Lectionary Calendar
Friday, February 23rd, 2024
the First Week of Lent
There are 37 days til Easter!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 3

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1

‘Faithful is the saying, If a man seeks the office of a bishop (overseer), he desires a good work.’

These church overseers were seemingly responsible for the main teaching in the church (‘apt to teach’), and would thus be seen as the face of the church by outsiders. It was to them that direction would be made by Christians if people came to them with questions, or to learn more about the church. They had therefore to be of good repute. Furthermore, because of the importance and centrality of their role, they had to be good role models.

Verses 1-7

The Qualifications For A Bishop In The Local Church (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ).

The church in each city and town was run by a group of elders (presbuteroi) of whom some, if not all (Acts 20:17 with 28), would be appointed ‘bishops’ (episkopoi - the word is rare in secular literature where it indicates ‘oversight’). It was the task of the latter to oversee the teaching of the church members (they must be ‘apt to teach’ - 1 Timothy 3:2). But in order to qualify as teachers they also had to make the grade in their lives. Those qualifications are now laid out.


· Faithful is the saying, If a man seeks the office of a bishop (overseer), he desires a good work (1 Timothy 3:1).

· The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach, no brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money, one who rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity (1 Timothy 3:2-4).

· But if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:5).

· Not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil (1 Timothy 3:6).

· Moreover he must have good testimony from those who are without, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (1 Timothy 3:7).

Note that in ‘a’ the office of bishop is ‘a good work’ and in the parallel he must therefore be well thought of by outsiders, for to them he is the face of the Christian church. In ‘b’ the qualifications are laid out, and in the parallel the warning that he must not be a novice. Centrally in ‘c’ he must have proved himself fit to take charge of the household of God, this being evidenced by how he runs his own household.

Verses 1-13

Choosing The Officers For The Local Church: Bishops, Deacons, and Deaconesses (1 Timothy 3:1-13 ).

No task was more serious for the young Timothy, (nor for the older Titus), than that of the selection of good officers to lead the Lord’s army forwards. We come now, therefore to what the qualifications are for ‘bishops’ (overseers and teachers of the local church), and ‘deacons’ and deaconesses (servants of the church and spiritual assistants to the overseers). Only men could be bishops, but both men and women could seemingly be deacons.

Verses 1-16

In View Of What Christ Has Done Paul Lays Out The Battle Plan For The Future And Organises God’s Forces In Order To Ensure That His Church Will Be The Mainstay Of All That He Has Accomplished (1 Timothy 1:18 to 1 Timothy 3:16 ).

Calling on Timothy to prepare for spiritual warfare (1 Timothy 1:18-20), he exhorts prayer for all men, and especially for all in high places, in order that the work of God might go forward peaceably among all men, for that was why He had sent His Mediator as a man among men and as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:1-7). All are to play their part in accordance with what God has revealed. Christian men (including women) are all to participate in this prayer, lifting up holy hands in Christian oneness, while Christian women are also to play their part by godly sobriety, and being careful to maintain their rightful place, lest the error of the Garden of Eden be repeated. Avoidance of this, and fulfilling of their major role in child-bearing, will then turn out for their blessing and salvation (1 Timothy 2:8-15). Meanwhile the principles of leadership are laid out as Paul gives advice to Timothy about the appointment of male ‘bishops/overseers’ and ‘deacons’, and also of ‘women’ (1 Timothy 3:1-13), and he concludes the section by pointing out that his instructions are being sent to him so that he might know how men and women are to behave within the household of God, that is the church of the living God (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Finally he ends by again directing his own and their minds to heavenly things (compare 1 Timothy 1:17), but this time in terms of the coming of the Incarnate One and what He has accomplished (1 Timothy 3:16), a truth of which the church is to be the mainstay in the world (1 Timothy 3:15).

We can summarise this section something like this:

· Warring the good warfare and the collapse of some of the fabric (1 Timothy 1:18-20).

· Rallying the troops both male and female to make use of their spiritual weapons (chapter 2).

· Choosing the officers, both male and female (1 Timothy 3:1-13).

· The responsibility of the Church as the pillar and mainstay of the truth and the description of the One Whose incredible accomplishment guarantees the success of the warfare and provides its incentive (1 Timothy 3:14-16).

Verses 2-4

‘The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach, no brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money, one who rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.’

Paul provides a formidable check list for one who would take up the important position of ‘overseer’ and shepherd (Acts 20:28).

‘Without reproach.’ That is, ‘unexceptionable, irreproachable’. There must be no stain on their characters and be well thought of both inside and outside the church. This would not necessarily exclude those who (like Paul) had a shady past, but only once they had lived it down and proved that the change was permanent. The word signifies that they must be blameless, not just be seen as being.

‘The husband of one wife’. The stress on ‘one’ would suggest that the main aim of this injunction is to bar polygamists and divorcees on the grounds that they have disobeyed God’s requirement as found in Genesis 2:24, and are therefore necessarily ‘living in sin’ and not above reproach. It may also, however, be intended to include a requirement that they are married. This prohibition would have startled the ancient world. Marriages came and went, and it was not unusual to marry a number of times. Until they became Christians and became aware of Jesus’ teaching they would simply have thought this idea a freak of Paul’s imagination, and in the Gentile world wives were expected to have love affairs, which undoubtedly Paul is also forbidding here.

‘Temperate, sober-minded, orderly.’ They are to be self-controlled, not given to excess, wise of behaviour, efficient and well balanced.

‘Given to hospitality.’ Hospitality was seen as an important virtue in the days of the early church when visitors to a city would require somewhere to stay. Inns were rare and usually not very respectable. One who saw his possessions as belonging to the Lord would necessarily welcome such visitors, especially when they were fellow-Christians.

‘Apt to teach.’ Compare 2 Timothy 2:24. The idea is that he should have the ability, required knowledge and willingness to teach, which was clearly seen as an important function of an episkopos.

‘No brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious.’ ‘No brawler.’ That is not one given to excess of wine resulting in becoming tipsy and rowdy, and therefore indicating one who is always no more than a moderate drinker. ‘No striker.’ Not volatile and likely to act in an uncontrolled way. ‘Gentle.’ Someone well controlled and affable, and so of gentlemanly behaviour, gracious and considerate, and even magnanimous. ‘Not contentious.’ Not someone who loves provoking an argument, but is placable and pacific. Someone able to take the sting out of a situation.

‘No lover of money.’ He must not be someone to whom money is obviously too important, or whose life is directed and controlled by the love of money.

‘One who rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.’ And the final test is whether he is able to control his own household and bring up his children properly. If he is seen to be lax with his household, he will probably be lax with the household of God. On the other hand if he is seen to be too harsh with his household, he will probably be too harsh for running the household of God. He will probably tend to treat others in the same way as he treats his own family.

It will be noted, then, that a bishop was to be a well rounded character of good reputation, kind and generous disposition, considerate and thoughtful, not gripped by worldliness and the desires of the flesh, and most importantly truly capable of teaching.

Verse 5

‘(But if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).’

Paul clearly rated highly a man’s ability to control with love, and organise, those for whom he was responsible. For those were the gifts that the household of God would need in abundance. (It is difficult to see how a celibate could have his children in subjection or be seen as running a household).

This staccato question is typical of Paul’s style, compare 1 Corinthians 14:8; Romans 10:14-15.

Verse 6

‘Not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil.’

A further important qualification was that he should not be new to the Christian faith, or someone with no experience of giving guidance and doctrinal help. Otherwise one danger for him would be that he might become puffed up (literally ‘wrapped in smoke’, but developing to signify ‘being conceited’. Possibly we might render ‘lost in clouds of conceit’) and pretentious, swaggering around and beginning to think of himself as better than he ought to think, with the result that he might come under the same condemnation as the Devil as one who leads men astray, is motivated by too much pride, and is unwilling to respond to the reins. Alternately ‘falling under the condemnation of the Devil’ may parallel being handed over to the Devil (1 Timothy 1:20) and indicate excommunication. It may well be that some of the false teachers were novices who had been promoted too quickly.

The Ephesian church was now well established and had been for some time. There was therefore now no necessity to look to new converts for elders. The passage of only a few years would bring about such a situation, so this is not an indication of lateness. Interestingly Paul omits this in his guidance to the more newly formed Cretan church.

Verse 7

‘Moreover he must have good testimony from those who are without, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.’

This takes up the idea of being beyond reproach (which when taken in depth included much of what followed) and applies it specifically to witness to outsiders. It was important that a bishop be a good advertisement for the church, and one important test of this was how outsiders whose opinion could be trusted thought of him. (not, of course, those who had become riled by his spirituality or his forthrightness in preaching the Gospel). For if he was not of a suitable character he might well unnecessarily bring reproach on the church and himself by his behaviour, and find himself tripped up by the Devil (for he would become a targetman both for outsiders and for the Devil) to the detriment of the church as a whole. It was necessary that he be able to maintain his reputation in the eyes of fair-minded people even when under attack in one way or another.

The idea of ‘hoi exow’ (those outside) is thoroughly Pauline. See 1 Corinthians 5:12; Colossians 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:12.

Verses 8-9

‘In a similar way deacons must be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.’

What is said about the deacons largely parallels what is said about the bishops from a behavioural point of view in slightly abbreviated form, as indeed, given the nature of the material we would expect. They are to be ‘high minded, serious in how they go about things’, ‘not double-tongued’ and thus saying one thing in one place and another in another (or alternatively ‘tellers of tales’, compare Leviticus 19:16), a grave danger for those who moved around among church members, temperate in their use of wine, and not gripped by a love of money. Thus they must control their lives, their tongues and their attitude to money, for they must be acceptable to those to whom they go, careful in what they say, and able to be trusted with money.

‘Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.’ Compare 2 Timothy 1:3. The Gospel as a ‘mystery’ (something hidden now revealed) was hidden from past ages but now made known to God’s people (Mark 4:11; Rom 16:25 ; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:9-10; Colossians 1:26-27; Colossians 4:3). With this significance the word is almost uniquely Pauline (apart from Mark 4:11). It stresses the newness of what is being proclaimed. And the fact that the deacons had to be well versed in this so that they could ‘hold’ it gives at least a hint that it was expected that they would at times have to communicate it. They were not just dispensers of charity. ‘In a pure conscience’ indicates as usual (1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:19) that they must not only hold it but genuinely live and speak in accordance with it, and indicates their understanding of the mystery. You cannot have a pure conscience about something that you do not understand.

Verses 8-13

The Qualifications For Deacons and Deaconnesses (1 Timothy 3:8-13 ).

The fact that there is no reference to teaching in these requirements points to the fact that deacons were not seen as authoritative teachers, but it would be unrealistic not to recognise that they would certainly engage in some form of teaching. As they moved around assisting the bishops in fulfilling the functions of the church throughout the city, and especially in their own locality, acting as ‘servants’, and presumably among other things having responsibilities with regards to almsgiving and church support to the needy, they would inevitably find themselves asked questions by those to whom they went, and by new Christians with whom they came in contact, and be required to give guidance in spiritual matters, and it may well be that they would give a word of teaching in small local groups that they attended. We can see how easily that would happen from Acts 6:0. Some may even have been local ‘prophets’, for there is no reason to doubt that some of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:0) would be exercised in even the smallest groups. That was indeed partly their purpose. To make up for the dearth of teachers in such groups. But their words would not be seen as the official teaching of the church. Nevertheless it could become extremely influential within those groups, and it may well be that some of those criticised as false teachers were in fact deacons involved in such situations and doing the best that they could, although having said that, it was, of course necessary to set them right. The requirements for deacons, while not as strict as those for bishops, were nevertheless searching.

This is partly confirmed by the fact that they too needed to prove their ability to ‘rule the household’, and needed to be sound in the mysteries of the faith.


a In a similar way deacons must be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience (1 Timothy 3:8-9).

b And let these also first be proved, then let them serve as deacons, if they are blameless (1 Timothy 3:10).

c Women in the same way must be grave, not slanderers, temperate; faithful in all things (1 Timothy 3:11).

b Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well (1 Timothy 3:12).

a For those who have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 3:13).

Note in ‘a’ the moral behaviour expected of the deacons and their holding of the mystery of the faith, and in the parallel they thus gain a good standing and great boldness in that faith. In ‘b’ they are to be proved, and in the parallel we learn one way in which they are to be proved. Centrally in ‘c’ women are numbered among them, and if the chiasmus is accepted are given fairly prominent mention.

Verse 10

‘And let these also first be proved, then let them serve as deacons, if they are blameless.’

These words ‘proved after scrutiny’ suggest that they underwent a probationary period (although not necessarily an official one) during which their worthiness and ability was tested, after which if they came out of the test ‘blameless’ they could be appointed as full deacons. That this was not considered necessary for the elders may suggest that they would mainly come from the ranks of the deacons, and would therefore already be proven (some might arrive as elders from other churches).

Verse 11

‘Women in the same way must be grave, not slanderers, temperate; faithful in all things.’

In a section dealing with church offices this can only refer to women deacons, in reality if not by title. Had it referred to wives we would have expected a similar mention with regard to the bishops and besides, would have expected it to follow 1 Timothy 3:12-13, and we do know that there were women deacons (see Romans 16:1-2). Thus women deacons were recognised functionaries in the churches. They would in fact be very necessary in order to cater for some of the needs of womenfolk, and in order to avoid such dangers as are probably portrayed in 2 Timothy 3:6, while in some social circles it may even have been a positive necessity. For some the intrusion of men might well not have been acceptable. They may well have been older women, and were mainly known for their practical ministry (Romans 16:2), but also possibly for the teaching of women in practical Christianity (see 1 Timothy 5:5; 1 Timothy 5:10; Titus 2:3-5), although this would inevitably involve some doctrine. It would only secondarily, however, be that of the authoritative voice of the church.

The requirements for these ‘women deacons’ were similarly strict. They had to be grave, taking life and the prospect of their position very seriously, not slanderers who would pass on gossip about those whom they visited, temperate and wise, and ‘faithful in all things’ (absolutely trustworthy). The word for slanderers is diabolos which is the name also of the Devil, but means ‘the Slanderer. Its use as signifying ‘slanderers, backbiters, gossipers’ is found in classical literature, and is well in place here, however in view of the earlier references to the Devil (1 Timothy 3:6-7) we might well consider that Paul intended that idea to be found within it. Thus ‘women who do not behave like the Devil’ in his insidious, deceitful and untrustworthy ways, possibly even having in mind that some of this number had been passing on the false teaching that he has previously decried..

The position of this verse in the chiasmus suggests that Paul was deliberately highlighting this unusual ministry of women deacons, and that he therefore saw it as important. The lack of an official title suggests an early rather than a late date.

Verse 12

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

Like the elders, deacons are to be husband of one wife, not polygamists or divorced. In view of their inevitable ministry among women someone with strong sexual urgings and not quite such a pure conscience would be unsuitable for the work. And again one of the ways in which they would be ‘proved’, would be by considering how well they ruled their own households and their children.

Note how there was nothing ‘super-spiritual’ about the appointments. The church would certainly pray and expect some spiritual confirmation, and would no doubt set them aside by the laying on of hands, but they were not to be appointed without careful scrutiny. It was not just to be a case of ‘the Lord showed us’, with that then being it.

Verse 13

‘For those who have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.’

The importance of the office in the eyes of the early church, comes out in this final comment. Those who serve well as deacons both gain good standing before God, and great boldness in their approach to God, and in their expectation of That Day. If they remain true they will one day hear His, ‘well done good and faithful servants’.

‘Gain to themselves a good standing.’

‘The faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ It is questioned as to whether this refers to their faith or to ‘the faith’ as signifying a kind of statement of faith. It must, however, be seen as questionable whether at this stage such a clear distinction would be made. They would certainly have had at least primitive ‘statements of faith’ but they would equally certainly have been expected to have a positive faith about them.

The use of ‘Christ Jesus’ might be seen as pointing to Paul, although it has been objected that the use here is not quite in accord with his usual usage. But he is here dealing with titles (‘bishop’, ‘deacon’), and the title Christ preceding Jesus would fit the formality of the situation indicating that he is a servant of the Christ.

Verses 14-15

‘These things write I to you, hoping to come to you shortly, but if I linger here long, that you may know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and mainstay of the truth.’

‘These things I am writing to you --.’ This has in mind and refers back to, ‘This charge I commit to you --. (1 Timothy 1:18). He wants Timothy to be aware of what he has been telling him even if he is delayed from coming to see him, (although he hopes to see him shortly), so that as a result of it he will know how men ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and mainstay of the truth, in the light of the revelation of what Christ has accomplished.

‘The household of God’ (see Ephesians 2:19) is ‘the dwellingplace of God through the Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22), the people of God. It is the church of the living God composed of all believers everywhere. And it is the pillar and mainstay of the truth, that is it supports and upholds it. And what is that truth? It is depicted in 1 Timothy 3:16. It is what the risen Christ has accomplished on behalf of His people.

‘Which is the church of the living God.’ Oh, listen Timothy. We are talking about the living God. And the church is His assembly, His people, through which this living God will act. And as the pillar and mainstay of the truth it must allow Him to do so, for He has no other plan. For the use of stulon (pillar) compare Galatians 2:9. Hedraiowma probably means ‘mainstay’, indicating something which is ‘firm and steadfast’ and is a word found only here.

Verses 14-16

Paul Finishes The Section With An Emphasis On God’s Wondrous Purpose For The Church As It Acts As The Pillar And Mainstay For The Even More Wondrous Work Of Christ (1 Timothy 3:14-16 ).

Paul now brings out why the success of the war of 1 Timothy 1:18 is so important. It is because the church that is being established and made sure, and is taking its full part in that warfare, is the mainstay of the truth concerning God’s amazing intervention in history in Christ Jesus. That is why the behaviour of men within it is so important, and why it has to be so carefully and morally regulated. Through its prayers, and as a result of the integrity of its members, and especially of its leadership, whose behaviour is of such importance, the truth in respect of the great mystery of God which has unfolded in Christ, is being upheld and is going forward to conquer the world. In Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:9-11, ‘now to the principalities and powers in heavenly places’ is being ‘made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Verse 16

‘And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness (or ‘of obligation fulfilment’); He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Appeared to angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.’

Almost as an aside Paul now reveals the content of that truth. No one can have any doubt that the mystery of God’s activity, now revealed to both man and the heavenly beings (Ephesians 3:8-11), is great. Indeed it is almost beyond comprehension, and yet there can be no doubt about it for it is without controversy, that is, it is believed by common consent.

‘The word translated ‘godliness’ (eusebia), which is not really a satisfactory translation as the word does not necessarily involve God, signifies ‘the fulfilment of obligation’, whether to God (and therefore true worship and piety) or men, and if it is in fact God or Christ Who is here seen as fulfilling His obligations (resulting from His promises) then this would have in mind God’s mighty activity (note how ‘impersonal’ the whole verse is, which makes this interpretation possible). Alternately we might see it as having the regular meaning found in 1 Timothy of ‘true worship and piety, true religion’ and thus as indicating ‘the truth’ that has just been mentioned, but with a similar implication in mind, that that truth is found in what happens in 1 Timothy 3:16. As someone has translated, ‘As everyone must confess, great is the secret which God has revealed to us in our religion.’

Alternately it may be pointing out that what is about to be described is the mysterious but revealed explanation for the godliness of His people. Compare how the mystery of the faith was required to be ‘held’ by the deacons with a pure conscience 1 Timothy 3:9), which is why it is revealed here. That was and is how the church could be the pillar and mainstay of the truth.

We are then given a number of rapid-fire statements describing Christ’s birth and life, and what followed that, up to His final triumph, and in fact there is no clear mention of any historical details as such, not even a reference to the crucifixion and resurrection, although both are assumed. The concentration is all on Jesus Himself. The lines may well have been taken from a Christian hymn with the crucifixion and resurrection having previously been mentioned. (Each line is opened by the verb and the verbs translated "manifested," "justified," "appeared to," "preached," "believed on," and "received up," all end with -the in the Greek text, with the preposition en following each verb (the latter apart from "appeared to," which has no following preposition).

The hymn is majestic, commencing with Jesus leaving behind His glory and becoming flesh, and ending with His being received up in glory. In between He is vindicated, appears to angels, is proclaimed among all nations, and believed on in the world, as God’s purposes go forward.

He who was manifested in the flesh,

Justified in the spirit,

Appeared to angels,

Preached among the nations,

Believed on in the world,

Received up in glory.’

It will be noted that each pair goes together. ‘Manifested in the flesh -- justified in the spirit’ (Contrast and paralleling of flesh and spirit). Seen of angels -- preached among the nations (contrast and paralleling of the heavenly angels and the earthly nations). Believed on in the world -- received up in glory (contrast of and paralleling of the world and glory). We should also notice the parallel of ‘appeared to angels’ with ‘received up in glory’. This might suggest a pattern of two lines connected with earth followed by a line connected with Heaven. Alternatively we might see a pattern of three earthly connections, incarnated, proclaimed among nations, believed on in the world, and three supernatural connections, justified in spirit, appeared to angels, received in glory.

‘He who was manifested in the flesh.’ As John put it, ‘the Word (Who was God) was made flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14). Here we have Jesus revealed in a human body that was His own. Leaving His former glory, He came among us and hungered and thirsted as we do. And He shared our human weakness, although not our sinfulness (or at least not until He was made sin for us). In the powerful words of Philippians 2:7-8 a, ‘He emptied Himself, took on Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men, being found in fashion as a man’. There may well be a hint here directed against those who degraded the flesh and exalted the spirit (1 Timothy 4:1-6).

We must, however, take account of the verb used. ‘Manifested’ indicates openly revealing something as it is. Thus we must see here an indication that in His coming in the flesh He was ‘made known to us’. He was revealed as He really is. In this regard we should consider Matthew 11:2-6 where He indicates that His mighty works revealed Him as the Coming One, His reference to the fact that His casting out of evil spirits revealed that the Kingly Rule of God had come in Him (Matthew 12:28), and the reference to His teaching being totally without comparison thus revealing someone totally unique (Mark 1:22; Mark 1:27; Mark 11:18; John 7:46). We must consider also His words to Philip, ‘he who has seen Me, has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). Jesus was thereby declaring that in His coming in the flesh He had manifested the divine Being of His Father.

‘Justified in the spirit.’ This clear parallel and contrast with ‘manifested in flesh’ (compare 1 Peter 3:18, ‘being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit’) may be interpreted in a number of ways, and may have been intended to be so interpreted as bringing out the overall magnificence of Jesus Christ the Lord. Thus:

· It may mean that as a result of His spirit revealed in His manner of life, while He was being manifested in flesh, He did not reveal the weakness of the flesh as other men did, but rose above it so that His supreme righteousness was recognised and acknowledged, either by man, or by God, or by both.

· Alternatively it could signify that He was vindicated by God in the receiving of the Spirit and the voice at His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17).

· Alternatively it may have in mind the cross which was followed by the release of His spirit in death when He committed His spirit it to God (Luke 23:46), and was then fully ‘acknowledged to be righteous’ as a result of having ‘humbled Himself and becoming obedient to death, yes, even death on the cross’ (Philippians 2:8). This connection would agree with the words in Hebrews 9:14, ‘Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God’.

· Or it may mean that all through his earthly life Jesus was enabled in His sinlessness by the power of the Spirit, Who guided Him in the right way. His perfect submission to His Father through the Spirit thus keeping Him without sin, so that He was seen to be truly righteous.

· Or it may mean that Jesus' claims were vindicated by the action of the Spirit who dwelt in him. Thus when Jesus was accused by the scribes and Pharisees of healing demoniacs by the power of the devil, his reply was: "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the Kingly Rule of God is come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). The power that was in Jesus is then seen to be the power of the Spirit, and the mighty acts He performed may be seen as the vindication of the tremendous claims which He made.

· Or it may refer to the Spirit’s vindication of Him by the resurrection, when as a result of coming out of His tomb His acceptance by God as righteous was made clear to all, so that He was ‘declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead’ (Romans 1:4; compare 1 Peter 3:18).

· Or, indeed, in mind may be all of these, for these are deliberately enigmatic and all-inclusive statements.

But the main overall point from the words was that His supreme righteousness was in one way or another revealed and acknowledged, both in life and in death.

‘Appeared to angels.’ The verb used here means specifically ‘appeared to, made himself seen to’. This may refer to:

· Their watch over His earthly life (e.g. Luke 2:13-14; Matthew 4:11 with Hebrews 1:14, compare also 1 Peter 1:12). Note how Paul also considers that he and Timothy appeared ‘to the elect angels’ (1 Timothy 5:21).

· His self-manifestation to the angels as they comforted Him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43) and watched in anguish over His suffering, ready at any instant to draw the sword at God’s command (Matthew 26:53, compare again 1 Peter 1:12).

· His manifestation to the evil powers that He fought while on the cross (Colossians 2:15).

· His manifestation to the angels present after His resurrection (Luke 24:4-6). They were thus able to declare, ‘He is not here, He is risen’.

· His manifestation to all heavenly beings as He was raised to God’s right hand (Ephesians 1:20-22).

· His manifesting of Himself to ‘the spirits in prison’ in 1 Peter 3:19 when His triumphant victory was presumably announced to them.

His manifestation in Heaven (Revelation 5:12; see also Ephesians 3:10).

Whichever way it is, and most may be included, (it may be saying ‘He appeared to the denizens of the heavenly realm of all kinds’) heavenly beings were very much involved in His triumph.

‘Preached among the nations.’ In contrast with His welcome in Heaven by those who could only wonder is the advancement of His purposes on earth by the proclamation of men who toiled and suffered in order to take His Name to the nations. This may have in mind His preaching during His earthly life among both Jews and Gentiles (if it is to be seen as prior to His being received in glory), for He had preached before ‘every nation under Heaven’ when He preached in the Temple (compare Acts 2:5), or more likely it has in mind the advance of the Gospel as described in Acts, with emphasis being placed on His being brought to the nations as the Saviour of all men. Note the contrast between appeared to angels and preached among the nations. The angels could only watch in wonder, it was weak men like Paul and Timothy who had to take the message to the world.

‘Believed on in the world.’ This indicates the success of the above preaching, and may also be intended to indicate the widespread nature of the success. But central to the thought is probably that within the unbelieving world into which He came as a light into the darkness, were those who believed and responded to Him. ‘He came to His own world, and His own people received Him not, but to as many as did receive Him to them gave He the right to be sons of God, even to those who believed on His Name’ (John 1:12). Note the progression, ‘preached among -- believed on’.

‘Received up in glory.’ This almost certainly refers to the resurrection and ascension, when He was to receive the glory that had been His before the world was (John 17:5). He was ‘highly exalted, and given the Name which is above every name, that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow -- and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:9-11). For God ‘raised Him from the dead and made Him sit at His right hand in heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come’ (Ephesians 1:20-21). And here it contrasts with what had happened in the world. At this point He Who had emptied Himself from being in the form of God (Philippians 2:6-7 a), was glorified and made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).

Thus, as we have already seen, the purpose of these words is to indicate the coming of Jesus in the flesh and the way in which, as a result of that coming, He has been vindicated, so that the Gospel has spread effectively, being wondered at in Heaven (Ephesians 3:10) and experienced on earth, and resulting in His final triumph in the resurrection and ascension. Here is the guarantee of the success of Timothy’s ‘warring the warfare’ (1 Timothy 1:18). The emphasis is on the externals of what was accomplished, with the cross and resurrection being assumed, and not seen as directly relevant to Paul’s particular purpose here, except in so far as they are a part of His becoming man and being finally glorified.

So we come to the end of this section which began with Timothy having to war his warfare, and being required to call on the church to do the same, and ends with the church being seen as the church of the living God and connected with the certainty of Christ’s triumph which revealed the power of the living God as nothing else could. Note also how the first section of the letter (1 Timothy 3:1-16) ended with the triumph and mysteriousness of the King of the Ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, while here we have portrayed what the King of the Ages did when He came down to earth, the incorruptible took on Himself a corruptible body, the invisible made Himself visible, manifesting Himself in the flesh, the only God became man, and finally, having triumphed, returned to His former glory at the right hand of His Father, but now also as One Who had been made man, and could act as a mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5-6). In so far as it was possible the incarnation had actually added to God’s glory. That is the wonder of the incarnation as expressed in this hymn.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/1-timothy-3.html. 2013.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile