The Pulpit Commentary

1 Timothy 3:12 (1 Timothy 3:12)

Deacons for the deacons , A.V.; husbands for the husbands , A.V. Husbands of one wife (see above, 1 Timothy 3:2 , note). Ruling , etc. ( προιδτάμενοι ); literally, being at the head of , presiding over (see 1 Timothy 3:4 , note). In Romans 12:8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:12 it is applied to the spiritual ruler, the ἐπίσκοπος or πρεσβυτερος of the Church. Elsewhere only in the pastoral Epistles (above, 1 Thessalonians 5:4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:5 ; 1 Timothy 5:17 ; Titus 3:8 , Titus 3:14 ). Their own houses (above, 1 Thessalonians 5:5 ). "Their own " is in contrast to" God ' s house."

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Timothy 3:1-16 (1 Timothy 3:1-16)

It was one of the weightiest duties laid upon Timothy, when called to be the spiritual ruler of the Church of Ephesus, to take care that the priests and deacons were men well qualified for their holy office. The condition of a congregation depends so largely upon the spiritual character of those who minister to it, that the choice of fit persons to serve in the sacred ministry of God's Church is a matter of vital importance to the welfare of the people, and demands the utmost wisdom and fidelity of those who have the chief oversight of the house of God. Accordingly St. Paul lays down with great care the qualifications of priests and deacons respectively. For the priest an irreproachable character amongst those outside as well as those inside the Church, in order to ensure respect; a life of chastity, that his example may give no countenance to a lax morality; strict temperance in the use of meat and drink, both for his own sake and as an example to others; a staid, sober mind and demeanor, as becomes one who lives near to God, and handles holy things; a large hospitality, as one who counts all he has to belong to the Church, whose servant he is; aptitude to teach the doctrines of the gospel, and a delight in teaching; a placable, gentle disposition, abhorring brawls and quarrels, and studying peace with all men; the absence of all greediness and covetousness, as one whose conversation is in heaven, and as one determined to be fair and impartial in all his dealings with men;—these are the things needful for one who is a priest in the Church of God. But besides these strictly personal qualifications he must have a well-ordered house. His family must bear the traces of a gentle but firm parental discipline. He that is a ruler in the house of God must show that he can rule his own children and servants; and a portion of the gravity and sobriety of the man of God must be seen in the members of his household. With regard to deacons, they too must be grave in their demeanor and conversation; in all their private intercourse with the members of the Church where they serve, they must be conspicuously honest and ingenuous. In all social intercourse they must show themselves temperate and abstemious. In handling the public money, and ministering the alms of the faithful, they must make it clear that none sticks to their own fingers, and that they have no eye to gain in the ministrations they undertake. The spirit of their ministrations must be " all for love and nothing for reward." Nor must they be only honest men; they must be devout believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, thoroughly instructed in the mystery of the Christian faith, and adorning that faith by their personal holiness. As regards their families, the same rule applies to them as to the priests. Like the priests, they hold office in the Church of God; they minister in that temple where God's pure truth is fixed and established for ever; they are the expounders, with the priests, of the great mystery of godliness, the incarnate Word, the preached Jesus, the glorified Christ. What, then, ought their character to be; how high above things earthly, how closely assimilated to the glorious holiness of heaven!

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Timothy 3:1-13 (1 Timothy 3:1-13)

I. QUALIFICATIONS OF A BISHOP . Preliminary direction to Timothy . "Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." The Scripture idea of the episcopate is that of oversight , viz. of souls. A bishop was one who had the duty of overseeing a congregation in spiritual matters, being, in respect of gravity and dignity, called presbyter or elder. Timothy was to encourage any who sought to enter into the episcopate. The saying in Christian circles was to be relied on, "If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." It is not a sinecure, but a work or employment taxing the energies. Its excellence lies in its having respect to men's highest interests. But if he was to encourage entrance into the episcopate , he was not to do so without regard to the proper qualifications which he has laid down for him . " The bishop therefore must be without reproach." This is a general qualification. A minister is not to be chosen without regard to character. If a man gives just ground for reproach—has not character behind his gifts—he is not fitted for the office of a minister, which is to influence men in the production of Christian character. "The husband of one wife." Some high authorities take the meaning to be that the contraction of a second marriage, even after the death of the first wife, was a disqualification for the office of a bishop. But this forbidding to ecclesiastics of what in the New Testament is expressly permitted to others, seems to belong to a post-apostolic asceticism. The language seems to be directed against "any deviation from morality in respect of marriage, whether by concubinage, polygamy, or improper second marriages." "Temperate, sober-minded, orderly." One who is to be chosen as a minister must be temperate, i.e. must have command of his desires and his temper. He must also be sober-minded, i.e. must bring sound sense to the consideration of all matters, He must also be orderly, i.e. must have a love for good rules. "Given to hospitality." He must be raised above all meanness toward those whom he ought to entertain. How is he to commend the generosity of God, if he is niggardly in his own dealings? "Apt to teach." This is a special qualification. With all that is righteous and sensible and even lovely in his character , he must have skill in teaching—in opening the Word, and in bringing it to bear for all its uses on the wants of men. However excellent a man's character is, he is not fit for being a minister if he cannot skillfully handle Divine truth. "No brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious." A disqualification is being quarrelsome over wine, and consequently coming to blows. He must, on the other hand, be gentle; i.e. while he is to be thoroughly reasonable, he is to be kindly and forbearing, waiving even his rights for the sake of gaining his end as a minister, viz. the spiritual good of those with whom he deals. It is a disqualification to be contentious, i.e. to be in one's element, and to give way to unholy feelings, in fighting. "No lover of money." It is a further disqualification to have a groveling desire for money, instead of having a feeling of responsibility with regard to its proper uses. "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity." This is in one view an ordinary qualification, inasmuch as it is what is expected of every one who is in authority in a house. It is expected even of a man who is not qualified to teach that he can rule well his own house, i.e. lay down proper rules for his household, and see to their being carried out. The apostle's idea of ruling the house well, is the having the children in subjection with all gravity. "In the phrase, 'all gravity,' he is looking at a kind of obedience that touches the deepest notes of principle and character. Contrary to this, there is an obedience without principle, which is obedience with all levity; that which is paid to mere will and force; that which is another name for fear; that which is bought by promises and paid by indulgences; that which makes a time-server, or a coward, or a lying pretender, as the case may be, and not a Christian. This latter—that which makes a Christian—is the aim of all true government, and should never be out of sight for an hour." Parenthesis showing how a bishop ought to be able to rule his own house well . "But if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?" A bishop has to manage men. The Church of God is the family enlarged and heightened. If one fails in the lower sphere, how, can he be expected to succeed in the higher sphere? Even Confucius had before this time said, "It is impossible that be who knows not how to govern and reform his own family should rightly govern and reform a people." "Not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil." By a novice we are to understand a recent convert to Christianity. Such a one being necessarily inexperienced in the truth, and also in the evil of his own heart, was unfitted for office. And the putting him into office was fitted to have a bad effect upon him. The introducer of evil into the universe was in high position, but gave way to a feeling of pride. How this feeling operated is described by a word, which means enveloped with smoke, as if that were the kind of atmosphere that pride throws around a person. In some matter in which his rank was involved, under the clouding of pride, instead of bending to the will of God, which would have been his approval, he asserted his self-importance, which was his condemnation. So the novice, instead of being weighed down under the responsibilities of office, is more likely, under the clouding of pride occasioned by his elevation, to fall into the condemnation of the devil. "Moreover he must have good testimony from them that are without lest he fall into reproach; and the snare of the devil." He must be able to command the respect of non-Christians, especially for his acting in a way consistent with his professions. For if he falls so low as not to be respected by those, then this want of respect is sure to be used as a snare by Satan for his destruction.

II. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS . "Deacons in like manner." Deacons, originally the almoners of the Church, came to be regarded as assistants of the eiders, having the oversight of the temporal affairs as these of the spiritual affairs of a congregation. "Must be grave." They must feel the responsibility of life, and especially the responsibility connected with their office. "Not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre." Of the three disqualifications, the first has respect to a temptation connected with the desire for public favor, the second has respect to a temptation connected with the enjoyment of hospitality, the third has respect to a temptation connected with the use of office. Those who serve God in the management of the temporal affairs of a congregation must be free from obsequiousness, from intemperate habits, from avarice. "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience ." Their duty to the truth, regarded as the object of faith which was formerly concealed from men, was not to teach it, but to enshrine it in a holy life, characterized by the power which has to do with the production of it. "And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they be blameless." The deacons, no more than the bishops, were to be put suddenly into office. Opportunity was to be given for their being proved, and, if found to be blameless in the estimation of those who had opportunity of watching their conduct, they were to be appointed to service .

III. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONESSES . "Women in like manner." The apostle has not yet given all the qualifications of the deacons; we must, therefore, think of these women as closely associated with the diaconate. We might think of the wives of the deacons, but, as nothing has been said about the wives of bishops, and as by the insertion of the phrase, "in like manner," we are led to think of the election of women to office, it is better to think of deaconesses. We have an example of a deaconess in Phoebe of Cenchrea, mentioned in Romans 16:1 . They were probably assistants in the same way as the deacons, in so far as they had the care of the sick and the destitute. "Must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things." It was fitting that those who were engaged in such service should be women who were serious, or free from frivolity. They were not to go about from house to house as bearers of evil reports. They were to be temperate, or free from all unholy excitement. And they were to be faithful in all things, not abusing their charge.

IV. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS RESUMED . "Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own house well." In these two particulars the apostle requires the same qualifications of the deacons as of the bishops. "For they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." The old translation is preferable here—"purchase to themselves a good degree." The idea is that they obtain for themselves a step, or get higher up. In those days this might mean their elevation to the episcopate. They also obtain Christian boldness, such as was especially required in those days of peril. For getting up, and the encountering of greater difficulties, go together.—R.F.

1 Timothy 3:14-16 .—Upholder of the truth, and grandeur of truth upheld.

I. REASON FOR GIVING TIMOTHY WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS . "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Paul hoped to come to Timothy at Ephesus shortly; there was a possibility, however, of his hope not being realized. In the event of his tarrying long, Timothy had written instructions for his conduct as an ecclesiastic . It would be held to be of great consequence that any one who officiated in the temple of Diana should be in a fit state of body and of mind, and should be conversant with the ceremonial. It was of far greater consequence that Timothy should know what was suitable behavior for the house of God. This was not the temple of a dead idol, but—passing over from the material structure to what was typified by it—the Church of the living God. It was "a living and spiritual community, a life-stream of believers in an ever-living God." It was fitting, then, that there should be those arrangements which are most conducive to the life of the community. This Church of the living God is declared to be the pillar and ground of the truth . There was a singular appropriateness in the language. The columns in the temple of Diana were one hundred and twenty-seven in number, sixty feet high, each the gift of a king. Massive in their form, substantial in their basement, they gave promise of the structure being upheld in its integrity down: through the centuries. And such it seemed to Paul was the Church—a columnar structure, substantially based, by which the truth is to be upheld from age to age. It is a great honor which God has laid on such imperfect believers as we are; and we should see to it that we do not belie the representation, that we do nothing to take away from the strength of the structure, that we preserve the continuity of the Church's life, that we witness faithfully to what God is and to what he has done.

II. GRANDEUR OF THE TRUTH UPHELD BY THE CHURCH . "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness." The truth is here called "the mystery of godliness." A mystery is that which, being concealed for a time is brought out of concealment by a revelation. It is also something above our comprehension. And that meaning is not excluded here. For it is the mystery of godliness or piety. It is the mystery by which the Divine life is nourished in the soul. As religious beings, we need something that stretches away into infinitude. We can only breathe freely in an element of mystery. All religions that have ever been have sought to provide for the appetite for the wonderful. And where there has not been found real mystery, there have been dark inventions. But composedly great is the mystery, which the Christian religion provides for our nourishment. It is pronounced great by all who are capable of judging. And even those who reject it do so not infrequently on the ground of its being incredible, or too great to be true. The subject of the mystery is Christ. As set forth in the language which follows it is entirely Christ, or the facts about Christ. And the teaching is that it is by meditating upon these facts that we become pious or religious. Of the facts themselves we can take tangible hold; it is when we try to explain them to ourselves that we rise into the region where our religious feelings are excited and receive their nourishment. The rhythmic way in which the facts are presented has led some to suppose that they are taken from a Christian hymn in existence at the time when Paul wrote. We can believe them to have been written by Paul. In either case they have the stamp of the Holy Ghost. They are to be divided into threes, the first two in each division pointing to earthly relations, the third to heavenly . Of the earthly relations, the first in each division is external , the second internal. Facts particularized . "He who was manifested in the flesh." There is good reason for the change from "God" to "He who." We are not dependent on the old reading for the proof of our Lord's divinity. The manifestation of Christ implies previous concealment. And the language is more suggestive of the concealment of pre-existence than of the concealment of non-existence. The beginning of the mystery is Christ coming out of that concealment . "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." The Creator descended into the conditions, circumstances, of a creature. He was made of the substance of a woman. The almighty Builder of the universe was a helpless infant on a mother's knee. The eternal Son was the infant of days. He descended so low that he had to proceed from weakness to strength, from ignorance to knowledge. That, however, is only part of the mystery. It is said here that he was manifested in the flesh, and that means, not our nature as it came from the hand of God, but our nature as it has suffered from the fall. He descended into our weak , passable , mortal nature, to which the unfallen Adam was a stranger. He was in a state of utter bodily exhaustion from want of food when he was tempted in the wilderness. He sat down wearied with his journey at Jacob's well. He was often worn out with the arduous nature of his work. His compassion brought sorrow to his heart, which found vent in tears and sighs and groans. At last his flesh succumbed, could not bear any longer the burden laid on it; and his lifeless body was laid in the tomb. But still, as we consider, the mystery deepens. He died, not as paying the common debt of nature, but under the stroke of the Divine vengeance. "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, against the Man that is mine equal, saith the Lord of hosts." This is not so much for the understanding as for the inner sanctuary of the heart. It is not so much to be fixed in words as to be pondered and admired and felt. "Justified in the spirit." In the flesh he did not appear to be the pre-existent Son of God, and the Sent of God to be the Savior of the world; but he was this in his spirit or higher nature, and was vindicated as such both in the Divine marks which were put upon him, and in the principle which pervaded his life. There was a mark put upon him at the very first in his being separated from the taint of our nature through the power of the Holy Ghost. The glimpse we have of him in his youth shows him right in spirit both toward his Father and that Father's earthly representatives. At his baptism he received not the Spirit by measure, and there was the attestation of the voice from the excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." At the outset of his public career, under extreme temptation, he showed that he was not to be turned aside from his mission. His starry pathway of miracles witnessed to the truth of his claims. And not less did his opening of the mind of God, and application of the truth to human need, witness to the singleness and loftiness of his spirit. There was a reiterated attestation from heaven to his Divine nature and mission at his transfiguration. But especially was he justified in the manner in which he died. He resisted unto blood, striving against sin. As we with some degree of resignation may bear a light trial, so he with perfect resignation bore the unmitigated weight of the Divine vengeance. As we with some degree of self-forgetfulness may labor for those who are near to us, so he with perfect self-forgetfulness and magnanimity sacrificed himself for sinners. That death in all its terribleness, reaching far beyond our conception, was what pre-eminently made proof of him, and it showed his spirit to be in perfect accord with the will of God in salvation. Last of all, he was justified by his resurrection. It is said, in Romans 1:4 , that by this he was declared with power to be the Son of God. It was God setting his seal upon his whole career. Because he was pleased with the manner in which he had acted all along, saw the ends of justice and mercy carried out successfully in human salvation, therefore it was that he raised him from the dead. "Seen of angels." He was an object of interest to the heavenly world. We find angels jubilantly ushering him into this world, within sight and hearing of men. They appear at the commencement of his ministry, strengthening him after his temptation. And again they appear at the close, strengthening him after his agony, and also watching over his tomb. But were they not always there behind the veil? Unseen by us, they go about our world ministering to the heirs of salvation. Would they not minister, more than was seen, to the Author of salvation? They came forward upon the scene at critical times. It was enough; we can imagine the rest. But the language seems also to point to the fact that, in becoming incarnate, Christ made himself to be seen by angels. In the human form assumed by him he held them in rapt gaze. They could not turn away from beholding and wondering. They saw the Son of God in a form that was level to them, that was even below them; for he was made a little lower than the angels. What cause for wonder in the change from that ineffable, unapproachable glory to this frail flesh; from that God most high, to this infant lying in a manger! And as the mystery was developed, how would their wonder increase! He was degraded until he could to no lower depth be degraded. Well might they be overwhelmed with wonder as they looked on at Calvary. Having a desire to look into these things, as we are told, they would be lost in trying to account for them. Even when knowing the object contemplated, they would be amazed to think that, for the accomplishment of it, the Divine Son should descend into such a condition of mortal woe. "Preached among the nations." This is quite a new interest. Angels merely saw, admired from a distance. They were spectators contemplating that in which they were not directly involved. It was different with men. He was the subject of an evangel to them. He was proclaimed as their personal Savior, without whom they were lost, in whom alone they had standing before God and everlasting blessedness. But stress is laid upon the universal reference of the preaching. He was preached, not to one nation, but among the nations (Jews included), without distinction. This was being realized as historical fact. He was being proclaimed without respect to national distinction, without respect to social condition, without respect to culture, with respect simply to the fact that all were sinners and in need of salvation. Following upon his having taken the common nature, and his having wrought out the common salvation, the message of salvation was being conveyed with the utmost impartiality. This was part of the mystery which was then being disclosed, and which the unprejudiced agreed in calling great. It was impressive to the early Church to witness the proclamation of a world-wide salvation. "Believed on in the world." God does not force us to believe. There must be a sufficient cause for our faith, sufficient to move our hearts and gain us over. Our faith must be caused in a rational way, in a way consistent with the nature of God and our own nature. The cause must be homogeneous with respect to the effect; spiritual as faith is a spiritual effect. How, then, is Christ to be believed on in the world, i.e. in that which is naturally unbelieving, which contains no germ of faith which can be cultivated? How can light be brought out of darkness, how can faith be brought out of unbelief? And yet what have we here? There is such a potency in the fact of God incarnate as to work a moral miracle, to evoke faith from that which is naturally incapable of faith. And wherein does the potency lie? It is in the love which the fact manifests. "The Son of God, who loved me , and gave himself up for me ." He did not spare himself all the humiliation of the death of the cross. That is a fact which requires to be contemplated; but, as it is contemplated, it asserts its power over hearts, so as to make the insensate feel, the unbelieving believe. Now, the apostle regards it as glorious testimony to the greatness of the mystery that Christ should actually be believed on in the world, that there should be some trophies of the power of his love over unbelief, that there should be some to offer him a home in their hearts. "Received up in glory." In the biographies of great men we are told of one achievement gained after another, of one honor conferred after another. But however long and glorious the scroll which can be shown, it has to end with their bidding a long farewell to all their greatness. And, though monuments are raised to their memory, it cannot take away the essential ingloriousness of the termination to their career. With Christ it is at the earthly termination that to outward appearance he becomes great. He had indeed, like others and more than others, to undergo the ingloriousness of dying, and of being laid in the tomb. But that ingloriousness was completely reversed by his resurrection. He lingered long enough on earth for history to attest the fact that he was indeed risen. And then he made his triumphal entry into heaven. "Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever. The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive." He was received up into glory—into glorious exaltation in our nature at the right hand of God—and in glory he forever remains. This is conclusive evidence to the greatness of the mystery. The godly delight to dwell upon and to feed their life, not only with the humiliation, but, beyond that, with the exaltation.—R.F.

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