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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 3

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

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Verse 1

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

If a man desire — As no woman, so neither may every man desire the office of a minister, but such only as are gifted and fitted for such a service.

He desireth a good work — But a hard work. The ministry is not an idle man’s occupation, but a sore labour; Onus ipsis etiam angelis tremendum, saith Chrysostom, a burden too heavy for an angel’s shoulders; a pains nothing short of that of a travailing woman, saith Melancthon after Paul, Galatians 4:19 . There were those who read this text thus, Quicunque desiderat episcopatum bonum, opes desiderat. But this was a foul mistake at best. That is a good observation of Estius, that the former word, ορεγεται , rendered desire, importeth a more earnest desire (such as is that after meat when one is hungry) than the other following, επιθυμει . "He desireth a good work," quod eadem res nomine Episcopatus desideretur ardentius, quam nomine operis et officii, because the same thing by the name of episcopacy is more ardently desired than by the name of work and duty. That hypocrisy of the Canonists is very ridiculous, not admitting any to personal government in the Church, unless he either seem to refuse it, or unwillingly to undertake it, though he had never so much laboured it. The Bishop of Metis answered cunningly, when being demanded whether he desired a bishopric, he replied, Nolens volo, et volens nolo, I do, and I do not. One reporteth of a priest that used to have a net spread upon his table where he dined, that he might mind St Peter, that fisher of men. But when by his diligent preaching he had gotten a bishopric, he did take away the net, for he had got what he fished for.

Verse 2

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

A bishop then must be blameless — That is, every faithful pastor must be such as against whom no just exception can be laid, no gross fault objected. Involuntary failings and unavoidable infirmities have a pardon, of course, both with God and all good men.

The husband of one wifesc. At once. The Egyptian priests were forbidden also polygamy.

Vigilant — νηφαλιον , pale and wan with watching, ου χρη παννυχιον ευδειν βουληφορον ανδρα (Homer): a public person should not sleep a whole night together.

Sober — σωφρονα , that can contain his passions and keep a mean.

Of good behaviour — κοσμιον . Bene moratum. Hieron. ad Damasum. Compositus, modestus. Neat and handsome in his outward habit, venerable in all his behaviour.

Given to hospitalityQuicquid habent clerici, pauperum est: the minister’s chest is the poor man’s box.

Apt to teach — Not able only, as Dr Taylor, martyr, who preached not only every Lord’s day and holy day, but whensoever else he could get the people together. (Acts and Mon.) Praedicationis officium suscipit, quisquis ad sacerdotium accedit, saith Gregory. (Greg. Pastor.) He is no minister that is no preacher.

Verse 3

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

Not given to wine — No ale stake, tavern haunter, that sits close at it, till the wine inflame him.

No striker — Either with tongue or hand. Such as were Timotheus Herulus, A. D. 467; Pope Julius III, who cast away his keys, and girt on his sword; Bishop Bonner, who usually buffeted the poor martyrs brought before him, pulling off their beards, … Cognata vitia sunt vinolentia et violentia, sicut et magna cognatio est, ut rei, sit nominis, divitiis et vitiis.

Not greedy of filthy lucre — So as to get by unjust arts and sinful practices, as the pope by allowing the stews in Rome, and elsewhere. See Fiscus Papalis by Crashaw.

But patient — επιεικη , Easily parting with his own right for peace’ sake, as Abraham did, as no covetous man will do.

No brawler — Or wrangler, quarrelsome, like a cock of the game, that is still bloody with the blood of others and of himself.

Not covetous — αφιλαργυρον . Not a lover of silver; and that (Euclio-like) sits abrood upon his heaps of illgotten goods, and will part with nothing.

Verse 4

One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

One that ruleth well — προισταμενον . A good priest in his own family, which he daily perfumes with evangelical sacrifices, till his house, as the house of David, be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them, Zechariah 12:8 .

Having his children in subjection — Yet Pope Pelagius forbids a bishop to have either wife or children; whereof this wise reason is given, because children are argumentum ambulans super terram, A walking argument of their father’s incontinence. Os durum! Hard saying! His successor Paul III had no wife indeed, but children he had. One of whom, named Petro Alvigi Farnesis, having first forced and then poisoned Cosmus Chaerius, bishop of Fanum, received no other check or chastisement of his father the pope but this, Haec vitia me non commonstratore didicit, He never learned those vices from his father.

Verse 5

(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

For if a man know not how — A very cogent argument from the less to the greater; used also by our Saviour, Luke 16:11-12 . Eli was justly taxed and Augustus heavily upbraided with their domestic disorders, as therefore unfit for government.

Verse 6

Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Not a novice — νεοφυτος . Rude and proud, a young scholar or newly converted, but well experimented, and sufficiently commended by men of worth. He that offered to run a race was led about by the crier, to see what any one present could object against him, ere he was suffered to run, as Chrysostom reporteth. Chrysost. Hom. xxii. ad Pop. Antioch. So it should be here. Was he not a fit man to be a doctor of divinity, and a teacher in Israel, who being asked something touching the Decalogue, denied that he had ever any such book as that in his study Another Amama, Antibarb. praefat. Luther. Chytraeus. (and he a bishop) taking up a Bible, and reading in it awhile, when one asked him what book he had there, he answered, What book it is I know not; but this I know, that it speaketh altogether against our religion. An ass might not be coupled with an ox in ploughing. No ignorant doltish ass may plough in God’s field the Church. Asinos elegit Christus et idiotas, saith Dr Beddingfield, sed oculavit in prudentes; simulque dona dedit et ministeria. Christ chose illiterate men, but made them learned and teachers of others.

He fall into the condemnation of the devil — διαβολος . That is, be condemned as the devil is, for his pride. Or, lest he come under the censure of calumniating persons, who have one common name (in Greek) with the devil. See 1 Timothy 3:11 ; 2 Timothy 3:3 ; Titus 2:3 .

Verse 7

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

A good report of them, … — For a workman that needeth not to be ashamed; such a one as may muzzle the black mouth of any Campian, that shall say, as he doth of our Church, Ministris eorum nihil vilius; this is most true of Popish greasy hedge priests. See Trapp on " 1 Timothy 3:6 "

Of the devil — Or, of the slanderer, who by carrying tales and finding faults, do the devil’s work. See Trapp on " 1 Timothy 3:6 "

Verse 8

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

Not doubletongued — διλογους . That can turn their tales, and tune their fiddles to the base of the times, saying as the company says, being as the planet Mercury, good in conjunction with good, and bad with bad. Lingua in vitulis marinis duplex est, a Sea calves are double tongued. Ministers must neither be sea calves nor moon calves; double tongued, nor unstable, or double minded,James 1:8; James 1:8 . See Trapp on " Acts 2:3 "

a Tyriosque bilingues. Virg. Bartholin. in Anatom.

Verse 9

Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

Holding the mysterySee Trapp on " 1 Timothy 1:19 "

Verse 10

And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

Being found blameless — The world will look round about them, and expect (though unjustly) an angelical perfection.

Let them use the office of a deaconDiaconus is said to come of κονις , which signifieth dust, to show that such should be "dustily diligent."

Verse 11

Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

Must their wives be grave — As themselves must, 1 Timothy 3:6 . Gravity is such an elixir, as by contaction (if there be any disposition of goodness in the same metal) it will render it of the property. So that deacons’ wives cannot be otherwise than grave and gracious, having such husbands as is above described.

Verse 12

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

Husbands of one wife, …See Trapp on " 1 Timothy 3:2 " See Trapp on " 1 Timothy 3:4 "

Verse 13

For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

A good degree — Or a fair step to a higher order, i.e. to a bishopric or presbytership.

And great boldness in the faith — The peace of a good conscience and the plerophory of faith. This those that are faithful in the ministry shall be sure of; the former preferment they may possibly fail in. In a similar manner, when the twins strove in Rebecca’s womb, the worst came forth first, and had the best place, Genesis 25:25 ; so the unworthiest are often exalted, Psalms 12:8 , but the best have that which is better.

Verse 14

These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:

Hoping to come unto thee — And to be an eyewitness of thy diligence, whereof I doubt not, joying in the mean while, "and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ," Colossians 2:5 .

Verse 15

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

In the house of God — See here the dignity of the Church, and the duty of ministers, which is to be faithful as stewards in all God’s house. But what mean the Papists so to cry up the Church even above the Scriptures (as the Council of Basil did by their Cardinal Cusanus in answer to the Hussites), nay, above Christ himself, as Hosius and others. Can they mean honestly (quoth that martyr) that make so much of the wife and so little of the husband? Bastard children are all for their mother, and are called by her name, …

Verse 16

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

And without controversy — Learned Cameron beginneth this verse at those words before, "The pillar and ground of truth, and confessedly great is that mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh," … It being a usual form of speech among the Jews (as he proveth out of Maimonides) to preface these very words, "The pillar and ground of truth," to any special doctrine touching religion. The word here rendered "without controversy," signifieth "confessedly," q.d. It is so under the broad seal of public confession.

Great is the mystery of godliness — A mystery, because above natural capacity. And a "mystery of godliness" the gospel is called, because, being believed, it transformeth men into the same image, and stirs up in them admirable affections of piety.

God manifested — Out of the bosom of his Father, out of the womb of his mother, out of the types of the law, …

In the flesh — Christ condescended to our rags, he put on a lousy suit of ours, induit sordes nostras, he took our flesh, when it was tainted with treason; our base nature, after it was fallen; which was a wonderful fruit of love: as if one should wear a man’s colours or livery after he is proclaimed traitor, it is a great grace to such a man; so here. (Dr Sibbs.)

Justified in the Spirit — Or, "by the Spirit," that is, by the divine nature, Romans 1:4 , and by the Holy Ghost too; the second person raised up itself, but yet it was by the Holy Ghost too; which he used, not as an instrument, but as a common principle with himself, of equal dignity, only differing in order of persons. We shall also be justified and cleared of all false imputations at the resurrection, which shall be of names as well as of bodies. The sun shall scatter all the clouds, …

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/1-timothy-3.html. 1865-1868.
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