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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 3

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-16

Concerning the Officers of the Church

1-7. The fourth charge to Timothy, in respect to presbyters.

1. Desireth a good work] i.e. a noble occupation.

2. A bishop] RV ’the bishop,’ RM ’overseer.’ Some think (see General Intro.) that the terms ’bishop’ and ’elder’ are used interchangeably in these Epistles, as they seem to have been at an earlier date (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1). Others, however, think that, at the close of the apostolic age, to which these Epistles belong, the term ’bishop’ was coming into use in the sense of a chief ruler of the Church, or presiding elder, and that that is the meaning here. In favour of the latter view it is urged that ’bishop’ in these Epistles occurs only in the singular, and always with the definite article (’the bishop’: see RV Titus 1:7), whereas ’elder’ is found in the plural, and where it occurs in the singular has no article (1 Timothy 5:1, 1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Timothy 5:19; Titus 1:5). The question, however, requires to be handled with caution, owing to the limited and imperfect knowledge we have of the development of Church organisation in the first century.

The husband of one wife] lit. ’a man of one woman.’ Four meanings have been attached to the words: (a) The presbyter is not to be a Christianised Jew, who, in accordance with the Law of Moses, had previously taken two wives. (b) He is not to take a second wife after the death of the first. (c) He is not to marry again while his divorced wife lives, (d) He is to be faithful to his wife, ’a man of one woman,’ and ’keep himself only unto her so long as they both should live,’ whether it were a first wife or a second wife. The last is probably the right exposition, as set forth by Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret. In any case the presbyter or bishop is contemplated as a married man. Given to hospitality] This injunction was most necessary for the sake of travellers when inns in the modern sense did not exist: see 3 John 1:5.

4. Having his children in subjection] more exactly, ’having children (who are) in subjection.’

6. Novice] i.e. a recent convert. A ’bishop’ or ’presbyter’ must have Christian experience. Lifted up] The young presbyter’s danger is the pride which led to the condemnation of the devil, and is the snare laid for him by the devil.

8-13. Fifth charge to Timothy—as to deacons and deaconesses.

8. Greedy of filthy lucre] Part of the office of the deacon was to ’serve tables’ and administer relief to the poor, so that he had opportunity for peculation and base gains.

9. The mystery of the faith] the Christian faith, which, having once been hidden, is now revealed: cp. 1 Timothy 3:16.

11. Their wives] RV ’women’: but instructions about women in general would not be thus parenthetically inserted. Both Light-foot and Ellicott translate ’deaconesses.’ Such an order, which, it is certain, came into existence at a very early date, was especially necessary in the East owing to the strict seclusion of the female sex, who were thus debarred from the ministrations of men. Deaconesses were admitted to their order by the laying on of the bishop’s hands (’Apost. Const.’ iii. 15, viii. 19). They were not allowed to marry (Can. 15 of Chalcedon). Their duties were to minister generally to women, to assist at the baptism of women, to stand at the women’s door of the church, to act as go-between between the clergy and women (’Apost. Const.’ iii. 15, ii. 26, ii. 57, ii. 26). There were 40 deaconesses attached to the great Church of Constantinople in the time of St. Chrysostom. The order practically became extinct in the West, perhaps very gradually, after the tenth century, and lingered on rather longer in the East. But in the West it never completely died out in the Church of France, where to this day Benedictine abbesses receive the ordination of a deaconess. Both in England and Scotland it is now revived, and forms a most wholesome and scriptural channel through which organised women’s work can be carried on.

12. Husbands of one wife] see on 1 Timothy 3:2.

13. Purchase] RV ’gain.’ A good degree] RV ’standing,’ a high position in estimation and influence.

14-16. Importance of the above charges, for the purpose of instructing Timothy how to act as a minister of God’s Church—an institution which God has established to hold up the truth as a pillar supports a roof, and to keep it unshaken as a firm foundation gives security to a building. Were it not for the support and steadiness given to truth by the society of faithful men which maintains it, it would ere now have vanished from the earth.

16. Without controversy] rather, ’as we confess’; and then the Apostle quotes some words of an early confession of the Christian faith: ’He who was incarnate; whose righteousness was made manifest; who was an object of open vision to angels; whom the Apostles preached to the world; whom the faithful believed in; who at the end of His ministry was taken up into heaven.’ The reading is apparently not God was manifest (AV), but ’He who was manifest’ (RV). Mystery] The hidden secret now revealed in Christ, which is the basis of holiness: cp. 1 Timothy 3:9.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/1-timothy-3.html. 1909.
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