be a deacon will keep the faith so that his conscience is free from guilt. Like elders, deacons must be men who have passed the test of time as a Christian. This will enable him to assume the duties assigned him and not be found to have a charge against him that is not corrected (1 Timothy 3:9-10).

In 1 Timothy 3:11, the A. S. V. begins with the words, "women in like manner must," thus showing the true difficulty this verse presents. Is Paul speaking to a special class of women who work in the church or is he speaking to the wives of the deacons? If this is to the wives of deacons as the N. K. J. V. translates, why is there nothing to the wives of elders? Lipscomb believed there were some needs women in the church had that a man could not properly attend to. Coffman felt Paul would have called them by a special name if they were to have a special office. He notes that a wife could certainly effect the working of her husband and would play a vital role in his attending to the needs

of women. It seems to this author that the verse is written in too broad a sense to be directed to a special office but it may refer to women who attend to special needs of women without holding a special office. In any case, Paul says these women must be serious minded and avoid gossip, which can tear down the character of others. They must be trustworthy and not be given to excesses (1 Timothy 3:11).

God"s law for marriage is one woman for one man for life (Matthew 19:3-9). Men who would serve the church must respect that law. Notice that this qualification omits women as potential office holders. A man who cannot control his own family is not suited to hold a position of authority in the family of God. Men who use the office of a deacon well will be held in honor by their brethren and will have greater courage in furthering Christ’s cause (1 Timothy 3:12-13).


Verses 14-16

Personal Instructions to Timothy

Paul hoped he would soon be able to visit with Timothy in person about the organization of the church and actions of those who make it up. However, he knew travel was uncertain and plans could suddenly be changed. Timothy needed this information to carry out the charge he had from Paul. If he was delayed in coming, Paul wanted Timothy to know the things comprising proper behavior in the church. He described the church as God"s house or dwelling place (compare 1 Corinthians 3:5-17). The apostle may have also intended to represent the church as God’s family. The church is a dwelling place for a living God, which is in stark contrast to the dead gods many worshiped during Paul"s day. A pillar serves as undergirding or support. In this case, the church is said to support the truth, and, if we fail to do that, we fail in our primary mission (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

There can be no argument as to the great importance of the gospel, which is the mystery. It shows man the way to piety or reverence toward God. Jesus was God incarnate, that is, God in the flesh (John 1:1-3; John 1:14; Romans 1:3; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 5:7; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:8).

Jesus was declared by the Spirit to be righteous. This was done at his baptism (Matthew 3:13-17) and in his resurrection (Romans 1:4). Of course, the Spirit also declares his righteousness in all the words of the Bible which point to Christ as God"s Son. Angels attended to the Lord"s needs while he was here on earth (Matthew 4:11), so we might say they saw to his needs. Jesus" name has been and must be declared to all the nations, which certainly includes the Gentiles (Isaiah 2:1-4; Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 1:23). Such preaching, received into honest hearts, has caused many to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Acts 8:37). Christ"s ascension was the last great physical proof of his deity (1 Timothy 3:16; Acts 1:9-11; Mark 16:19; Luke 24:26; Luke 24:50-53).

 


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Bibliography Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3:4". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ghc/1-timothy-3.html. 2014.

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