1 Timothy 3:1-13
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.…
I. QUALIFICATIONS OF A BISHOP. Preliminary direction to Timothy. "Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." The Scripture idea of the episcopate is that of oversight, viz. of souls. A bishop was one who had the duty of overseeing a congregation in spiritual matters, being, in respect of gravity and dignity, called presbyter or elder. Timothy was to encourage any who sought to enter into the episcopate. The saying in Christian circles was to be relied on, "If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." It is not a sinecure, but a work or employment taxing the energies. Its excellence lies in its having respect to men's highest interests. But if he was to encourage entrance into the episcopate, he was not to do so without regard to the proper qualifications which he has laid down for him. "The bishop therefore must be without reproach." This is a general qualification. A minister is not to be chosen without regard to character. If a man gives just ground for reproach - has not character behind his gifts - he is not fitted for the office of a minister, which is to influence men in the production of Christian character. "The husband of one wife." Some high authorities take the meaning to be that the contraction of a second marriage, even after the death of the first wife, was a disqualification for the office of a bishop. But this forbidding to ecclesiastics of what in the New Testament is expressly permitted to others, seems to belong to a post-apostolic asceticism. The language seems to be directed against "any deviation from morality in respect of marriage, whether by concubinage, polygamy, or improper second marriages." "Temperate, sober-minded, orderly." One who is to be chosen as a minister must be temperate, i.e. must have command of his desires and his temper. He must also be sober-minded, i.e. must bring sound sense to the consideration of all matters, He must also be orderly, i.e. must have a love for good rules. "Given to hospitality." He must be raised above all meanness toward those whom he ought to entertain. How is he to commend the generosity of God, if he is niggardly in his own dealings? "Apt to teach." This is a special qualification. With all that is righteous and sensible and even lovely in his character, he must have skill in teaching - in opening the Word, and in bringing it to bear for all its uses on the wants of men. However excellent a man's character is, he is not fit for being a minister if he cannot skillfully handle Divine truth. "No brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious." A disqualification is being quarrelsome over wine, and consequently coming to blows. He must, on the other hand, be gentle; i.e. while he is to be thoroughly reasonable, he is to be kindly and forbearing, waiving even his rights for the sake of gaining his end as a minister, viz. the spiritual good of those with whom he deals. It is a disqualification to be contentious, i.e. to be in one's element, and to give way to unholy feelings, in fighting. "No lover of money." It is a further disqualification to have a groveling desire for money, instead of having a feeling of responsibility with regard to its proper uses. "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity." This is in one view an ordinary qualification, inasmuch as it is what is expected of every one who is in authority in a house. It is expected even of a man who is not qualified to teach that he can rule well his own house, i.e. lay down proper rules for his household, and see to their being carried out. The apostle's idea of ruling the house well, is the having the children in subjection with all gravity. "In the phrase, 'all gravity,' he is looking at a kind of obedience that touches the deepest notes of principle and character. Contrary to this, there is an obedience without principle, which is obedience with all levity; that which is paid to mere will and force; that which is another name for fear; that which is bought by promises and paid by indulgences; that which makes a time-server, or a coward, or a lying pretender, as the case may be, and not a Christian. This latter - that which makes a Christian - is the aim of all true government, and should never be out of sight for an hour." Parenthesis showing how a bishop ought to be able to rule his own house well. "But if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?" A bishop has to manage men. The Church of God is the family enlarged and heightened. If one fails in the lower sphere, how, can he be expected to succeed in the higher sphere? Even Confucius had before this time said, "It is impossible that be who knows not how to govern and reform his own family should rightly govern and reform a people." "Not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil." By a novice we are to understand a recent convert to Christianity. Such a one being necessarily inexperienced in the truth, and also in the evil of his own heart, was unfitted for office. And the putting him into office was fitted to have a bad effect upon him. The introducer of evil into the universe was in high position, but gave way to a feeling of pride. How this feeling operated is described by a word, which means enveloped with smoke, as if that were the kind of atmosphere that pride throws around a person. In some matter in which his rank was involved, under the clouding of pride, instead of bending to the will of God, which would have been his approval, he asserted his self-importance, which was his condemnation. So the novice, instead of being weighed down under the responsibilities of office, is more likely, under the clouding of pride occasioned by his elevation, to fall into the condemnation of the devil. "Moreover he must have good testimony from them that are without lest he fall into reproach; and the snare of the devil." He must be able to command the respect of non-Christians, especially for his acting in a way consistent with his professions. For if he falls so low as not to be respected by those, then this want of respect is sure to be used as a snare by Satan for his destruction.
II. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS. "Deacons in like manner." Deacons, originally the almoners of the Church, came to be regarded as assistants of the eiders, having the oversight of the temporal affairs as these of the spiritual affairs of a congregation. "Must be grave." They must feel the responsibility of life, and especially the responsibility connected with their office. "Not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre." Of the three disqualifications, the first has respect to a temptation connected with the desire for public favor, the second has respect to a temptation connected with the enjoyment of hospitality, the third has respect to a temptation connected with the use of office. Those who serve God in the management of the temporal affairs of a congregation must be free from obsequiousness, from intemperate habits, from avarice. "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience." Their duty to the truth, regarded as the object of faith which was formerly concealed from men, was not to teach it, but to enshrine it in a holy life, characterized by the power which has to do with the production of it. "And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they be blameless." The deacons, no more than the bishops, were to be put suddenly into office. Opportunity was to be given for their being proved, and, if found to be blameless in the estimation of those who had opportunity of watching their conduct, they were to be appointed to service.
III. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONESSES. "Women in like manner." The apostle has not yet given all the qualifications of the deacons; we must, therefore, think of these women as closely associated with the diaconate. We might think of the wives of the deacons, but, as nothing has been said about the wives of bishops, and as by the insertion of the phrase, "in like manner," we are led to think of the election of women to office, it is better to think of deaconesses. We have an example of a deaconess in Phoebe of Cenchrea, mentioned in Romans 16:1. They were probably assistants in the same way as the deacons, in so far as they had the care of the sick and the destitute. "Must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things." It was fitting that those who were engaged in such service should be women who were serious, or free from frivolity. They were not to go about from house to house as bearers of evil reports. They were to be temperate, or free from all unholy excitement. And they were to be faithful in all things, not abusing their charge.
IV. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS RESUMED. "Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own house well." In these two particulars the apostle requires the same qualifications of the deacons as of the bishops. "For they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." The old translation is preferable here - "purchase to themselves a good degree." The idea is that they obtain for themselves a step, or get higher up. In those days this might mean their elevation to the episcopate. They also obtain Christian boldness, such as was especially required in those days of peril. For getting up, and the encountering of greater difficulties, go together. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.