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Analysis Of The Chapter
The object of this chapter 1 Timothy 3:0 is to give directions respecting the qualifications and duties of the officers of the Christian church. As it is evident that Timothy was to be partly employed in the appointment of suitable officers for the church at Ephesus, and as the kinds of officers here referred to were to be permanent in the church, it was important that a full statement should be put on record, under the influence of inspiration, respecting their qualifications and duties. The chapter embraces the following subjects:
I. The qualifications of a bishop; 1 Timothy 3:1-7. The enumeration of his qualifications is preceded by a general statement that the office was an honorable one, and that he who aspired to it sought an employment that was, in itself, to be regarded as desirable; 1 Timothy 3:1. The qualifications specified for this office, are the following:
- He must be a man of good private character; possessing and illustrating the Christian virtues, or, as we would say now, an upright man, and a Christian gentleman; 1 Timothy 3:2-3.
(2)He must be a man who ruled his own house well, and who thus showed that he was qualified to preside as the first officer in the church of God; 1 Timothy 3:4-5.
(3)He must be a man of suitable age and experience - one who would not be likely to fall into the temptations that are laid for the young; 1 Timothy 3:6.
(4)He must have a fair reputation among those who were not Christians - as it is intended that the influence of his ministry shall reach them, and as it is impossible to do them good unless he is believed to be a man of integrity;1 Timothy 3:7; 1 Timothy 3:7.
II. The qualifications of deacons; 1Ti 3:8-10, 1 Timothy 3:12-13. They must be:
- Men of fair character - serious, temperate, candid; 1 Timothy 3:8.
(2)Men who hold to the doctrines of the gospel with a pure conscience; 1 Timothy 3:9.
(3)Men who have been proved, and who have shown that they are qualified to serve the church: 1 Timothy 3:10.
(4)Men whose wives are of such a character that their example will contribute to the promotion of the common cause; 1 Timothy 3:11.
(5)Men not living in polygamy, and who exercise exemplary family government; 1 Timothy 3:12-13.
III. The reason why Paul gave these instructions to Timothy; 1 Timothy 3:14-15. It was, that he might know how he ought to demean himself in the important station which he was called to occupy. Paul hoped to be able to come to him before long, and to complete the work which he had commenced at Ephesus, but, in the meantime, he gave him these written councils, that he might understand particularly the duty which was required of him.
IV. The chapter closes with a statemerit which seems to have been intended to impress the mind of Timothy with the importance of the duties in which he was engaged; 1 Timothy 3:15-16. The statement is, that the church is the great defender of the truth in the world 1 Timothy 3:15, and that the truth which the church is to maintain is of the greatest importance. It relates to the incarnation of the Son of God, and to the work which he accomplished on earth a work which excited the deepest interest in heaven, and the true doctrine respecting which it was of the utmost importance to keep up among people; 1 Timothy 3:16. This reason is further urged in the following chapter, by showing that the time would come when, under the influence of Satan, these great doctrines would be denied, and the truth be corrupted and perverted.
This is a trite saying - Greek, “Faithful is the word” - the very phrase which is used in 1 Timothy 1:15; see the notes on that verse. The idea here is, that it was worthy of credence; it was not to be doubted.
If a man desire - Implying that there would be those who would wish to be put into the ministry. The Lord, undoubtedly, by his Spirit, often excites an earnest and irrepressible desire to preach the gospel - a desire so strong, that he in whom it exists can be satisfied in no other calling. In such a case, it should be regarded as one evidence of a call to this work. The apostle, however, by the statements which follow, intimates that wherever this desire exists, it is of the utmost importance to have just views of the nature of the office, and that there should be other qualifications for the ministry than a mere desire to preach the gospel. He proceeds, therefore, to state those qualifications, and no one who “desires” the office of the ministry should conclude that he is called to it, unless these qualifications substantially are found in him. The word rendered “desire” here (ὀρέγω oregō), denotes properly, “to reach” or “stretch out” - and hence to reach after anything, to long after, to try to obtain; Hebrews 11:16.
The office of a bishop - The Greek here is a single word - ἐπισκοπῆς episkopēs. The word ἐπισκοπή episkopē - “Episcope” - whence the word “Episcopal” is derived - occurs but four times in the New Testament. It is translated “visitation” in Luke 19:44, and in 1 Peter 2:12; “bishoprick,” Acts . Acts 1:20; and in this place “office of a bishop.” The verb from which it is derived (ἐπισκοπέω episkopeō), occurs but twice, In Hebrews 12:15, it is rendered “looking diligently,” and in 1 Peter 5:2, “taking the oversight.” The noun rendered bishop occurs in Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25. The verb means, properly, to look upon, behold; to inspect, to look after, see to, take care of; and the noun denotes the office of overseeing, inspecting, or looking to. It is used to denote the care of the sick, Xeno. Oec. 15, 9; compare “Passow;” and is of so general a character that it may denote any office of overseeing, or attending to. There is nothing in the word itself which would limit it to any class or grade of the ministry, and it is, in fact, applied to nearly all the officers of the church in the New Testament, and, indeed, to Christians who did not sustain “any” office. Thus it is applied:
(a)To believers in general, directing them to “look diligently, lest anyone should fail of the grace of God,” Hebrews 12:15;
(b)To the elders of the church at Ephesus, “over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,”Acts 20:28; Acts 20:28;
(c)To the elders or presbyters of the church in 1 Peter 5:2, “Feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof;
(d)To the officers of the church in Philippi, mentioned in connection with deacons as the only officers of the church there, “to the saints at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons,” Philippians 1:1;
(e)To Judas, the apostate. Acts 1:20; and,
(f)To the great Head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:25, “the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
From this use of the term it follows:
(1) That the word is never used to designate the “uniqueness” of the apostolic office, or so as to have any special applicability to the apostles. Indeed, the term “bishop” is “never” applied to any of them in the New Testament; nor is the word in any of its forms ever used with reference to them, except in the single case of “Judas,” Acts 1:20.
(2) It is never employed in the New Testament to designate an order of men superior to presbyters, regarded as having any other functions than presbyters, or being in any sense “successors” to the apostles. It is so used now by the advocates of prelacy; but this is a use wholly unknown to the New Testament. It is so undeniable that the name is never given in the New Testament to those who are now called “bishops,” that even Episcopalians concede it. Thus, Dr. Onderdonk (Tract on Episcopacy, p. 12) says, “All that we read in the New Testament concerning ‘bishops’ is to be regarded as pertaining to the ‘middle grade;’ that is, to those who are now regarded as ‘priests.’” This is not strictly correct, as is clear from the remarks above respecting what is called the “middle grade;” but it is strictly correct, so far as it affirms that it is “never” applied to prelates.
(3) It is used in the New Testament to denote ministers of the gospel who had the care or oversight of the churches, without any regard to grade or rank.
(4) It has now, as used by Episcopalians, a sense which is wholly unauthorized by the New Testament, and which, indeed, is entirely at variance with the usage there. To apply the term to a pretended superior order of clergy, as designating their special office, is wholly to depart from the use of the word as it occurs in the Bible.
(5) As it is never used in the Scriptures with reference to “prelates,” it “should” be used with reference to the pastors, or other officers of the church; and to be a “pastor,” or “overseer” of the flock of Christ, should be regarded as being a scriptural bishop.
He desireth a good work - An honorable office; an office which it is right for a man to desire. There are some stations in life which ought never to be desired; it is proper for anyone to desire the office of a bishop who has the proper qualifications; compare notes on Romans 11:13.
A bishop - A minister of religion, according to the foregoing remarks, who has the charge or oversight of any Christian church. The reference here is doubtless to one who had the government of the church entrusted to him 1 Timothy 3:4-5, and who was also a preacher of the gospel.
Must be blameless - This is a different word (ἀνεπίλημπτον anepilēmpton) from that rendered “blameless” in Luke 1:6; Philippians 2:15; Philippians 3:6 (ἄμεμπτος amemptos); compare however, Luke 1:6 note; Philippians 3:6 note. The word here used does not mean that, as a necessary qualification for office, a bishop should be “perfect;” but that he should be a man against whom no charge of immorality, or of holding false doctrine, is alleged. His conduct should be irreprehensible or irreproachable. Undoubtedly it means that if “any” charge could be brought against him implying moral obliquity, he is not fit for the office. He should be a man of irreproachable character for truth, honesty, chastity, and general uprightness.
The husband of one wife - This need not be understood as requiring that a bishop “should be” a married man, as Vigilantius, a presbyter in the church at Barcelona in the fourth century, supposed, however desirable in general it may be that a minister of the gospel should be married. But, while this interpretation is manifestly to be excluded as false, there has been much difference of opinion on the question whether the passage means that a minister should not have more than one wife at the same time, or whether it prohibits the marriage of a second wife after the death of the first. On this question, the notes of Bloomfield, Doddridge, and Macknight, may be consulted. That the former is the correct opinion, seems to me to be evident from the following considerations:
(1) It is the most obvious meaning of the language, and it would doubtless be thus understood by those to whom it was addressed. At a time when polygamy was not uncommon, to say that a man should “have but one wife” would be naturally understood as prohibiting polygamy.
(2) The marriage of a second wife, after the death of the first, is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as wrong. The marriage of a widow to a second husband is expressely declared to be proper 1 Corinthians 7:39; and it is not unfair to infer from that permission that it is equally lawful and proper for man to marry the second time. But if it is lawful for any man it is right for a minister of the gospel. No reason can he assigned against such marriages in his case, which would not be equally valid in any other. Marriage is as honorable for a minister of the gospel as for any other man (compare notes on Hebrews 13:4); and, as Doddridge has well remarked, “Circumstances may be so adjusted that there may be as much reason for a second marriage as for the first, and as little inconvenience of any kind may attend it.”
(3) There was a special propriety in the prohibition, if understood as prohibiting polygamy. It is known that it was extensively practiced, and was not regarded as unlawful. Yet one design of the gospel was to restore the marriage relation to its primitive condition; and though it might not have seemed absolutely necessary to require of every man who came into the church to divorce his wives, if he had more than one, yet, in order to fix a brand on this irregular practice, it might have been deemed desirable to require of the ministers of the gospel that they should have but one wife. Thus the practice of polygamy would gradually come to be regarded as dishonorable and improper, and the example and influence of the ministry would tend to introduce correct views in regard to the nature of this relation. One thing is clear from this passage, that the views of the Papists in regard to the celibacy of the clergy are directly at variance with the Bible. The declaration of Paul in Hebrews 13:4, is, that “marriage is honorable in all;” and here it is implied that it was proper that a minister should be married. If it were not, why did not Paul prohibit it altogether? Instead of saying that it was improper that a bishop should have more than one wife, why did he not say that it was improper that he should be married at all? Would not a Romanist say so now?
Vigilant - This word (νηφάλεος nēphaleos) occurs only here and in 1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:2. It means, properly, “sober, temperate, abstinent,” especially in respect to wine; then “sober-minded, watchful, circumspect. Robinson.” A minister should have a watchful care over his own conduct. He should be on his gaurd against sin in any form.
Sober - σώφρονα sōphrona Properly, a man of “a sound mind;” one who follows sound reason, and who is not under the control of passion. The idea is, that he should have his desires and passions well regulated. Perhaps the word “prudent” would come nearer to the meaning of the apostle than any single word which we have.
Of good behaviour - Margin, “modest.” Coverdale renders it, “mannerly.” The most correct rendering, according to the modern use of language, would be, that he should be “a gentleman.” He should not be slovenly in his appearance, or rough and boorish in his manners. He should not do violence to the usages of refined conversation, nor be unfit to appear respectable in the most refined circles of society. Inattention to personal neatness, and to the rules which regulate refined contact, is indicative neither of talent, learning, nor religion; and though they are occasionally - not often - connected with talent, learning, and religion, yet they are never the fruit of either, and are always a disgrace to those who exhibit such incivility and boorishness, for such men “ought” to know better. A minister of the gospel should be a finished gentleman in his manners, and there is no excuse for him if he is not. His religion, if he has any, is adapted to make him such. He has usually received such an education as ought to make him such, and in all cases “ought” to have had such a training. He is admitted into the best society, and has an opportunity of becoming familiar with the laws of refined conversation. He should be an example and a pattern in all that goes to promote the welfare of mankind, and there are few things so easily acquired that are suited to do this, as refinement and gentility of manners. No man can do good, on the whole, or in the “long run,” by disregarding the rules of refined contact; and, other things being equal, the refined, courteous, polite gentleman in the ministry, will always do more good than he who neglects the rules of goodbreeding.
Given to hospitality - This is often enjoined on all Christians as a duty of religion. For the reasons of this, and the nature of the duty, see the Romans 12:13 note; Hebrews 13:2 note. It was a special duty of the ministers of religion, as they were to be examples of every Christian virtue.
Apt to teach - Greek, “Didactic;” that is, capable of instructing, or qualified for the office of a teacher of religion. As the principal business of a preacher of the gospel is to “teach,” or to communicate to his fellow-men the knowledge of the truth, the necessity of this qualification is obvious. No one should be allowed to enter the ministry who is not qualified to impart “instruction” to others on the doctrines and duties of religion; and no one should feel that he ought to continue in the ministry, who has not industry, and self-denial, and the love of study enough to lead him constantly to endeavor to “increase” in knowledge, that he may be qualified to teach others. A man who would “teach” a people, must himself keep in advance of them on the subjects on which he would instruct them.
Not given to wine - Margin, “Not ready to quarrel and offer wrong, as one in wine.” The Greek word (πάροινος paroinos) occurs in the New Testament only here and in Titus 1:7. It means, properly, “by wine;” i. e., spoken of what takes place “by” or “over” wine, as revelry, drinking songs, etc. Then it denotes, as it does here, one who sits “by” wine; that is, who is in the habit of drinking it. It cannot be inferred, from the use of the word here, that wine was absolutely and entirely prohibited; for the word does not properly express that idea. It means that one who is in the habit of drinking wine, or who is accustomed to sit with those who indulge in it, should not be admitted to the ministry. The way in which the apostle mentions the subject here would lead us fairly to suppose that he did not mean to commend its use in any sense; that he regarded its use as dangerous, and that he would wish the ministers of religion to avoid it altogether. In regard to its use at all, except at the communion or as a medicine, it may be remarked, that a minister will do no injury to himself or others by letting it entirely alone; he may do injury by indulging in it. No man is under any “obligation” of courtesy or Christian duty to use it; thousands of ministers of the gospel have brought ruin on themselves, and disgrace on the ministry, by its use; compare Matthew 11:9 note, and 1 Timothy 5:23 note.
No striker - He must be a peaceable, not a quarrelsome man. This is connected with the caution about the use of wine, probably, because that is commonly found to produce a spirit of contention and strife.
Not greedy of filthy lucre - Not contentious or avaricious. Greek, Not desirous of base gain. The desire of this is condemned everywhere in the New Testament; but it is especially the duty of a minister of the gospel to be free from it. He has a right to a support (see the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:0); but there is nothing that more certainly paralyzes the usefulness of a minister of the gospel than the love of money. There is an instinctive feeling in the human bosom that such a man ought to be actuated by a nobler and a purer principle. As avarice, moreover, is the great sin of the world - the sin that sways more hearts, and does more to hinder the progress of the gospel, than all others combined - it is important in the highest degree that the minister of religion should be an example of what men “should” be, and that he, by his whole life, should set his face against that which is the main obstruction to the progress of that gospel which he is appointed to preach.
But patient - Modest, mild, gentle. See the word (Greek) in Philippians 4:5; Titus 3:2; James 3:17, and 1 Peter 2:18, where it is rendered “gentle.” The word means that the minister of the gospel should be a man of mild and kind demeanor, such as his Master was.
Not a brawler - compare 2 Timothy 2:24. That is, he should not be a man given to contention, or apt to take up a quarrel. The Greek is, literally, “Not disposed to fight.”
Not covetous - Greek, “Not a lover of silver;” that is, of money. A man should not be put into the ministry who is characteristically a lover of money. Such a one, no matter what his talents may be, has no proper qualification for the office, and will do more harm than good.
One that ruleth well his own house - This implies that a minister of the gospel would be, and ought to be, a married man. It is everywhere in the New Testament supposed that he would be a man who could be an example in all the relations of life. The position which he occupies in the church has a strong resemblance to the relation which a father sustains to his household; and a qualification to govern a family well, would be an evidence of a qualification to preside properly in the church. It is probable that, in the early Christian church, ministers were not unfrequently taken from those of mature life, and who were, at the time, at the head of families; and, of course, such would be men who had had an opportunity of showing that they had this qualification for the office. Though, however, this cannot be insisted on now as a “previous” qualification for the office, yet it is still true that, if he has a family, it is a necessary qualification, and that a man in the ministry “should be” one who governs his own house well. A want of this will always be a hindrance to extensive usefulness.
Having his children in subjection with all gravity - This does not mean that his “children” should evince gravity, whatever may be true on that point; but it refers “to the father.” He should be a grave or serious man in his family; a man free from levity of character, and from frivolity and fickleness, in his conversation with his children. It does not mean that he should be severe, stern, morose - which are traits that are often mistaken for gravity, and which are as inconsistent with the proper spirit of a father as frivolity of manner - but that he should be a serious and sober-minded man. He should maintain proper “dignity” (σεμνότης semnotēs); he should maintain self-respect, and his deportment should be such as to inspire others with respect for him.
For if a man know not how to rule - This is a beautiful and striking argument. A church resembles a family. It is, indeed, larger, and there is a greater variety of dispositions in it than there is in a family. The authority of a minister of the gospel in a church is also less absolute than that of a father. But still there is a striking resemblance. The church is made up of an assemblage of brothers and sisters. They are banded together for the same purposes, and have a common object to aim at. They have common feelings and common needs. They have sympathy, like a family, with each other in their distresses and afflictions. The government of the church also is designed to be “paternal.” It should be felt that he who presides over it has the feelings of a father; that he loves all the members of the great family; that he has no prejudices, no partialities, no selfish aims to gratify.
Now, if a man cannot govern his own family well; if he is severe, partial, neglectful, or tyrannical at home, how can he be expected to take charge of the more numerous “household of faith” with proper views and feelings? If, with all the natural and strong ties of affection which bind a father to his own children; if, when they are few comparatively in number, and where his eye is constantly upon them, he is unable to govern them aright, how can he be expected to preside in a proper manner over the larger household where he will be bound with comparatively feebler ties, and where he will be exposed more to the influence of passion, and where he will have a much less constant opportunity of supervision? Confucius, as quoted by Doddridge, has a sentiment strikingly resembling that before us: “It is impossible that he who knows not how to govern and reform his own family, should rightly govern and reform a people.” We may remark, also, in this verse, a delicate and beautiful use of words by the apostle to prevent the possibility of misapprehension. While he institutes a comparison between the government of a family and that of the church, he guards against the possibility of its being supposed that he would countenance “arbitrary” authority in the church, even such authority as a father must of necessity employ in his own family. Hence, he uses different words. He speaks of the father as “ruling” over his own family, or “presiding over it” - προστῆναι prostēnai; he describes the minister of religion as “having a tender care for the church” - ἐπιμελὴσεται epimelēsetai.
Not a novice - Margin, “one newly come to the faith.” The Greek word, which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, means, properly, that which is “newly planted.” Thus it would mean a plant that was not strong, or not fitted to bear the severity of storms; that had not as yet struck its roots deep, and could not resist the fierceness of a cold blast. Then the word comes to mean a new convert; one who has had little opportunity to test his own faith, or to give evidence to others that he would be faithful to the trust committed to him. The word does not refer so much to one who is young “in years,” as one who is young “in faith.” Still, all the reasons which apply against introducing a very recent convert into the ministry, will apply commonly with equal force against introducing one young in years.
Lest being lifted up with pride - We are not to suppose that this is the only reason against introducing a recent convert into the ministry, but it is a sufficient reason. He would be likely to be elated by being entrusted at once with the highest office in the church, and by the commendations and flattery which he might receive. No condition is wholly proof against this; but he is much less likely to be injured who has had much experience of the depravity of his own heart, and whose mind has been deeply imbued with the spirit of the gospel.
He fall into the condemnation of the devil - That is, the same kind of condemnation which the devil fell into; to wit, condemnation on account of pride. It is here intimated that the cause of the apostasy of Satan was pride - a cause which is as likely to have been the true one as any other. Who can tell but it may have been produced by some new honor which was conferred on him in heaven, and that his virtue was not found sufficient for the untried circumstances in which he was placed? Much of the apostasy from eminent virtue in this world, arises from this cause; and possibly the case of Satan may have been the most signal instance of this kind which has occurred in the universe. The idea of Paul is, that a young convert should not suddenly be raised to an exalted station in the church. Who can doubt the wisdom of this direction? The word rendered “lifted up” (τυφωθὲις tuphōtheis), is from a verb which means to smoke, to fume, to surround with smoke; then to “inflate” - as a bladder is with air; and then to be conceited or proud; that is, to be “like” a bladder filled, not with a solid substance, but with air.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without - Who are without the church; that is, of those who are not Christians. This includes, of course, “all” classes of those who are not Christians - pagans, infidels, Jews, moral people, and scoffers. The idea is, that he must have a fair reputation with them for integrity of character. His life must be in their view upright. He must not be addicted to anything which they regard as inconsistent with good morals. His deportment must be such that they shall regard it as not inconsistent with his profession. He must be true and just and honest in his dealings with his fellow-men, and so live that they cannot say that he has wronged them. He must not give occasion for scandal or reproach in his contact with the other sex, but must be regarded as a man of a pure life and of a holy walk. The “reason” for this injunction is obvious.
It is his business to endeavor to do such people good, and to persuade them to become Christians. “But no minister of the gospel can possibly do such people good, unless they regard him as an upright and honest man.” No matter how he preaches or prays; no matter how orthodox, learned, or apparently devout he may be, all his efforts will be in vain unless they regard him as a man of incorruptible integrity. If they hate religion themselves, they insist justly that since he has professed it he shall be governed by its principles; or if they feel its importance, they will not be influenced to embrace it by a man that they regard as hypocritical and impure. Go to a man whom you have defrauded, or who regards you as having done or attempted wrong to any other one, and talk to him about the necessity of religion, and he will instinctively say that he does not “want” a religion which will not make its professor true, honest, and pure. It is impossible, therefore, for a minister to over-estimate the importance of having a fair character in the view of the world, and no man should be introduced into the ministry, or sustained in it, who has not a fair reputation; compare Colossians 4:5 note; 1 Thessalonians 4:12 note.
Lest he fall into reproach - That is, in such a way as to bring dishonor on the ministerial character. His life will be such as to give people occasion to reproach the cause of religion.
And the snare of the devil - The snare which the devil lays to entrap and ruin the ministers of the gospel and all good people. The snare to which reference is here made, is that of “blasting the character and influence of the minister of the gospel.” The idea is, that Satan lays this snare so to entangle him as to secure this object, and the means which he uses is the vigilance and suspicion of those who are out of the church. If there is anything of this kind in the life of a minister which they can make use of, they will be ready to do it. Hence, the necessity on his part of an upright and blameless life. Satan is constantly aiming at this thing; the world is watching for it, and if the minister has any “propensity” which is not in entire accordance with honesty, Satan will take advantage of it and lead him into the snare.
Likewise must the deacons - On the meaning of the word “deacons,” see the notes on Philippians 1:1. On their appointment, see the notes, Acts 6:1. The word here evidently denotes those who had charge of the temporal affairs of the church, the poor, etc. No qualifications are mentioned, implying that they were to be preachers of the gospel. In most respects, except in regard to preaching, their qualifications were to be the same as those of the “bishops.”
Be grave - Serious, sober-minded men. In Acts 6:3, it is said that they should be men “of honest report.” On the meaning of the word “grave,” see the notes on 1 Timothy 3:4. They should be men who by their serious deportment will inspire respect.
Not double-tongued - The word here used δίλογος dilogos - does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means, properly, uttering the same thing twice (from δίς dis and λέγω legō), and then deceitful, or speaking one thing and meaning another. They should be men who can be relied on for the exact truth of what they say, and for the exact fulfillment of their promises.
Not given to much wine - see 1 Timothy 3:3. The word “much” is added here to what is said 1 Timothy 3:2 of the qualification of a bishop. It is not affirmed that it would be proper for the deacon, anymore than the bishop, to indulge in the use of wine in small quantities, but it “is” affirmed that a man who is much given to the use of wine ought not, on any consideration, to be a deacon. It may be remarked here, that this qualification was everywhere regarded as necessary for a minister of religion. Even the pagan priests, on entering a temple, did not drink wine. “Bloomfield.” The use of wine, and of strong drinks of all kinds, was absolutely prohibited to the Jewish ministers of every rank when they were about to engage in the service of God; Leviticus 10:9. Why should it then be anymore proper for a Christian minister to drink wine than for a Jewish or a pagan priest? Shall a minister of the gospel be less holy than they? Shall he have a feebler sense of the purity of his vocation? Shall he be less careful lest he expose himself to the possibility of conducting the services of religion in an irreverent and silly manner? Shall he venture to approach the altar of God under the influence of intoxicating drinks, when a sense of propriety restrained the pagan priest, and a solemn statue of Yahweh restrained the Jewish priest from doing it?
Not greedy of filthy lucre - notes, 1 Timothy 3:3. The special reason why this qualification was important in the deacon was, that he would be entrusted with the funds of the church, and might be tempted to appropriate them to his own use instead of the charitable purposes for which they were designed; see this illustrated in the case of Judas, John 12:6.
Holding the mystery of the faith - On the word “mystery,” see notes on 1 Corinthians 2:7. It means that which had been concealed, or hidden, but which was now revealed. The word “faith” here, is synonymous with “the gospel;” and the sense is, that he should hold firmly the great doctrines of the Christian religion which had been so long concealed from people, but which were now revealed. The reason is obvious. Though not a preacher, yet his influence and example would be great, and a man who held material error ought not to be in office.
In a pure conscience - A mere orthodox faith was not all that was necessary, for it was possible that a man might be professedly firm in the belief of the truths of revelation, and yet be corrupt at heart.
And let these also first be proved - That is, tried or tested in regard to the things which were the proper qualifications for the office. This does not mean that they were to be employed as “preachers,” but that they were to undergo a proper trial in regard to their fitness for the office which they were to fill. They were not to be put into it without any opportunity of knowing what they were. It should be ascertained that they were grave, serious, temperate, trustworthy men; men who were sound in the faith, and who would not dishonor the office. It is not said here that there should be a “formal” trial, as if they were candidates for this office; but the meaning is, that they should have had an opportunity of making their character known, and should have gained such respect for their piety, and their other qualifications, that there would be reason to believe that they would perform the functions of the office well. Thus, in Acts 6:3, when deacons were first appointed, the church was directed to “look out seven men of honest report,” who might be appointed to the office.
Then let them use the office of a deacon - Let them be appointed to this office, and fulfil its duties.
Being found blameless - If nothing can be alleged against their character see the notes on 1 Timothy 3:2.
Even so must their wives be grave - Chrysostom, Theophylact, Grotius, Bloomfield, and many others, suppose that by the word “wives,” here, (γυνᾶικας gunaikas), the apostle means “deaconesses.” Clarke supposes that it refers to women in general. The reason assigned for supposing that it does not refer to the wives of deacons, as such, is, that nothing is said of the qualifications of the wives of bishops - a matter of as much importance as that of the character of the wife of a deacon; and that it cannot be supposed that the apostle would specify the one without some allusion to the other. But that the common interpretation, which makes it refer to the wives of deacons, as such, is to be adhered to, seems to me to be clear. Because:
(1) It is the obvious and natural interpretation.
(2) The word here used - “wives” - is never used of itself to denote deaconesses.
(3) If the apostle had meant deaconesses, it would have been easy to express it without ambiguity; compare notes, Romans 16:1.
(4) What is here mentioned is important, whether the same thing is mentioned of bishops or not.
(5) In the qualifications of bishops, the apostle had made a statement respecting his family, which made any specification about the particular members of the family unnecessary. He was to be one who presided in a proper manner over his own house, or who had a well-regulated family; 1 Timothy 3:4-5. By a comparison of this passage, also, with Titus 2:3-4, which bears a strong resemblance to this, it would seem that it was supposed that the deacons would be taken from those who were advanced in life, and that their wives would have some superintendence over the younger females of the church. It was, therefore, especially important that they should be persons whose influence would be known to be decidedly favorable to piety. No one can doubt that the character of a woman may be such, that it is not desirable that her husband should be an officer in the church. A bad woman ought not to be entrusted with any additional power or influence.
Grave - notes, 1 Timothy 3:4.
Not slanderers - compare Titus 2:3, “Not false accusers.” The Greek word is διαβόλους diabolous - “devils.” It is used here in its original and proper sense, to denote a “calumniator,” “slanderer,” or “accuser.” It occurs in the same sense in 2 Timothy 3:3, and Titus 2:3. Elsewhere in the New Testament, it is uniformly rendered “devil” (compare notes, Matthew 4:1), and is given to Satan, the prince of the fallen angels Matthew 9:34, by way of eminence, as “the accuser;” compare Job 1:6-11 notes, and Revelation 12:10 note. Here it means that they should not be women who were in the habit of calumniating others, or aspersing their character. Mingling as they would with the church, and having an opportunity to claim acquaintance with many, it would be in their power, if they chose, to do great injury to the character of others.
Sober - notes, 1 Timothy 3:2.
Faithful in all things - To their husbands, to their families, to the church, to the Saviour.
Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife - notes, 1 Timothy 3:2.
Ruling their children and their own houses well - notes, 1 Timothy 3:4-5.
For they that have used the office of a deacon well - Margin, “ministered.” The Greek word is the same as deacon, meaning ministering, or serving in this office. The sense would be well expressed by the phrase, “deaconizing well.” The “word” implies nothing as to the exact nature of the office.
Purchase to themselves - Procure for themselves; see this word explained in the notes on Acts 20:28.
A good degree - The word here used (βαθμός bathmos) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, “a step,” as of a stair; and the fair meaning is that of going up higher, or taking an additional step of dignity, honor, or standing. So far as the “word” is concerned, it may mean either an advance in office, in dignity, in respectability, or in influence. It cannot certainly be inferred that the apostle referred to a higher grade of “office;” for all that the word essentially conveys is, that, by exercising this office well, a deacon would secure additional respectability and influence in the church. Still, it is possible that those who had performed the duties of this office well were appointed to be preachers. They may have shown so much piety, prudence, good sense, and ability to preside over the church, that it was judged proper that they should be advanced to the office of bishops or pastors of the churches. Such a course would not be unnatural. This is, however, far from teaching that the office of a deacon is a subordinate office, “with a view” to an ascent to a higher grade.
And great boldness in the faith - The word here rendered “boldness” properly refers to boldness “in speaking;” see it explained in the Acts 4:13 note; 2 Corinthians 3:12 note; Philippians 1:20 note. But the word is commonly used to denote boldness of any kind - openness, frankness, confidence, assurance; John 8:13, John 8:26; Mark 8:32; 2 Corinthians 7:4. As it is here connected with “faith” - “boldness in the faith” - it means, evidently, not so much public speaking, as a manly and independent exercise of faith in Christ. The sense is, that by the faithful performance of the duties of the office of a deacon, and by the kind of experience which a man would have in that office, he would establish a character of firmness in the faith, which would show that he was a decided Christian. This passage, therefore, cannot be fairly used to prove that the deacon was “a preacher,” or that he belonged to a grade of ministerial office from which he was regularly to rise to that of a presbyter.
These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly - That is, he hoped to come there to give instructions personally, or to finish, himself, the work which he had commenced in Ephesus, and which had been interrupted by his being driven so unexpectedly away. This verse proves that the apostle Paul did not regard Timothy as the permanent diocesan bishop of Ephesus. Would any Episcopal bishop write this to another bishop? If Timothy were the permanent prelate of Ephesus, would Paul have intimated that he expected soon to come and take the work of completing the arrangements there into his own hands? In regard to his expectation of going soon to Ephesus, see the notes on 1 Timothy 1:3; compare the Introduction to the Epistle.
But if I tarry long - Paul appears to have been uncertain how long circumstances would require him to be absent. He expected to return, but it was possible that his hope of returning soon would be disappointed.
That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself - That is, that he might have just views about settling the affairs of the church.
In the house of God - This does not mean in a place of public worship, nor does it refer to propriety of deportment there. It refers rather to the church as a body of believers, and to converse with them. The church is called the “house of God,” because it is that in which he dwells. Formerly, his unique residence was in the temple at Jerusalem; now that the temple is destroyed, it is the church of Christ, among his people.
Which is the church of the living God - This seems to have been added to impress the mind of Timothy with the solemn nature of the duty which he was to perform. What he did pertained to the honor and welfare of the church of the living God, and hence he should feet the importance of a correct deportment, and of a right administration of its affairs.
The pillar and ground of the truth - There has been no little diversity of opinion among critics whether this phrase is to be taken in connection with the preceding, meaning that “the church” is the pillar and ground of the truth; or whether it is to be taken in connection with what follows, meaning that the principal support of the truth was the doctrine there referred to - that God was manifest in the flesh. Bloomfield remarks on this: “It is surprising that any who have any knowledge or experience in Greek literature could tolerate so harsh a construction as that which arises from the latter method.” The more natural interpretation certainly is, to refer it to the former; and this is supported by the consideration that it would then fall in with the object of the apostle. His design here seems to be, to impress Timothy with a deep sense of the importance of correct conduct in relation to the church; of the responsibility of those who presided over it; and of the necessity of care and caution in the selection of proper officers.
To do this, he reminded him that the truth of God - that revealed truth which he had given to save the world - was entrusted to the church; that it was designed to preserve it pure, to defend it, and to transmit it to future times; and that, therefore, every one to whom the administration of the affairs of the church was entrusted, should engage in this duty with a deep conviction of his responsibility. On the construction of the passage, Bloomfield Rosenmuller, and Clarke, may be consulted. The word “pillar” means a column, such as that by which a building is supported, and then any firm prop or support; Galatians 2:9; Revelation 3:12. If it refers to the church here, it means that that is the support of the truth, as a pillar is of a building. It sustains it amidst the war of elements, the natural tendency to fall, and the assaults which may be made on it, and preserves it when it would otherwise tumble into ruin.
Thus it is with the church. It is entrusted with the business of maintaining the truth, of defending it from the assaults of error, and of transmitting it to future times. The truth is, in fact, upheld in the world by the church. The people of the world feel no interest in defending it, and it is to the church of Christ that it is owing that it is preserved and transmitted from age to age. The word rendered “ground” - ἑδραίωμα hedraiōma - means, properly, a basis, or foundation. The figure here is evidently taken from architecture, as the use of the word pillar is. The proper meaning of the one expression would be, that truth is supported by the church. as an edifice is by a pillar; of the other, that the truth rests “on” the church, as a house does on its foundation. It is that which makes it fixed, stable, permanent; that on which it securely stands amidst storms and tempests; that which renders it firm when systems of error are swept away as a house that is built on the sand; compare notes on Matthew 7:24-27.
The meaning then is, that the stability of the truth on earth is dependent on the church. It is owing to the fact that the church is itself founded on a rock, that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, that no storms of persecution can overthrow it, that the truth is preserved from age to age. Other systems of religion are swept away; other opinions change; other forms of doctrine vanish; but the knowledge of the great system of redemption is preserved on earth unshaken, because the church is preserved, and because its foundations cannot be moved. This does not refer, I suppose, to creeds and confessions, or to the decisions of synods and councils; but to the living spirit of truth and piety “in” the church itself. As certainly as the church continues to live, so certain it will be that the truth of God will be perpetuated among people.
And, without controversy - Undeniably, certainly. The object of the apostle is to say that the truth which he was about to state admitted of no dispute.
Great is the mystery - On the meaning of the word “mystery,” see the notes on 1 Corinthians 2:7. The word means that which had been hidden or concealed. The meaning here is not that the proposition which he affirms was mysterious in the sense that it was unintelligible, or impossible to be understood; but that the doctrine respecting the incarnation and the work of the Messiah, which had been so long “kept hidden” from the world, was a subject of the deepest importance. This passage, therefore, should not be used to prove that there is anything unintelligible, or anything that surpasses human comprehension, in that doctrine, whatever may be the truth on that point; but that the doctrine which he now proceeds to state, and which had been so long concealed from mankind, was of the utmost consequence.
Of godliness - The word “godliness” means, properly, piety, reverence, or religiousness. It is used here, however, for the gospel scheme, to wit, that which the apostle proceeds to state. This “mystery,” which had “been hidden from ages and from generations, and which was now manifest” Colossians 1:26, was the great doctrine on which depended “religion” everywhere, or was that which constituted the Christian scheme.
God - Probably there is no passage in the New Testament which has excited so much discussion among critics as this, and none in reference to which it is so difficult to determine the true reading. It is the only one, it is believed, in which the microscope has been employed to determine the lines of the letters used in a manuscript; and, after all that has been done to ascertain the exact truth in regard to it, still the question remains undecided. It is not the object of these notes to enter into the examination of questions of this nature. A full investigation may be found in Wetstein. The question which has excited so much controversy is, whether the original Greek word was Θεὸς Theos, “God,” or whether it was ὅς hos, “who,” or ὁ ho, “which.” The controversy has turned, to a considerable degree, on the reading in the “Codex Alexandrinus;” and a remark or two on the method in which the manuscripts in the New Testament were written, will show the true nature of the controversy.
Greek manuscripts were formerly written entirely in capital letters, and without breaks or intervals between the words, and without accents; see a full description of the methods of writing the New Testament, in an article by Prof. Stuart in Dr. Robinson’s Biblotheca Sacra, No. 2, pp. 254ff The small, cursive Greek letters which are now used, were not commonly employed in transcribing the New Testament, if at all, until the ninth or tenth centuries. It was a common thing to abridge or contract words in the manuscript. Thus, πρ would be used for πατερ pater, “father;” κς for κυριος kurios, “Lord;” Θς for Θεος Theos, “God,” etc. The words thus contracted were designated by a faint line or dash over them. In this place, therefore, if the original uncials (capitals) were Θ¯C¯, standing for Θεὸς Theos, “God,” and the line in the Θ, and the faint line over it, were obliterated from any cause, it would easily be mistaken for OC - ὅς hos - “who.”
To ascertain which of these is the true reading, has been the great question; and it is with reference to this that the microscope has been resorted to in the examination of the Alexandrian manuscript. It is now generally admitted that the faint line “over” the word has been added by some later hand, though not improbably by one who found that the line was nearly obliterated, and who meant merely to restore it. Whether the letter O was originally written with a line within it, making the reading “God,” it is now said to be impossible to determine, in consequence of the manuscript at this place having become so much worn by frequent examination. The Vulgate and the Syriac read it: “who,” or “which.” The Vulgate is, “Great is the sacrament of piety which was manifested in the flesh.” The Syriac, “Great is the mystery of godliness, that he was manifested in the flesh.” The “probability” in regard to the correct reading here, as it seems to me, is, that the word, as originally written, was Θεός Theos - “God.” At the same time, however, the evidence is not so clear that it can be properly used in an argument. But the passage is not “necessary” to prove the doctrine which is affirmed, on the supposition that that is the correct reading. The same truth is abundantly taught elsewhere; compare Matthew 1:23; John 1:14.
Was manifest - Margin, “Manifested.” The meaning is, “appeared” in the flesh.
In the flesh - In human nature; see this explained in the notes on Romans 1:3. The expression here looks as though the true reading of the much-disputed word was “God.” It could not have been, it would seem evident, ὁ ho, “which,” referring to “mystery;” for how could a mystery “be manifested in the flesh?” Nor could it it be ὅς hos, “who,” unless that should refer to one who was more than a man; for how absurd would it be to say that “a man was manifested, or appeared in the flesh!” How else could a man appear? The phrase here means that God appeared in human form, or with human nature; and this is declared to be the “great” truth so long concealed from human view, but now revealed as constituting the fundamental doctrine of the gospel. The expressions which follow in this verse refer to God “as” thus manifested in the flesh; to the Saviour as he appeared on earth, regarded as a divine and human being. It was the fact that he thus appeared and sustained this character, which made the things which are immediately specified so remarkable, and so worthy of attention.
Justified in the Spirit - That is, the incarnate person above referred to; the Redeemer, regarded as God and man. The word “Spirit,” here, it is evident, refers to the Holy Spirit, because:
(1) It is not possible to attach any intelligible idea to the phrase, “he was justified by his own spirit, or soul;”
(2) As the Holy Spirit performed so important a part in the work of Christ, it is natural to suppose there would be some allusion here to him; and,
(3) As the “angels” are mentioned here as having been with him, and as the Holy Spirit is often mentioned in connection with him, it is natural to suppose that there would be some allusion to Him here. The word “justified,” here, is not used in the sense in which it is when applied to Christians, but in its more common signification. It means to “vindicate,” and the sense is, that he was shown to be the Son of God by the agency of the Holy Spirit; he was thus vindicated from the charges alleged against him. The Holy Spirit furnished the evidence that he was the Son of God, or “justified” his claims. Thus he descended on him at his baptism, Matthew 3:16; he was sent to convince the world of sin because it did not believe on him, John 16:8-9; the Saviour cast out devils by him, Matthew 12:28; the Spirit was given to him without measure, John 3:34, and the Spirit was sent down in accordance with his promise, to convert the hearts of people; Acts 2:33. All the manifestations of God to him; all the power of working miracles by his agency; all the influences imparted to the man Christ Jesus, endowing him with such wisdom as man never had before, may be regarded as an attestation of the Holy Spirit to the divine mission of the Lord Jesus, and of course as a vindication from all the charges against him. In like manner, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and his agency in the conversion of every sinner, prove the same thing, and furnish the grand argument in vindication of the Redeemer that he was sent from God. To this the apostle refers as a part of the glorious truth of the Christian scheme now revealed - the “mystery of religion;” as a portion of the amazing records, the memory of which the church was to preserve as connected with the redemption of the world.
Seen of angels - They were attendants on his ministry, and came to him in times of distress, peril, and want; compare Luke 2:9-13; Luke 22:43; Luke 24:4; Hebrews 1:6; Matthew 4:11. They felt an interest in him and his work, and they gladly came to him in his sorrows and troubles. The design of the apostle is to give an impressive view of the grandeur and glory of that work which attracted the attention of the heavenly hosts, and which drew them from the skies that they might proclaim his advent, sustain him in his temptations, witness his crucifixion, and watch over him in the tomb. The work of Christ, though despised by people, excited the deepest interest in heaven; compare notes on 1 Peter 1:12.
Preached unto the Gentiles - This is placed by the apostle among the “great” things which constituted the “mystery” of religion. The meaning is, that it was a glorious truth that salvation might be, and should be, proclaimed to all mankind, and that this was a part of the important truths made known in the gospel. Elsewhere this is called, by way of eminence, “the mystery of the gospel;” that is, the grand truth which had not been known until the coming of the Saviour; see the Ephesians 6:19 note; Colossians 1:26-27; Colossians 4:3 notes. Before his coming, a wall of partition had divided the Jewish and Gentile world. The Jews regarded the rest of mankind as excluded from the covenant mercies of God, and it was one of the principal stumblingblocks in their way, in regard to the gospel, that it proclaimed that all the race was on a level, that that middle wall of partition was broken down, and that salvation might now be published to all people; compare Acts 22:21; Ephesians 2:14-15; Romans 3:22; Romans 10:11-20.
The Jew had no special advantage for salvation by being a Jew; the Gentile was not excluded from the hope of salvation. The plan of redemption was adapted “to man” as such - without regard to his complexion, country, customs, or laws. The blood of Christ was shed for all, and wherever a human being could be found, salvation might be freely offered him. This “is” a glorious truth; and taken in all its bearings, and in reference to the views which then prevailed, and which have always more or less prevailed about the distinctions made among people by caste and rank, there is scarcely anymore glorious truth connected with the Christian revelation, or one which will exert a wider influence in promoting the welfare of man. It is a great privilege to be permitted to proclaim that all people, in one respect - and that the most important - are on a level; that they are all equally the objects of the divine compassion; that Christ died for one as really as for another; that birth, wealth, elevated rank, or beauty of complexion, contribute nothing to the salvation of one man; and that poverty, a darker skin, slavery, or a meaner rank, do nothing to exclude another from the favor of his Maker.
Believed on in the world - This also is mentioned among the “great” things which constitute the mystery of revealed religion. But why is this regarded as so remarkable as to be mentioned thus? In point of importance, how can it be mentioned in connection with the fact that God was manifest in the flesh; that he was vindicated by the Holy Spirit; that he was an object of intense interest to angelic hosts, and that his coming had broken down the walls which had separated the world, and placed them now on a level? I answer, perhaps the following circumstances may have induced the apostle to place this among the remarkable things evincing the greatness of this truth:
(1) The strong “improbability” arising from the greatness of the “mystery,” that the doctrines respecting the incarnate Deity would be believed. Such is the incomprehensible nature of many of the truths connected with the incarnation; so strange does it seem that God would become incarnate; so amazing that he should appear in human flesh and blood, and that the incarnate Son of God should die, that it might be regarded as a wonderful thing that such a doctrine had in fact obtained credence in the world. But it was a glorious truth that all the natural improbabilities in the case had been overcome, and that people had accredited the announcement.
(2) The strong improbability that his message would be believed, arising from the “wickedness of the human heart.” Man, in all his history, had shown a strong reluctance to believe any message from God, or any truth whatever revealed by him. The Jews had rejected his prophets and put them to death Matthew 23:0; Acts 7:0; and had at last put his own Son - their Messiah - to death. Man everywhere had shown his strong inclination to unbelief. There is in the human soul no elementary principle or germ of faith in God. Every man is an unbeliever by nature - an infidel first; a Christian afterward; an infidel as he comes into the world; a believer only as he is made so by grace. The apostle, therefore, regarded it as a glorious fact that the message respecting the Saviour “had been” believed in the world. It overcame such a strong and universal reluctance to confide in God, that it showed that there was more than human power in operation to overcome this reluctance.
(3) The extent to which this had been done may have been a reason why he thought it worthy of the place which he gives it here. It had been embraced, not by a few, but by thousands in all lands where the gospel had been published; and it was proof of the truth of the doctrine, and of the great power of God, that such high mysteries as those relating to redemption, and so much opposed to the natural feelings of the human heart, should have been embraced by so many. The same thing occurs now. The gospel makes its way against the native incredulity of the world, and every new convert is an additional demonstration that it is from God, and a new illustration of the greatness of this mystery.
Received up into glory - To heaven; compare John 17:5; see the notes on Acts 1:9. This is mentioned as among the “great” or remarkable things pertaining to “godliness,” or the Christian revelation, because it was an event which had not elsewhere occurred, and was the crowning grandeur of the work of Christ. It was an event that was fitted to excite the deepest interest in heaven itself. No event of more importance has ever occurred in the universe, of which we have any knowledge, than the re-ascension of the triumphant Son of God to glory after having accomplished the redemption of a world.
In view of the instructions of this chapter, we may make the following remarks.
1. The word “bishop” in the New Testament never means what is now commonly understood by it - “a Prelate.” It does not denote here, or anywhere else in the Now Testament, one who has charge over a “diocese” composed of a certain district of country, embracing a number of churches with their clergy.
2. There are not “three orders” of clergy in the New Testament. The apostle Paul in this chapter expressly designates the characteristics of those who should have charge of the church, but mentions only two, “bishops” and “deacons.” The former are ministers of the word, having charge of the spiritual interests of the church; the other are deacons, of whom there is no evidence that they were appointed to preach. There is no “third” order. There is no allusion to anyone who was to be “superior” to the “bishops” and “deacons.” As the apostle Paul was expressly giving instructions in regard to the organization of the church, such an omission is unaccountable if he supposed there was to be an order of “prelates” in the church. Why is there no allusion to them? Why is there no mention of their qualifications? If Timothy was himself a prelate, was he to have nothing to do in transmitting the office to others? Were there no special qualifications required in such an order of people which it would be proper to mention? Would it not be “respectful,” at least, in Paul to have made some allusion to such an office, if Timothy himself held it?
3. There is only one order of preachers in the church. The qualifications of that order are specified with great minuteness and particularity, as well as beauty; 1 Timothy 3:2-7. No man really needs to know more of the qualifications for this office than could be learned from a prayerful study of this passage.
4. A man who enters the ministry “ought” to have high qualifications; 1 Timothy 3:2-7. No man “ought,” under any pretence, to be put into the ministry who has not the qualifications here specified. Nothing is gained in any department of human labor, by appointing incompetent persons to fill it. A farmer gains nothing by employing a man on his farm who has no proper qualifications for his business; a carpenter, a shoemaker, or a blacksmith, gains nothing by employing a man who knows nothing about his trade; and a neighborhood gains nothing by employing a man as a teacher of a school who has no qualifications to teach, or who has a bad character. Such a man would do more mischief on a farm, or in a workshop, or in a school, than all the good which he could do would compensate. And so it is in the ministry. The true object is not to increase the “number” of ministers, it is to increase the number of those who are “qualified” for their work, and if a man has not the qualifications laid down by the inspired apostle, he had better seek some other calling.
5. The church is the guardian of the truth; 1 Timothy 3:15. It is appointed to preserve it pure, and to transmit it to future ages. The world is dependent on it for any just views of truth. The church has the power, and is entrusted with the duty, of preserving on earth a just knowledge of God and of eternal things; of the way of salvation; of the requirements of pure morality: to keep up the knowledge of that truth which tends to elevate society and to save man. It is entrusted with the Bible, to preserve uncorrupted, and to transmit to distant ages and lands. It is bound to maintain and assert the truth in its creeds and confessions of faith. And it is to preserve the truth by the holy lives of its members, and to show in their walk what is the appropriate influence of truth on the soul. Whatever religious truth there is now on the earth, has been thus preserved and transmitted, and it still devolves on the church to bear the truth of God on to future times, and to diffuse it abroad to distant lands.
6. The closing verse of this chapter 1 Timothy 3:16 gives us a most elevated view of the plan of salvation. and of its grandeur and glory. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to condense more interesting and sublime thought into so narrow a compass as this. The great mystery of the incarnation; the interest of angelic beings in the events of redemption; the effect of the gospel on the pagan world; the tendency of the Christian religion to break down every barrier among people, and to place all the race on a level; its power in overcoming the unbelief of mankind; and the re-ascension of the Son of God to heaven, present a series of most wonderful facts to our contemplation. These things are found in no other system of religion, and these are worthy of the profound attention of every human being. The manifestation of God in the flesh! What a thought! It was worthy of the deepest interest among the angels, and it “claims” the attention of people, for it was for human beings and not for angels that he thus appeared in human form; compare notes on 1 Peter 1:12.
7. How strange it is that “man” feels no more interest in these things! God was manifest in the flesh for his salvation, but he does not regard it Angels looked upon it with wonder: but man, for whom he came, feels little interest in his advent or his work! The Christian religion has broken down the barrier among nations, and has proclaimed that all people may be saved; yet the mass of people look on this with entire unconcern. The Redeemer ascended to heaven, having finished his great work; but how little interest do the mass of mankind feel in this! He will come again to judge the world; but the race moves on, regardless of this truth; unalarmed at the prospect of meeting him; feeling no interest in the assurance that he “has” come and died for sinners, and no apprehension in view of the fact that he will come again, and that they must stand at his bar. All heaven was moved with his first advent, and will be with his second; but the earth regards it with unconcern. Angelic beings look upon this with the deepest anxiety, though they have no personal interest in it; man, though all his great interests are concentrated on it, regards it as a fable, disbelieves it all, and treats it with contempt and scorn. Such is the difference between heaven and earth - angels and human beings!
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20