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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1


1) "This is a true saying," (pistos ho logos) "Faithful or trustworthy is the word," the saying that follows. This is a pre-affirmation of a vital subject regarding selection of church officers, administrators, and their wives and families, bishops and deacons.

2) "If a man desire the office of a bishop," (ei tis episkopes oregetai) "If anyone aspires to oversight to overseership," an overseer-office, rendered "the office of a bishop." To aspire to do a noble work is always honorable. Ambition is a lawful thing when one reaches for holiness in life and service. The term "oregetai" means to seek, to stretch to achieve, or to aspire after. Note, the phrase "office of a bishop" refers in a restricted sense to the work and duty of the pastor. There is no office of elders.

3) "He desireth a good work." (kalou ergou epitheumei) "He desires a good work," or longs to do a good work. The office of the bishop is a work-office, not a mere position of honor. An honest man will not desire the office without a commitment to its work. Note as in this chapter "bishops and deacons" are to labor together, Philippians 1:11; Titus 1:5-9; Acts 6:1-7; Ephesians 3:13; Philippians 4:17; Colossians 1:9; Ephesians 4:12.

Verse 2

1) "A bishop then must be" (dei oun ton episkopon) "It behooves or becomes therefore the bishop," One first, ordained, and second, placed in the pastoral oversight of the church.

a) "Blameless" (anepilempton einai) "to be without reproach," one against whom no indictable charge can be laid, 2 Timothy 2:24.

b) "The husband of one wife" (mias gunaikos andra) or more definitively "a one-woman (kind of) man", not a polygamist, not a promiscuous kind of man or not a woman chaser. This appears to be the more accurate translation and meaning. Polygamy, then prevalent among the Corinthians, Romans, and heathens, was specifically to be avoided by the minister to be ordained to become a pastor bishop or overseer of a flock. This type of conduct appears to be more likely the intent rather than a mandate to be married or not divorced.

c) "Vigilant, sober, of good behaviour," (nephalion sophron kosnion) "Temperate, sensible, orderly in deportment." Watchful over self and the flock, discreet, of good behaviour, modest but not shy, genial but not noisy, boisterous, or a showboy, but a gentlemen with excellent emotional, self-control. Acts 20:29.

d) "Given to hospitality" (philoksenon) "hospitable," kindness, heIpfuIness, a charitable disposition, big-hearted, so much prized in the Middle-East as a virtue of good people.

e) "Apt to teach" (didaktinon) "apt at teaching," having teaching abilities and qualities, skilled or competent, one who could "rightly divide the Word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15. Except one have these evident qualities he should never be ordained and having the qualities he should sharpen, use, and improve them all his life; Paul did to the end. 2 Timothy 4:13; John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Peter 3:18; Acts 20:32; 2 Timothy 4:13.

Verse 3

1) "Not given to wine- (me paroinon) -Not an excessive drinker," not quarrelsome over wine, or sitting or reclining alongside wine.

2) "No striker" (me plekton) "Not a striker-one who strikes back impulsively." Titus 1:7.

3) "Not greedy of filthy lucre" (aphilarguron) "Not avaricious," a money-grabber, gluttonous after material gain, 1 Timothy 6:9-10. This statement is omitted in the original manuscripts, the idea is from Titus 1:7.

4) "But patient" (alla epieike) "but forbearing," able to get along with weaknesses of others, Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:13.

5) "Not a brawler" (amachon) "uncontentious, gentle, a bishopric trait, Titus 1:7, as well as good Christian conduct, Titus 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:24.

6) "Not covetous" (aphilarguron) "not covetous of material gain, not given to petty theft, Ephesians 5:5.

Verse 4

1) "One that ruleth well his own house" (tou idiou oikou kalos proistamenon) This referred to domestic control; as a straw shows which way the wind blows, so a bad domestic parental control bodes a bad pastoral leadership. "One that stands forward well in his own household" -- doesn’t bow, or cow, to wife or children, Genesis 18:19; Joshua 4:5-15.

2) "Having his children in subjection" (tekna echonta en hupotage) "Having, holding, or containing children in subjection," Psalms 101:2; Ephesians 6:1-4. If a man have children, they must be in subjection in his household, domestic domain of rulership. This does not disqualify one who neither has or has lost children from his household; the term "his" is not in the original.

3) "With all gravity" (meta pases tetos) "With all seriousness," not lightly, or with fickleness.


I. Of Divine Appointment

a. not a human invention

b. not a creature of the state

c. not a too I of the state is the bishop

II The Office is a Good Work

a. of greatest importance- soul-winning

b. of greatest good- Christian development v. 1

Ill. Requires Diligence and Self -Application

a. diligent attention, 1 Timothy 4:13-14

b. total devotion, 1 Timothy 4:15-16

Verse 5

1) "For if a man know not how to rule his own house," (ei de tis tou idiou oikou prostenai ouk oiden) "If moreover anyone perceives not (how) to stand his own house in order," or rule his own domestics - an hypothetical case, as in personal faithfulness, expressed in Luke 16:10-12.

2) "How shall he take care of the church of God?" (pos ekklesias theou epimelesetai) "How will he take care of an assembly (a local congregation) of God?" This refers to the church government oversight; responsibility of the bishop to. guide, Acts 20:28. The overseer is to "take heed to himself" and to the flock of his oversight, feeding, leading, shepherding, and protecting it, 1 Peter 5:1-4.

Verse 6

1) "Not a novice" "Not a neophyte," a new convert, a beginner, No new convert should be set in an high official position in the church, especially in the office of bishop.

2) "Lest being lifted up with pride" (hina me tuphotheis eis krima) "lest being puffed up, conceited, ballooned with vanity or pride," Proverbs 16:18. "Pride is antecedent, goes before destruction." To ordain a novice is to create a circumstance of destruction for him which should be avoided,

3) "He fall into the condemnation of the devil." (empese tou diabolou) "He should fall into the judgment pronounced on the devil who was originally puffed up with pride," and subsequently became the object of earth’s greatest fall. Ezekiel 28:17; 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:6.

Verse 7

1) "Moreover he must have" (dei de echein kai) "And it behooves also, or is necessary that he have," Romans 2:14-15. Even the outside world has an unwritten law of moral virtues on which they pass reasonable judgment upon the conduct or deportment of men. Though the Bible is the final basis, the former must not be ignored.

2) "A good report of them which are without" (marturion kalen apo ton eksothen) "To have a good testimony, witness, or report of the ones outside (the church)." Paul recognized that the moral instincts of the people of the world might be usefully considered to balance the judgment of the church regarding qualified candidates for the bishop, as well as the deaconship, Acts 6:3; Acts 22:12.

3) "Lest he fall into reproach" (hina me eis oneidismon empese) "in order that he not fall into reproach," 1 Corinthians 10:12; James 1:2; James 5:12; 2 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 3:17; 1 Peter 4:14.

4) "And the snare of the devil" (kai pagida tou diabolou) "And a trap or snare of the slanderer, the devil." 1 Timothy 6:8; 2 Timothy 2:26. He seeks to ensnare preachers as surely as laymen, James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8.

Verse 8

1) "Likewise must the deacons be grave" (diakonos hosautos semnos) "Just like this or in a similar manner it is necessary that deacons be grave," serious-minded, conscientious, or sincere. It is believed that their qualifications were first outlined in Acts 6:1-7, men of dignity.

2) "Not double-tongued" (me dilogous) "Not split- or fork-tongued, two-faced," saying one thing and meaning another or making differing statements of fact to different people. Such is displeasing to the Lord, for any man, Psalms 12:2-3.

3) "Not given to much wine" (me oino pollo prosechontas) “Not being addicted to or toward much wine," not having a compulsive taste for or lean toward the habitual use of wine, Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:29-32.

4) "Not greedy of filthy lucre" (me aischrokerdeis) "Not fond of base or ill-gotten gain," not setting gain in material things or material ease as an object or purpose of entering the deaconship. The deacon must not be inclined to steal petty cash, church funds entrusted to him, for his personal use. If the church knows such traits to be in his life or that of his wife the church would sin by placing him in the deaconship, a step to such temptation, Acts 6:3-4.

Verse 9

1) "Holding the mystery of the faith" (echontas to musterion tes pisteos) "Holding, having, or containing the mystery of the faith," the body of truth concerning Jesus Christ. This mystery of the faith is referred to as the "mystery of godliness," 1 Timothy 3:16. It became a revelation in Jesus Christ, Hebrews 1:1-3; Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7-9.

2) "In a pure conscience" (en kathara suneidesei) "In a cleansed or purified conscience." Paul lived in good conscience "void of offence," Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16. It is the pure conscience that is also commended as a "good conscience," 1 Peter 2:19; 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 3:21.

Verse 10

1) "And let these also first be proved" (kai houtai de dokimazesthosan proton) "And let these (candidates for deaconship) first be proved, examined, or tested," in compliance with the above described requisites to the office of deacons. See also 1 Timothy 5:22.

2) "Then let them use the office of a deacon" (eita diakoneitosan) "Then let or permit them (to) minister," or serve in positions or rank as leaders in common Christian responsibilities. From this admonition the custom of the church’s inviting a presbytery, a group of ordained brethren to examine the deacon or pastoral candidates, came. The office is to be used, not abused. Acts 6:1-7.

3) "Being found blameless" (anegkletoi ontes) "Being determined (through proving or examination) irreproachable," that no specific charge of wrong-doing was found to be in them. These candidates for the office of deacon must be men 1) unaccused of impropriety in financial affairs, and 2) unaccused of moral unfitness.

Verse 11

1) "Even so must their wives be grave" (gunaikas hosautos semnas) "it behooves wives similarly (or in like manner) as bishops and deacons, to be grave, serious minded, or sincere," women in like manner as pastors and deacons’ wives must be, 1 Timothy 3:4.

2) "Not slanderers" (me diabolous) “not devils or slanderers, like the old devil," not besmirchers of the character or reputation of others; while men are more prone to be double-tongued, women are more prone than men to be slanderers or false accusers, Titus 2:3.

3) "Sober" (nephalious) "temperate" Moderate, vigilant, of emotional conduct of awareness, Ephesians 5:15.

4) "Faithful in all things" pistas en pasin) "Faithful in all kinds of things,” activities and situations, as deaconesses to their husbands, whether bishops or deacons, ; Titus 2:10. Special women helpers to the common ministry are referred to as deaconesses in the Scriptures, cited above, Philippians 4:3.


A good wife makes the cares of the world sit easy, and adds a sweetness to its pleasures: she is a man’s best companion in prosperity, and his only friend in adversity; the most careful preserver of his health, and the kindest attendant on his sickness; a faithful adviser in distress, a comforter in affliction, and a discreet manager of all his domestic affairs.


Verse 12

1) "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife" (diakonoi estosan mias gunaikas andres) "Let the deacons be or (exist as) the one-woman kind of a man, not a polygamist, woman-chasing or promiscuous kind of man. This appears to be the more definitive meaning of the passage in the context of the times and conditions in that area and era of Paul’s address to the Grecians and Romans, rather than the idea that one had to be married and have a wife in order to be ordained as deacon, or as a Bishop as set forth in 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6.

2) "RuIing their children " (teknon kalos proistamenois) "Ruling or standing well before children," 1 Timothy 3:4, same qualification as that for a bishop. Church leaders, whether filling the office of bishop (pastor) or deacon, were required to give evidence of good home government and order, lest a lack of such reflect upon their church.

3) "And their own houses well." (kai ton idion oikon) ’And their own domestics or household well; Evidently this refers to the proper husband-wife, and parent-children relationship and possibly master-servant relationship. See Ephesians 5:22-33; Ephesians 6:1-9. It is possible that Christian laymen of the church, pastors, and deacons, all had household servants (domestics) over whom they were masters, and the term "ruling of household" as relates to both bishops and deacons, covered the attitude and qualities of rulership that church officers should have over their entire household, not merely the wife and children, 1Ti 3;4,12.

Verse 13

1) "For they that have used" (hoi gar diakonesantes) For the ones having progressively served or ministered." The office of the deacon is one that is to be used for common sanctified Christian service, to relieve the pastor, not to burden him, Acts 6:1-7.

2) "The office of a deacon well" (kalos bathmon) "The office or position of the deaconship well." The office is well used when its occupants lead in relieving the pastor of chafing criticisms over physical matters in the church membership. The deacons and their wives are to settle devilment, not stir, peddle, or raise it.

3) "Purchase to themselves a good degree" (heautois kalon peripountai) "Accumulate around themselves a good reputation." When this office is filled well by relieving labors of love and hospitality, as in the Jerusalem church, many spiritual blessings come, as in Acts 6:7.

4) "And great boldness in the faith" ’(kai polen paresian en pistei) "And much boldness in faith." Note, the apostles at Jerusalem, relieved of petty daily "deacon service" (diakonia) Acts 6:1-3, with boldness or strength in the faith, relieved by deacons, caused:

1) the Word to increase,

2) believers to increase, and

3) priests to be saved, 1 Timothy 3:7.

5) "Which is in Christ Jesus." (te en christo iesou) "The faith (which exists) in Christ Jesus." This is still God’s order for official church government and church growth. Any other order of church government is out of order, Matthew 25:21; Matthew 28:18-20.

Verse 14

1) "These things write I unto thee" (tauta soi grapho) These inspired instructions Paul personally prepared for and to Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus, regarding church government, church order for services, and qualifications necessary for the bishop and deacons.

2) "Hoping to come unto thee shortly" (elpizon elthein pros se tachion) "Hoping, of my own accord, to come to thee hastily, shortly, or very soon." This short book, Paul hoped, would help Timothy stabilize the Ephesian church’s growth until he could arrive to give further personal help. It was for this purpose Timothy had been left in Ephesus, 1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:13-21. This is a divine love letter, from an aged to a younger bishop, reflecting mature spiritual care for the welfare of the church which Jesus purchased with His own blood, Acts 20:28.

Verse 15

1) "But if I tarry long" lean de bradumo) "But if I delay." Paul knew his wish or desire, but he was not certain about God’s will for his itinerary on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Like James, he left the leading to the will of God, James 4:13-15; Acts 18:21; 1 Corinthians 4:19.

2) "That thou mayest know" (hina eides) "In order that thou mayest know or perceive." Through written instructions, messages, inspired and found in the Word, men may know helpful things, as they are taught them and perceive them, John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 5:13; Romans 8:28.

3) "How thou oughtest to behave thyself" (pos de anastrephesthai) "how it becomes (the) household of God (the church) to behave or deport herself," as well as for Timothy to deport himself, to carry on the work and worship of the church orderly, 1 Corinthians 14:40.

4) "In the house of God" (en oiko theou) "in the household of God." In making, baptizing, and teaching disciples of the Lord, in the church, Ephesians 2:19-22; Ephesians 3:21.

5) "Which is the church of the living God" (hetis estin ekklesia theou zontos) "Which exists as (is) the Church of the continuous living God," an assembly of covenanted, baptized believers, in Ephesus, which was doing the work of God as prescribed, Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8.

6) "The pillar and ground of the truth" (stulos kai edraioma tes atetheias) "The pillar and bulwark or depository of the truth," the support and defense of the Word of God; to whom it was committed, for administration in this Gentile age. This institution is always local in nature and function, never universal nor invisible. One may as well speak of an invisible:

a) Flock, Matthew 26:31-32; Luke 12:32; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4.

b) House or Household, Mark 13:34-35; Ephesians 2:19-22.

c) Temple, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:21-22.

d) Bride, John 3:28-29; 2 Corinthians 11:1-2; Revelation 19:7-9.

e) Kingdom or Government, .

as to speak of an invisible church. The term "the church" is here used in the generic and simply refers to the church as an institution, as to nature and kind, made up or composed of local congregations of literal, visible, baptized, covenanted believers in a specific locality on earth to do God’s work.


Look at a river. The exile returns to the haunts of his early years, and there, emblem of peace of God, the river flows as it flowed when his wife was young. Tumbling in snowy foam over the same rock, winding its snake-like way through the same everlasting hills, it rushes through the same verdant meadows, washing the feet of the same everlasting hills, it rushes through the glen with the impetuous passions of a perpetual youth, to pursue its course onward to the ocean that lies glimmering like a silver rim around the land. A gray old man, he seats himself on the bank where wild roses still shed their blossoms on a bed of thyme, and the crystal pool at his feet there, foaming round the old graystone, that bright dancing stream, as they may recall many touching memories of early childhood, and companions dead and gone, seem the same, yet they are not. The liquid atoms, the component parts of the river, have been undergoing perpetual change. Even so it is with the Church of Christ. The stream of time bears on to eternity, and the stream of grace bears on to glory successive generations, while the Church herself, like a river fed by perennial fountains, remains unchangeable in Christ’s immutability, in His immortality, immortal.


Verse 16

1 ) "And without controversy" (kai homologoumenos) "And confessedly," beyond successful testamentary contradiction, as a case made out, sustained by incontrovertible legal evidence;

2) "Great is the mystery of godliness" (mega estin to tes eusebeias musterion) "Great is the mystery of piety, godliness." The term "mystery" is used to express both the divine and human aspects of the Christian faith in manifestation; of Jesus Christ, Colossians 1:27, "Christ in you.

a) "God was manifest in the flesh" (hos epanerothe en sarki) "Who was manifested in flesh." God in Christ, John 1:1; John 1:14; Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 1:1-3. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself," 2 Corinthians 5:10.

b) "Justified in the Spirit" (edikaiothe en pneumati) "Justified in (the) Spirit," in four ways:

1) begotten of the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:21;

2) when baptized, Matthew 3:16; John 1:31-34;

3) announced His ministry, Luke 4:16-21;

4) when raised from the dead, Romans 8:11.

c) "Seen of angels" (ophthe angelois) "Was seen by angels, “ on four occasions:

1) at His birth, Luke 2:9-13;

2) at the end of His temptation, Matthew 4:11;

3) at His resurrection, and

4) at His ascension, Acts 1:9-11.

d) "Preached unto the Gentiles" (ekeruchthe en ethnesin) "Was heralded or preached among nations, Gentiles, peoples," on four occasions:

1) to the Samaritan woman, John 4:1-54;

2) to the Syrophoenecian woman, Mark 7:26;

3) to Cornelius’ house, Acts 10:1-48;

4) Paul, Acts 13:46-48; Romans 1:14-16.

e) "Believed on in the world" (episteuthe en kosmo) "Was believed on in the world." John 4:39-42; John 1:11-12. Not only did the apostles and church believe on Him, but also many of the Samaritans, half-breed of races believed on Him as Savior and Lord.

f) "Received up into glory" (anelemphthe en dokse) "And was taken up in glory," to the glory He had with the Father before the world was; John 17:1; John 17:5; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 10:12-13; 1 Peter 3:22.

Great is this continuing mystery Of godliness or piety, as our Lord prepares a place for His own, John 14:1-2, and makes intercession and advocacy to the Father in behalf of every believer, Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-timothy-3.html. 1985.
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