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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Timothy 3

Verse 2

1 Timothy 3:2. A bishop then must be blameless, With respect to his moral character. The priests under the law were to be without bodily infirmities, Leviticus 21:16; Leviticus 21:24. The bishops in the Christian church are to be of unblemished hearts and lives, Titus 1:6-56.1.7.—the husband of one wife; that is, "one who has not causelessly divorced his wife, and married another;" much less ought he to have more than one wife at a time. See 1 Timothy 3:12. Some understand the apostle here as prohibiting second marriages in the clergy; but the interpretation above given appears the most just and reasonable.

Which way soever the sentence be interpreted, it plainly condemns the practice of the church of Rome, which allows not bishops or clergy to marry at all: surely that can never be consistent with a bishop's being the husband of one wife.—We have in the course of this commentary, frequently observed, that in the Eastern country there were few houses of public entertainment; and therefore, though hospitality is at all times highly commendable in all, and especially in bishops and ministers of the gospel, there was the more necessity that the houses of bishops should at that time be famed for it, and always open to such as travelled about in order to spread the gospel

Verse 3

1 Timothy 3:3. No striker, &c.— Instead of no striker, Dr. Heylin reads, not violent;—not a lover of contention, or one who has so little government of himself, as passionately to fly out against others.

Verse 4

1 Timothy 3:4-54.3.5. One that ruleth well his own house, One that was a good προισταμενος, president, over his own family: which was one of the qualifications necessary for ο επισκοπος, an inspector or bishop over the church of GOD.

Verse 6

1 Timothy 3:6. Not a novice, &c.— Μη νεοφυτον ; "Not one lately engrafted into the Christian church;" He had said before, 1 Timothy 3:2. That a bishop ought to be one who is apt to teach; and consequently he must have taught for some time as an elder, or filled some office in the church, whereby his aptness to teach might appear. On the phrase "the condemnation of the devil," we would observe that Satan might graft many dangerous temptations not only on the man's pride, but on the evil report which he might have incurred by any scandal before he entered on the ministry; either attempting to draw him to the commission of former evils, from an apprehension that he had very little reputation to lose by a new fall; or weakening his hands in efforts of usefulness, by a fear, that the remembrance of those past irregularities would render his attempts less effectual:—thoughts worthy the consideration of all who design themselves for the ministry; and especially to be recollected, when persons who have been remarkably profligate, are desirous of undertaking it, or returning to it.

Verse 7

1 Timothy 3:7. Lest he fall into reproach, &c.— Lest, the unbelieving Jews or Gentiles being able to blast his reputation, he fall into the reproach and snare of the accuser, for the bad life he led before his conversion. "For the Christian church will flourish or decay very much, according to the character or behaviour of its bishops or pastors." See 1 Thessalonians 4:12.

Verse 9

1 Timothy 3:9. Holding the mystery of the faith, &c.— The deacons were to be such as held the mystery of the pure and unmixed Christian faith, and that held it in a good conscience, and would be ready openly to profess it: men of integrity, and of charity towards both Gentile and Jewish Christians,and who were not for imposing upon the one or the other. See Galatians 2:2. Ephes 1:9 and Ephesians 3:1-49.3.11.

Verse 10

1 Timothy 3:10. Let them use the office, &c.— Let them exercise.

Verse 11

1 Timothy 3:11. Even so must their wives be grave, There was as much reason that this should extend to the wives of bishops also; and as he begins the next verse with let the deacons, that is to say, as well as the bishops, be the husbands of one wife,—perhaps he might so design it. These wives were not to slander any body, and especially not to blast the characters of the poor to their husbands, and so cut them off from the charitable relief of the church. The deacons themselves are required, 1Ti 3:8 not to be sordidly covetous; and here their wives are ordered to be faithful in all things. These orders might be given, partly, to prevent their being tempted, or falling into the temptation of embezzling the public money. See Acts 6:1. &c.

Verse 13

1 Timothy 3:13. Purchase to themselves a good degree, Acquire for themselves an honourable degree, [that of presbyter or bishop,] and great assurance in preaching the Christian faith. See Heylin. The apostle alludes here to the practice of electing the deacons from the best among the laity; the priests or elders from the best among the deacons; and the rulers or bishops from the best among the priests or elders.—Where the unbelieving Jews were so virulent, and the Gentiles so much exasperated by Demetrius and his company, there was a necessity for great boldness and fortitude; especially in the officers of the Christian church, who are generally the first exposed to persecution.

Verse 15

1 Timothy 3:15. The house of God, which is the church, &c.— Dr. Benson renders this, that thou, who art the ground and pillar of the truth, mightest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the church of God. Dr. Doddridge observes, that though many good critics refer this descriptive clause to Timothy, agreeably to that figure by which St. Peter is called a pillar, Galatians 2:9. (compare Revelation 3:12.) yet he thinks, had this been the construction, the accusative case would have been used to agree with the word σε, understood; and therefore he chooses to read the sentence as follows: "That so the whole system of evangelical truth may be considered as resting on this pillar and basis, (as the word εδραιωμα may signify;) that thou mayest know how it becomes thee to converse in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth: 1 Timothy 3:16. And confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness, namely, what follows; that God was manifested, &c."—Bengelius and others understand the passage nearly in the same manner.

Verse 16

1 Timothy 3:16. God was manifest in the flesh, &c.— See the parallel passages: The Word, that was God, dwelt among us; and we have seen his glory, John 1:1; John 1:14. He was manifested, and came in the flesh, who was the Son of God, 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:8; 1 John 4:2. He who was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, was made in the likeness of men, Philippians 2:6-50.2.7. He who is over all, God blessed for ever, was also of the seed of David according to the flesh, Romans 9:5.—He was justified by the Spirit, as doing those miracles on earth, by which he justified his mission against all the accusations of the Jews, by the Spirit of God, Mat 12:28 being declared to be the Son of God with power, by the Spirit of holiness, Rom 1:3-4 by sending down that Spirit after his ascension into heaven, Act 2:33 which he had promised to his disciples upon earth, and by which the world was convinced of his righteousness, John 16:10.—He was seen of the angels, who at his entrance into the world did worship him, Heb 1:6 who celebrated his birth, and gave notice of it to the shepherds, Luke 2:9; Luk 2:13 who ministered to him in the desart, Mat 4:11 and in his agonies, Luke 22:43; Luk 24:4 who were present at his resurrection, and attended him at his ascension into heaven, Acts 1:10.—The whole history of the gospel shews, that he was preached to the Gentiles, and believed on in the world.—And, lastly, he was received up into heaven, and sat at the right hand of Majesty in glory, Mark 16:19. Luke 24:51.Acts 1:2; Acts 1:2; Acts 1:11.

Inferences.—What a high esteem should we have of the churches which God has erected in our world—churches, which he, as the living God, animates by his Spirit, and dwells in as in his own house! What suitable officers has he appointed to attend their spiritual and temporal concerns! and what admirable directions has he given concerning them, that no person unqualified may be chosen to such important stations, and none may misbehave in them! How good and honourable, and yet laborious a work is it, to have the oversight of souls and their spiritual concerns! but how many are the excellent qualifications necessary for it! Persons called to this office, ought to be skilful in the work of righteousness, not raw upstarts, but fit to teach others, lest they be puffed up with pride, which was the sin and ruin of the devil: they should be men of blameless morals, of prudence, faithfulness, and gravity, generosity and affability, in every relation in life; keeping the families and children under their care in good order, and governing their own passions and appetites, tongues and hands, with moderation and decency, lest they fall into reproach, and Satan and his emissaries take an advantage against them. And in how many things should deacons, together with their wives, copy after them? They should hold the mystery of the faith in a good conscience, and be very exact in their morals: and the more diligent, faithful, prudent and compassionate they are in discharging the duties of their trust, the higher honour and esteem they will rise to in the church, and the more courageous will they grow in the profession of their faith in Christ. Happy souls, that are enabled to act up to all these characters and duties in their respective stations! but how careful should they be, that the church may not sink for want of having the truth of the gospel for its foundation and support! Oh the unfathomable depth, importance, and glory of the great mystery of godliness, as it shines forth in God manifested in the flesh to make atonement for sin; raised from the dead for the justification of his person and cause, and of believers in him; beheld, witnessed to, and adored by the holy angels in his ascension to heaven; preached with wide extent to the Gentile world, and believed on by multitudes of them, who received him in a glorious manner, suitable to his own exaltation, as God-man Mediator on his throne!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Timothy being left to preside over and regulate the affairs of the Ephesian church, the apostle gives him directions concerning those who should be ordained to ministerial offices among them.

This is a true saying, If a man, inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, desire the office of a bishop, or overseer of the church of Christ, he desireth a good work: the post is most honourable and important, yet withal most laborious, and requires singular qualifications for the right discharge thereof. A bishop then must, (1.) Be blameless; his morals irreproachable, and his character able to bear the nicest scrutiny. (2.) If he be not single, let him be the husband of one wife; who has never given a divorce in order to marry again, nor lives in polygamy. (3.) He must be vigilant over the souls committed to his care, and habitually resident among them. (4.) Sober, moderate in the use of every creature comfort, and temperate in all things. (5.) Of good behaviour; courteous, engaging, prudent, edifying. (6.) Given to hospitality; ready to relieve strangers, and assist the necessitous. (7.) Apt to teach; furnished with Christian knowledge and experience, and possessing the faculty of communicating his sentiments with ease and propriety for the improvement of others. (8.) Not given to wine; not merely no drunkard, but never sitting long at the cups, or loving the glass. (9.) No striker; not passionate or quarrelsome. (10.) Not greedy of filthy lucre, and suspected of attachment to earthly gains and advantages; but (11.) Patient; a pattern of meekness and long-suffering. (12.) Not a brawler; clamorous, contentious, and talkative: nor, (13.) covetous; seeking the fleece more than to feed the flock, and serving for hire, rather than for the love of men's souls. (14.) One that ruleth well his own house, with due discipline and authority; having his children in subjection with all gravity: for if a man know not how to rule his own house, and so behave there as to preserve order and decorum, how shall he take care of the church of God, where so much difficulty may be expected, and so much more prudence is necessary? (15.) Not a novice, and but lately acquainted with, and converted to, the faith of Christ; lest being lifted up with pride, thrusting himself arrogantly into an office for which he is not qualified, and ambitious of human honour, or popular applause, he fall into the condemnation of the devil, and sink the deeper from the height whereunto he affected to soar. (16.) Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are without; his conduct unsullied with any thing which would be an obstruction to his ministry; lest he fall into reproach, and grow contemptible, and into the snare of the devil.

Ere any man appears a candidate for the ministry, let him solemnly consider these things. It is not ease, or honour, or gain, or a genteel employment, that should lead us into the service: these are motives dishonourable, unhallowed, impious. Zeal for God, disinterested love of souls, must warm our bosoms, and unreserved devotedness of ourselves to Christ must mark each step. And, Who is sufficient for these things, may we well say? The best qualified will be most conscious how short they come, and be looking constantly up to him who hath promised, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:20.

2nd, We have,
1. The character of the deacons, whose office it was chiefly to take care of the outward matters of the church, assist the presbyters in their ministerial duties, provide for the poor, and manage the public stock.
(1.) They must be grave, men of venerable deportment. (2.) Not double-tongued; warping the truth to please in different companies, and speaking with dissimulation. (3.) Not given to much wine, but persons of exemplary temperance. (4.) Not greedy of filthy lucre, lest they be tempted to embezzle the church's stock. (5.) Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience; cleaving steadily to the simplicity of the gospel doctrines, and adorning them by a becoming conversation. (6.) And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless; having undergone a proper examination, and being approved, let them be invested with their office. (7.) Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, avoiding all divorce and polygamy; ruling their children and their own houses well; setting them a good example, and maintaining due order and regularity. For they that have used the office of a deacon well, with fidelity and diligence, true to the trust committed unto them, purchase to themselves a good degree of honour and respect in the church, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus; God blessing such fidelity with an increase of grace, and greater openness and freedom in the profession of the gospel before men.

2. The character of the deacons' wives. Even so must their wives be grave, in manners, dress, speech, and deportment: not slanderers; speaking evil of persons behind their backs, and sowing discord in the church: sober, free from excess: faithful in all things, that they may be a credit to their husbands, and adorn their station.

3rdly, Though he hoped to be with Timothy at Ephesus shortly, yet, lest the Lord should call him elsewhere, he had sent the above directions. These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, and arrive not so soon as I purpose, I have sent this epistle, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth; which last words some refer to the church, where the truth is held forth as an inscription written on a pillar, and maintained with all steadfastness: others to Timothy himself, who was a firm pillar in that church: but perhaps, best of all, they may be referred to Christ himself, the living God, abiding in his own temple, and its true foundation and support. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, especially in the following particulars: God was manifest in the flesh, and took our nature upon him: justified in the Spirit, when by his resurrection he was declared free from every charge, and God's justice fully satisfied: seen of angels, when, triumphant, he ascended to the throne of majesty on high amid their acclamations: preached unto the Gentiles, as a Saviour to the uttermost, and freely inviting them to partake of all the blessings of his gospel: believed on in the world, both by Jews and Gentiles, notwithstanding the ignominy of his cross: received up into glory, to possess the reward of his sufferings. Note; (1.) The all-sufficiency of the atonement of Jesus depends upon the divine glory of his person. He who suffered on the cross was very God as well as man. (2.) This is among the mysteries of godliness, where reason must bow down, and faith adore.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.