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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 3

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Verse 1

From regulations concerning public worship Paul naturally moves to a consideration of the qualifications of those who oversee the local congregation. The purpose of this section is to give the local congregation the information it needs to select qualified men for this office. It is clear that Timothy was to be partly involved in the selection and appointment of elders and deacons, as was Titus ( Tit_1:5 ).

3:1 “It is a trustworthy statement”: A statement that can be relied upon (1:15; 4:9; 2Ti_2:11 ; Tit_3:8 ). The following is very important and worthy of confidence.

3:1 “If any man”: Clearly, the elder must be a man (3:2). Notice the word “any”; as long as a man was qualified he could serve, regardless of his social and economic background.

3:1 “Aspires”: “To stretch oneself, that is, reach out after (long for)”. OREGO: to reach or stretch out, signifying the mental effort of stretching oneself out for a thing, or longing after it (Vine, “Desire” p. 298). “It points to an aspiration such as causes a young man to study, labor, and sacrifice in order to equip himself for leadership in the church” (Hiebert p. 63). Becoming qualified for this office and the office itself demand an output of energy. “The overseership is not a mere honor to be enjoyed. It is a good work, but it is work” (Kent p. 124).

3:1 “He desires to do”: To set the heart upon, that is, long for. EPITHUMEO: to desire earnestly.

This does not mean that he campaigns for it like a politician, but on the other hand, it is not a "last second thought" either. He who will serve with the attitude " if you cannot find anyone else ", is lacking in the desire department. The same type of desire is found in 1Pe_5:2 “ not of constraint, but willingly”. Translations here: “Not as though it were forced upon you” (Gspd); “Not reluctantly” (Wey); “Not because you are compelled” (TCNT).

3:1 “To the office”: The phrase, “office of a overseer” is actually one word in the Greek and is perhaps best-translated “overseership”. “Remember, it is the ‘function’ of overseeing that is emphasized in this word” (Reese p. 109). “Position or office as an overseer” (Arndt p. 299).

3:1 “Overseer”: The term “overseer” is equivalent to the term “bishop” (KJV), and it refers to the same function or office as the terms “elder” and “pastor”. See Act_20:17 ; Act_20:28-31 ; Tit_1:5 ff and 1Pe_5:1-3 . It was not until post-apostolic times that men made “bishop” an office of higher rank than “elder”. Reese notes, “When the term ‘overseer’ or ‘bishop’ appears in our New Testaments, we must not identify those men with the modern ‘bishops’ who exercise authority over many churches in a given geographical area. The ‘overseeing’ was concerned only with the members of the congregation who selected the overseer. There were, in apostolic times, no lower orders of ‘clergy’ in a whole ‘diocese’ over whom the ‘bishop’ ruled” (p. 109). In the New Testament we find a plurality of such men overseeing only one local congregation ( 1Pe_5:1-2 ; Act_14:23 ; Php_1:1 ; Act_20:17 ).

“It must not be thought that Paul is here in 1 Timothy calling for the initial organization of the church at Ephesus. According to Act_20:1-38 , the church at Ephesus had elders some eight or more years before 1 Timothy was written. What Paul is doing is instructing the church that only qualified men are to fill this office” (Reese p. 110).

3:1 “It is a fine work”: This means that the work is not only “good” intrinsically, but outwardly also. “It is attractive to the beholders. The overseership is not only beneficial to the one possessing it, but if properly exercised is appreciated by those who behold it. Sincere Christians recognize the high calling of their elders, and thank God for them.

The man who desires to be an elder has noble ideals. “It is not an easy or lucrative position, but it is a good work. It was a difficult and often thankless task, full of risk and danger; this might well cause a man to shrink from it. Apparently Paul felt it necessary to dwell on the spiritual glory of such a vocation, which ought to outweigh all the counsels of worldly prudence” (Hiebert p. 64). The office of an elder will involve “work” ( 1Ti_5:17 ; 1Th_5:13 ).

Verse 2

3:2 “An overseer, then, must be”: The term “must be” means it is necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper (Thayer p. 126). “One must or has to” (Arndt p. 172). “It is necessary” (Reese p. 111).

1. The qualifications are “musts” and to remain qualified the elder must continue to possess the following qualifications. This protects the congregation from a man who is no longer qualified and the elder from a congregation that seeks to remove them without just cause.

2. Each qualification is to be treated with full respect and none of them are optional.

3. The “must be” applies to all of the qualifications and not just the word “blameless”.

4. Some have tried to argue that these qualifications are only “ideals” that the elder strives for, but such is an abuse of the context. The elder must presently have these in order to be qualified and since when did being married to one woman, or having a good reputation become some impossible or far off ideal?


3:2 “Above reproach”: One against whom no evil charge can be sustained, not open to accusation. ANEPILEPTOS: Lit., that cannot be laid hold of, hence not open to censure (Vine p. 228). One against whom it is impossible to bring any charge of wrong doing such as could stand impartial examination. This does not mean sinlessness ( 1Jn_1:8 ); but rather a man who corrects his sins and is no longer held to blame in the sight of men and God. Consider the elder, Peter ( 1Pe_5:1 ; Gal_2:11 ff). “His conduct should be of such a nature that no handle is given to anyone by which to injure his reputation…it does refer to consistent, mature Christian living which gives no occasion for public reproach” (Kent p. 125).

3:2 “The husband”: It is clear that the elder must be a man. “A word never used of the female sex” (Vine p. 34). The translators clearly understood that a man is under consideration in these qualifications. 3:4 “his own house..”, 3:5 “but if a man...his own house..how shall he...”, 3:6 “he fall”, 3:7 “he must..lest he”. The person under consideration in these verses is one that rules his own house, that is, the head of the house. This “office” involves teaching, teaching men and women, publicly and privately, Christians and non-Christians (3:2; Tit_1:9 ; 1Pe_5:2 ). Placing a woman in this office would place her in the position of violating 1Ti_2:12 .

3:2 “Of one wife”: “Mias gunaikos andra” literally means: Of one wife a husband.

Translations: “one wife's husband” (Ber); “must have only one wife” (Wms), “he must be married only once” (Moffat). Some say lit., this means a "one woman man", but more is under consideration here than just a woman. A fornicator could be a one-woman man. The woman of this verse is a “wife”. “One”: The husband of only one wife or a husband married only once; the same as 1Ti_3:12 ; Tit_1:6 and 1Ti_5:9 (Arndt p. 231). Please note that such a qualification would not only prohibit more than one, but it equally demands one. Catholic commentators have tried to argue that the “wife” in this section is the church, yet such is an abuse of the context (3:4). In the context the elder’s family is clearly distinguished from the church.

Some say that the thrust behind this qualification was directed against polygamy, yet "if the scriptures forbid polygamists to have fellowship with the church ( 1Co_7:1-2 ) what would be the point of Paul telling Timothy not to appoint them to the eldership? If the elders are taken from the membership of the church, and if church membership would not tolerate polygamists, how could this passage be only a condemnation of polygamy?" (Phillips p. 109).

The concept that Paul is only legislating against polygamists in the eldership just does not add up, especially when you consider the like expression “wife of one man” in 1Ti_5:9 . How many women in the First Century had harems of men? One writer said, “If men with more than one wife (polygamists) were very rare in the Roman Empire, what are we to think of women with more than one husband? Even among the barbarians outside the Empire, such a thing as a plurality of husbands was regarded as monstrous” (The Expositors Bible Vol. 6 p. 416).

Clearly an elder must be married (all never married men are excluded), yet two questions remain:

Can the elder be Scripturally married more than once?

There are other expressions that God could of used to express the meaning of “one at a time”; that is, “the bishop must be married”. Admittedly a lexicon is a human authority; and yet Arndt and Gingrich (considered by many to be the best in N.T. word definitions) definite “one” here as “single, only one”, '”the husband of only one wife or a husband married only once” (Arndt p. 231).

The more I look at 1Ti_5:9 and the expression the “wife of one man”; the more I see a woman whose husband has died, who had not married again. In fact the context seems to bear this out. Why refuse to enroll younger widows? For one reason, they will desire to marry again (5:11-12). The expression from the female point of view is found in 1Ti_5:9 “ the wife of one man”, that is a woman married only once.

In the past I heard it argued that 1Ti_5:9 proves that the expression “wife of one man” or it's reverse “husband of one wife” allows for more than one marriage. Here is the argument: Since Paul told younger widows to marry (a second marriage); he would not have told them to do something which would disqualify them from being supported by the church in the future (being a widow-indeed). Therefore: “one man” or “one wife” means “one at a time within the bounds of Scripture”.

I find that the above argument falls apart on the following grounds:

Paul gave advice to virgins that would have excluded them from the widow-indeed class ( 1Co_7:25-38 ). Remember: The widow-indeed was a woman who had also “brought up children”. Therefore to argue that Paul would have never given instructions to women which would later exclude them from the “widow-indeed” category is false, because Paul did tell virgins not to marry. It is assumed that if a widow was not a widow indeed then she would not be taken care of. Such is false. ( 1Ti_5:4 ; 1Ti_5:16 ) The Church has the right to support all Christians in need, including widows that did not meet the qualifications to be a widow indeed. The point is that the widow indeed was a woman who was permanently supported by the church. (5:9)

Yet some argue that the statement “husband of one wife” has no allusion to the number of deceased wives a man may have had. “If my wife is dead, I am not now her husband” (The Eldership, McGarvey, pp. 57). Yet lexicons such as Arndt and Gringrich, point out that the expression can equally mean, “married only once”. And this definition seems to be the thrust of a similar passage in 1Ti_5:9 .

Some have argued that getting remarried, such as for a widower is not a sin, therefore such a person cannot be prevented from serving as an elder, seeing that God would allow an elder to do all lawful things, however it is not a sin to be single or remain childless but such things do prevent a man from serving.

Does a man lose this qualification when his wife dies?

In previous studies on this subject the adult class brought out a good point, and challenged a common assumption as to “what the purpose is behind the elder having a wife”? To gain experience in ruling his household (a common assumption)? Or was it for support in his work as an elder? Do wives exist for experience or support? ( Gen_2:18 ; Mal_2:14 ) The “one wife” qualification is separated from the “ruleth well his own house” (3:4) qualification. Experience may not be the only purpose, or the purpose at all in God's mind for the elder being married. In addition, some women are mentioned in 3:11 (presumably the wives of the elders and deacons). This indicates that elders and deacons have wives of character. Would this not imply the wives are living? That is, before you appoint men, consider the character of their wives also.

The argument that once a man has proven he can lead a wife and family, he still remains qualified even though his wife dies, because he has not lost the experience of ruling well, rests on the assumption that she exists only for his experience of having a family and ruling them. With certain qualifiers, “husband of one wife” could refer to a man whose wife has died, such as “having been”. Yet there is nothing that qualifies 1Ti_3:2 or Tit_1:6 in the verse or the context. Admittedly, the qualifications (overwhelming) refer to present conditions in this man's life, and qualities this man must have to remain an elder. Can we conclusively prove that “husband of one wife” (and believing children) are exceptions ?

The like expression “the wife of one man” ( 1Ti_5:9 ) is used when it is clear that the one man is dead, yet the word widow in the first part of the verse tells us that we must interpret “the wife of one man” as meaning “having been the wife of one man”. In this verse “the wife of one man” cannot mean that she presently has a husband. The reason that I bring this up, is because some would say that the expression “husband of one wife” would still apply even if the man's wife was dead. From Rom_7:3 it is clear that the person whose mate has died is not married to anyone and thus is not the husband of one wife. The problem with allowing the interpretation, “having been” the husband of one wife, is that cannot we do this with any of the other qualifications. Are these qualifications mandatory for the elder at the present, or can they be things of the past?

One final argument we can discard: To argue that it is arbitrary and absurd to require of a bishop any physical quality over which he may not have any control (such as the death of a wife) is not true. Aging is also a physical condition over which an elder has no control. Yet an elder must resign if age (something he has no control over) has taken from him his apt to teach and sober-minded qualities.

3:2 “Temperate”: “Vigilant” (KJV). Clear headed, self-controlled, to be calm, dispassionate and circumspect, wise caution may be included; attentive. Sober and wary; not given to frivolity of mind, common sense and collected in spirit.

The work of an elder requires a clear, vigilant mind, unhampered by drunkenness or self-ego. It means the bishop must be a self-controlled, watchful, alert man, having a foresight to know the end of a course being followed. The word itself had meant abstaining from wine entirely, and is so used by Josephus. It had also a metaphorical usage in the sense of spiritually sober, calm, and sober in judgment.

3:2 “Prudent”: The same word is found in Tit_1:8 . Sensible, master of himself, curbing one’s desires and impulses, thoughtful, one sound, self-controlled, one who is not flippant. Not that the elder must be long-faced, but that he should be earnest and have a balanced judgment to relegate fun to its proper place.

One with this qualification would indeed take seriously his duties to "take heed" to himself and the flock he oversees. Those who lightly esteem spiritual responsibility and cannot "get serious" are not equipped to be elders. An elder must possess a mind that can get serious, that can deal realistically with all matters pertaining to the work.

3:2 “Respectable”: Dignified, unruffled, a well ordered life, having respect for order. “His discourse, dress, visage, gait, his manners, must all be suitable to the gravity of his function” (MacKnight p. 209). A man living with decorum. His is not childish, clownish, rude, crude, sour, boisterous or boorish. Remember, he will be relating to people both in and outside the church. The eldership is not place for a man who is known for unfinished plans and unorganized activity” (Reese p. 116). The elder must also be a gentleman, courteous, have good manners, be polite, not uncouth or rough. This is the man who orders well both his inward and outward life.

3:2 “Hospitable”: Fond of guests. Generous to guests, a love of strangers. A man with an open heart and a open home. The elder is not some man in an ivory tower, but rather he is a sociable man, a companion of the congregation, he is assessable to the members, they are welcome in his home. “Persecution, poverty, and the plight of widows and orphans gave additional opportunity for hospitality to be exercised” (Kent p. 132).

3:2 “Able to teach”: Skillful in teaching, able to teach, qualified to teach.

No two men can claim to have exactly the same ability and knowledge to teach. Some have the talent to teach privately or in small groups, while others can do so before large classes or assemblies. Tit_1:9 more precisely defines the amount of knowledge and skill in teaching that the elder must possess. He must know the word and he must be willing to use it . To exhort with it and to refute, expose, show the error of those that stand in opposition. He must have a working knowledge. The elder cannot view himself as having the right to “speculate or teach doctrines that have no biblical foundation”.

Verse 3

3:3 “Not addicted to wine”: Literally, the expression is “not beside wine”. “It is not merely drunkenness that is here prohibited; if it was, we would doubtless have the word which is appropriated to the expression of that idea. Neither is the idea of ‘much’ in the original. The term, ‘by wine’, means simply, given to wine. It doubtless contemplates a man who is given to a freer use of wine than was customary among strictly sober people even though he might never become intoxicated” (McGarvey p. 61). Of course “wine” in New Testament times was diluted with water, and drunkenness is a progressive state ( Eph_5:18 ), which forbids not only intoxication but the careless movement towards that state as well. Reese reminds us, “Before some one would affirm that drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation is perfectly compatible with being qualified to be a leader and example in the church, it should be remembered that ‘temperate’ (earlier in this list of the qualifications) does mean abstinence from wine” (p. 117).

3:3 “Nor pugnacious”: A bruiser, one ready with a blow, contentious, a quarrelsome person ( Tit_1:7 ). Someone who is ready and eager to fight, a bully, a quick-tempered individual who strikes back when annoyed. “Ungoverned temper, ready to resent insult or wrong, real or imaginary” (Lipscomb p. 147). The elder will often find himself in hostile situations, and such a place is not for the person who cannot control their temper. The elder must have his strength under control. He cannot be a person who will use physical force to attempt to achieve his own ends.

3:3 “But gentle”: Equitable, fair, moderate, forbearing, “that considerateness that looks humanely and reasonably at the facts of the case” (Vine pp. 144-145). Yielding, kind, the man who is not offended easily, the man who is easy to be approached. “Matthew Arnold suggestively rendered the noun ‘sweet reasonableness’” (Hiebert p. 66). Though he does not compromise God’s standards, he yields and forebears where he can. He needs to be considerate towards the feelings of others, patient with the weak, and exercise his authority in a manner in which people do not feel that they are being domineered. In addition, he must be fair to all and play no favorites.

3:3 “Uncontentious”: That is, peaceable. He does not argue just for the sake of arguing. He is not offensively aggressive, he is humble. “An ill-tempered, arrogant, assertive disposition will create problems, but never settle them” (Reese p. 118).

3:3 “Free from the love of money”: That is, he cannot be greedy. “He who wishes to become rich also wishes to become rich soon”. He cannot be a miser, neither can he be a person willing to sell his principles for money. “The man who would be qualified to be an elder must be far removed from making the acquisition of earthly treasure his chief goal in life” (Reese p. 119). How often has the reputation of Christians suffered in the community because of high profile greedy religious leaders? The desire for money must not be a ruling motive in his life, he cannot have a mercenary spirit and neither can he be stingy.

Verse 4

3:4 “He must be one who manages”: This indicates that the elder must presently rule his household well. This is not an optional requirement. Contrary to the claims of some, this verse does demand that the elder have children!

3:4 “Manages”: “To be over, superintend, preside over” (Thayer p. 539). To stand before, lead, attend to, indicating care and diligence (Vine p. 307). Be at the head of, rule, and direct (Arndt p. 707).

3:4 “Well”: “Rightly, so that there shall be no room for blame” (Thayer p. 323). “Fitly, appropriately, in the right way” (Arndt p. 401).

3:4 “Keeping his children under control”: That is keeping them over control, having obedient children.

3:4 “Children”: Note that the term “children” can apply to children who are little as well as children who are grown adults ( 1Ti_1:2 ; 1Ti_1:18 ; 1Ti_5:4 ).

3:4 “With all dignity”: Honor, purity, reverence, seriousness, respectfulness. It would appear that the “dignity” applies not merely to the children, but to how the elder keeps his children under control. He is a dignified father, that is, he does not have to yell at his children or threaten them to keep them in subjection. “Denotes the dignified way in which the father will secure the obedience of his children” (Hiebert p. 67).

Verse 5

3:5 “but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?”

Here is the reason for the qualification. The results that a man gets with his own family will be an indication of the results that may be expected in the household of God. “Ill-trained, bad children reflect on any elder, not merely because they are hurtful examples to the children of the members (and non-members), but still more because they show that the father is incompetent for his office” (Lenski). “If a man cannot manage his own children whom he has reared, and whom have always been under his care, how can he manage the church of God?” (Lipscomb p. 148). “The way in which a man controls his home reveals his capacity for leadership and government” (Kent p. 133).

Various Questions

1. Must the children be merely well behaved or must they be Christians?

Paul in Titus is more specific and notes that the children must be “believing” ( Tit_1:6 ). The expression, “that believe” refers to “a Christian” (Arndt p. 665). In Timothy, believers are Christians ( 1Ti_4:3 ; 1Ti_4:10 ; 1Ti_4:12 ; 1Ti_5:16 ).

2. Does an elder have to have more than one child? Does the plural “children” in this passage include the elder with only one child?

The following thoughts are not designed to make our lives more difficult, but rather to make sure that we are not making assumptions and taking things for granted. The following information is given because Christians will and do encounter the above question:

If a questionnaire is sent to fathers asking: "How many children do you have?" The man with only one child would write “one”, and this shows that the term “children” may mean “child”. But if the same questionnaire was sent, and it was first explained that when we say “children’” we mean a plurality of children, how would the man with one child answer, having heard how the word children is being used?

The same word rendered in Timothy and Titus children is used in other places in the New Testament, where it clearly includes the singular child ( Mat_7:11 ; Mat_10:21 ; Mat_19:29 ; Mat_22:24 ; Mat_27:25 ; Act_21:21 ; 1Co_7:14 ; Eph_6:1 ; Col_3:20 ; 1Ti_5:4 ).

Clearly in the New Testament the plural children often includes the singular child, in the information presented below we need to ask the question is this because the singular inherently resides in the plural, or because the context or other passages would teach us such?

"The primary argument advanced by those who advocate that a man with only one child can qualify revolves around the biblical usage of the words "children" and "child". The point is made that " singular is always included in the plural ", therefore a man who has one believing child could qualify. Greek grammarians are cited to show that writers .." sometimes use the plural for the singular, to give the expression a more general turn...and..the plural is used although the predicate refers primarily to one individual, when the writer wishes to keep the thought somewhat vague..or..in a generalization the plural can stand for one person ".

Yet plurals and singulars are not interchangeable. If they were, there could be no reason for having differences in forms of declension. This is not to say that the plural does not include the singular. The plural always includes the singular. “Churches of Christ” ( Rom_16:16 ) includes a plurality of the singular (“church of Christ”). But the greeting was not from only one congregation, but a plurality. “Children of Israel” includes every child of Israel, but the phrase does not mean only one child . The elder's children include a plurality of the singular-child. But it does not mean the elder has only one child.

If plurals are interchangeable with singulars does this include all words in the Bible? If not all, by what rule does one determine which are interchangeable? For example, a Roman Catholic could take the various passages that speak of a plurality of elders (bishops) in each local congregation ( Act_14:23 ; Php_1:1 ; Act_20:28 ) and declare that one elder overseeing a congregation is perfectly scriptural (since the plural includes the singular).

It is granted that sometimes that plural of teknon (Tekna-“children” in 1 Timothy and Titus); has a singular application. But this is not always true. Then how does one determine when “children” has a singular application? In the study of the Bible we have accepted the fact that words should be understood as having their most commonly accepted meaning unless: Context and or another passage teaches to the contrary. The normal, primary meaning of “Tekna” is “children”-plurality of offspring. Is there anything in the context that forbids the use of the normal meaning and demands a secondary meaning? Is there anything in any other passage of scripture that forbids the use of the normal meaning and necessitates (not just allows, but demands) the insertion of an secondary meaning?

Considering the Context: The same word “children” is found in reference to a widow ( 1Ti_5:4 “hath children”. The word is plural, but all would agree that this includes the singular child, because the context and other passages would teach such an individual responsibility. In the context Paul will mention the responsibility that rests upon the shoulder of an individual child ( 1Ti_5:8 “if any provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, he..” What if someone pointed out, “What in the context of 1Ti_3:1-16 and Tit_1:1-16 , or in any other passage that deals with elders would prove that children would include the elder with only one child”?

One writer noted, “Every argument that I have seen favoring the one child position, reduces itself to the following-(a) Tekna has an abnormal meaning in some passages. (b) The context of 1Ti_3:4 and Tit_1:6 permits the abnormal meaning. (c) Since tekna can have a singular application, and the context does not forbid such, then this is its meaning. The position is assumed, not proven. It may be granted that tekna can, in some cases, mean child but it still must be proven to be so in the eldership qualifications.

Parallels that breakdown. There is a categorical, or distributive plural. In Eph_6:1 . Paul writes, “Children, obey your parents.” All children (as a class) are commanded to obey their parents (another class). The command includes an only child, and the child who has only one parent. This is the distributive usage. A parallel breaks down immediately between 1Ti_3:4 and Tit_1:6 . In the eldership qualification passages the subject is singular “the bishop must be” and the object is plural (children). All passages such as Eph_6:1 with a plural subject and object cannot therefore be paralleled.

Another argument is that the emphasis is not on the number of children, but on how the elder rules the house that he has, whatever number of offspring he might have. Yet such an argument is subjective, we assume that we know what was in God's mind when He gave the qualification. Remember, God does not always reason the way we do ( Isa_55:8-9 ). If Paul had meant to put no emphasis upon the number of children, there are two ways he could have made such abundantly clear. Others have noted, “We see no point in imposing a qualification based more upon biologic ability than spiritual quality”, yet based upon the same argument we could appoint elders without any children.

3.“Must all the children believe?”

Admittedly, this is what we would all like to see, for no one would have a problem with a man whose children were all Christians. It seems to me that anything short of this opens up a number of problems. And anything short of this means that we are now operating upon pure human wisdom or logic:

What percentage are we comfortable with? Two out of three? One out of three?

It's hard for me to argue against 1Ti_3:4 , which seems clear to me to teach that he rules well his own house, that is everyone that composes his household. The text does not say that he rules well a part of his household. If all his children must be in subjection then it is clear that all his children must believe.

In Tit_1:6 , the children cannot be accused of dissipation or rebellion, which means that whatever children he has cannot fit into this category, which equally means that whatever children he has must fit into the first category mentioned, that is, believers.

4.“What if they become unbelievers after they leave home?”

At this point some would argue that 1Ti_3:4 and Tit_1:6 only apply to how the children behave when they are under this man’s roof. That whatever the child does after they leave home does not impact upon the character, or leadership ability of their father, or how they were raised.

If what they do after they leave home does not reflect upon the elder, then what about the man whose children do not obey the gospel until they leave home? Would we consider such a man qualified (assuming he has all the other qualifications? Does what they do after they leave home reflect upon this man or not? If an elder's children can qualify him after leaving home, then why cannot their behavior disqualify him? And what is the cut off point? All the children can fall away but one? Or can they all? And how long after they leave home?

The real question is: Does Tit_1:6 and 1Ti_3:4 only apply to the children as long as they are at home? Please note that Paul in Tit_1:6 does not limit the period of time in which the children must be believers. Would not Christian children who have left home still be considered the elder’s children and still be considered believers? In addition, would not children who have left home, who get involved in sin, still be guilty of rebellion and dissipation? If 1Ti_3:4 and Tit_1:6 only apply to the children when they are at home, then when they leave home does this not mean in such an interpretation that the elder no longer has faithful children.

Verse 6

3:6 “and not a new convert”:

It takes time to become “apt to teach” ( Heb_5:12-14 ).

To feed the flock, one must know more than just the milk of the word or just the first principles of Christianity. To do battle with false teachers, one must have a working knowledge of the word, and have experience ( Tit_1:9 ; Act_20:29 ff). The reason for this qualification is that in the first century various Jewish men became Christians who already might have possessed most of the qualifications already. Secondly, there is the temptation among Christians at times to appoint to the eldership a new convert who has a high profile in the community.

3:6 “So that he will not become conceited”: Such a position of leadership and authority would be setting up this new convert for temptation. “To blind by pride and conceit” (Vincent p. 208). “The great danger to the novice is that his sudden elevation is likely to cause him to inflate with pride” (Kent p. 134). Please note that this new convert might be a very moral man and an extremely good husband and father, yet there is a big difference between being moral, and spiritual maturity that is able to handle a position of leadership.

3:6 “And fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil”: The type of condemnation into which the devil fell .

Or this may be the condemnation that the devil tries to lay for man, by luring people into sin through pride: 1Jn_2:15-16 . Again we see God's wisdom. Often men try to appoint someone to a task in order to make them feel good, to make them feel welcome. The work of an elder is not merely honorary in nature. Those that become elders must be men of experience, humble men who realize their own true unimportance and importance, being an elder cannot go to their head, but must go to their feet, that is, get them busy in the work.

Verse 7

3:7 “And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church”: Please note that the elder is a man from the community in which the congregation is located and not some administrator with headquarters in a distant city.

Often people can put on a front when with other Christians and at the services. Is this man a Christian the other six days of the week? This is a man who does not let his guard down and is always faithful in all circumstances.

He that believes that Christianity applies to every realm of his life , it applies in business dealings, with relatives and in-laws, during times of recreation, at the supermarket, and so on.

“Too often men are selected and appointed to the eldership without regard for their reputations among those people who are not Christians. Those outside the church must consider this man a fair, honest, good, sincere, godly man. He must be right in his dealings with all men” [Note: _ Phillips pg. 169]

Sometimes people can deceive themselves into thinking, “Well I can rip them off, because they deserve it”, or “I can lie to them, because they do not deserve to hear the truth”. The church can very easily lose its influence, if the elders have!

How can the church convert people in the community, when one of its elders has wronged the community?

“The good which a church is capable of accomplishing in a community depends very much upon its reputation, and the reputation of the church depends much upon that of its representative men” [Note: _ McGarvey pg. 54]

If someone does not speak well of him, we need to remember to consider the source. Christians will make some enemies ( Luk_6:26 ). Their reason for not caring for him needs to be evaluated? ( Tit_2:8 ).

3:7 “So that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil”:

“That he may not be exposed to scandal and get caught in the devil's snare” (NEB). The term “reproach” means, “reveling, disgrace, insult, fall into disgrace”. And a “snare” is whatever brings peril, loss or destruction, a trap ( 1Ti_6:9 ; 2Ti_2:26 ). “So he may not be involved in slander and get snared by it” (Ber). Unfortunately, some people in the world are looking for a reason not to believe or to discount Christianity and an elder with a bad reputation in the community can be a convenient way of dismissing Christ. In addition, it is difficult for a man with a damaged reputation to lead or correct anyone else.

Closing Observations

1. The devil is real and fell into condemnation.

2. The devil is not equal with God, but rather is under God’s condemnation.

3. The devil does lay snares for men.

4. The devil is extremely conceited and is blinded in a sense.

5. There are people who are “outside” the church.

6. The world is not always wrong, that is, what the world says about a particular hypocritical Christian might be correct.

7. The world is not depraved, that is, even non-believers can spot hypocrisy, immorality, greed, and compromise. The world does understand Biblical standards of honesty.

8. It is foolishness to appoint a man loved by the church but who has destroyed his reputation among non-Christians.

Verse 8

3:8 “Deacons”: DIAKONOS: primarily denotes a servant, one who executes the commands of another, a servant, attendant, minister.

The word translated "deacon", usually has the ordinary meaning of “servant”. This word is used for Civil Government ( Rom_13:4 ); Evangelists ( 1Co_3:5 ; 1Co_6:4 ; Eph_3:7 ; 1Ti_4:6 ); and various servants of the Churches ( Eph_6:21 ; Rom_16:1 ). The translators of the New Testament realized that this also word has a technical sense, a sense in which the word refers to a specific work or office. Here they translated “diakonos” with the English word “Deacon” ( Php_1:1 ; 1Ti_3:8 ; 1Ti_3:10 ; 1Ti_3:12 ). Note: In Php_1:1 we find servants and deacons. Both Greek words mean “to serve or minister”. The English word Deacon is an anglicized word given by the translators to distinguish between that work of certain qualified men and the work (service) of Christians in general.

3:8 “Likewise”: Just so, in the same way. As Elders must be qualified men, “in like manner”, the Deacons must be qualified in all respects mentioned.

Consider the use of this term in Tit_2:3 ; Tit_2:6 . The word likewise introduces a new category each time the word is used. The idea is that as older men have responsibilities, so do older women, as do younger women and younger men. Yet we are not to understand that the last group has all the responsibilities of the first three groups mentioned. This term does not mean that the deacon must meet all the qualifications given for the elder as well.

3:8 “Must be”: Obviously the translators thought that the must be of 3:2 is to be understood as attaching to these qualifications as well.

3:8 “Men of dignity”: To be venerated for character, honorable. Worthy of respect or honor, noble, dignified, serious. The word points to seriousness of purpose and to self-respect in conduct (Vine p. 173). A man of high principle, who inspires respect by his conduct and deportment. Their tasks, however humble, are to be performed seriously and with becoming gravity (Eerdman p. 49). Often younger men can be prone to be too light hearted and irresponsible in certain duties given to them. The deacon must be dependable and trustworthy. “Their service will be done in the name of the whole congregation, and thus is not to be lightly undertaken” (Kent p. 137).

3:8 “Not double-tongued”: Double in speech, insincere. Translations: “Not indulging in double talk” (NEB); “not shifty and double talkers but sincere in what they say” (Amp); “straightforward men”(Gspd).

A deacon, in his going from house to house, and in his dealings with those in need, had to be a straightforward man. The deacon will probably find himself often in the line of communication between the elders and various members. Therefore, deacons need to be men who are reliable in the presentation of facts, and those in such a position must resist the temptation, to tone down what the elders might say, or exaggerate the needs of the member. In addition, the deacon probably will be privy to information, personal problems of members, and so on that need to remain private. “Persons who spread conflicting tales among the congregation are not to be selected as deacons. Since the ministrations of such an officer would conceivably take him on constant rounds of visitation, a double-tongued person would spread havoc in short order” (Kent p. 137). ‘How easy to spread gossip, unless he is very watchful” (Reese p. 137).

3:8 “Or addicted to much wine”:

The alcoholic content of ancient wine was considerably lower than that of modern wine. All wine is ancient times was light wine (that is, not fortified with extra alcohol). Concentrated alcohol was only known in the Middle Ages when the Arabs invented distillation (“alcohol” is an Arabic word); the twenty percent fortified wines were unknown in Biblical times.

“By the use of several historic citations, Dr. Stein establishes firmly that in N.T. times, before wine was drunk it was mixed with water. The ratio of water to wine varied, but the most common mixture seemed to be 3 parts water to 1 part wine. At times the ratio went down to 1 to 1 or even lower, but when it did the substance was referred to as strong drink. While the ratio of water to wine might vary, only the barbarians drink it unmixed” (Vanguard Magazine. Nov. 11, 1977). Reese reminds us that the above phrase does not mean that a deacon can be addicted to a little wine. Before one attempts to justify drinking in moderation, one should consider that present-day wines are considerably higher in alcoholic content than wines in Bible times.

3:8 “Or fond of sordid gain”:

“Eager for base gain, fond of dishonest gain, greedy for money. Translations: “Not greedy for ill-gotten gains” (Ber); “or to questionable money making” (TCNT); “craving wealth and resorting to ignoble and dishonest methods of getting it” (Amp). In helping others, deacons will probably at times have access to church funds, distributing money, reporting expenses for reimbursement and so on. This would include turning opportunities for serving others into a chance for personal profit. “One could tell if a person were ‘greedy for money’ if the important thing in this life is money and the things it will buy” (Reese p. 138). Compare this with the examples of Judas ( Joh_12:6 ), Balaam, Gehazi, Achan ( Jos_7:21 ).

Verse 9

3:9 “But holding to the mystery of the faith”: The “mystery” is the spiritual truth found in the gospel ( Eph_3:6 ; Eph_6:19 ).

So much for idea that deacons are nothing more than church janitors and maintenance men. These men need to have a firm hold on the faith, that is, the contents of Christian teaching. They must be men that practice what they teach, so they can hold the Christian faith with a clear conscience. A man of conviction, he has a firm and good grasp of the message of the faith, and he knows his Bible. God is not content with outward blamelessness in the conduct of deacons; they must also possess a vital spiritual life. “He who would commend the truths of the Gospel to others must conscientiously exemplify it in his own conduct” (Hiebert p. 69).

Verse 10

3:10 “These men must first be tested”:

Put to the test, examined. Translations: “Let them also be tested first” (RSV); “they must first undergo a scrutiny” (NEB).

3:10 “Then let them serve as deacons”: This “proving” happens prior to their appointment as a deacon. The congregation proves the men when the selection is made from among them that is no unqualified men can serve. “It does not mean that the candidates for the deaconship are to be placed on probation, tried out in office before being given permanent appointment” (Hiebert p. 70). The term “serve” also reminds us that the work of a deacon is service. Compare with verse with Act_6:3 .

3:10 “If they are beyond reproach”: That cannot be called to account, unreproveable, unaccused, with nothing laid to one's charge. Translations: “Unblemished character” (Wey); “if no objection is raised against them” (TCNT). Deacons were not to be hastily appointed. That is, if after such examination as described in the previous statement, let them serve, appoint such men if they truly do meet the qualifications.

Verse 11

3:11 “Women must likewise be”: “Even so much their wives be” (KJV, Con, Ber, Phi). The term translated “women” can refer to either a married or unmarried woman, and its meaning is determined by the context. The term “likewise” indicates that a new category is being discussed. These woman are neither elders nor deacons.

"In Rom_16:1 Phoebe is described as a 'diakonos' (RSV 'deaconess'), but since the form is masculine, without the article, and since the first indications of an office of ‘deaconess’ appear only in the third century, it is highly doubtful that the verse refers to a specific and definite church office. The 'women' of 1Ti_3:11 prob. refers to the wives of deacons" (Zond. Ency. “Deacons” p. 49)

The women under consideration are not female deacons, but rather the wives of the deacons and elders. “Even so must their wives be” (KJV). 1. “In 1Ti_3:1-16 the “offices” are clearly named, “office of a bishop” (3:1); “deacons” (3:8), “serve as deacons” (3:10). Paul said, “women” and not “deaconesses”. If an official class were meant here, we should expect something more specific than “women or wives” without the article” (Vincent p. 236). 2. Very little is said about these women, in contrast to the qualifications for deacons. Nothing is said about whether these women are to be married or have children, because they are the wives of the men mentioned in this context. 3. It is often argued that Phoebe was a deaconness ( Rom_16:1 ). She is called a “servant”, but that doesn’t demand that she was a deacon. Various other Christians are also called “servants”, but we never assume that they were deacons ( Eph_6:21 ; Col_4:7 ; 1Ti_4:6 ). Paul also calls himself a “servant”, but we know that he wasn’t a deacon ( 1Co_7:8 = 1Ti_3:12 ), because he didn’t have all the qualifications (specifically, a wife or children). In like manner, Phoebe was a servant, but she wasn’t a deacon, because she wasn’t the husband of one wife. F. LaGard Smith notes, “A possible rendering of the word “servant” is the word “deaconess”, at least if one overlooks the fact that only the masculine form of the word “deacon” is found in Scripture. (There is no feminine form of the Greek word for deacon)….because the passage ( 1Ti_3:11 ) is sandwiched between various qualifications for deacons, the most natural reference would be to the wives of those being considered for deacons..” (Men Of Strength For Women Of God, p. 216).

3:11 “Dignified”: “Their wives should share their serious outlook”. The same word was used in 3:8. And especially those matters where a degree of soberness and serious resolve is needed.

3:11 “Not malicious gossips”: “Women of discretion and self-control” (Phi). The spouse of the deacon must also be trustworthy and able to control her tongue. Due to the work of her husband, she must not make a wrong or selfish use of the confidential information to which she has access. The word “malicious” indicates that she cannot be a woman who is hypercritical or one who is bent on finding fault with others.

3:11 “But temperate”: Clear-headed, self-controlled, circumspect, like her husband, neither can she be addicted to much wine.

3:11 “Faithful in all things”: “Trustworthy in every respect” (Arndt p. 664); “Women who can be trusted” (Phi). Faithful in keeping secrets, faithful in keeping appointments, faithful to her husband, her children, and faithful to God. I am impressed that God mentions that their wives must also have moral character. In the ancient world and even in modern times, the wives of successful men are often left in the background. In fact, the wives of some successful men in our modern history have been emotionally unstable, alcoholics, and so on. The kingdom of God is not organized like a corporation or congress ( Mat_20:24-27 ). God feels that the wife of an elder or deacon has a very valuable role. Her character can increase his effectiveness, or she can make him ineffective. In the book of Proverbs the husband of the worthy woman sits among the elders of the land (31:23), but it seems inferred that he might not be sitting there, if he had married a woman who lacked character.

Verse 12

3:12 “Deacons must be husbands of only one wife”: This would exclude the single man. Some view this as meaning that the deacon cannot be a polygamist, but polygamy is something that would have been ceased at conversion with any Christian ( 1Co_7:1-2 ; Act_2:38 ; 1Co_6:9-11 ).

“Is the Deacon still qualified after his wife dies?” (a) The like expression “the wife of one man” ( 1Ti_5:9 ) is used when it is clear that the “one man” is dead. And yet the word “widow” in the passage tells us that we must interpret “the wife of one man” as meaning “having been the wife of one man”. In fact, in this passage she cannot have a living husband to qualify as a widow indeed. Thus it is the context that will determine whether the deacon’s wife must be presently living. All the other qualifications (dignity, not double-tongued..) are qualities that the deacon must currently demonstrate to remain qualified. The question is not, “did he at one time demonstrate this in his life”, rather, the question is, “does he presently possess these attributes?” If we feel that the phrase “having been” can be added to “husbands of only one wife”, then why can’t it be added to the rest of the qualifications? “Does this qualification exclude men who have been Scripturally married more than once?” Certain translators felt that it does, Goodspeed renders this verse “must be only once married”. Others include “one wife’s husband” (Ber); “must have only one wife” (Wms). Arndt and Gingrich in their Greek-English Lexicon render this phrase, “the husband of only one wife or a husband married only once” (p. 231). I am told the expression means literally, “a one woman man”. It is only fair to consider the arguments on the other side since we don’t want to unnecessary exclude any man from this office based on some human opinion. In the past I heard it argued that 1Ti_5:9 proves that the expression “wife of one man” or its reverse, “husband of one wife” allows for more than one marriage. The argument is as follows: “Paul wouldn’t have told younger widows to marry ( 1Ti_5:14 ) if that would have disqualified them from receiving support from the Church in their old age”. The argument sounds good until we take the following factors into consideration: (a) The church can support any widow who is need, as well as any other Christian ( Act_2:45 ). (b) Paul gave advice to virgins that would have excluded them from the widow-indeed category ( 1Co_7:25-38 ). Therefore to argue that Paul would have never given instructions to women which would later exclude them from the widow indeed category is not true. Some have argued that if your mate dies and you marry again, or if they commit adultery and you put them away, you are still the husband of one wife. Some interpret the verse, “one wife at a time within the bounds of Scripture.” In response I believe it is fair to note: (a) God is specific. God didn’t say “a married man” or a “husband”. Rather He said a “one” woman man. (b) “at a time” isn’t found in the text. Therefore, I don’t believe that I could prove that the text could accommodate such a view. c) 1Ti_5:9 seems to make an even stronger case for the idea that the deacon can only be married once. First of all, women with a plurality of husbands were very rare indeed, so that can’t be the reason why the qualification was given. Secondly, even after the marriage is over, she is still called “the wife of one man”. Before we move on let us also consider something else . The one woman man is a man who is dedicated to his wife. She is an extremely important person in his life. She is his one and only. He has a strong marriage, he doesn’t have eyes that wander ( Mat_5:28 ).

1Ti_3:12 “good managers”: Means literally, to stand before, to lead, attend to (indicating care and diligence) (Vine p. 307) . Being at the head of, presiding over. “fitly ruling” (Con); “fitly, appropriately, in the right way” (Arndt p. 401) . Points to Note: 1. He is the spiritual leader of his home ( Gen_18:19 ; Jos_24:15 ). This is a man who is truly implementing the instructions found in Eph_6:4 “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”. 2. He rules well, “admirable managers of their children and of their own homes” (Ber); “presiding well over their children and their own houses” (ABUV). On the one hand he is not a permissive and careless father, on the other hand neither is he cruel or unreasonable. He has learned how to guide his household without yelling or constantly threatening. He does not preside by force or intimidation.

1Ti_3:12 “of their children’”: As far as I know most would concede that a deacon can be qualified having only one child. The reason for this is that “deacons” (plural) are to have “children” (plural). The distributive usage allows for the singular (See Eph_6:4 ). The father of one child has as much obligation in raising that child in the admonition of the Lord as the father with more than one child.

In contrast to the qualifications of elders, nothing is said about the deacon’s children being Christians. The statement “good managers” would infer that the children are in subjection to their father and are well behaved. Since the deacon is a man who has first been “tested” (3:10), it seems logical that his children, although they might not be old enough to become Christians, they still have to be old enough for people to see they are well-behaved, and respect their father’s authority.

1Ti_3:12 “and their own households”: This may mean whoever else might be in the family (servants, inlaws, and so on). The thought seems to be that everyone under his roof respects his position as head of the family. He is not the man who runs and hides from responsibility, and neither is he the type of man who insists that his wife handle all the problems with the children. This man is involved in the lives of his children and is a true manager of his household. In addition, I believe the above verses and this verse make it clear that the deacon’s wife is in subjection. The real power in the family isn’t his wife. This is not the type of man that would cause you to wonder, “If we appoint him, are we in reality appointing his wife or mother-in-law?

Verse 13

1Ti_3:13 “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

Deacons who perform well have as a consequence greater confidence in their relationship with God. They will develop greater confidence in their faith. Being a deacon isn’t designed to improve your handyman skills, but rather to create a Christian man who is even more convinced in reference to what he believes. In a sense, this was true concerning two men that were appointed in Act_6:1-15 . Both Stephen and Philip served tables, and yet both of them ended up very bold in their presentation of the faith and completely persuaded that they were on the right track ( Act_6:10 ). There have always been those who have shyed away from the responsibility of the office, but notice God’s attitude. The responsibility isn’t to be dreaded. Rather, tremendous rewards, personal and spiritual growth await the man who will answer the call.

Verse 14

3:14 “I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long”:

“These things” would include the specific qualifications just mentioned and the entire letter as well.

Verse 15

3:15 “But in case I am delayed, I write”: Paul knew that circumstances might delay his hoped for reunion with Timothy, thus he writes this letter. Paul had been hindered on other trips ( Act_16:6-7 ; Rom_15:22 ).

3:15 “So that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God”

The absence of any pronoun in the original makes it possible to insert either “you”, “thou” or “men” in the above verse. Other passages stress the fact that the church is the family of God, God’s household ( Heb_3:6 ; Heb_12:22-23 ; 1Pe_2:5 ; 1Co_3:16 ; Eph_2:19 ). “Both Timothy and the Ephesian Christians must know how to defend and propagate the truth (vs. false doctrine), how to conduct public worship and how to select proper leaders, because what they have been entrusted with is not a private business-it is God’s household!” (Reese p. 147). Let us always remember that the church does not belong to us, but to God, therefore let us resist any temptation to make the church “what we want it to be”.

3:15 “Pillar”: “Now the congregation is pictured as a massive pillar, holding up the truth and displaying the truth” (Reese p. 149).

3:15 “Support of the truth”: A stay, bulwark. “The church is also the stay and buttress of God’s truth in that it supports and maintains it in opposition to all attacks upon it” (Hiebert p. 73). In addition, each local congregation is to be a pillar and ground of the truth.

Verse 16

3:16 “By common confession”: By consent of all, undenabily, most certainly.

3:16 “Great is the mystery of godliness”: Of great moment, of great weight, sublime, majestic, important. The term “mystery” does not refer to something that can never been known, but rather to something that at one time had been hidden in God’s plan, but is now revealed in the gospel. In the next line Paul will define this mystery of godliness.

3:16 “He who was revealed in the flesh”: That is Jesus, who became flesh ( Joh_1:14 ). This is a tremendous and sublime truth, the fact that God became man and yet was still God at the same time.

3:16 “Was vindicated in the Spirit”: This appears to refer to Jesus’ resurrection. While in the flesh, He was persecuted, maligned, and hated. He was put to death as a common criminal, yet He was vindicated to be the Son of God through His resurrection ( Rom_1:3-4 ; Act_3:14 ; Act_7:52 ; Act_4:10-12 ; Act_5:31 ). The vindication of all His claims upon His resurrection.

3:16 “Seen by angels”: “The mighty angelic hosts were witnesses to Christ during His earthly ministry at various times (birth, temptations, agony in the garden, resurrection)” (Kent p. 146).

3:16 “Proclaimed among the nations”: ( Mat_28:18-20 ; Mar_16:15-16 ; Col_1:6 ; Col_1:23 ). By the time Paul writes this letter, the gospel had been preached for over 20 years to the nations.

3:16 “Believed on in the world”: Not that everyone in the world believed in Him, but rather that people thorughout the world believed in Him, both Jews and Gentiles ( Act_2:41 ; Act_4:4 ; Act_5:14 ; Act_6:7 ; Act_11:21 ; Act_17:6 ).

3:16 “Taken up in glory”: ( Mar_16:19 ; Act_1:2 ; Act_1:11 ; Act_1:22 ; Joh_17:5 ; 1Pe_1:11 ; 1Pe_1:21 ; Php_3:21 ; Dan_7:13-14 ). “His resurrection, ascension, and second coming are all depicted as aspects of the glory in which Christ now moves” (Kent p. 146).

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/1-timothy-3.html. 1999-2014.
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