Lectionary Calendar
Friday, February 23rd, 2024
the First Week of Lent
There are 37 days til Easter!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 3

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-16

Tonight we will be studying First Timothy three and four. It is interesting as Paul writes to Timothy on several occasions, he uses phrases that are interesting to me. He said, This is a faithful saying, it's worthy of all acceptation. Here he says, beginning chapter three,

This is a true saying ( 1 Timothy 3:1 ),

Again, he'll say, "This is a faithful saying worthy of all acceptation." He'll say, "Without controversy." He speaks to Timothy with interesting phrases affirming the truth of what he is declaring to him. "This is a true saying,"

If a man desires the office of a bishop [or overseer], he desireth a good work ( 1 Timothy 3:1 ).

Not a good position, but a good work. The word "episkopos" which is translated here "bishop" is really a word that means an overseer. One who takes the oversight. The word translated "elder" is the word, "presbyteri" or "presbyteros." The "presbyteros," the elder of the church. They name implies an older man, and in the communities they had as the governors of a community the "presbyteros."

The English had the alder men who were appointed as the judges within a community and the term "alder men" is actually "elder men." It was declared that a person should not be a "presbyteros" unless he was over the age of fifty. The "episkopos," on the other hand, was the man who was the overseer. He was the often the minister of the church. One who would oversee the church. And from this, we have a great division in the church today between the Episcopalians which comes from the "episkopos" and the Presbyterians which comes from the "presbyturos."

So the difference between a church being ruled by the elders or the church being ruled by the "episkopos," the overseer. And it is interesting though as you look at it in the word of God, they probably were one and the same. As you study it in the New Testament, the use of the words are often interchangeable. And when Paul was writing, he addressed the elders but of course, that would include the "episkopos" also. When he called for the elders of Ephesus, it would have been wrong for him to have called for the elders without the "episkopos" and so as you look at it throughout the New Testament, a strong case can be made that the terms are almost synonymous or interchangeable, at least in their usage in the New Testament.

So "if a man desires this office of an overseer of the church, he desires a good work." But these are the qualifications for the man.

The overseer then must be blameless ( 1 Timothy 3:2 ),

Now that ought to just about exclude anybody. He must be,

the husband of one wife ( 1 Timothy 3:2 ),

In that particular time, the marriage vows were in the pagan world not really held in high esteem. The Greek culture had a saying that every man should have a mistress for his entertainment, a concubine for his sexual pleasure, and a wife to bear his legitimate children. But the wife was looked upon as, more or less, a chattel, an object.

Now in none of the cultures in those days did a wife have the right of divorce. That was something that only the husbands had. And even in the Jewish culture, a husband could get a divorce for just about any cause. And even to that time, in the Jewish culture in many areas, polygamy was practiced. Josephus speaks about those that were had three or four wives. And polygamy was a practice even in that time in the Jewish community.

The church is to be a separate and distinct entity within the world. Standards that are higher than the world. And thus he establishes the standard for the "episkopos," a man who was an overseer in the church, he should be "the husband of one wife." He should be,

vigilant ( 1 Timothy 3:2 ),

That is, in his overseeing of the flock of God. He needs to take careful oversight. He needs to be,

sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, and able to teach ( 1 Timothy 3:2 );

So these are the beginning of the qualifications. Next of all, he's

Not to be given to wine, no striker ( 1 Timothy 3:3 ),

That is, an abuser.

not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) He's not to be a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil ( 1 Timothy 3:3-6 ).

So this is what Paul instructs Timothy as the qualifications for an "episkopos," an overseer. Now if you will read Paul's letter to Titus, he gives to them the qualifications of a "presbyturos," an elder. And you find that as he gives the qualifications of an elder, they are pretty much similar to the qualifications of an "episkopos" or an overseer.

Next he turns to the deacons.

And likewise must the deacons be grave [or sober], not doubletongued, not given to much wine ( 1 Timothy 3:8 ),

This is, of course, a little interesting in that the overseer, the "episkopos," was not to be given to wine; the deacon was not to be given to much wine. That probably is cause for a lot of persons to seek the job of a deacon rather than an elder.

Paul the apostle, in writing to the Corinthians, said, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient." Some things can impede my progress towards my goal. All things are lawful for me but not everything builds up. Some things tear me down. "All things are lawful for me," he said, "but I will not be brought under the power of any, or the influence of any" ( 1 Corinthians 6:12 ).

We have a very interesting case in the Old Testament when God commanded Moses to build the tabernacle and He gave him specific instructions as to the materials and the dimensions and the sizes, the whole thing. He gave him his careful instructions in building. Once they had built the tabernacle, had set it up, had set up the altar and the whole framework for the sacrifices, the time came to inaugurate now the temple or the tabernacle worship of God. And so the altar was built, the sacrifice was placed upon it and fire came from heaven and sort of lit the fire of the altar. A supernatural manifestation of God. The presence of God came down, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. The priest, because of the glory of the Lord, sort of swooned, they weren't able to stand up.

And in the midst of this moving of God among the people, a couple of Aaron's sons got excited. And they had little bowls with incense that they were to offer before the Lord and they went in to offer this incense in the excitement of the moment and the fire came from the altar of God and consumed them. And later, God commanded Moses to speak unto Aaron that when they were doing the service to God, they weren't to drink wine. Made very specific commandments. The intimation is that the two sons of Aaron perhaps had been drinking a little wine and had lost their sense of good judgment. And that is why they were consumed by the fire of God when they sought to offer strange fire before the Lord.

God wants us to serve Him with a clear head, with a clear mind. Now a lot of people get very godly minded when they get drunk. And we've had them call the house two, three in the morning and my wife sleeps on the side where the phone is, I don't know why but she does. And sometimes the phone will ring in the middle of the morning and someone will start telling, I want to tell you what a wonderful husband you have and all. And she'd say, "Here, tell him," and she hands the phone to me. The praise that comes from the lips of a drunk really don't do much for you. That's what they may think when they're drunk but what do they think of me when they're sober?

And so in our worship of God, no artificial stimulants. He wants our worship and praise to come from a heart and from a mind that is not under some kind of a false stimulant. So the overseer, the one who had the responsibility of overseeing the church, not to be given to wine. Whereas the deacons and these were the people who oversaw the more practical aspects of the church in those days, the administering of the church's welfare program and things of this nature, they were not to be given to much wine.

The wine in those days, of course, was drank by just about everybody. It was mixed three parts of water to two parts of wine. And of course, at that ratio it would take an awful lot to get a person drunk and usually you'd get too full before you could get drunk. But it was a diluted form and really, it was drunk in lieu of the water which in many places was not fit to drink. You remember Paul said to Timothy to "take a little wine for your stomach's sake and your oft infirmities" ( 1 Timothy 5:23 ).

So a deacon not to be given to much wine. We are told "not to be drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit" ( Ephesians 5:18 ). They also are,

not to be greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless ( 1 Timothy 3:8-10 ).

So much of the same requirements for the elders are also for the deacons. Deacons are to prove themselves.

And even so wives ( 1 Timothy 3:11 )

Now in our King James, you notice "must their wives" is added because the translators thought that he was probably referring to the wives of the deacons which is possible but it is also possible that Paul is just referring to the deaconesses. And that this is in reference to those women who would take a activity within the church body in the office of a deaconess. And "so also wives are to,"

be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. And let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 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 ( 1 Timothy 3:11-13 ).

And so Paul here writes the qualifications for these offices. And he said,

These things write I unto thee, I hope to come unto you shortly: But if I [don't, if I have to] tarry here awhile, I want you to know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and the ground of truth ( 1 Timothy 3:14-15 ).

Timothy was left at Ephesus by Paul to strengthen the church. It is to Timothy in Ephesus that Paul is writing and instructing him in the things of the government of the church.

Now having declared the qualifications for the deacons, the overseers and the deaconesses, again when you get to these qualifications we realize that very few people could really qualify for these offices. These characteristics and traits that are required for those in leadership roles are stricter than the average, you might say. It takes a life of commitment. And many people may, as the result of these requirements, feel unqualified to take a position of authority within the church. And so Paul in verse sixteen declares,

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ):

Godliness is godlikeness. Great is the mystery of being like God. These characteristics and traits that are described are the characteristics and traits of God. God wants us to be like Him. A man who is an elder in the church or an overseer in the church is really one of God's representatives to the people. And one of the most awesome responsibilities is that of being God's representative. People looking at the leadership to understand God. God wants me to be like Him so that as people look at me, they can understand what God is about. And that is all the understanding that many people will ever have of God is what they observe in the life of the followers of God. So each of us are God's representatives to the world. But those who take the position of an elder or an overseer have even a greater responsibility of being God's representatives to the people. And God doesn't take lightly how we represent Him.

James tells us that we should "not be many masters, knowing that we receive the greater condemnation" ( James 3:1 ). We are told "unto whom much is given, much is required" ( Luke 12:48 ). And so for those who in the position of overseeing, there is a tighter standard by which they must live. Blameless, of good reputation, really even outside of the church, by the manner of life that you live that it doesn't bring blame unto Jesus Christ or to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It has been the sad tragedy of the church's history that not often does the leadership take that awesome responsibility of representing God seriously enough. Paul talks about falling in the snare of the devil. And Satan surely seeks to trap ministers. And it is always a tragedy and a very sad thing when you see a servant of God being trapped by the enemy because of the reproach that it brings upon the Gospel. As Nathan said to David concerning his sin with Bathsheba, "You've caused the enemies of God to blaspheme" ( 2 Samuel 12:14 ).

The problem, of course, is that Satan, I think, works harder on those who have a greater influence than those of lesser influence. I think that the more the Lord uses you, the greater are the temptations that the enemy places in your path. This past year, two of the most promising, talented of the young ministers in our Calvary Chapel outreaches fell into the snare of the enemy.

One, thank God, has been delivered and has been restored. But the other is still ensnared. And it grieves me. It breaks my heart because I love these young men like a father loves a son. And I was just so thrilled with their ministry, the effectiveness of their ministry, the effectiveness of their communication. Their ability to teach. It was a thrill to see what God was doing through their ministry and through their lives and say we're touching thousands of people. To see them ensnared by the enemy is a just a tragedy and a grievous thing to my heart.

Great is the mystery of being like God. God wants us to be like Him. That's His purpose in creating us. And when He created us, He created us like Him, He made us in His image and after His likeness. It was the purpose of God that we be like Him. What is He like? God is love. God wants love to dominate our being. God is pure. God is holy. He wants us to be pure. He wants us to be holy. God is kind. God is compassionate. God is patient. He wants us to be kind, compassionate, patient. He wants me to be like Him. "Great is the mystery of being like God." Because I say, Hey, yes, I want to be like God. But how to be like God is another thing. There are many people who accept that, Yes, being like God is the greatest thing that could possibly happen to a person. And they try to be like God but we find that whenever we try to be like God, there are other forces at work within us, hindering us from our goals.

As Paul the apostle described in Romans chapter seven, "I consent to the law of God that it is good. But I find that there is another law at work within my members, within my body. And the good that I would I do not: and that which I would not, I do" ( Romans 7:16 , Romans 7:19 , Romans 7:23 ).

I consent to that which is good. But how to perform it, I just can't find. And we find ourselves in that position so many times. I consent this is right, this is good. That's what I ought to be doing. But how to perform it? That's where the problem lies. And he cried out, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death" ( Romans 7:24 )? "Great is the mystery of godliness," being like God.

It's a great mystery that has been solved. It was solved in the incarnation. So "without controversy, great is this mystery of godliness." But God solved the mystery through the incarnation of Jesus Christ for,

God was manifest in the flesh ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ),

A plain, clear, positive declaration that Jesus Christ is God. "God was manifest in the flesh." And the purpose of the incarnation was to bring man to a godlikeness or to help us to be like God. "God was manifest in the flesh,"

He was justified [or proved to be righteous] in the Spirit ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ),

The Spirit led Him in the wilderness to be tempted of the devil and He passed every test. He resisted the temptation. He remained true and obedient unto the first principles of God. He was "justified or proved to be righteous in the Spirit."

He was seen of angels ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ),

After His temptation, the angels came and ministered unto Him. Also, it has been suggested that the angels had never seen God until the incarnation. Great is the mystery of being like God. "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels." God dwells in a light that man cannot approach. Those who had visions of God never had a vision of a form. There was always just that brightness of the glory that shone forth from His being. Looking directly into a light, a brilliant bright light, all you can observe is just light.

Have you ever been out in the woods at night and it's been dark and someone turned one of those five-cell flashlights in your eyes? Have you ever been a kid at camp? Those counselors always carried those five-cell you know and they put it right in your eyes. All you see is the bright light in your eyes. You don't see the flashlight. You can't even see the counselor. All you all you see is this bright light that is shining in your face. But you have no sense of form because all you can see is the light. You don't see the little bulb, you don't see the filament within the bulb, you just see the brilliance of the light.

So God, the glory of His presence so overwhelming. The brilliance that comes forth from this Creator of the universe. Call it energy or whatever you wish, that must be emanating forth from God. It is possible that the angels had never even seen the form but only the brilliance coming forth from His presence. Until He was "made flesh and He was then seen of angels." He was,

preached unto the Gentiles ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ),

As Paul tells King Agrippa concerning his Damascus road experience, he tells him that the Lord had called him to go unto the Gentiles, to turn them from darkness to light. From the power of Satan unto God. And then He was,

believed on in the world ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ),

All over the world, those who believe on Jesus Christ. Those who believe upon God who was manifest in the flesh. And then He was,

received up into glory ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ).

He said I came from the Father, I'm going to the Father. In His return to the Father, the cycle was complete. His ministry was accomplished. Jesus came to manifest to man what God is. And He was the true and the faithful witness. All that we need to know about God, we discover in Jesus Christ. "No man has seen the Father at any time but the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath manifested him" ( John 6:46 ). Made Him known, declared Him.

"God, who at sundry times and in different ways spoke unto our fathers through the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his own dear Son, whom he hath made heir of all things, who was the effulgence of his glory, [or the outshining of His glory]" ( Hebrews 1:1-3 ). So He fulfilled His purpose in manifesting God to us and He fulfilled the purpose of redeeming the world back to God through His death upon the cross.

So now as He returns to the Father, He is promising that He is going to send to them the Holy Spirit. One who would come alongside of them to help them. "I will leave you without help," He said, "But I will pray to the Father, and he will give to you another Helper, even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive" ( John 14:16 , John 14:17 ). And He tells us that when the Spirit comes, we will receive power. What kind of power? Power to be like God. Great is the mystery of being like God. You cannot be like God with your best effort no matter how hard you try. It isn't within our nature or our power to change our nature to be like God. The only way I can be like God is through the power of the Holy Spirit working in me and changing that nature.

And so the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the church was the proof that Jesus had indeed ascended to the Father. Because that was His promise when He came to the Father, He was going to send the Comforter. It is necessary for you that I go away because if I go away, if I go not away, the Comforter cannot come. That helper, the Holy Spirit. But if I go away, I will send Him. And so Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and through the power and the working of the Holy Spirit within my life, godlikeness is now possible. And as I am yielding myself day to day, the work of the Holy Spirit in me everyday is making me a little more like God.

As Paul the apostle said, "I have not yet apprehended that for which I was apprehended. Neither do I count myself perfect, but I'm pressing towards the mark" ( Philippians 3:13-14 ). What is the mark? Being like God. Godlikeness. And so I'm on my way. And as John said, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, it doesn't yet appear what we're going to be: but we know when he appears, we're going to be like him" ( 1 John 3:2 ). One of these days His work will be complete in us and we will be just like God. And the purposes of God will now be accomplished in His creation for man. For God created man to be like Him and through Jesus Christ I and the power of the Holy Spirit, I am being restored into the image of God.

Great is the mystery of being like God. But that mystery is solved in the incarnation and through the work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus has sent.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/1-timothy-3.html. 2014.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile