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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 3

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-16

1 Timothy 3:1 . This is a true saying, an indubitable word, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work, a laudable sphere of labour and usefulness. But by the idea of a primitive bishop we must not convey a notion of the palace of Lambeth, nor that of Cardinal Wolsey at Bishopthorpe, but rather that of a humble pastor, desiring and burning with ardour for the salvation of souls, and at the risk of bonds, of exile, and martyrdom. The day of small things is now succeeded by splendour; and the church shows her bishops with a mitred front in the senate house.

1 Timothy 3:2 . A bishop then must be blameless, in regard of his marriage, which is the first bond of society; the husband of one wife, a precept repeated in Titus 1:6. Jerome in his epistle to Oceanus, expounding this place, affirms that they could not create a bishop who had married two wives; one before his baptism, and she being dead, another after baptism. Unam ante baptismum, et ea defuncte, altera post baptismum. SIXTUS of Sienna, p. 704. The critics stop at this word, for the oriental nations allowed of polygamy, a practice disallowed by Christ, and disavowed by the church. Ambrose, Chrysostom, and Epiphanius, are quoted here, as cautioning ministers against second marriages, which Paul allowed to the people, Romans 7:1, lest it should have the appearance of concupiscence. Sed ut inquiunt Epiphan. Chrysost. et Ambros. ne assumatur qui alteram uxori mortuæ superinduxerit, quod illud incontinentiæ suspicione non careat. Though such indeed were the ideas of many in the primitive church, as appears from Luke 2:36, and 1 Timothy 5:9; and though second marriages in the clergy cannot be proved; yet as many ministers lose the wife of their youth by consumptions, and otherwise, after a due regard to modesty, no one would wish to lay upon them the burden of celibacy for all their future years.

A bishop must be vigilant, always having his eye on his work. He must improve occasions, avert dangers, and in all things be a father to the family of God.

He must also be sober -minded. Sedate and wise, full of urbanity in manners; given to hospitality, according to his private means, and as an almoner of the church. Apt to teach. Having a cultivated understanding, a profound acquaintance of human nature, accompanied with a readiness and fluency of speech in conversation, and an aptitude to convey instruction. In the pulpit he must be a man possessed of every adorning for the sanctuary. He must be godlike in wisdom, forcible in argument, full of ease and grace, and so conclusive that his hearers need not ask for farther light. “When I had judged a cause,” says Job, “no man spake after me.”

1 Timothy 3:3 . Not given to wine. A word put for the whole of temperance, for a minister is watched at a feast, and on all other occasions where there is any danger of self-indulgence.

No striker. It would seem from king Ina’s laws, that our Saxon fathers often fought at court; and fighting was common enough among the Greeks. In ecclesiastics especially, contests of this kind are not allowed. On the contrary, brotherly love is strictly required.

Not greedy of filthy lucre. Content with what is customary, fair and just, in all his dealings; conceding the disputed penny to the contentious, rather than enter into strife.

Not a brawler. A man stored with conscious wisdom may be communicative, free and easy in conversation and discourse, but he cannot be garrulous. Meekness and simplicity are the characteristics of true religion, and ought especially to adorn the ministerial profession.

Not covetous. In the developement of character, if it appear that the pastor’s heart is set either on land, or mansions, or the aggrandisement of his family, and that he has at the same time been deficient in the duties of charity and beneficence, the people will avoid his company, as they detest his faults.

1 Timothy 3:4-5 . One that ruleth well his own house. See on Ephesians 6:1-4.

1 Timothy 3:6 . Not a novice. A man unskilled in his work, and full of himself, and therefore hurried by his pride into the condemnation of the devil. Such a teacher is a pest to his auditory, and a disgrace to his profession.

1 Timothy 3:7 . He must have a good report of them that are without, else they will not hear him with reverence, or receive his message with cordiality. An unblemished reputation is essential to acceptance and success in the work of the ministry.

1 Timothy 3:9 . Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. His mind must be enlarged in the knowledge of the truth; he must also retain it and teach it, with a conscientious regard to every other ministerial duty. He must be like his model, “in labours more abundant.”

1 Timothy 3:15 . Know how to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth; as the holy priests and levites conducted the worship of the ancient tabernacle, for the Hebrew word kahal, or congregation, agrees with the word church. The stones in the ancient temple are called “stones of fire,” Ezekiel 28:14; and such should ministers ever be in the sanctuary. So much the more so, seeing that the christian temple is the church of the living God; and her high and anointed priest is the Son of God himself. On this rock the church is built, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. All her doctrines must be permanent, as her foundations are sure.

The church is likewise called the pillar and ground of the truth; the pillar on which the truth is inscribed in legible characters, and the foundation on which it rests. “The church of the living God,” says Chrysostom, “is the pillar and stability of truth;” like the foundations of the earth it remains immoveable. This monument of truth, reared by the hand of God, exhibits to all future generations the doctrine and the discipline of the apostolic age, graven as in the rock for ever.

1 Timothy 3:16 . Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness, that is, of the incarnation. God was manifest in the flesh. Θεος εφανερωθη εν σαρκι . So Chrysostom, and Theophylact read; also Erasmus, and Heinsius: ed. Cantab. 1640, p. 488. But the word, God, is wanting in the Greek of Syrus, and in the Latin. Of course, Griesbach omits it in his unitarian Greek testament. Erasmus complains of the Latin, Quod manifestum est in carne, because what follows refers to God; therefore this reading appears to him dry or insipid, and is equivalent to, What was manifested, what was justified, &c. The authority of Chrysostom for this reading far surpasses that of Syrus, in whose copy the divinity is understood as manifest in the flesh. This reading agrees with all the promises of the manifestation of Christ, or that the glory of the Lord should be revealed. Isaiah 40:4-5; Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 52:6. Haggai 2:7. Such are the ideas of the prophets, whose words were never understood in any other sense. But the expression, “manifested in the flesh,” coincides especially with the promise that Christ was to be the woman’s Seed, Abraham’s heir, and of David’s stock, the root of Jesse, all corresponding with the christian scriptures. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law. Galatians 4:6. The Son of God was manifested. 1 John 3:8.

Dr. Doddridge on this text allows that the deity dwelt incarnate in our Lord’s humanity; and then handsomely adds, that he was “the divine person he professed to be.” Harmer, in his translation of the new testament, does the same. John 1:1. “And the Word was a divine person.” Angels also are divine persons, if we know the import of the word. But I would ask whether the apostles anywhere call angels God, and prefix, as in the Greek, an emphatic article before the word? I would ask whether they anywhere wish mercy and peace to them that call on the name of an angel, as they do to them that call on the name of the Lord Christ: and calling on the name of the Lord was the highest act of Hebrew devotion. Compare Joel 2:32. Acts 7:52; Acts 9:14, 1 Corinthians 1:2. 2 Timothy 2:22. Harmer, Peirce, and Priestley were honest men; but while Doddridge affected orthodoxy, he did unspeakable mischief to the truth, which cannot admit of indecision and duplicity of expression. He makes a little amends, or at least a variation by an expression concerning the Holy One of God, in calling him “the illustrious person he professed to be!” Is it any wonder that the doctor’s students should afterwards prove to be nearly all Arians.

He was justified in the Spirit, was declared to be the Holy and the Just One, because he went to the Father. All his miracles, wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit, testified that he was the Christ of God.

Seen of angels. The holy angels attended him through the whole of his ministry, and worshipped him as the only-begotten of the Father, for whom all things were created.

Preached unto the gentiles, and not to the jews only, for he was God’s salvation to the ends of the earth; and in him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.

Believed on in the world. The conversion of multitudes in all nations attested the efficacy of his sacrifice, and the power of his resurrection. This also is a part of the mystery of godliness, that the doctrine of the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ should be attended with such wide and powerful success.

Received up into glory, where the heavens were waiting to receive him, with the everlasting doors wide open, that the King of glory might enter in. There sits the Conqueror, at the right hand of the Majesty on high; there the Advocate with the Father, the Priest upon his throne, making intercession for all that come unto God by him, and offering up the prayers of the saints. Such is the consummation of the great mystery of godliness, filling heaven and earth with endless wonder and delight.


Ministers are the glory of Christ, the joy and boast of the church. But they are required to be holy, as their profession fully implies. No minister of state can act for his sovereign unless he be authorized, and unless he has intercourse with him, and know the royal pleasure. He must be clothed with the costume of state, and support the dignity of the high office he sustains. It is the same with the christian pastor, the father of the church. If he be given to wine, to violence of passion, or sordidly attached to filthy lucre, the King of kings will hide his face, and refuse a disclosure of his will. The gospel in that case, as Ostervald says, will freeze upon his lips.

Though Timothy had long been trained under a great master, and was in himself another Paul, yet even Timothy needed paternal counsel and advice in the high and important station he was called to fill. Let all men therefore, when entering on a pastoral charge, seek wisdom and assistance from the Lord, and let them read and study the impressive language of this epistle.

The idea which St. Paul here gives us of the church, the pillar and ground of the truth, is truly sublime and beautiful. There the great mystery of godliness has erected its monument, and chosen its habitation. There the Word made flesh has manifested his glory, the glory as of the only- begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Without controversy this mystery of the incarnation is the wonder of heaven, and the joy of earth. The Eternal born in time. The Son, enjoying from eternity glory with the Father, is cradled in a manger, with all the innocent infirmities of our nature. All the concomitant events justify the words of the prophets; the glory of the Lord is revealed, that all flesh may behold it together. Angels view the scene with admiration, joyfully attend his advent, and accompany their Lord to glory. Nay more: the world believe on the crucified Redeemer, and multitudes are ready to die for his name. Sing, oh heavens, and be glad, oh earth. But let the church, built on the rock, hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-timothy-3.html. 1835.
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