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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 3

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1Ti 3:1. For the meaning of bishop, see "General remarks" at 2 Thessalonians 2. The office of a bishop. These words all come from EPISKOPE which Thayer defines, "inspection, visitation: oversight, i.e. overseership, office, charge, since the words are two terms for the same men. Paul calls this office a good work, which shows that a bishop (or elder) has something on his shoulders besides "hold ing down an office." Desire and de-sireth are from different words but have virtually the same meaning. The word is used both in a good and a bad sense in the New Testament. Strong's definition is, "To set the heart upon, i.e. long for (rightfully or otherwise)." It is possible, then, for a man to desire the office with proper motives. However, if the wrong kind of man pretends he wishes the office for the right purpose, the qualifications immediately following, when he is examined under the requirements, will expose his unworthiness for the office, thus proving his desire for it is improper.

Verse 2

1Ti 3:2. Blameless. This word has been distorted out of its true meaning by saying it requires a bishop to be free from sin or any other defect. Such a definition would make it impossible to have scriptural elders, since the scripture clearly teaches that no man is perfect in that sense. The word is from ANEPILEPTOS which. Thayer defines as follows: "Not apprehended, that cannot be laid hold of; hence that cannot be reprehended, not open to censure, irreproachable." It is plain that the word has reference to the standing a man has among men. That no one is able to make any specific accusation against his character or conduct. That is, no one must be able to make such accusation and support it with the truth. This item Is shown by the words in the lexicon definition, namely, "that cannot be laid hold of." The foregoing is a general statement of the character required of a proposed candidate for the office, as it pertains to disqualifications. The particular items required, both positive and negative, will follow in this verse and extend through verse 7. But before considering the detailed list of qualifications, it should be remembered that all of them are preceded by the word must in the beginning of this verse. That term is from the Greek word DEI, which Thayer defines, "It is necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper." Strong defines it, "It is (was, etc.) necessary (as binding)." Robinson defines it, "In N. T. it behooves, it is necessary, it must needs, one must or ought." From these definitions it is clear that the requirements of qualifications for bishops (or elders) are positive, and that no man can be scripturally appointed to the office who lacks any one of them; the degree to which he must have them will be discussed when we come to Tit 1:9. Husband of one wife. Some people say this means that he has never been married but once, and that the word be in the beginning of the verse should be rendered "having been," making the word include the past as well as the present tense. I have six translations and they all render it the same as the King James Version, namely, by the single word "be," which restricts it to the present tense, at the time of appointment. Another theory is that it means "one wife only." But the third word is added without any authority from the original, for there is no word in the Greek that justifies it. Besides, that doctrine would imply that the church had in its fellowship men who were polygamists, and such a character is not permitted in the church concerning any of the men. The necessary conclusion is, then, that a man who is appointed to the office of bishop must be a married man at the time of his appointment. Vigilant means he must be watchful for the spiritual safety of the flock; must "watch for their souls" (Heb 13:17). Sober is from SOPHRON which Thayer defines, "Curbing one's desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate." A man lacking self-control would certainly be unfit to be placed in control of a congregation. Of good behavior. It would seem that many of the qualifications for a bishop already requires good behaviour in him, so why this phrase? It is a somewhat general expression, meaning that his life as a whole is orderly; one that is commendable in the eyes of his fellowmen. Given to hospitality. This does not require that an elder must keep "open house" constantly, so that he cannot have the satisfaction of home privacy, and that the general public may feel free to run in and out at will. Such a condition would often interfere with one of his own obligations about maintaining government over his household. But if the relations between him and the members of his flock are as they should be, they will wish to counsel with him over their troubles and trials in the Christian life. It should be understood that the home of the elder is one to which all worthy persons will be welcome. Apt to teach. Tit 1:9 requires that elders must he able to expose false teachers who have become unruly. This cannot be done privately in many cases, therefore an elder must be able to teach publicly.

Verse 3

1Ti 3:3. Not given to wine. In old times wine was used as a medicine (1Ti 5:23), and that was before the discovery of means for preserving it sweet. Hence the kind used was necessarily the fermented, except in the grape-growing season. But the amount needed for medical purposes ("a little wine") would not make a man drunk. Thus if a person manifested drunkenness, it was evidence he was not using it for purposes of health. No striker. This word is from PLEKTES which Thayer defines as follows: "Bruiser, ready with a blow; a pugnacious [like a pugilist], contentious, quarrelsome person." Groves defines it, "A striker, smiter, disturber; a reviler, calumniator [false accuser]; a boxer, pugilist; quarrelsome, turbulent; impetuous [rash], violent." It means a man who wants to settle his arguments with his fists. Not greedy of filthy lucre. All but the first word is from AISCHROKERDES, which Thayer defines, "eager for base gain." It is similar to the last word of the verse, except that our present word specializes on the idea of making money by any means, good or bad, while the other considers only the eager desire for money. A man who is so intent on making money that he shows he loves it, will not likely give proper attention to his duties as elder of a congregation. Patient means the elder should be mild and gentle in dealing with the members of his flock. He can do this without compromising the right or encouraging the wrong. A brawler is one who is contentious over matters that come up. This does not contradict the command to contend for the faith (Jud 1:3), but one should not insist in a quarrelsome spirit. Not covetous is explained in the forepart of this paragraph under lucre.

Verse 4

1Ti 3:4. House is from OIKOS which Thayer defines as follows: "The inmates of a house, all the persons forming one family, a household." A man might not rule his own household because he does not know how, or because he is not willing to exert enough moral and/or physical force to do so. In either case he is unfit to be appointed as a ruler over the household of God (the church). Having his children in subjection. In specifying this part of the household, the apostle shows where a man may need to use both moral and physical force. Having children must still be considered in connection with the word "must" in verse 2, hence a man who has no children cannot be scripturally appointed to the eldership. Does this necessarily mean that he must have a plurality of children? No, the form of the language does not so require it if it is taken in the same way that a like expression is understood. A captain of a sinking ship gives orders, "women with children to be placed in life boats first." Yet if a woman with one child should be present, she would not be denied the favor. Sarah remarked in Gen 21:7, "Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have borne him a son." We know that Sarah never had but one child, yet she used the plural form of the word in the same sense that Paul uses it. And must an elder's children be his own bodily offspring? The language does not require it, for it is said in direct connection with the mention of his house, which we have seen is composed of "the inmates of his house." Rulership and not fatherhood is the point in question, and that can be shown whether the children are his own flesh and blood dependents, or are orphans or otherwise persons who are placed lawfully in his charge. Gravity means the children must be taught to obey and respect him as the head of the house.

Verse 5

1Ti 3:5. See comments on the preceding verse.

Verse 6

1Ti 3:6. A novice is one who has recently become a Christian, regardless of his age in years. A man of seventy-five years would be a novice if he had become a believer at that age. Lest being lifted up with pride. If a man were placed in the eldership who had only lately come into the church, it might give him a wrong impression of his importance. This would puff him up until his conduct would make him deserve being condemned the same as was the devil. This passage incidentally tells us the motive (pride) which prompted Satan to make war in heaven (Rev 12:7), so that he was cast out and fell as lightening (Luk 10:18).

Verse 7

1Ti 3:7. Good report denotes that he has a good reputation among people outside of the church. Lest he fall into reproach. Not that the questionable reputation would cause the reproach, but if a man's standing is in doubt, it will indicate that his conduct has not been the best in the eyes of the world. If that is the case, then he might again be caught in some of his former irregular habits and thus be snared by the devil. And if such a man had been put into the eldership, it would present an embarrassing and damaging problem for the church. Hence the warning of Paul means that such a man should not be appointed, "lest" this unfortunate situation might develop.

Verse 8

1Ti 3:8. Likewise does not necessarily mean that all of the foregoing items are to be said of the deacons. The word is used as a kind of notice that the writer has something to say, somewhat along the line that he has been considering. It is from the same Greek word as "in like manner" which is explained at chapter 2:9; the reader should see the comments at that place. While many things will be repeated as to personal qualifications, that were said regarding the bishops or elders, yet the subject as a whole is changed to another official that the Lord placed in the New Testament church; they are called deacons. The work of these officials is not stated in this chapter, except as it may be indicated by some of the qualifications required of them. That subject Is explained in detail by the comments on Act 6:1-3, in the first volume of the New Testament Commentary. The word deacon is from DIAKONOS, and in the King James Version it is translated by deacon 3 times, by minister 20, servant 7. When the word is in verb form it is from DIAKONEO, which has beeen translated by administer 2 times, minister 7, minister to 1, minister unto 15, serve 10, use the office of deacon 2. Thayer's general definition of DIAKONOS is, "One who executes the commands of another, especially of a master; a servant ,attendant, minister." His specific definition is, "a deacon" and he explains it to mean, "one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use." Considering all of the foregoing information, we should understand that the word "deacon" could apply to any member of the church. However, if it is to be used officially (as it is in the present chapter), then the connection will show that it has such a meaning. There is a case where the word has an unofficial meaning and that is the one concerning Phebe. It is explained at Rom 16:1, in the first volume of the New Testament Commentary. Grave is from SEMNOS which means honorable and dignified. Double-tongued is from DILOGOS which Thayer defines at this place, "doubletongued, double in speech, saying one thing with one person, and another with another." In familiar language it means a man who tries to "be on the fence" or who wants to "carry water on both shoulders." Such a person would certainly not be fit to have such a responsible office as that of a deacon. Not given to much wine. This is explained at the first clause of verse 3. Not greedy of filthy lucre is commented upon at the same verse.

Verse 9

1Ti 3:9. The work of deacons pertains to the temporal things of life (see Act 6:2), yet they are expected to be interested in spiritual matters also. Mystery of the faith. Anything is a mystery until it is made known, regardless of whether it is something complicated or only a simple matter. Hence the faith (another name for the Gospel or salvation through Christ) was a mystery for ages, but was made known fully by the apostles. The deacons are required to maintain a pure conscience on the subject, which means they will be true to its teaching while administering their duties with the temporal needs of the poor members.

Verse 10

1Ti 3:10. Proved is from DOKIMAZO and Thayer defines it is follows: "To test, examine, scrutinize; to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy." It is understood that some rule or standard is necessary by which a thing may be tested. The rule in this case consists of the qualifications required of the man who is to be appointed to the office. The apostle says for the deacons to be proved also, which indicates he applies the requirement (of being proved or tested) in the case of elders as well as of deacons. It does not mean, then, that the men are to be "put in office on trial" as some people teach. They are to be placed therein only after examination, and even not then unless they are found blameless, which means they are found not lacking any of the required qualifications. Use the office of a deacon all come from DIAKONEO, and this is one of the places referred to in the comments at verse 8; the other place is in verse 13 below.

Verse 11

1Ti 3:11. Even so is from the same Greek word as "likewise" in verse 8 and takes the same comments. The pronoun their is not in the original, also the Greek word for wives is the same as for "women" in general. Because of these facts, some commentators say that Paul is giving instructions for all women in the congregation. It is true that all women should manifest the qualities described here, but it is especially important that the wives of these officials should do so, since without them the work of their husbands would be hindered. Grave means their conduct is such that others will respect them. Slanderers is from the same word as "devil," and the word is also defined as a false accuser. It is easy to see that a woman who is free with her tongue in falsely accusing others, will make it difficult for her husband to perform his official duties. Sober means to have self-control regarding all of the things permitted for a Christian; does not apply to things that are wrong of themselves. Faithful in all things is a summing up of the items mentioned or implied, showing a life devoted to the service of the Lord.

Verse 12

1Ti 3:12. Husbands of one wife is to be understood in the same way as a like expression in verse 2. Ruling their children corresponds with "children in subjection" in verse 4. Houses are composed of the same persons defined in the fourth verse.

Verse 13

1Ti 3:13. Used the office of a deacon is the other expression coming from the Greek word DIAKONEO, referred to in the comments at verse 10. Well is from KALOS, which is a word describing the kind of service the deacons have rendered in their office. Thayer defines it at this place as follows: "Good, excellent in its nature and characteristics, and therefore well-adapted to its ends." Purchase to themselves means they acquire or secure for themselves, etc. Thayer explains the word for degree, "of a grade of dignity and wholesome influence in the church." Good is from the same word as well in the beginning of this verse. Great boldness means courage and assurance of the things that are right. Nothing can give a man more moral support than the knowledge of having discharged his duty in the best possible manner. It strengthens his faith in Christ, when he sees the good fruit of serving Him on behalf of the disciples. This work is performed in connection with the funds of the church, but the disposition to use them for the benefit of poor but worthy disciples, springs from the same spirit that would prompt him to do so out of his own possessions (Mat 25:40).

Verse 14

1Ti 3:14. Timothy was at Ephesus and Paul was at Laodicea when he wrote this epistle. Hoping to be with him before long, he would have waited to instruct him personally. However, due to the uncertainty of making the journey for quite a while, he thought it best not to risk the welfare of the church too far, hence he wrote the instructions we have been considering.

Verse 15

1Ti 3:15. This verse states the reason for writing the foregoing instructions as they might affect Timothy's own responsibility with reference to the church. It was to inform him of his proper conduct in the house of God. That term is immediately explained to be the church of the living God. The words thus far would clearly identify what institution the apostle meant, but he adds some important truths about the position of it in the great plan of God's truth. There is virtually no difference between the pillar and the ground of the truth. The figure is taken from the architecture of ancient buildings. Many of the structures were largely supported by a few main pillars (Jdg 16:26 Jdg 16:29), but of course the pilars would need to be resting on a good base. Paul means the church is both of them, and hence that God expects the church to be the sole means (on the human side) of propagating and defending the truth. This great principle is taught also in Eph 3:10 Eph 3:21. No other organization, whether it be religious, fraternal or educational, has any right to offer moral or religious instruction or other benefits concerning the Bible, and any- such activities that are so professed among men are competitors of the institution for which Christ gave his blood.

Verse 16

1Ti 3:16. Without controversy denotes something concerning which no one would express any doubt. That which is so evident. that all must admit it, is the truth about to be stated, namely, great is the mystery of godliness. The last word means the system of faith given to the world through Christ, to take the place of the Patriarchal and Jewish religions. It is called a mystery because it was not revealed to mankind for many centuries, even though God had it planned in his mind. God was manifest in the flesh. We should bear in mind that the word God is a family name, and that each member of the Deity or God- head is entitled to the name. Hence the present passage means God the Son, for he it was who was on the earth in the flesh. He is called "God" in Act 20:28 where Paul is talking to the elders of the Ephesian church. Before coming into the world He was called the Word (Joh 1:1), and verse 14 of that chapter says "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," which is the same declaration that is made by our present verse. Justified in the Spirit. To justify one means to declare and prove him to be what he claims to be, and to disprove all false accusations that may be made against him. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and his enemies accused him of being an imposter and put him to death. But the Spirit enabled Him to be raised from the dead (Rom 8:11), and that fact proved he was the Son of God (Rom 1:4), which is what he claimed to be, and hence He was justified as our verse says. Seen of angels (Mat 4:11 Mat 28:2; Mar 16:5; Luk 22:43). This is very significant considering the importance of angels as agents of God in serving those who are heirs of salvation (Heb 1:14). Preached unto the Gentiles. This was not true of the system that had been used under the law of Moses. It was restricted to the Jews while Jesus was offered to all mankind. Had no one believed the Gospel, it would not have been perpetuated after the death of the apostles, for no others were inspired to preach it to the people of the world. Received up into glory. This was done when he ascended from the earth to go back to his Father (Luk 24:51; Act 1:9). The ascension of Jesus is predicted in Psa 24:7-10. In view of these wonderful facts about the story of Christ, it is no wonder the apostle says it is great and above all doubt as to its reality.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/1-timothy-3.html. 1952.
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