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Bible Commentaries

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

1 Timothy 3

Verses 1-16

Chapter 3

THE LEADERS OF THE CHURCH ( 1 Timothy 3:1-7 )

3:1-7 There is a saying which everyone must believe--if a man aspires to the office of overseer in the Church, it is a fine work on which his heart is set. An overseer must be a man against whom no criticism can be made; he must have been married only once; he must be sober, prudent, well-behaved, hospitable and possessed of an aptitude for teaching. He must not over-indulge in wine, nor must he be the kind of man who assaults others, but he must be gentle and peaceable, and free from the love of money. He must manage his own house well, keeping his children under control with complete dignity. (If a man does not know how to manage his own house, how can he take charge of the congregation of God?) He must not be a recent convert, in case he becomes inflated with a sense of his own importance, and so fall into the same condemnation as the devil did. He must have earned the respect of those outside the Church, that he may not fall into reproach and into the snare of the devil.

This is a very important passage from the point of view of Church government. It deals with the man whom the King James and Revised Standard Versions call the bishop, and whom we have translated overseer.

In the New Testament there are two words which describe the principal office-bearers of the Church, the office-bearers who were to be found in every congregation, and on whose conduct and administration its welfare depended.

(i) There was the man who was called the elder (presbuteros, G4245) . The eldership is the most ancient of all offices within the Church. The Jews had their elders, and they traced their origin to the occasion when Moses, in the desert wanderings, appointed seventy men to help him in the task of controlling and caring for the people ( Numbers 11:16). Every synagogue had its elders, and they were the real leaders of the Jewish community. They presided over the worship of the synagogue; they administered rebuke and discipline where these were necessary; they settled the disputes which other nations would have taken to the law-courts. Amongst the Jews the elders were the respected men who exercised a fatherly oversight over the spiritual and material affairs of every Jewish community. But more nations than the Jews had an eldership. The presiding body of the Spartans was called the gerousia ( G1087) , which means the board of the elder men. The Parliament of Rome was called the senate, which comes from senex, which means an old man. In England the men who looked after the affairs of the community were called the aldermen, which means the elder men. In New Testament times every Egyptian village had its village elders who looked after the affairs of the community. The elders had a long history, and they had a place in the life of almost every community.

(ii) But sometimes the New Testament uses another word, episkopos ( G1985) , which the King James and Revised Standard Versions translate bishop, and which literally means overseer, or superintendent. This word, too, has a long and honourable history. The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures, uses it to describe those who were the taskmasters, who were over the public works and public building schemes ( 2 Chronicles 34:17). The Greeks use it to describe the men appointed to go out from the mother city to regulate the affairs of a newly founded colony in some distant place. They use it to describe what we might call commissioners appointed to regulate the affairs of a city. The Romans use it to describe the magistrates appointed to oversee the sale of food within the city of Rome. It is used of the special delegates appointed by a king to see that the laws he had laid down were carried out. Episkopos ( G1985) always implies two things; first, oversight over some area or sphere of work and second, responsibility to some higher power and authority.

The great question is: What was the relationship in the early Church between the elder, the presbuteros ( G4245) , and the overseer, the episkopos ( G1985) ?

Modern scholarship is practically unanimous in holding that in the early Church the presbuteros ( G4245) and the episkopos ( G1985) were one and the same. The grounds for that identification are: (a) Elders were everywhere appointed. After the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in all the Churches they had founded ( Acts 14:23). Titus is instructed to appoint and ordain elders in all the cities of Crete ( Titus 1:5). (b) The qualifications of a presbuteros ( G4245) and of an episkopos ( G1985) are to all intents and purposes identical ( 1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9). (c) At the beginning of Philippians, Paul's greetings are to the bishops and the deacons ( Php_1:1 ). It is quite impossible that Paul would have sent no greetings at all to the elders, who, as we have already seen, were in every Church; and therefore the bishops and the elders must be one and the same body of people. (d) When Paul was on his last journey to Jerusalem, he sent for the elders of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus ( Acts 20:17), and in the course of his talk to them he says that God has made them episkopoi ( G1985) to feed the Church of God ( Acts 20:28). That is to say, he addresses precisely the same body of men first as elders and second as bishops or overseers. (e) When Peter is writing to his people, he talks to them as an elder to elders ( 1 Peter 5:1), and then he goes on to say that their function is oversight of the flock of God ( 1 Peter 5:2), and the word he uses for oversight, is the verb episkopein ( G1983) from which episkopos ( G1985) comes. All the evidence from the New Testament goes to prove that the presbuteros ( G4245) and the episkopos ( G1985) , the elder and the bishop or overseer, were one and the same person.

Two questions arise. First, if they were the same, why were there two names for them? The answer is that presbuteros ( G4245) described these leaders of the Church as they personally were. They were the elder men, the older and respected members of the community. Episkopos ( G1985) , on the other hand, described their function, which was to oversee the life and the work of the Church. The one word described the man; the other described his task.

The second question is--if the elder and the bishop were originally the same, how did the bishop become what he did? The answer is simple. Inevitably the body of the elders would acquire a leader. Someone to lead would be essential and would inevitably emerge. The more organized the Church became, the more such a figure would be bound to arise. And the elder who stood out as leader came to be called the episkopos ( G1985) , the superintendent of the Church. But it is to be noted that he was simply a leader amongst equals. He was in fact the elder whom circumstances and personal qualities had combined to make a leader for the work of the Church.

It will be seen that to translate episkopos ( G1985) by the word bishop in the New Testament now gives the word a misleading meaning. It is better to translate it overseer or superintendent.


This passage is further interesting in that it tells us something of the appointment and the duties of the leaders of the Church.

(i) They were formally set apart for their office. Titus was to ordain elders in every Church ( Titus 1:5). The office-bearer of the Church is not made an office-bearer in secret; he is set apart before the eyes of men; the honour of the Church is publicly delivered into his hands.

(ii) They had to undergo a period of testing. They had first to be proved ( 1 Timothy 3:10). No one builds a bridge or a piece of machinery with metal which has not been tested. The Church might do well to be more strict than she is in the testing of those chosen for leadership.

(iii) They were paid for the work which they had to do. The labourer was worthy of his hire ( 1 Timothy 5:18). The Christian leader does not work for pay, but, on the other hand, the duty of the Church which chose him for the work is to supply him with the means to live.

(iv) They were liable to censure ( 1 Timothy 5:19-22). In the early Church the office-bearer had a double function. He was a leader of the Church; but he was also the servant of the Church. He had to answer for his stewardship. No Christian office-bearer must ever consider himself answerable to no one; he is answerable to God and to the people over whom God gave him the task of presiding.

(v) They had the duty of presiding over the Christian assembly and of teaching the Christian congregation ( 1 Timothy 5:17). The Christian office-bearer has the double duty of administration and instruction. It may well be that one of the tragedies of the modern Church is that the administrative function of the office-bearer has usurped the teaching function almost entirely. It is, for instance, sad to see how few elders of the Church are actively engaged in the teaching work of Sunday schools.

(vi) The office-bearer was not to be a recent convert. Two reasons are given for this advice. The first is quite clear. It is "in case he becomes inflated with a sense of his own importance." The second is not so clear. It is, as the Revised Standard Version has it, "lest he fall into the condemnation of the devil." There are three possible explanations of that strange phrase. (a) It was through his pride that Lucifer rebelled against God and was expelled from heaven. And this may simply be a second warning against the danger of pride. (b) It may mean that, if the too quickly advanced convert becomes guilty of pride, he gives the devil a chance to level his charges against him. A conceited Church office-bearer gives the devil a chance to say to critics of the Church: "Look! There's your Christian! There's your Church member! That's what an office-bearer is like!" (c) The word diabolos ( G1228) has two meanings. It means "Devil," and that is the way in which the Revised Standard Version has taken it here; but it also means "slanderer." It is in fact the word used for slanderer in 1 Timothy 3:11, where the women are forbidden to be slanderers. So then this phrase may mean that the recent convert, who has been appointed to office, and has acquired, as we say, a swelled head, gives opportunity to the slanderers. His unworthy conduct is ammunition for those who are ill-disposed to the Church. No matter how we take it, the point is that the conceited Church official is a bad debt to the Church.

But, as the early Church saw it, the responsibility of the office-bearer did not begin and end in the Church. He had two other spheres of responsibility, and if he failed in them, he was bound also to fail in the Church.

(i) His first sphere of duty was his own home. If a man did not know how to rule his own household, how could he engage upon the task of ruling the congregation of the Church? ( 1 Timothy 3:5). A man who had not succeeded in making a Christian home could hardly be expected to succeed in making a Christian congregation. A man who had not instructed his own family could hardly be the right man to instruct the family of the Church.

(ii) The second sphere of responsibility was the world. He must be "well thought of by outsiders" ( 1 Timothy 3:7). He must be a man who has gained the respect of his fellow-men in the day-to-day business of life. Nothing has hurt the Church more than the sight of people who are active in it, whose business and social life belies the faith which they profess and the precepts which they teach. The Christian office-bearer must first of all be a good man.

THE CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN LEADER ( 1 Timothy 3:1-7 continued)

We have just seen that the Christian leader must be a man who has won the respect of all. In this passage there is a great series of words and phrases describing his character; and it will be worth while to look at each in turn. Before we do that it will be interesting to set beside them two famous descriptions by great heathen thinkers of the good leader's character. Diogenes Laertius (7: 116-126) hands down to us the Stoic description. He must be married; he must be without pride; he must be temperate; and he must combine prudence of mind with excellence of outward behaviour. A writer called Onosander gives us the other. He must be prudent, self-controlled, sober, frugal, enduring in toil, intelligent, without love of money, neither young nor old, if possible the father of a family, able to speak competently, and of good reputation. It is interesting to see how the pagan and the Christian descriptions coincide.

The Christian leader must be a man against whom no criticism can be made (anepileptos, G423) . Anepileptos is used of a position which is not open to attack, of a life which is not open to censure, of an art or technique which is so perfect that no fault can be found with it, of an agreement which is inviolable. The Christian leader must not only be free from such faults as can be assailed by definite charges; he must be of such fine character as to be even beyond criticism. The Rheims version of the New Testament translates this Greek word by the very unusual English word irreprehensible, unable to be found fault with. The Greeks themselves defined the word as meaning "affording nothing of which an adversary can take hold." Here is the ideal of perfection. We will not be able fully to attain to it; but the fact remains that the Christian leader must seek to offer to the world a life of such purity that he leaves no loophole even for criticism of himself.

The Christian leader must have been married only once. The Greek literally means that he must be "the husband of one wife." Some take this to mean that the Christian leader must be a married man, and it is possible that the phrase could mean that. It is certainly true that a married man can be a recipient of confidences and a bringer of help in a way that a single man cannot be, and that he can bring a special understanding and sympathy to many a situation. Some few take it to mean that the Christian leader cannot marry a second time, even after his wife's death. In support they quote Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:1-40. But in its context here we can be quite certain that the phrase means that the Christian leader must be a loyal husband, preserving marriage in all its purity. In later days the Apostolic Canons laid it down: "He who is involved in two marriages, after his baptism, or he who has taken a concubine, cannot be an episkopos ( G1985) , a bishop."

We may well ask why it should be necessary to lay down what looks obvious. We must understand the state of the world in which this was written. It has been said, and with much truth, that the only totally new virtue which Christianity brought into this world was chastity. In many ways the ancient world was in a state of moral chaos, even the Jewish world. Astonishing as it may seem, certain Jews still practised polygamy. In the Dialogue with Trypho, in which Justin Martyr discusses Christianity with a Jew, it is said that "it is possible for a Jew even now to have four or five wives" (Dialogue with Trypho, 134). Josephus can write: "By ancestral custom a man can live with more than one wife" (Antiquities of the Jews, 17: 1, 2).

Apart altogether from these unusual cases, divorce was tragically easy in the Jewish world. The Jews had the highest ideals of marriage. They said that a man must surrender his life rather than commit murder, idolatry or adultery. They had the belief that marriages are made in heaven. In the story of the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca it is said: "The thing comes from the Lord" ( Genesis 24:50). This was taken to mean that the marriage was arranged by God. So it is said in Proverbs 19:14: "A prudent wife is from the Lord." In the story of Tobit, the angel says to Tobit: "Fear not for she was prepared for thee from the beginning" ( Tob_6:17 ). The Rabbis said: "God sits in heaven arranging marriages." "Forty days before the child is formed a heavenly voice proclaims its mate."

For all that, the Jewish law allowed divorce. Marriage was indeed the ideal but divorce was permitted. Marriage was "inviolable but not indissoluble." The Jews held that once the marriage ideal had been shattered by cruelty or infidelity or incompatibility, it was far better to allow a divorce and to permit the two to make a fresh start. The great tragedy was that the wife had no rights whatsoever. Josephus says: "With us it is lawful for a husband to dissolve a marriage, but a wife, if she departs from her husband, cannot marry another, unless her former husband put her away" (Antiquities of the Jews, 15: 8, 7). In a case of divorce by consent, in the time of the New Testament, all that was required was two witnesses, and no court case at all. A husband could send his wife away for any cause; at the most a wife could petition the court to urge her husband to write her a bill of divorcement, but it could not compel him even to do that.

In face of that situation, things came to such a pass that "women refused to contract marriages, and men grew grey and celibate." A brake was put upon this process by legislation introduced by Simon ben Shetah. A Jewish wife always brought her husband a dowry which was called Kethubah. Simon enacted that a man had unrestricted use of the Kethubah, so long as he remained married to his wife, but on divorce he was absolutely liable to repay it, even if he had "to sell his hair" to do so. This checked divorce; but the Jewish system was always vitiated by the fact that the wife had no rights.

In the heathen world things were infinitely worse. There, too, according to Roman law, the wife had no rights. Cato said: "If you were to take your wife in adultery, you could kill her with impunity, without any court judgment; but if you were involved in adultery, she would not dare to lift a finger against you, for it is unlawful." Things grew so bad, and marriage grew so irksome, that in 131 B.C. a well-known Roman called Metellus Macedonicus made a statement which Augustus was afterwards to quote: "If we could do without wives, we would be rid of that nuisance. But since nature has decreed that we can neither live comfortably with them, nor live at all without them, we must look rather to our permanent interests than to passing pleasure."

Even the Roman poets saw the dreadfulness of the situation. "Ages rich in sin," wrote Horace, "were the first to taint marriage and family life. From this source the evil has overflowed." "Sooner will the seas be dried up," said Propertius, "and the stars be raft from heaven, than our women reformed." Ovid wrote his famous, or infamous, book The Art of love, and never from beginning to end mentions married love. He wrote cynically: "These women alone are pure who are unsolicited, and a man who is angry at his wife's love affair is nothing but a rustic boor." Seneca declared: "Anyone whose affairs have not become notorious, and who does not pay a married woman a yearly fee, is despised by women as a mere lover of girls; in fact husbands are got as a mere decoy for lovers." "Only the ugly," he said, "are loyal." "A woman who is content to have only two followers is a paragon of virtue." Tacitus commended the supposedly barbarian German tribes for "not laughing at evil, and not making seduction the spirit of the age." When a marriage took place, the home to which the couple were going was decorated with green bay leaves. Juvenal said that there were those who entered on divorce before the bays of welcome had faded. In 19 B.C. a man named Quintus Lucretius Vespillo erected a tablet to his wife which said: "Seldom do marriages last until death undivorced; but ours continued happily for forty-one years." The happy marriage was the astonishing exception.

Ovid and Pliny had three wives; Caesar and Antony had four; Sulla and Pompey had five; Herod had nine; Cicero's daughter Tullia had three husbands. The Emperor Nero was the third husband of Poppaea and the fifth husband of Statilla Messalina.

It was not for nothing that the Pastorals laid it down that the Christian leader must be the husband of one wife. In a world where even the highest places were deluged with immorality, the Christian Church must demonstrate the chastity, the stability and the sanctity of the Christian home.

THE CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN LEADER ( 1 Timothy 3:1-7 continued)

The Christian leader must be sober (nephalios, G3524) and he must not over-indulge in wine, (paroinos, G3943) . In the ancient world wine was continually used. Where the water supply was very inadequate and sometimes dangerous, wine was the most natural drink of all. It is wine which cheers the hearts of gods and men ( Judges 9:13). In the restoration of Israel she will plant her vineyards and drink her wine ( Amos 9:14). Strong drink is given to those who are ready to perish, and wine to those whose hearts are heavy ( Proverbs 31:6).

This is not to say that the ancient world was not fully alive to the dangers of strong drink. Proverbs speaks of the disaster which comes to the man who looks on the wine when it is red ( Proverbs 23:29-35). Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler ( Proverbs 20:1). There are terrible stories of what happened to people through over-indulgence in wine. There is the case of Noah ( Genesis 9:18-27); of Lot ( Genesis 19:30-38); of Amnon ( 2 Samuel 13:28-29). Although the ancient world used wine as the commonest of all drinks, it used it most abstemiously. When wine was drunk, it was drunk in the proportion of two parts of wine to three parts of water. A man who was drunken would be disgraced in ordinary heathen society, let alone in the Church.

The interesting thing is the double meaning that both words in this section possess. Nephalios ( G3524) means sober, but it also means watchful and vigilant; paroinos ( G3943) means addicted to wine, but it also means quarrelsome and violent. The point that the Pastorals make here is that the Christian must allow himself no indulgence which would lessen his Christian vigilance or soil his Christian conduct.

There follow two Greek words which describe two great qualities which must characterize the Christian leader. He must be prudent (sophron, G4998) and well-behaved (kosmios, G2887) .

We have translated sophron ( G4998) by prudent, but it is virtually untranslatable. It is variously translated of sound mind, discreet, prudent, self-controlled, chaste, having complete control over sensual desires. The Greeks derived it from two words which mean to keep one's mind safe and sound. The corresponding noun is sophrosune ( G4997) , and the Greeks wrote and thought much about it. It is the opposite of intemperance and lack of self-control. Plato defined it as "the mastery of pleasure and desire." Aristotle defined it as "that power by which the pleasures of the body are used as law commands." Philo defined it as "a certain limiting and ordering of the desires, which eliminates those which are external and excessive, and which adorns those which are necessary with timeliness and moderation." Pythagoras said that it was "the foundation on which the soul rests." Iamblichus said that "it is the safeguard of the most excellent habits in life." Euripides said that it was "the fairest gift of God." Jeremy Taylor called it "reason's girdle and passion's bridle." Trench describes sophrosune ( G4997) as "the condition of entire command over the passions and desires, so that they receive no further allowance than that which law and right reason admit and approve." Gilbert Murray wrote of sophron ( G4998) : "There is a way of thinking which destroys and a way which saves. The man or woman who is sophron ( G4998) walks among the beauties and perils of the world, feeling love, joy, anger, and the rest; and through all he has that in his mind which saves. Whom does it save? Not him only, but, as we should say, the whole situation. It saves the imminent evil from coming to be." E. F. Brown quotes in illustration of sophrosune ( G4997) a prayer of Thomas Aquinas which asks for "a quieting of all our impulses, fleshly and spiritual."

The man who is sophron ( G4998) has every part of his nature under perfect control, which is to say that the man who is sophron ( G4998) is the man in whose heart Christ reigns supreme.

The companion word is kosmios ( G2887) , which we have translated well-behaved. If a man is kosmios ( G2887) in his outer conduct it is because he is sophron ( G4998) in his inner life. Kosmios ( G2887) means orderly, honest, decorous. In Greek it has two special usages. It is common in tributes and in inscriptions to the dead. And it is commonly used to describe the man who is a good citizen. Plato defines the man who is kosmios ( G2887) as "the citizen who is quiet in the land, who duly fulfils in his place and order the duties which are incumbent upon him as such." This word has more in it than simply good behaviour. It describes the man whose life is beautiful and in whose character all things are harmoniously integrated.

The leader of the Church must be a man who is sophron ( G4998) , his every instinct and desire under perfect control; he must be a man who is kosmios ( G2887) , his inner control issuing in outward beauty. The leader must be one in whose heart Christ's power reigns and on whose life Christ's beauty shines.

THE CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN LEADER ( 1 Timothy 3:1-7 continued)

The Christian leader must be hospitable (philoxenos, G5382) . This is a quality on which the New Testament lays much stress. Paul bids the Roman Church to "practise hospitality" ( Romans 12:13). "Practise hospitality ungrudgingly to one another," says Peter ( 1 Peter 4:9). In the Shepherd of Hermas, one of the very early Christian writings, it is laid down: "The episkopos ( G1985) must be hospitable, a man who gladly and at all times welcomes into his house the servants of God." The Christian leader must be a man with an open heart and an open house.

The ancient world was very careful of the rights of the guest. The stranger was under the protection of Zeus Xenios, the Protector of Strangers. in the ancient world, inns were notoriously bad. In one of Aristophanes' plays Heracles asks his companion where they will lodge for the night; and the answer is: "Where the fleas are fewest." Plato speaks of the inn-keeper being like a pirate who holds his guests to ransom. Inns tended to be dirty and expensive and, above all, immoral. The ancient world had a system of what were called Guest Friendships. Over generations families had arrangements to give each other accommodation and hospitality. Often the members of the families came in the end to be unknown to each other by sight and identified themselves by means of what were called tallies. The stranger seeking accommodation would produce one half of some object; the host would possess the other half of the tally; and when the two halves fitted each other the host knew that he had found his guest, and the guest knew that the host was indeed the ancestral friend of his household.

In the Christian Church there were wandering teachers and preachers who needed hospitality. There were also many slaves with no homes of their own to whom it was a great privilege to have the right of entry to a Christian home. It was of the greatest blessing that Christians should have Christian homes ever open to them in which they could meet people like-minded to themselves. We live in a world where there are still many who are far from home, many who are strangers in a strange place, many who live in conditions where it is hard to be a Christian. The door of the Christian home and the welcome of the Christian heart should be open to all such.

The Christian leader must be possessed of an aptitude for teaching (didaktikos, G1317) . It has been said that his duty is "to preach to the unconverted and to teach the converted." There are two things to be said about this. It is one of the disasters of modern times that the teaching ministry of the Church is not being exercised as it should. There is any amount of topical preaching and any amount of exhortation; but there is little use in exhorting a man to be a Christian when he does not know what being a Christian means. Instruction is a primary duty of the Christian preacher and leader. The second thing is this. The finest and the most effective teaching is done not by speaking but by being. Even the man with no gift of words can teach, by living in such a way that in him men see the reflection of the Master. A saint has been defined as someone "in whom Christ lives again."

The Christian leader must not be a man who assaults others (plektes, G4131, a striker). That this instruction was not unnecessary is seen in one of the very early regulations of the Apostolic Canons: "A bishop, priest or deacon who smites the faithful when they err, or the unbelievers when they commit injury, and desires by such means as this to terrify them, we command to be deposed; for nowhere hath the Lord taught us this. When he was reviled, he reviled not again, but the contrary. When he was smitten, he smote not again; when he suffered, he threatened not." It will not be likely that any Christian leader will nowadays strike another Christian, but the fact remains that blustering, bullying, irritable, bad-tempered speech or action is forbidden to the Christian.

The Christian leader must be gentle. The Greek is epieikes ( G1933) , another of these completely untranslatable words. The noun is epieikeia ( G1932) and Aristotle describes it as "that which corrects justice" and as that which "is just and better than justice." He said that it was that quality which corrects the law when the law errs because of its generality. What he means is that sometimes it may actually be unjust to apply the strict letter of the law. Trench said that epieikeia ( G1932) means "retreating from the letter of right better to preserve the spirit of right" and is "the spirit which recognizes the impossibility of cleaving to all formal law...that recognizes the danger that ever waits upon the assertion of legal rights, lest they should be pushed into moral wrongs...the spirit which rectifies and redresses the injustice of justice." Aristotle describes in full the action of epieikeia ( G1932) : "To pardon human failings; to look to the law-giver, not to the law; to the intention, not to the action; to the whole, not to the part; to the character of the actor in the long run and not in the present moment; to remember good rather than evil, and the good that one has received rather than the good that one has done; to bear being injured; to wish to settle a matter by words rather than deeds." If there is a matter under dispute, it can be settled by consulting a book of practice and procedure, or it can be settled by consulting Jesus Christ. If there is a matter of debate, it can be settled in law, or it can be settled in love. The atmosphere of many a Church would be radically changed if there was more epieikeia ( G1932) within it.

The Christian leader must be peaceable (amachos, G269) . The Greek word means disinclined to fight. There are people who, as we might put it, are "trigger-happy" in their relationships with other people. But the real Christian leader wants nothing so much as he wants peace with his fellow-men.

The Christian leader must be free from the love of money. He will never do anything simply for profit's sake. He will know that there are values which are beyond all money price.

THE MEN OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE ( 1 Timothy 3:8-10 ; 1 Timothy 3:12-13 )

3:8-10,12,13 In the same way, the deacons must be men of dignity, men who are straight, men who are not given to over-indulgence in wine, men who are not prepared to stoop to disgraceful ways of making money; they must hold the secret of the faith which has been revealed to them with a clear conscience. The deacons too must first of all be put upon probation, and, if they emerge blameless from the test, let them become deacons.... Deacons must be married only once; they must manage their own children and their own homes well. For those who make a fine job of the office of deacon win for themselves a fine degree of honour, and they gain much boldness in their faith in Christ Jesus.

In the early Church the function of the deacons lay much more in the sphere of practical service. The Christian Church inherited a magnificent organization of charitable help from the Jews. No nation has ever had such a sense of responsibility for the poorer brother and sister as the Jews. The synagogue had a regular organization for helping such people. The Jews rather discouraged the giving of individual help to individual people. They preferred that help should be given through the community and especially through the synagogue.

Each Friday in every community two official collectors went round the markets and called on each house, collecting donations for the poor in money and in goods. The material so collected was distributed to those in need by a committee of two, or more if necessary. The poor of the community were given enough food for fourteen meals, that is for two meals a day for the week; but no one could receive from this fund if he already possessed a week's food in the house. This fund for the poor was called the Kuppah, or the basket. In addition to this there was a daily collection of food from house to house for those who were actually in emergency need that day. This fund was called the Tamhui or the tray. The Christian Church inherited this charitable organization, and no doubt it was the task of the deacons to attend to it.

Many of the qualifications of the deacon are the same as for the episkopos ( G1985) . They are to be men of dignified character; they are to be abstemious; they are not to soil their hands with disreputable ways of making money; they have to undergo a test and a time of probation; they must practise what they preach, so that they can hold the Christian. faith with a clear conscience.

One new qualification is added; they are to be straight. The Greek is that they must not be dilogos ( G1351) , and dilogos means speaking with two voices, saying one thing to one and another to another. In The Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan puts into By-ends mouth a description of the people who live in the town of Fair-speech. There is my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-Server, my Lord Fair-speech, after whose ancestors the town was named, Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, Mr. Any-thing; and the parson of the parish, Mr. Two-tongues. A deacon, in his going from house to house, and in his dealing with those who needed charity, had to be a straight man. Again and again he would be tempted to evade issues by a little timely hypocrisy and smooth speaking. But the man who would do the work of the Christian Church must be straight.

It is clear that the man who performs well the office of deacon can look for promotion to the high office of elder, and will gain such a confidence in the faith that he can look any man in the face.


3:11 In the same way, the women must be dignified; they must not be given to slanderous gossip; they must be sober; they must be in all things reliable.

As far as the Greek goes, this could refer to the wives of the deacons, or to women engaged in a similar service. It seems far more likely that it refers to women who are also engaged upon this work of charity. There must have been acts of kindness and of help which only a woman could properly do for another woman. Certainly in the early Church there were deaconesses. They had the duty of instructing female converts and in particular of presiding and attending at their baptism, which was by total immersion.

It was necessary that such women workers should be warned against slanderous gossip and bidden to be absolutely reliable. When a young doctor graduates and before he begins to practise, he takes the Hippocratic oath, and part of that oath is a pledge never to repeat anything that he has heard in the house of a patient, or anything that he has heard about a patient, even if he has heard it on the street. In the work of helping the poor, things might easily be heard and be repeated and infinite damage done. It is not any insult to women that the Pastorals specially forbid gossip to them. In the nature of things a woman runs more risk of gossip than a man. A man's work takes him out into the world; a woman of necessity lives in a narrower sphere and for that very reason has fewer things to talk about. This increases the danger of talking about the personal relationships from which slanderous gossip arises. Whether man or woman, a tale-bearing, confidence-repeating Christian is a monstrous thing.

In Greek civilization it was essential that the women workers of the Church should preserve their dignity. The respectable Greek woman lived in the greatest seclusion; she never went out alone; she never even shared meals with her men folk. Pericles said that the duty of an Athenian mother was to live so retired a life that her name should never be mentioned among men for praise or blame. Xenophon tells how a country gentleman who was a friend of his said about the young wife whom he had just married and whom he dearly loved. "What was she likely to know when I married her? Why, she was not yet fifteen when I introduced her to my house, and she had been brought up always under the strictest supervision; as far as could be managed, she had not been allowed to see anything, hear anything or ask any questions." That is the way in which respectable Greek girls were brought up. Xenophon gives a vivid picture of one of these girl-wives gradually "growing accustomed to her husband and becoming sufficiently tame to hold conversation with him."

Christianity emancipated women; it liberated them from a kind of slavery. But there were dangers. She who was liberated might misuse her new-found freedom; the respectable world might be shocked by such an emancipation; and so the Church had to lay down its regulations. It was by wisely using freedom, and not misusing it, that women came to hold the proud position in the Church which they hold today.


3:14-15 I am writing these things to you, hoping, as I write, to come to you soon. But I am writing, so that, if I am delayed, you may know how to behave yourselves in the household of God, which is the assembly of the living God, and the pillar and buttress of the truth.

Here in one phrase is the reason why the Pastoral Epistles were written; they were written to tell men how to behave within the Church. The word for to behave is anastrephesthai ( G390) ; it describes what we might call a man's walk and conversation. It describes his whole life and character; but it specially describes him in his relationships with other people. As it has been said, the word in itself lays it down that a church member's personal character must be excellent and that his personal relationships with other people should be a true fellowship. A church congregation is a body of people who are friends with God and friends with each other. Paul goes on to use four words which describe four great functions of the Church.

(i) The Church is the household (oikos, G3624) of God. First and foremost it must be a family. In a despatch written after one of his great naval victories, Nelson ascribed his victory to the fact that he "had the happiness to command a band of brothers." Unless a church is a band of brothers it is not a true church at all. Love of God can exist only where brotherly love exists.

(ii) The Church is the assembly (ekklesia, G1577) of the living God. The word ekklesia ( G1577) literally means a company of people who have been called out. It does not mean that they have been selected or picked out. In Athens the ekklesia ( G1577) was the governing body of the city; and its membership consisted of all the citizens met in assembly. But, very naturally, at no time did all attend. The summons went out to come to the Assembly of the City, but only some citizens answered it and came. God's call has gone out to every man; but only some have accepted it; and they are the ekklesia ( G1577) , the Church. It is not that God has been selective. The invitation comes to all; but to an invitation there must be a response.

(iii) The Church is the pillar of the truth (stulos, G4769) . In Ephesus, to which these letters were written, the word pillar would have a special significance. The greatest glory of Ephesus was the Temple of Diana or Artemis. "Great is Diana of the Ephesians" ( Acts 19:28). It was one of the seven wonders of the world. One of its features was its pillars. It contained one hundred and twenty-seven pillars, every one of them the gift of a king. All were made of marble, and some were studded with jewels and overlaid with gold. The people of Ephesus knew well how beautiful a thing a pillar could be. It may well be that the idea of the word pillar here is not so much support--that is contained in buttress--as display. Often the statue of a famous man is set on the top of a pillar that it may stand out above all ordinary things and so be clearly seen, even from a distance. The idea here is that the Church's duty is to hold up the truth in such a way that all men may see it.

(iv) The Church is the buttress (hedraioma, G1477) of the truth. The buttress is the support of the building. It keeps it standing intact. In a world which does not wish to face the truth, the Church holds it up for all to see. In a world which would often gladly eliminate unwelcome truth, the Church supports it against all who would seek to destroy it.

A HYMN OF THE CHURCH ( 1 Timothy 3:16 )

3:16 As everyone must confess, great is the secret which God has revealed to us in our religion:

He who was manifested in the flesh: He who was vindicated by the Spirit: He who was seen by angels: He who has been preached among the nations: He in whom men have believed all over the world: He who was taken up into glory.

The great interest of this passage is that here we have a fragment of one of the hymns of the early Church. It is a setting of belief in Christ to poetry and to music, a hymn in which men sang their creed. We cannot expect in poetry the precision of statement for which we would look in a creed; but we must try to see what each line in this hymn is saying to us.

(i) He who was manifested in the flesh. Right at the beginning it stresses the real humanity of Jesus. It says: "Look at Jesus, and you will see the mind and the heart and the action of God, in a form that men can understand."

(ii) He who was vindicated by the Spirit. This is a difficult line. There are three things it may mean. (a) It may mean that all through his earthly days Jesus was kept sinless by the power of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who gives a man guidance; our error is that we so often refuse his guidance. It was Jesus' perfect submission to the Spirit of God which kept him without sin. (b) It may mean that Jesus' claims were vindicated by the action of the Spirit who dwelt in him. When Jesus was accused by the scribes and Pharisees of effecting cures by the power of the devil, his answer was: "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come upon you" ( Matthew 12:28). The power that was in Jesus was the power of the Spirit, and the mighty acts he performed were the vindication of the tremendous claims which he made. (c) It may be that this is a reference to the Resurrection. Men took Jesus and crucified him as a criminal upon a cross; but through the power of the Spirit he rose again; the verdict of men was demonstrated to be false, and he was vindicated. No matter how we take this line, its meaning is that the Spirit is the power who proved Jesus to be what he claimed to be.

(iii) He who was seen by angels. Again there are three possible meanings. (a) It may be a reference to Jesus' life before he came to earth. (b) It may be a reference to his life on earth. Even on earth the hosts of heaven were looking on at his tremendous contest with evil. (c) It may connect with the belief of all men in the time of Jesus that the air was full of demonic and angelic powers. Many of these powers were hostile to God and to man, and bent on the destruction of Jesus. Paul at least once argued that they were bent on the destruction of Jesus through ignorance, and that Jesus brought to them and to men the wisdom which had been hidden since the world began ( 1 Corinthians 2:7-8). This phrase may mean that Jesus brought the truth even to the angelic and demonic powers who had never known it. However we take it, it means that the work of Jesus is so tremendous that it includes both heaven and earth.

(iv) He who has been preached among the nations. Here we have the great truth that Jesus was the exclusive possession of no race. He was not the Messiah who had come to raise the Jews to earthly greatness, but the Saviour of the whole wide world.

(v) He in whom men have believed all over the world. Here is an almost miraculous truth stated with utter simplicity. After Jesus had died and risen again and ascended to his glory, the number of his followers was one hundred and twenty ( Acts 1:15). All that his followers had to offer was the story of a Galilaean carpenter who had been crucified on a hilltop in Palestine as a criminal. And yet before seventy years had passed that story had gone out to the ends of the earth and men of every nation accepted this crucified Jesus as Saviour and Lord. In this simple phrase there is the whole wonder of the expansion of the Church, an expansion which on any human grounds is incredible.

(vi) He who was taken up into glory. This is a reference to the Ascension. The story of Jesus begins in heaven and ends in heaven. He lived as a servant; he was branded as a criminal; he was crucified on a cross; he rose with the nailprints still upon him; but the end is glory.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". 1956-1959.