1 Timothy 3 Commentary

2014 1 Timothy 3 Commentary

Tod Kennedy

Chapter Titles for 1 Timothy

  1. Paul’s philosophy of ministry
  2. Pray for others; godly women
  3. Overseers, deacons, and conduct in the church
  4. Departure from the faith; train for godliness
  5. Respectfully challenge; widows; elders
  6. Slaves and masters, godliness, money

See for 3.2, Bib Sac Volume 140, Page 248

Argument of Chapter three

Chapter 3, Overseers, deacons, and conduct in the church

Paul continues his instruction to the leaders in the church by describing the character of overseers (1 Timothy 3:1-7, episkopos) and deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13, diakonos). Paul writes so that Timothy will know how he and the church leaders and their wives are to conduct themselves in the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth, which is built upon Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 3:14-16).

Exposition and Commentary

  1. 1 Timothy 3:1. Paul now makes a true and trustworthy conclusion. If a man strives (ὀρέγω orego, to strive for, reach for, aspire to) to serve as an overseer, he desires (ἐπιθυμέω epithumeo, to set one’s heart on, to desire) a fine (καλός kalos , useful, noble, good) work.
    1. The office of overseer is what a man might aspire to (ἐπισκοπή episcope, one who oversees, or the action of oversight). This is his official title and position. It is a noble and respected position in the church. This is the same position as that of elder or pastor.
    2. The person is the ἐπίσκοπος episkopos. The word is found in 5 NT passages: Acts 20.28; Philippians 1.1; 1 Timothy 3.2; Titus 1.7; 2 Peter 2.25 (refers to Jesus Christ). See below on 1 Timothy 3.2-9.
    3. The work of the overseer is what he does. He is to guard himself and the flock and to shepherd the flock (Acts 20:28), be alert to trouble makers and false teachers (Acts 20:30), and to be strong in relationship to God and to God’s gracious word (Acts 28:32).
    4. Two ideas are prominent. The overseer should be free from wrong doing—not able to be accused of wrong, and the perception of him should be good.
    5. Do these qualifications refer to his entire past, recognized as his character before becoming an overseer and while functioning as an overseer, or just while functioning as an overseer? Probably the second.
  2. 1 Timothy 3:2. Introduction to this section. Beginning with verse 2 and going through verse 7 Paul lists 16 character traits for the overseer. The person is the ἐπίσκοπος episkopos, the overseer. The overseer and the elder are two aspects of the same office. First Timothy is more concerned with the work of guarding and watching over the congregation, therefore he instructs about the overseer. Paul sent Titus to Crete to appoint elders in the churches. The elder is the one with the authority. Apparently Ephesus needed guarding and watching over, while Crete needed an emphasis on authority to solve problems and direct the church. Both places had problems and Paul used the word most appropriate to each. In Acts 20:17 Luke records that Paul sent for the elders of Ephesus—apparently the same men called overseers in 1 Timothy— to come to Miletus for a conference. Paul, in Acts 20:28, said that these same men were overseers and that they were to shepherd the church. See the doctrine of Pastor and Teacher.
    1. The title "overseer" (ἐπίσκοπος episkopos, guardian, superintendent) is an official title emphasizing the supervisory activity (1 Tim 3.2; Titus 1.7).
    2. The title "elder" (elder, older man) is an official title emphasizing the rank. Both refer to the pastor and teacher as the leader and both carry authority (1 Tim 5.17; Titus 1.5; 1 Pet 5.1-4).
    3. The title "pastor-teacher" is the working title for the man God gifts to teach, lead, and protect the believers within a particular congregation. Pastor emphasizes leadership, care for, protection, support, correction. Teacher emphasizes communication, instruction of the Word of God. Pastor-teacher emphasizes the spiritual gifts and ministries that result from the gifts. The pastor and teacher is also the overseer and elder (Eph 4.11; Acts 20.17,28; Philippians 1.1).
  3. 1 Timothy 3:2-7. Now we have 16 traits that are necessary for the overseer. The grammar indicates what is necessary or what someone must do. The subject is the masculine accusative singular ἐπίσκοπον, overseer, δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον … εἶναι. The emphasis of the section seems to be his character not his duties. They need good character 1) in order to confront the false teachers who may have also been leaders in the church, and 2) Paul is writing so Timothy (and others) will know how to conduct themselves in the church, and character is foundational (1 Tim 3.14). When do these requirements begin? Before becoming an overseer and while functioning as an overseer—on his present condition, not his whole life, or even since his salvation. All the leading nouns, adjectives, and participles are accusative due to the infinitive. They are masculine and indicate this is a male position. The standard is high, though perfection is not required. One considered for the overseer ought to understand the Christian life, be committed to Scripture and to serving God and the church people, understand authority and the use of it, and have a good reputation.
    1. 1 Timothy 3.2. Above reproach. The adjective ἀνεπίλη(μ)πτος, not open to attack, blameless. There should not be areas where he can be justly criticized in his moral life—scandals, dishonest in business. His reputation should not be such so to bring current legitimate criticism (Timothy 6:14).
    2. 1 Timothy 3.2. Husband (ἀνήρ aner, masculine) of one wife. The four main interpretations of this are 1. must be married, 2. may be married only once—against digamy or remarriage, 3. one wife at a time, 4. must be a faithful moral husband. In considering the best interpretation, we know that the Scripture says there are some reasons for divorce and remarriage. God also forgives past sins. Option 1 is weak. Paul could have simple said that the overseer must be married. Furthermore, verse 4, a parallel, has children in the plural. Must an overseer have multiple children? Probably not. Option 2 goes against the freedom of other believers to remarry in certain circumstances but places a higher standard on the overseer. What if a wife dies? Option 3 forbids bigamy and polygamy. This is of course true for all Christians, though it does not seem to have been a big problem with believers of that time; though Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultures practiced polygamy at this time (Barclay, 87-90). Option 4 means that the husband must be faithful to his wife at the time, and this is also true for all Christians. In conclusion, options 1 is weak. Option 2 has merit in context. Options 3 and 4 are true in any Christian context. Option 3, only one wife at a time, may be the simplest way to take Paul’s statement. Option 4 best fits the context—the other characteristics reflecting morality and self control.
      1. Application without argument. The overseer should be married to one person at a time and be faithful to her. This statement also rules out female overseers and homosexual overseers. It says “husband of one wife,” not partner or spouse.
    3. 1 Timothy 3.2. Temperate νηφάλιος nephalios. Was used for something unmixed with wine and then sober, level-headed, self controlled (Titus 2:2, 3).
    4. 1 Timothy 3.2. Prudent σώφρων sophron. Thoughtful, discreet, reasonable, self-controlled (Titus 2:2).
    5. 1 Timothy 3.2. Respectable κόσμιος kosmios. Respectable, appropriate, orderly, well-behaved (1 Timothy 2:9).
    6. 1 Timothy 3.2. Hospitable φιλόξενος philoxenos. Hospitable, one who opens his home to others—especially important in the time of writing (Titus 1:8, 1 Peter 4:9).
    7. 1 Timothy 3.2. Skillful in teaching διδακτικός didaktikos. Skilfull in teaching (2 Timothy 2:24).
    8. 1 Timothy 3.3. Not addicted to wine πάροινος paroinos. One who drinks too much wine (Titus 1:7).
    9. 1 Timothy 3.3. Not pugnacious πλήκτης plektes. A bully, brawler, strikes people, violent (Titus 1:7).
    10. 1 Timothy 3.3. Gentle ἐπιεικής epieikes. Reasonable, fair, capable, fair, not insisting on every right or letter of the law therefore gentle, kind, courteous (Titus 3:2, Philippians 4:5, 1 Peter 2:18, James 3:17).
    11. 1 Timothy 3.3. Peaceable ἄμαχος amachos. Peaceable, not inclined to fight, not contentious (Titus 3:2).
    12. 1 Timothy 3.3. Free from love of money ἀφιλάργυρος aphilarguros. Not loving money, not greedy (Hebrews 13:5).
    13. 1 Timothy 3.4. Manage his own household well προΐστημι proistemi. To exercise a position of leadership; with the genitive as here to be chief or leader, govern, direct, manage (Romans 12:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 1 Timothy 5:17).
    14. 1 Timothy 3.4. Keep children under control with dignity ἔχω echo + ὑποταγή hupotage submission, subjection (2 Corinthians 9:13, Galatians 2:5, 1 Timothy 2:11); with all dignity σεμνότης semnotes, the kind of behavior above the ordinary and therefore worthy of respect (1 Timothy 2:2, Titus 2:7).
    15. 1 Timothy 3.5. If he cannot lead his house and children, he will not be able to care for the church.
    16. 1 Timothy 3.6. Not new convert νεόφυτος neophutos. Newly planted [in the Christian community], new convert. The temptation to a new believer put in a place of authority and leadership is that pride may take control. Pride leads to bad decisions and a bad example. The comparison is to what happened to Satan.
    17. 1 Timothy 3.7. Good reputation with unbelievers μαρτυρία marturia. This is so he will not fall into disgrace and Satan’s snare.
  4. 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Paul now instructs about the characteristics for deacons. Verse 11 "women" γυνή gune is put into this section to balance of “men” of verse 10. These women are not necessarily deaconesses, but are women who also serve in the church without an official capacity. “Likewise” is found in 2:9, 3:8, 11, 5:25 and expresses similarity, in the same manner. Here the comparison is with overseer. The deacons also have a standard of character. Deacons have high standards and gain great honor, and self-confidence. The word is διακονος diakonos (agent, assistant, attendant, servant, or deacon). Διακο* is used 89 times in 78 verses in the NT. The form διακονος in all forms is used 29 times in 27 verses, while the nominative singular is found 15 times in 14 verses.
    1. 1 Timothy 3.8. Men of dignity σεμνός semnos, worthy of respect, honor.
    2. 1 Timothy 3.8. Double tongued δίλογος dilogos, possibly means insincere. Or to speak of the same matter differently to different people.
    3. 1 Timothy 3.8. Not addicted to much wine προσέχω prosecho to turn one’s mind, pay close attention. A deacon should not be a person who pays a lot of attention to drinking wine or think about it so that it dominates one.
    4. 1 Timothy 3.8. Fond of sordid gain αἰσχροκερδής aischrokerdes, shamelessly greedy.
    5. 1 Timothy 3.9. Holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. This mystery of the faith was that Jew and Gentile are in one body in relation to Christ or in Christ. He does not necessarily teach, but must hold onto the basic doctrines of the church age, and do so honestly.
    6. 1 Timothy 3.10. let them be tested δοκιμάζω dokimazo, to be put to the test, to examine so one knows the reality of them and their spiritual life (present passive imperative). This test is by observation of them as they serve the Lord and his people. The academic test is not the main point here. That is in verse 9. Beyond reproach indicates they fulfill their duties well.
    7. 1 Timothy 3.11. Now the statement about women. Options: deaconess, wives of deacons, qualified assistants in the church. These women are not necessarily deaconesses, but are women who also serve in the church without an official capacity. Some interpreters do think that they are deaconesses. There are standards for these women: dignified (σεμνος semnos, worthy of respect) not gossips (μη διαβολος diabolos, do not slander), self-controlled (νηφαλιος nephalios, temperate, level headed) and faithful (πιστος pistos, trustworthy, dependable) in all they do. See 1 Timothy 5.11-15 and 2 Timothy 3.6-7 for the high ethical standards for women in general. See 1 Timothy 2.9-15 for limitations on the service of women. Some refer to Romans 16.1 where Phoebe is called a διακονος diakonos (agent, assistant, attendant, servant, or deacon).
    8. 1 Timothy 3.12. Back to deacons. Married to one woman (as above with the overseer, Paul is probably saying the deacon can only be married to one person at a time and be faithful to her).
    9. 1 Timothy 3.12. Good managers of children and own household. leadership is important (προΐστημι proistemi, refers to leadership, show care and concern) for children and the home. Their own households indicate each has the responsibility for his own.
    10. 1 Tim 3:13. The purpose is to serve well. The reward is twofold, one from others and one from inside themselves: 1. honor in service from those they serve (βαθμός bathmos, step of a threshold or ladder, or a degree or stage in rank) and, 2. boldness παρρησια in the faith—in their own Christian faith.
  5. 1 Timothy 3:14-16. Behavior, application, and doctrine in the church.
    1. 1 Timothy 3.14. Paul delegated to Timothy the job of correcting and strengthening how the church at Ephesus conducts itself or lives. This letter is the instruction for that job.
    2. 1 Timothy 3.15. Paul writes so Timothy will know how he is to act (αναστρεφω anastrepho, 9 times in 9 verses; to overturn, live, conduct oneself, return, associate; 2 Corinthians 1.12; Ephesians 2.3; Hebrews 13.18; 1 Peter 1.17; 2 Peter 2.18) in the church of the living God. Pillar and support continue the picture of the church as a house of believers. The pillar (στυλος stulos, a supporting portion or column or pillar Galatians 2.9; Revelation 3.12; 10.1; LXX the pillar of cloud in the exodus, etc) and support (`εδραιωμα hedraioma, only here; that which provides a firm base for something, a structural support) indicate that the church is not the source of truth, but the supporting column and foundation (as in a house) for God’s word in the world. We learn the value of the church, and in Timothy Paul has in mind a local group of people. The local church is the center of the Christian life, including the base and support for God’s word—for the protection and preservation of God’s word, for learning, application, encouragement, ministry, and growth. The NT emphasizes this in almost every epistle. We are in a day when the local church is often given a very low place in one’s values and priorities. I think we can say that the Christian life without local church participation is foreign to the apostles. This means that trying to live the Christian life on one’s own or by proxy is very abnormal and takes a heavy toll on believers. The application is simply to find a church that is doing its job and participate. None will be perfect, but make whatever you choose a better church.
    3. 1 Timothy 3.16. Paul now transition to the mystery of godliness "the truth" of 1 Timothy 3.15. He moves to the gospel truth which centers in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
      1. This verse or hymn presents a summary view of godliness in Jesus. It is a mystery because all the details were not revealed until the incarnation. Furthermore, these historical facts go beyond the usual human experience.
      2. Paul admits that the mystery of godliness is great (τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον to tes eusebeias musterion). We all admit that. Godliness refers to reverence, piety, and awesome respect. Here it refers to godliness personified in Jesus Christ, the very center of the Christian faith. This may be a a hymn or poetry about Jesus Christ (style: rhythm when read aloud, parallelism, some meter, rhetorical devices such as alliteration, chiasmus, antithesis; linguistic: unusual vocabulary and theological terms different from the context, though not all agree that these characteristics are here (NET Bible at 1 Timothy 3:16). The message here is so profound. It brings about awesome reverence in the one who believes it. It is about Jesus Christ. It amounts to a statement of doctrine by Paul. There are six lines to this hymn. Lines 1,2,4,5,6 all have the aorist passive verb that explains what happened to the "who," in context Jesus Christ. They (except with angels) also have the preposition εν with the dative of sphere noun. Line 3 has the aorist passive verb and the instrumental of angels (no preposition).
      3. manifested, (φανερόω phaneroo), aorist passive indicative; to become visible, reveal, make known. In the flesh, God was made visible in Jesus Christ. The incarnation (John 1.14; Romans 8.3; 2 Timothy 1.10; 1 Peter 1.2).
      4. justified, (δικαιόω dikaioo), aorist passive indicative, to do justice, render a favorable verdict, to free from claims, to make right, in the S(s)pirit. Jesus was declared to be the Son of God, the savior by the Holy Spirit or in his human spirit. See Romans 1:4. Most interpreters take this as referring to the Holy Spirit. Either way is true doctrine. It seems when comparing other passages that this refers to the Holy Spirit and the vindication is at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; 4:1, 14, 18; John 1.32-34) and at his resurrection (Romans 8:11).
      5. seen (ὁράω horao), aorist passive indicative; to see, look, behold, catch sight of. Angels saw his birth, resurrection, and ascension (Matthew 28:5–7; Mark 1.13; 16:5–7; Luke 2.13; 24:4–7; John. 20:11–13; Acts 1:9-11).
      6. Preached (κηρύσσω kerusso), to announce, make known, proclaim aorist passive indicative. The apostles and others proclaimed Jesus (Acts 2.32-36; Romans 10.14-15; 16.25; Ephesians 3.8; Colossians 1.25).
      7. Believed (πιστεύω pisteuo), to believe, trust, aorist passive indicative. Many people did believe in him while on earth and later (John 2.11,23; 4.41-42; 8.30; 10.42; 2 Thessalonians 1.10).
      8. received up (ἀναλαμβάνω analambano), to lift up and take away, to take up, to carry, aorist passive indicative. This refers to his ascension (Luke 9.51; 24.26; Acts 1.11,22).
  6. Select doctrines
    1. Overseer, Pastor and Teacher (1 Timothy 3.1-7)
    2. Deacon (1 Timothy 3.8-13)
    3. Church (1 Timothy 3.15)
    4. Christology (1 Timothy 3.16)
    5. Hymn like sayings in the NT (1 Timothy 3.16)