Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 TIMOTHY - Chapter 3

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1 Timothy 3

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  PASTORAL CHARGE  2, 1 -- 3, 13 (continued)

3, 1-7:  Qualities of a Bishop.  One of the principal objects of Timothy's mission is evidently to provide for the good organization of the Ephesian church.  It is not a question of the first organization (Acts 20, 17 ff), but of a reorganization, with leaders capable of nullifying the disastrous activity of the false teachers and remedying the disorders already consequent on it.  The danger of these false teachers is predominant in Paul's thought and inspired his instructions.

1 f.  In the Commentary on Titus 1, 7 it is shown that presbyter and bishop are convertible terms in the Pastoral Epistles.  Married but once: there is here a question of forbidding not merely simultaneous polygamy, but even successive legitimate marriages.  The command is a prohibition to select as bishop one who had married more than once.  Priestly celibacy as a law is of later ecclesiastical institution.  From 1 Cor. we know it was a matter of counsel even in apostolic times.

3, 8-13:  Qualities of a Deacon.  V.11 deals more likely not with women in general, nor even wives of deacons, but with those who are to be promoted to the office of deaconess.  These were women assigned certain activities favoring the gospel, which are not precisely defined, but were mainly of the material order.  Thus deaconesses did not preach.  They may have assisted at baptism of women, cared for the sick, etc.  The case of Phoebe (Rom. 16, 1-2) as well as the present passage seems to imply the existence of deaconesses in St. Paul's lifetime.  The Apostle does not designate precisely the functions of deacons and deaconesses.


3, 14-16:  Pillar and Mainstay of the Truth.  Abandoning the pastoral theme, St. Paul returns to polemics, with this passage serving as transition.    16.  The gospel itself is the mystery of godliness, because godliness is its peculiar benefit.  The content of this mystery is briefly described in a rhythmic composition generally believed to be a fragment of a liturgical hymn.  It is the Christ, who has been manifested in the flesh in His appearance on earth in the Incarnation (Phil. 2, 5).  His justification in the Spirit is His Resurrection (Rom. 1, 3 f).  He appeared to the Angels in His Ascension, and His elevation in glory includes His glorification on earth in the preaching and faith, as well as the glory He enjoys in heaven seated at the right hand of His Father.

Confraternity Bible:

Qualities of a Bishop  1* This saying is true: If anyone is eager for the office of bishop, he desires a good work.  2* A bishop then, must be blameless, married but once, reserved, prudent, of good conduct, hospitable, a teacher, 3 not a drinker or a brawler, but moderate, not quarrelsome, not avaricious.  4 He should rule well his own household, keeping his children under control and perfectly respectful.  5 For if a man cannot rule his own household, how is he to take care of the church of God?  6 He must not be a new convert, lest he be puffed up with pride and incur the condemnation passed on the devil.  7 Besides this he must have a good reputation with those who are outside, that he may not fall into disgrace and into a snare of the devil.

Qualities of a Deacon  8* Deacons also must be honorable, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for base gain, 9 but holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience.  10 And let them first be tried, and if found without reproach let them be allowed to serve.  11 In like manner let the women be honorable, not slanderers, but reserved, faithful in all things.  12 Deacons should be men who have been married but once, ruling well their children and their own households.  13 And those who have fulfilled well this office will acquire a good position and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Pillar and Mainstay of the Truth  14 I write these things to thee hoping to come to thee shortly, 15 but in order that thou mayest know, if I am delayed, how to conduct thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and mainstay of the truth.  16 And obviously great is the mystery of godliness: which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared to angels, was preached to Gentiles, believed in the world, taken up in glory.


1: Bishop: represents a Greek word meaning "overseer," and "presbyter" another Greek word meaning, "elder."  In St. Paul "bishop" and "presbyter" seem to be used convertibly, and probably priests are here included under the term "bishops."

2: Married but once: priestly celibacy as a law is of later ecclesiastical institution.  No condemnation of second marriages in general is intended.

8: Deacons: though this term is used in other places in the general sense of minister or servant, here it clearly refers to the sacramental office and order.