1 Timothy 3
Vv 1-13: The qualifications outlined in this section are
required of all brethren, but the presence of the required qualifications must
especially be assured in all chosen to lead and serve the ecclesia. A serving
brother must avoid anything that could reflect adversely on the Truth, or
discourage his brethren, or cause the weak to stumble. All work in the Truth is
to be aspired to in the true spirit of serving God most fully and acceptably,
but such work and positions have great added responsibilities.
These are God's direct commands, and it is vitally important
that we weigh them fully when selecting serving brethren, or when selected to be
Vv 1-7: 3:1-7: The word "bishop" (KJV) may to many minds
conjure up a false notion. Those whose minds have been influenced by the
Catholic and Protestant traditions think of "bishops" as great and powerful men,
wearing luxurious robes, and dwelling in immense palaces and cathedrals.
However, this type of "bishop" is vastly different from what Paul intended by
the NT word sometimes translated here and elsewhere as "bishop". (Note in this
connection Christ's words about John the Baptist's modest clothing and manner --
The NT word is "episcopes" -- literally an 'overseer' (as in
NIV) or superintendent. In the common usage of the word, "overseer" and "elder"
are different names for the same class of persons. In 1Pe 5:1,2 Peter addresses
the elders among the brethren, instructing them to "feed the flock of God...
taking the oversight thereof..." The oversight of the ecclesia refers to the
duty of the overseer (episcopes). This same word appears in Heb 12:15, where it
is translated "looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God". Thus
the bishop is to be a watchman -- keeping careful watch over the ecclesia and
taking action against any tendencies toward error or wrong behavior.
A point might be stressed here, since we have introduced the
term "elder". Age or long experience in the Truth can be good qualifications.
However, age or long years in the Truth by themselves are not always a mark of
an elder. As Elihu put it in Job 32:6-9: "Great men are not always wise: neither
do the aged (always) understand judgement."
In "feeding the flock" (1Pe 5:2) the bishop performs the
office of a pastor (or shepherd), feeding his charges from the pure word of
Truth, and leading them out of danger. There is really only one true "Shepherd
and Bishop" -- and this is Christ (1Pe 2:25). But others designated as bishops
must follow his example, just as Peter obeyed the Lord's command, "Feed my
sheep" (John 21:16,17).
A bishop in the first century was entrusted by God with some
measure of responsibility and authority over the ecclesia. In Jerusalem there
were some whom Paul called "rulers" (Heb 13:7,17,24) -- whom their brethren were
to obey. (Since no one today is directly appointed by the Holy Spirit and
judging from the ecclesial mistakes of the past we must be very careful to
examine what even 'elders' say.)
Also, any with the privilege and responsibility of being a
'ruler' (in its present restricted sense) should heed carefully Jesus' words in
Luke 22:26,27: "He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he
that is chief, as he that doth serve... I am among you as he that serveth."
Thus the bishops were leaders of the ecclesia, answering at
the present time most closely to the ecclesial arranging brethren. Bishops were
overseers and shepherds of the flock. In the following analysis of these verses
we shall learn more of both their duties and the characteristics they should
show forth. As to the qualifications of bishops we may note that what is
insisted upon in this Scripture, and in the corresponding passage in Titus, is
character. The apostle Paul does not require an overseeing elder to be
well-educated in the wisdom of this world. Nor does he require him to be a
successful and shrewd businessman (although his ability and qualifications to
manage ecclesial business must be considered). Neither must he be a man who has
flourished in his profession or otherwise obtained outside prominence. A bishop
need not even be a polished speaker. But what Paul does insist upon is spotless
character and a good report.
A TRUSTWORTHY SAYING: See Lesson, Sayings of faith in Pastorals.
IF ANYONE SETS HIS HEART ON BEING AN OVERSEER: A
brother should desire the office as a means of serving and glorifying God. A
brother should seek to serve voluntarily, willingly, without constraint, with a
ready mind (1Pe 5:2). He should not shrink from rendering a service for which he
is qualified. Neither should he fear reprisals from the non-Christian community
against ecclesial leaders (a great threat in Paul's time, but scarcely at all
today). If he were to hold back his service due to some false sense of modesty,
he would in effect be burying his talent and hiding his light under a bushel.
Nevertheless he must also serve with no thought of reward ("not for filthy
lucre" -- 1Pe 5:2) nor of personal ambition. Let those who have a passion for
this work realize the seriousness involved and examine themselves on the basis
of the following qualifications. If they qualify, with God's grace, let them
serve with zeal -- if not, let them suppress the desire.
A NOBLE TASK: Or "good work" (AV). The idea of a good
work is really 'a noble, fine or excellent work'. A righteous person would
desire the office as a good work, not as a good honour or position: "But watch
thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the WORK of an evangelist, make full
proof of thy ministry" (2Ti 4:5).
The office of an elder or bishop (overseer) in the days of
Paul was often a difficult and dangerous position. It involved much labor; it
was full of risk; it meant a severe and painful existence; it meant suffering
the accusations and reproaches of jealous men. Yet from the standpoint of a true
servant of God, it was a great and honorable work.
Of what did the work consist? The bishop was to make frequent
decisions in ecclesial business affairs. The bishop was in a position to "save
souls", that is, to turn men from their sins and put them back on the right
track (Pro 11:30; Jam 5:19, 20). The bishop might speak publicly and privately
to the brethren, for comfort, warning, exhortation, and support (1Th 5:14), "to
stir up pure minds by way of remembrance" (2Pe 3:1) and to "provoke (incite) to
love and good works" (Heb 10:24). Generally the bishop had as his special
responsibility the perfection and edification (building up) of the saints (Eph
4:12). He was commissioned to "tend (feed) the flock of God" (1Pe 5:2), to "lift
up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees" (Heb 12:12).
Again, there is frequent exhortation in these Pastoral Letters
(more than in Paul's other letters) to maintain good works and for men like
Timothy and Titus to be examples of them (1Ti 4:12,16).
V 2: This v presupposes the existence of overseers or
bishops in Ephesus where Timothy was. Overseers were also known in Crete where
Titus resided. Furthermore, James, one of the elders or overseers at Jerusalem,
was a respected leader whose counsel and opinion was often sought (Acts 12:17;
15:13; 21:18). It is safe to say that the overseers were recognized leaders in
all the first century ecclesias. (Paul's first letter to Timothy and his letter
to Titus stand together in contrast to 2Ti. 1Ti and Titus are much more
concerned with ecclesial organization, procedure, and activity; 2Ti, like Phm
and 2Jo and 3Jo, is more of a strictly personal nature than the other two
Pastorals. So it is understandable that it contains no reference to
ABOVE REPROACH: Lit, "one who cannot be laid hold of,
not open to censure, above reproach" (cf 1Ti 5:7). Truly Solomon says, "A little
folly in him that is in reputation is like the stink of dead flies in good
ointment" (Ecc 10:1). Nowhere do minor faults stand out greater than when they
appear in prominent men. First of all then, and most importantly, a bishop must
be a man to whom no just exception may be taken, by anyone, for any
THE HUSBAND OF BUT ONE WIFE: The phrase has been the
center of some disagreement among commentators. It may indicate that there were
some Christians as late as 60 AD who had several wives under the permission of
Mosaic of Roman laws, and who were allowed to keep them in this early period of
transition. It seems almost certain that such brethren had married more than one
wife before they accepted the Truth. The fact, however, that such men were
baptized and received into fellowship indicates that they were accepted as the
Truth found them and were not required to sever any existing marriage ties as a
condition of baptism. No restrictions were placed upon such men except that they
could not hold the office of a bishop.
Other commentators feel (wrongly, it seems) that this is a
command that elders may have only one wife for all time, that is, that they may
not remarry if their first wife should die. (JT writes of Tertullian, a bishop
of the early apostasy, who flourished about 100 years after the apostle John.
Among heresies either introduced or given formal acceptance by this man was the
disapproval of such second marriages: Eur 1:437; cp Mosheim's "Ecclesiastical
History" 83, 84.) But there is no Scriptural command or precedent for this.
There is just as good reason for a widower to marry as for a bachelor to marry
The most logical and simplest explanation of this passage is
as follows: The Greek phrase is "a man of one woman", or a faithful husband, not
guilty of any indiscretion. In the midst of very lax Greek standards of marriage
and adultery, a bishop must be very careful to stand apart and to remain
faithful to his wife. He must give no appearance (even if innocent) of following
the prevailing trends of immorality. If we view this phrase in this light then
this phrase is consistent with 1Ti 5:9, where it is said certain women should
have been the "wife of one man". (At no time were women permitted to have
several husbands. And this could not mean that a woman who had been widowed
twice was any less worthy of care simply because of her two marriages. It must
mean instead that she should have been wholly faithful to each of her husbands
It is also a possibility that Paul has divorce in mind.
Divorce was as common in Paul's day as it is today. In this view, a brother who
was divorced and remarried, for whatever reason, would be excluded from any
'official' position of service in the ecclesia -- although being received into
Note the contrast between first century Christianity and the
apostasy which was to arise. One had the healthy, God-given attitude that
marriage was honorable; the other commanded the unnatural (for most) condition
of celibacy to its bishops (1Ti 4:3).
TEMPERATE: Or "vigilant" (AV). The word means to be
"wide awake, watchful, discerning and aware, concerned for the needs and the
dangers in an ecclesia". An overseer or bishop must be a man capable of seeing
danger at a distance and a man able and willing to warn his brethren. A bishop
must not be afraid to expose and fight the evil practices and deceptions which
may arise in the last days (2Ti 3:1-5). In Eze 33 we read of Ezekiel's
commission as "a watchman unto the house of Israel" (v 7). There God outlined
his duties. If he saw danger coming he was to sound the alarm (v 3). But if
Ezekiel saw approaching trouble and neglected to warn his brethren, then he was
held responsible: "If the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet,
and the people not be warned... their blood will I require at the watchman's
hand" (v 6).
There are "overseers" in the Christadelphian body today who
are not performing their duties as "watchmen". All brethren (and especially
overseers) must be vigilant. We hear so often that we must watch the 'signs of
the times'. But many look at the signs of today, which tell of the nearness of
Christ's return, without making any real effort to be ready when he does come.
It is not enough just to be aware of the political "signs of the times" and
their relation to the world around us. We must also be aware of the "signs of
the times" inside the brotherhood today: (1) a growing looseness in doctrine and
especially practice; (2) a blurring of the lines between the ecclesia and the
world: "eating and drinking with the drunken" (Mat 24:49); (3) a respect for the
world's "science" and learning; (4) a desire to prosper materially; (5) a
tendency to "smite the fellowservants" (Mat 24:49); (6) a growing sense of
self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency and complacency; and (7) a decrease in
keen anticipation and prayer for Christ's return: "My lord delayeth his coming".
This list could go on and on. And we must warn our brethren of
these dangers from within: "Cry aloud and spare not, lift up thy voice like a
trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their
sins" (Isa 58:1).
Those who hold the Truth in its purity should be the "trumpet
of God, giving a clear sound to prepare all the brethren for the last days of
increased trouble and error. But "if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who
shall prepare himself to the battle?" (1Co 14:8).
SELF-CONTROLLED: Or "sober" (AV). The word means grave,
self-restrained and self-controlled, not excitable or impulsive or flippant or
silly. The word is variously translated: "sober-minded" (RV) and "discreet" (the
same word as translated in Tit 2:5). It is also rendered "of sound mind". Like a
sound and healthy body, nourished and built up in the Truth, the mind is
directed and motivated by clear, controlled decisions based on the Truth in the
Again, the overseer must not only be "vigilant" concerning the
signs of the times, but he must also interpret their warning to better prepare
his brethren for Christ's return and the judgment: "Therefore let us not sleep,
as do others: but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the
night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of
faith and love: and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (1Th 5:6-8).
Finally, the bishop must watch not only those in his charge,
but he must carefully examine himself as well: "Take heed unto thyself (1Ti
RESPECTABLE: "Self-controlled" is related to inward
feeling; "respectable" to outward conduct. Together, both of these
characteristics give a complete, balanced picture.
"Respectable" suggests: orderly in outward public appearance;
decent and correct; well-mannered; open and communicative; courteous and
considerate of others. The true brother of Christ must be consistent throughout,
having no spot or blemish. Even in small details the bishop must reflect the
example of Christ. Often we view service to God as a number of great acts,
expansive gestures, intermingled with a great many more acts done only for
ourselves. We must get out of this notion. We must understand that everything we
do is to be motivated by our love for God and for others; that everything we do
be done as remembering that we are in the presence of God, and that it be
HOSPITABLE: Lit, "a lover of strangers", one who is
happy and eager to care for others. Lodging strangers was one of the good works
to be done by widows (1Ti 5:10). And Paul commands that we "distribute to the
necessity of the saints, be given to hospitality" (Rom 12:13: See also Rom 16:2;
1Pe 4:9), "for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb 13:2). Paul
writes to Philemon, fully expecting this brother to provide him a lodging when
he comes (Phm 22). John writes to "the well-beloved Gaius", remembering his
ministrations in this same regard (3Jo 1:1,5). In the first century travel
through the Roman Empire was quite hazardous and a traveler was very glad to
find friendly lodging on his journeys. Today we are not called upon very often
to aid strangers, but we do have the frequent opportunity to entertain brethren.
One of the unique aspects of the Truth is that brethren may travel thousands of
miles to visit other Christadelphians, whom they do not know, or scarcely know,
and with whom they may have very little in common in external matters and yet
their bonds in the Truth, their common love for the things of their Lord draw
them together as if they were old friends. There is nothing more beautiful in
this world than to experience this kind of love and helpfulness and
consideration among brethren, founded wholly on their love for God. It is the
fulfillment and reciprocation of God's love for us: "Bear ye one another's
burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2). "Inasmuch as ye have done
it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Mat
ABLE TO TEACH: The Gr word is used only here and in 2
Timothy 2:24 in the NT. It signifies being able and ready at all times to teach
others, enthusiastic in the Word. Must the elder be a prominent and skilled
speaker? It is probable that in Paul's day most speaking and teaching was
informal and more in the nature of conversation as opposed to oratory. And in
our day it is not necessary for an elder to possess a polished delivery or a
professional speaking voice. But it seems that he must certainly have the mental
aptitude to give a good, ready answer to a question concerning the Truth -- and
the foresight and initiative to seek out those who most need instruction.
The bishop must be ready to teach. It seems that the
qualifications of this verse follow a sort of sequence: The bishop must first be
vigilant, sober, and of a good behavior. The development of these qualities is
not the only preparation for teaching. But he must not begin teaching without
these qualifications. For a class teacher, better to have a conservative and
sober brother (who may not be elegant and refined) than a flashy, wordy leader
whose personal life is suspect.
There is so much of beauty in God's word; every chapter, every
verse abounds in lessons for us. In 2Ti 2:23,24 Paul instructs his young student
to avoid foolish and unlearned questions that only arouse strife. There are so
many useful things to teach that doubtful, fanciful and sensational ideas may
wisely be discarded. The servant of God must be "apt to teach", but he should
not dispense doubtful interpretations. He should teach the Word in its
simplicity; seeing that those taught receive the pure milk of the Word, before
going on. (See the note on "godly edifying" -- 1Ti 1:4).
If the overseers are to be ready always to teach, then others
should be ready always to learn. We should be engaged in teaching and learning
much more often than just at our weekly Bible classes. The rewards of Bible
study do not come in five minutes, or even in five days. If there is lack of
serious and prolonged effort and application to this book, then expectation of
true knowledge and any real profit is in vain.
The implication of these principles is that any
Christadelphian who, over a lengthy period of time, gives more leisure time and
effort to the mastery of some other subject, or to the acquisition of some other
skill stands self-condemned by that very thing. This may sound harsh, but no
amount of excuse-making can evade this stark truth.
If the Bible really is the only book in the world to have come
to us directly from God, then it demands and deserves more and better attention
than any other; than all other books. Is such a view unrealistic? How can it be?
Paul wrote that "all Scripture... is profitable" (2Ti 3:16), and in another
place he described it as the "Word of God, which effectually worketh in them
that believe" (1Th 2:13) for sanctification and cleansing (Eph 5:26). If Paul
was correct, then there is a transforming and guiding power in this book which
we must harness to our lives. We must attempt to find elders to teach us and our
children properly. We cannot afford to neglect the teaching of God's
NOT GIVEN TO DRUNKENNESS: Of course a bishop should not
indulge excessively in strong drink. Liquor relaxes the inhibitions and causes
its user to do things which he would not normally do. (The Bible has some
terrible stories of what has happened to people through over-indulgence in wine:
Noah in Gen 9:18-27; Lot in Gen 19:30-38; Amnon in 2Sa 13:28,29). An intoxicated
person is governed by the lusts of the flesh rather than by a consideration of
God's laws. (Use of drugs -- including marijuana -- must also be strictly
avoided, for they are intoxicating in effect).
Also, an overseer should not be concerned with banquets and
social affairs and places of worldly entertainment. He must maintain a firmly
conservative attitude toward the behavior of the world, which is growing
continually worse around him. He must be a firm pillar to which younger brethren
in doubt may seek for an example. An immoral atmosphere and worldly friends can
be just as intoxicating as liquor. (Taken in small amounts, worldly involvement
may not seem harmful; but a little association leads to greater excesses, until
their victims are trapped in a sort of moral "drunkenness".
Going further, it may be said that any false doctrine or any
wrong activity becomes a kind of drug turning one's mind from a true worship and
a godly life. The priests of Isaiah's day were "drunken, but not with wine" (Isa
29:9). They were drunken in their own ignorance; and they were willingly
ignorant, preferring pagan ways above God's word. In Lev 10 the sons of Aaron
offered "strange fire" to God (vv 1,2), being drunken (v 9). The priests and
"prophets" of Israel erred through wine and strong drink (Isa 28:7-13). God will
not be acceptably approached by a man drunken either with wine or with an
ungodly philosophy. The priests, who ministered to God's business in the Holy
Place, were to be alert and clear-minded. The saints, who dwell in the "Holy
Place" now and who offer spiritual offerings to God, must be in the same pure
condition. We must be the anti-type of the Nazarite (Num 6:3,4) and the
Rechabite (Jer 35:5-7) -- who refrained from wine, that their service to God
might not be hindered. Let overseers and all others remember the proverb: "It is
not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes, strong drink; lest they drink and
forget the law" (Pro 31:4,5). [See Lesson, Drinking.]
NOT VIOLENT: Or a "striker" (AV). The word for
"violent" is used twice in the NT, once here and once in Tit 1:7. An overseer
must not be "violent" (RSV, NIV), or wound another, either by physical force or
by gossip and slander and insinuation. He must not be quarrelsome or
argumentative. Some believers never rid themselves of their combative
tendencies, and they try to deceive themselves and others by constantly engaging
in debate concerning the Bible (usually upon profitless questions (1Ti 1:4n; Tit
3:9). They want to convince others that they are "earnestly contending for the
faith" (Jude 3), but in reality they are earnestly contending only for their own
honor, to prove their own intelligence and skill. They are contending with their
brethren out of jealousy. This sort of behavior drew forth the most severe
censure from James: "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts,
glory not... This wisdom... is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and
strife is, there is confusion and every evil work... From whence come wars and
fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your
members?" (Jam 3:14-16; 4:1; cf Mat 24:49).
Such behavior is in direct contrast to Paul's commands. The
believer, even when expressing a difference of opinion or belief, must strive to
be conciliatory and understanding, not abusive toward his opponents. The
servants of God must be patient, "in meekness instructing those that oppose
themselves" (2Ti 2:25). This is the "wisdom from above -- pure, peaceable,
gentle... " (Jam 3:17).
GENTLE: Gr "epieikes", five times in the NT: Phi 4:5;
1Ti 3:3; Tit 3:2; Jam 3:17; 1Pe 2:18. Not the more usual word for "gentle"
(prautes). "Epieikes" is the word that Matthew Arnold translated "sweet
reasonableness." EK Simpson says: " 'Epieikes' defies exact translation...
Gracious, kindly, forbearing, considerate, magnanimous, genial , all approximate
to its idea" (EBC).
NOT QUARRELSOME: Gr "amachos", only here and in Tit
3:2. The word literally means "abstaining from fighting", or a "noncombatant".
Here it is used in the metaphorical sense of "not contentious". A contentious
leader is a sad feature in any ecclesia.
NOT A LOVER OF MONEY: All one word in the Greek:
"aphilargyros" (only here and in Heb 13:5). Lit, "not a lover of silver". Or,
"not anxious for base (or questionable) gain". Cp 1Pe 5:2: "Feed the flock...
take the oversight thereof... not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind." A true
overseer must not be concerned with material things. He must be heedless of
himself and his own comforts, seeking first the kingdom of God" (Mat 6:33). "He
that is greedy of gain troubled! his own house" (Pro 15:27). "They that will be
(desire to be) rich fall into temptation, and a snare -- for the love of money
is the root of all evil" (1Ti 6:9,10).
Christ himself had no place to lay his head. When he sent his
disciples forth, he commanded them to take only the barest necessities. And so
it should be with us.
Vv 4,5: These two vv, as well as v 2 above, prove that
first-century Christian overseers married and reared families. How could such vv
as these apply to the celibate "priests" of Roman Catholicism? The Catholic
superstition is a fulfillment of the predicted heresy of 1Ti 4:1-3 -- those
teachings which lead away from the true faith in many particulars, one of which
is in denying marriage its rightful honor. Far from unfitting a man for service
to God, a normal, godly home life is a good preparation. A man with wife and
children to care for tends to be less self-centered and is better able to
understand the individual needs of others. Men of God like Moses (Psa 77:20) and
David (Psa 78:70-72) learned by experience as shepherds of their flocks to be
loving shepherds and to "stand before" God's ecclesia of Israel.
HE MUST MANAGE HIS OWN FAMILY WELL: Literally, "one who
stands before his own house". The same word is used in Rom 12:8 and 1Th 5:12 of
ecclesial leaders who "stand before" the house of God. Perhaps the word "rule"
(KJV) is too strong. An overseer should stand as the head of the house, as one
in authority, but not as the autocratic dictator which the word "rule" may
imply. The stress should be placed upon love and care and directing of the
family, and teaching by example, not upon ruling them.
AND SEE THAT HIS CHILDREN OBEY HIM WITH PROPER RESPECT:
It is well known that a child's earliest years are the most formative. That is,
what he learns in those years will remain with him all his life. It is very
important that even youngsters be taught the way of God. This is a great duty,
and it is one thoughtlessly neglected by many believing parents. God has given
us our children, just as he has given us everything else. And with every gift
comes a responsibility. It is a command to parents that they instruct their
children: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will
not depart from it" (Pro 22:6). This is the perfect axiom of parent-child
relationship in the Truth. This is the guideline, the example. God, the perfect
parent and Jesus, the perfect Son. We must train our children to be obedient to
their natural parents, so that they might develop the desire to be obedient to
their heavenly Parent.
The household was regarded by Paul as a good training ground.
We may learn lessons in our day-to-day contacts within the family to help us in
the care of God's ecclesia. If a family man has shown that he does not have the
capacity to govern his little society, with which he is continually present, and
over which he possesses a large measure of authority -- how can he expect to
successfully oversee a larger society, often scattered and not in the same way
subject to discipline?
God's ecclesia is a household, a family. We are all the
"children of God" (1Jo 3:1). If overseers would bear this in mind -- that we are
as one family -- they would have good guidelines in confronting many common
ecclesial problems. The ecclesia is a family and a household. Should not the
overseers -- as heads of the family -- be concerned when a member of the family
is absent? If the ecclesia is a family, should there be any jealousy among its
members? Or any reluctance to talk with one another and to resolve personal
differences? Would the head of a real family, for example, communicate with his
children by cold, official letters when personal conversation is
RECENT CONVERT: The word "novice" (KJV) in Greek is
"neophuton" (cp the English "neophyte") and means, lit, "a young and tender
plant" -- not strongly rooted and grounded in the Truth (Eph 3:17; Col 2:7).
Plants symbolize converts to the Truth (Mat 15:13; 1Co 3:6,7). An overseer
should not be a new convert, still trying to sink down his first roots, for then
he will have even greater difficulties.
CONCEITED: From the Gr "tuphos", which signifies
"smoke". (Cp Mat 12:20, where the same word is translated "smoking".) In
figurative language, the pride which a novice might experience becomes a
smoke-screen to obscure and cloud his vision. Other translations substantiate
this figure: Rotherham uses the word "beclouded" here, and Weymouth uses
"blinded". A man confident of his own importance sees everything differently
from those around him. Especially does such a man see himself in a different
light. As Robert Burns writes, "Oh, would some power the giftie gie us, to see
ourselves as others see us!" "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty
spirit before a fall" (Pro 16:18; see also Pro 18:12; 29:23).
AND FALL UNDER THE SAME JUDGMENT AS THE DEVIL: Or, as
RSV, "and fall into the condemnation of the devil." The first question is
grammatical: does this mean: (a) to fall into the same judgment which befell the
devil, or (b) to fall into a judgment BY the devil? Evidently, either
interpretation is possible. The second possibility would make "the devil's
judgment" parallel to "the devil's snare" of v 7.
The word "devil" (Gr "diabolos") elsewhere is translated as
"slanderer". The word "krima" signifies more precisely judgment or criticism
(1Co 6:3,4,7; Mat 7:2), rather than outright and eternal condemnation. The
thought seems to be (following the second possibility outlined above): '...lest
you fall into being criticized by a slanderer (and thus bring dishonor upon the
Truth)'. This was the fate of David -- who was lifted up to commit the great
sin, thereby causing God's enemies to blaspheme (2Sa 12:14; cp 1Pe 5:8; Rev
12:10). This thought is carried forward in the succeeding verse.
There is also the ultimate condemnation of the proud and
unrepentant men who were led by their covetousness to oppose the authority of
Moses (v 3; Num 16). Cp also Jam 3:1, 2: "My brethren, be not many masters,
knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we
offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able
also to bridle the whole body." The responsibilities of a bishop or overseer are
much greater than those of other men: "To whom much is given, much will be
required" (Luke 12:48).
A GOOD REPUTATION WITH OUTSIDERS: This was especially
important in the first century when believers were closely watched by hostile
authorities for any sign of hypocrisy or failure to live by their professed
faith. And it is important today as an instrument to convert others to our hope.
If aliens can see that our belief has made a drastic change from the ordinary in
our lives, then they may be compelled to learn more about it. For this reason we
must "let our light shine before men" -- that they may examine our actions and
our beliefs, and that they may be led by our sincerity to embrace the gospel,
thus "glorifying our Father which is in heaven" (Mat 5:16).
DISGRACE: The reproach of men. Enemies of the Truth are
very quick to spot our inconsistencies and use them against us.
THE DEVIL'S TRAP: "Devil" is once again, "diabolos",
and probably refers to the outside world. How can a man be an effective leader
of an ecclesia if he is exposed to the eyes of the outside world as a hypocrite?
If we begin to be reproached by the world for failure to live
up to the high standards of the Truth then we may be led further to forsake the
Truth entirely. The reproach that may continually surround us for former sins
might lead us into the snare of becoming as bad as our reputation. Despair of
recovering reputation might, in a weak moment, lead us into a complete
abandonment of the Truth. (See Jer 18:12: "And they said, There is no hope: but
we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of
his evil heart.") The "devil", both outside and within, is setting a snare for
us. "He" is telling us that it is no use trying to do the impossible, but that
it is better to forget the whole thing. And unless we are careful, we succumb to
this type of reasoning. God has called us to perfection, but we must not be
discouraged when we fail to reach that state. The characteristics of these
previous verses are to be sought, and be developed gradually.
Although we may fail to follow them as we should, we must use
our failures and learn by them, to grow even more.
Too often in the history of ecclesial life, men have been
chosen as leaders for their flamboyant speech and behavior, for their smooth and
men-pleasing words, like the people of the world choose their political leaders.
(By choosing such men ecclesias fail to follow Paul's instructions found here.
And they become just as guilty as the weak or wicked men they have chosen for
their leaders. Men who are proper for the job of overseers are the perfect
opposite of this: they are humble, self-effacing, and honest, with no
inclination toward theatrics, deception, misrepresentation or manipulation. They
are straightforward men, whose lives are open books, who serve God sincerely and
conscientiously in every way, and who say exactly what they mean.
It is our duty to choose our leaders in this present age of
turmoil and uncertainty: We do not have men directly appointed by the Holy
Spirit but we must choose men to help us maintain Scriptural standards, praying
in this for God's guidance. "Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and
walk therein..." (Jer 6:16). "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way..." (Mat
Vv 8-13: There seem to have been in Paul's day two classes of
serving brethren: overseers (or bishops) and deacons. Judging by the literal
meaning of the words, we may conclude that the overseers were for all practical
purposes the leaders of the ecclesia, and that the deacons were their
assistants. The Greek "diakonous" is translated as "assistant" in the Diaglott.
Other translations give this word as "servant". And the word is sometimes
translated in the KJV by "minister". (Note that the "ministry" in Paul's day was
a humble service, not a privileged, salaried position like today's "clergy"
would presume to make it.)
"Diakonous" appears often in the NT, referring to the many
variations of service and classifying many varied (and probably overlapping)
groups as servants. It is used of: (1) the angels who ministered to Jesus -- Mat
4:11; (2) Jesus himself -- Luke 22:27; Rom 15:8; (3) Timothy, even though he
would surely have been an "elder-overseer-bishop" too -- 1Ti 4:6; (4) the other
apostles -- Acts 1:25; 6:4; (5) a sister -- Rom 16:1; (6) all the followers of
Jesus -- John 12:26; Eph 6:21; and (7) a special class of ecclesial servants --
All believers should minister (as "deacons") to one another in
love. "If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth"
There are certain capacities of loving service that all might
fill. However, while this is true, there was in the first century a special
class of servants or deacons which a person might not become until he or she had
been 'proved' (v 10). The first reference to such a special class is to be found
in Acts 6:1-3, when seven brethren of honest report were selected to 'serve
tables', that is, to minister to the personal needs of the poor.
One point must be stressed again, concerning ecclesial
offices. Such an office is not a position of power. It is a position to serve
others effectively. RR makes this point quite clear: "One point ought to
permeate all appointments in the house of Christ, and that is the one laid down
by Christ, when speaking of the exercise of authority of one Gentile over
another, he said, 'It shall not be so among you.' 'He that is greatest among
you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief as he that doth serve'
(Luke 22:26). The appointment of brethren to certain offices is not the
appointment of men to exercise authority, but of men to serve. For this reason,
it is wise to speak of them all, in whatever capacity, as 'serving brethren'...
It keeps in view the fact that official brethren are only brethren performing an
office for the good of the rest, and to some extent shuts the door against the
corruption which generated the apostasy, and developed the clerical usurpation"
(Ecclesial Guide 13,14).
V 8: Nearly all of the qualifications listed in this
verse may be found in vv 2, 3 (see notes there). The "likewise" at the beginning
of this v points backward to those vv. Some of the qualifications of the elders
are left out in this section concerning the deacons, but there is no reason to
feel that the left-out ones are less important. Should the serving brethren (or
any brethren at all) justify being without any of the virtues of vv 2,3?
Certainly Paul intended the qualifications for serving brethren to be no less
stringent than those for bishops. We are all commanded to be perfect, even as
our Father in Heaven is perfect (Mat 5:48; 1Pe 1:15,16). Awesome as such a goal
seems, we must acknowledge it as a goal.
SINCERE: "Not doubletongued" (KJV) seems to be the only
characteristic not found also in the earlier section. The words mean "not of
double speech", not saying one thing to one person and something else to
another. In this category falls the smooth-tongued flattery of those anxious to
please their superiors and to advance their positions. "Therefore meddle not
with him that flattereth with his lips" (Pro 20:19). "A double-minded man is
unstable in all his ways" (Jam 1:8).
See the notes on v 16 where this "mystery" is expounded.
Notice also that "faith" is preceded by the definite article. There is only one
true faith, "the Faith" as God has revealed it to man.
For an explanation of the phrase in a pure conscience see the
notes on 1Ti 1:5, on a pure heart" and a "good conscience". See also the
contrasting defiled, or "seared", conscience of 1Ti 4:2. The conscience of a
deacon must be "pure", or purified, having removed everything that is base or
foreign. He must have been tried or proved (v 10); his faith must have been
refined as though it had passed through the fire (1Pe 1:7). A mere scholarly
acceptance of the gospel is not enough. If not accompanied by an earnest
commitment, such a belief will result in strifes about non-essentials (6:4; 2Ti
2:23; Tit 3:9) or moral laxity (2Ti 3:6) or despair (2Pe 1:9; 2Ti 3:5). The life
of Christ must be manifested every day in the true believer: "Christ lives in
me" (Gal 2:20). He must live by faith, trusting in God, with a conscience free
of sin, and a confidence to go before the throne of grace (v 13; Heb
TESTED: As metal in the fire'. Some areas of service
should not be open to everyone, but only to those who have proven their
capabilities -- who are not novices (v 6) and who have lived by the instructions
of vv 2-8. Timothy was to choose carefully the elders (1Ti 5:22), and today the
entire ecclesia must exercise the same care in choosing arranging and serving
IF THERE IS NOTHING AGAINST THEM: Of course no one but
Christ can judge a man's intentions, but we must try to discern at least whether
the candidates seem to be living according to Paul's words in these
WIVES: "Wives" is better translated as 'the women' --
that is all women in ecclesias. Again, the apostle expands the scope of this
chapter. He intends that all sisters, just like all brothers, obey all his
commands here in this chapter. How could it be otherwise?
However, the primary point here must surely be this: A
brother's fitness for leadership may be judged in how well he leads his family,
including his wife!
MALICIOUS TALKERS: "Slanderers" (AV) is the same word
("diabolos") as is usually translated "devil" by the KJV. But the "orthodox"
belief concerning a supernatural being of evil called the Devil cannot be fitted
into such verses as this (or 2Ti 3:3 or Tit 2:3). Here "diabolos" is certainly
applied to mortal women and there is no way at all to escape this fact. So the
translators were forced to render "diabolos" by its proper meaning "slanderer"
or "false accuser" (which it should have in every instance). This is a perfect
example of organized religion's preference (whenever the least bit possible) for
heathen fables over God's word.
TRUSTWORTHY IN EVERYTHING: A comprehensive expression
-- faithful in all things. Careful not to repeat the confidences of others, nor
to utter slander and gossip. (A brother with a wife who would spread abroad the
delicate personal matters which he might be called upon to handle, has no
business being a serving brother.) Lovingly submitting to the husband as the
head of the family and the representative of Christ. Seeking always to serve in
small ways, behind the scenes. Careful and conservative in the instruction of
the children. Supporting the ecclesia's meetings. In thinking upon these things,
we cannot help but think of the example of Ruth: "For all the city of my people
doth know that thou art a virtuous woman" (Rth 2:11).
THE HUSBAND OF BUT ONE WIFE: See note on v 2.
AND MUST MANAGE HIS CHILDREN AND HIS HOUSEHOLD WELL:
See notes on v 4.
THOSE WHO HAVE SERVED WELL: The KJV has: "For they that
have used the office of a deacon well" -- which is vague and misleading. No good
is accomplished merely by possessing an office. Neither is any good accomplished
by using an office for oneself. Good is accomplished only by using the office as
an effective means of serving others and thereby of serving God. Again and again
in this letter Paul stresses the importance of good works. Good works are a
necessary consequence of a true belief. If we do not bring forth fruits to God
we are to be chopped down and cast into the fire (Mat 3:10). When we stand
before Christ at the last day our service will be judged as well-done or undone.
Today (while it is called "to-day") we must continue serving: there is no "early
retirement" from the Truth!
GAIN AN EXCELLENT STANDING: We cannot "buy" with time,
money, or works either an honorable position or eternal life.
AN EXCELLENT STANDING: An honorable position. As those
of the world see it, nothing could be less honorable than to stoop to serve
others. The world admires most those wealthy and powerful men who serve only
their own whims. But the truly honorable work is the work in which Christ
engaged and the work to which he calls us: the service of others, the washing of
the disciples' feet. The only worthwhile honor is found in humility. The only
true happiness is found in serving others. "If I then, your Lord and Master,
have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have
given you an example... If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them"
Paul is also referring to the excellent standing which our
work now will gain for us in the future. Some may serve as deacons in special
offices. Others may simply serve as brethren and sisters in a thousand different
ways. But all are doing a good work, with this goal in mind: "a good degree", an
honorable position when each stands before the judgment seat of Christ. "It is a
faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him" (2Ti
2:11). If we humble ourselves and suppress our own desires to do God's will (as
Christ did) then we will have the same reward (as he has).
GREAT ASSURANCE IN THEIR FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS: Through
our service we demonstrate the faith in Christ we have acquired and through
serving we acquire more confidence and assurance in what we believe and hope.
Through serving we become more familiar with our faith and with whom our faith
rests. Such "assurance" comes not from ourselves, but from our faith. And in the
end we shall have our confidence (through God's grace) rewarded.
If we have served God well (in any capacity), if we are
fighting a good fight and if we are truly striving every day to do His will,
then we may have the confidence and assurance to come into His presence in
prayer through our mediator Jesus Christ. And we will receive the strength we
need to go on, the confidence to speak to others the "mystery of the gospel" (cp
Vv 14-16: In this section (the pivotal point of the entire
epistle) Paul expresses his purpose in writing to Timothy and he gives us a
concise yet sublime definition of the Ecclesia. The Ecclesia is God's household,
the support and lightstand of the Truth, the guardian of the "mystery of
Paul was an old man by this time and doubtless in poor health,
due to a life of difficult travels and innumerable stresses and strains. He knew
very well that whatever he chose to do would be possible only if it were the
Lord's will (Jam 4:13-15). He might never be able to come to Timothy. Even a man
like Paul was little different from us in this respect (and in this is a basis
for serious thought). He could not plan his future with certainty. He must work
while it is called today, for the hour would soon come in which the time for
labor was past (John 9:4).
HOW PEOPLE OUGHT TO CONDUCT THEMSELVES: Remember that
Timothy had just been given the qualifications for those who "desire the office
of a bishop"... or deacon. Timothy had a difficult work ahead of him. He was a
young man with a great responsibility and there would be those who would despise
his youth and zeal. These qualifications were for him also, that he might make
the most of his ability and opportunity to "edify" the house of God.
IN GOD'S HOUSEHOLD: Does not refer to any real
structure, made with men's hands. When Solomon spoke at the dedication of the
temple, he made this quite clear: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth?
Behold, the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that
I have builded" (1Ki 8:27)?
But nevertheless this temple of Solomon's time, in which God's
glory came to rest, was emblematic of a greater house, a house to which such
allusions as Paul's statement here have their highest realization. The "house of
God" is in the greatest sense the household of God or the family of God. "House"
in the Bible commonly means a family rather than a building. (The family of
Israel was once called God's house: see Num 12:7 and many other references).
Paul is still thinking of the same type of "house" when he writes in 1Ti 5:1,2
that Timothy should treat the saints as parents and brethren. Cp also Mat 12:50:
"For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my
brother, and sister, and mother".
The real house of God was first of all Jesus Christ (John
2:13-22), a man which God Himself "built up" in a very unique sense. And each
believer is in turn a "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1Co 3:16; 6:19). [The
Corinthians, to whom Paul spoke and other first-century believers were
pre-eminently a Holy Spirit temple, in that many members possessed special gifts
of the Spirit (1Co 12). But in a broader sense they and we also possess the Holy
Spirit in the word of God believed among us: (John 6:63; 1Jo 5:6; Eph 6:17)].
Finally, all the believers "fitly framed together" (Eph 2:21) are a "spiritual
house" (1Pe 2:5) -- a living house built of "living stones". We are the "house
of God" (cf also 1Pe 4:17; Heb 3:6; 10:21) -- His "tabernacle" (Heb 8:2) or
dwelling-place (for He dwells among us in our hearts and minds) built up around
Jesus the chief cornerstone (Eph 2:20; Psa 118:22).
We are to be "bond-servants" in God's house to serve the
brethren. Timothy is exhorted to be a willing servant in God's household just as
Moses was (Heb 3:5).
THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD: The "ecclesia" of God:
the assembly of His "called-out" ones (cf. v 5). In our midst is the ever-living
God, "Who only hath immortality" (1Ti 6:16). This household or ecclesia is to be
as alive and vibrant and joyful and energetic as the God Who dwells
THE PILLAR: The support to hold up an edifice. God's
"house" of Truth is supported by men of spiritual stature, strong in the faith,
"pillars" such as James and Cephas and John (Gal 2:9). The ecclesia is the
pillar of God's Truth. It is the only lightstand in a corrupt and
pleasure-seeking world, a world groping in the darkness of the "god of the
earth". The ecclesia is the "mainstay" or "bulwark" of the Truth having a duty
to defend the gospel from attacks arising within and without, keeping in good
repair the one foundation laid by Jesus Christ (1Co 3:10,11). As a lightstand
the ecclesia has a duty to proclaim the Truth to others and to keep the light
atop the pillar always shining before men (Mat 5:14-16). Such men as James and
John, who comprise the true ecclesia, will find eternal dwelling places as part
of God's temple: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my
God, and he shall go no more out" (Rev 3:12).
The complete assembly of called-out ones will be fitted
together around Christ ("the chief cornerstone": Eph 2:20) at the "marriage of
the Lamb" (Rev 19:7,9). The whole purpose of the Truth is encompassed in God's
Memorial Name, Yahweh Elohim, which means "He Who Shall Be Mighty Ones". God's
purpose in Christ is to bring to perfection a special group of people, an
"ecclesia" to show forth his transcending glory. From the one "Seed of the
woman", by his strength in word and deed, comes the victory over the seed of the
serpent. From the one "seed" comes the fruitful vine of the faithful ones. From
the one "lamb without blemish" comes a great flock of spotless ones. From the
one "captain of our salvation" comes a great army of mighty Spirit-beings.
In Gen 28:18, after witnessing the Almighty's power and
receiving His promises, "Jacob rose up early in the morning", set up the pillar
upon which he had rested, and anointed it. This upright and anointed pillar
represented the resurrected and immortalized Jesus Christ. In this enactment
Jacob showed his faith in the Messiah to come ("I have waited for Thy salvation,
O Yahweh" -- Gen 49:18) and his own hope of partaking in this same reward.
When Moses read the words of the law to the nation of Israel
about Yahweh making a blood-covenant with them and revealing His glory in a
vision (Exo 24), Moses erected an altar (symbolizing Christ: Heb 13:10) and
surrounded it with twelve pillars, "according to the twelve tribes of Israel".
No doubt this found its expression in Christ's promise to the twelve
"apostle-pillars" that they would sit with him upon thrones, ruling over God's
"house" in the Kingdom (Mat 19:28; Rev 21:14).
This same hope is foreshadowed in Josh 4. As Joshua leads the
tribes of Israel across Jordan to inherit the promised land (cp the eternal
"rest of the sabbath" offered by the New Testament "Joshua" in Heb 4) he took
twelve men, one from each tribe. These men brought with them twelve stones and
erected them in the midst of Jordan as an altar and a pillar for a sign and a
memorial. This typifies New Jerusalem, the city of the saints designated by God
to rule the world, the "house of God" established upon its twelve
foundation-pillars (Rev 21:12-21).
FOUNDATION: The Gr word "hedraioma" appears only once
in Scripture and is difficult to translate exactly. It has been variously
translated as ground, mainstay, bulwark, foundation and anchor. A similar Gr
word is translated "steadfast" in 1Co 7:37; 15:58, and "settled" in Col 1:23. JT
translates it as both foundation and support. (The technical meaning may be the
arch-support which joins together and anchors pillars in most ancient
Finally, the word "hedraioma" has a connection with the holy
"place" or sanctuary in which Jacob rested: "There is a sense in which Jacob's
pillar of stone exists as a house of Elohim even now, and in intimate connection
with the house he will see when he awakes from his present know-nothing state.
Paul presents to us this sense in the saying, that 'a House of Deity is an
ecclesia of living Deity, a pillar and ground (material habitation, from
"hedraioma", a habitation of gods) of the truth" -- 1Ti 3:15. This pillar and
habitation is 'built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus
Anointed being chief-corner' -- Eph 2:20. As a monumental pillar, the
inscription upon it is 'the exceeding great and precious promises' believed by
each saint, or 'living stone', of which the pillar is composed -- 'promises'
concerning the kingdom and name to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as narrated by
Moses. This pillar was anointed on the top of it (Gen 28:18) on the Day of
Pentecost, when the spirit was poured upon the apostles (Acts 2:1-4). That
anointing was perpetuated in "the testimony for Jesus" which has reached even to
us, and with which every true believer is anointed. An ecclesia, however, is not
only a pillar inscribed with the truth, but is a 'ground' ('hedraioma') of the
truth. It is a material thing made up of 'gods', as David styles them, or of
'children' of 'Deity', according to 1Jo 3:2; Psa 82:6. These are anointed with
the truth, and therefore they are a god-habitation, or hedraioma, of the truth.
In regard to this word 'hedraioma', it may be remarked here,
that it occurs nowhere else in the NT, nor in any classical author. The word is
derived from 'hedra', which signifies 'a seat, habitation, especially of gods, a
temple, altar, and etc.' Hence, the expressiveness of the word, and its peculiar
and exclusive application to a habitation of the truth constituted of gods, or
children of Deity, who are, as represented in the Apocalypse, 'the Altar', 'the
temple', 'the Holy city', or as Paul expresses it, 'an habitation of Deity by
spirit' -- Eph 2:22" (Eur 1:391,392).
It might be profitable to note the similarities between this v
15 and the experience of Jacob at Bethel (Gen 28), already briefly mentioned.
Jacob was at that time fleeing from his brother Esau, whom he had cunningly
betrayed and cheated of his privileges. Jacob, caught in a whirlwind of
contradictory emotions, must have begun to wonder if God had not deserted him
and forgotten the promises He had made. It was that night that Jacob came,
frightened and tired and bewildered, to a certain "place". (The Hebrew word
"place" is often used in the sense of a consecrated or special place, a place of
worship, or an altar.)
It was here that Jacob saw his vision of a stairway from
heaven, with the angels (God's ministering spirits -- Heb 1:14) ascending and
descending upon the stone of Jacob's bed. By this he was reassured of God's
promises to him personally, and to his seed to come: "And thy seed shall be as
the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the
east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all
families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee
in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for
I will not leave thee, until I have done that which 1 have spoken to thee of"
Jesus takes up the strain of thought here, by declaring in
John 1:51 that the angels were to ascend and descend upon the Son of Man. Jesus
thus was the stone upon which Jacob rested, and which he placed upright and
anointed the following morning. In this pillar we see clearly the purpose of the
Father and the mission of Christ in being at first as a stone of no repute (but
upon which the faithful rested through the dark "night", with only dreams to
sustain them), and then set upright in the morning of resurrection and anointing
with the greatest glory -- God's immortal Spirit power. "The stone which the
builders [the chief priests and rulers] rejected, the same is become the head of
the comer" (Psa 118:22).
In this chapter (Gen 28), almost every word leads us to 1Ti
3:15: "That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of
God, which is the ecclesia of the living God, the pillar and ground of the
truth." Of course, the most obvious features of connection between these two
Scriptures are the "house of God" (which is the meaning of Beth El -- Gen 28:19)
and pillars. (The pillar as we have seen represents Christ and his ecclesia:
"And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house" -- Gen
As Jacob says "How dreadful (wonderful, awe-inspiring) is this
place: this is none other but the house of God (Gen 28:17) -- so Paul likewise
exhorts Timothy to solemn reverence and careful behavior in such a grand place
as God's household.
Also, "the Truth" (in v 15) is often an OT equivalent for the
covenants of promise to the fathers. And "the living God" probably has its
counterpart at Bethel too, because in the Old Testament this phrase often means
"the God of the living creatures" -- with obvious references to the cherubim and
the angels. It is in God's house only that His angels minister to even the least
of His saints, as they evidently did to Jacob: "The angel of the Lord encampeth
round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" (Psa 34:7). "(God) Who
answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went"
See Lesson, Sayings of faith in Pastorals.
BEYOND QUESTION: "Without controversy" in the KJV is a
rather poor translation. This verse affords us an interesting and instructive
example of a misapplication of Scripture. It is reported that a brother once
justified contention and debate among Christadelphians by referring to these
words and paraphrasing: "Unless we continually have controversy among ourselves
we shall never arrive at the true interpretations of God's Word."
THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS IS GREAT: Timothy was a bishop
at Ephesus, where many members of the ecclesia were once pagan worshippers of
Diana represented by the stone or meteor that fell from heaven. But they had
since "turned from idols to serve the living and true God" (1Th 1:10). And they
now believed in Christ, the true Word made flesh, the bread of life that came
down from heaven.
Some in Timothy's ecclesia had at one time been among the
hordes of people who fervently cried, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians" (Acts
19:28). They had perhaps also participated in the "mystery cults" of Greece,
with their secret rites and celebrations only for initiates. This shout is
opposed by that of, "Great is the mystery of godliness." And far more wonderful
than the colonnaded temple of Diana is the pillared "house of God, the ecclesia
of the living God". Let us say with due reverence, then, "How dreadful
(wonderful) is this place!"
THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS: "Mystery" is from the Gr
"musterion". Christ is the revealed mystery of godliness -- a visible
manifestation of Deity, testified before men, to offer God's salvation to all:
"The mystery... now made manifest ... the glory of this mystery... which is
Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:26,27).
"While God lightly esteems the wisdom of the reputed wise,
there is a wisdom which He invites all men to embrace. This is styled 'the
wisdom of God in a mystery'; it is also termed 'the hidden wisdom which God
ordained before the world, which none of the princes of this world knew' (1Co
2:7). It is said to be hidden in a mystery, because until the apostolic age, it
was not clearly made known. This will appear from the following texts: 'Now to
him that is of power to establish you according to the revelation of the
mystery, which was kept secret in the times of the ages, but now (in the time,
or age, of the apostles) is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets
made known to all nations for the obedience of faith' (Rom 16:25,26). 'By
revelation God made known unto me, Paul, the mystery, which in other ages
(former ages under the law of Moses) was not made known unto the sons of men as
it is now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the spirit, that the
Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his
promise in Christ by the gospel' (Eph 3:3,5,6).
"Here is the 'knowledge of God,' in which are contained
'exceeding great and precious promises', the understanding of which is able to
make a man wise, and 'a partaker of the divine nature'. Now, although these
hidden things have been clearly made known, they still continued to be styled
the mystery; not because of their unintelligibility, but because they were once
secret. Hence, the things preached unto the Gentiles, and by them believed, are
styled by Paul, 'the mystery of the faith', and 'the mystery of godliness', some
of the items of which he enumerates: such as 'God manifest in the flesh,
justified by the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on
in the world, received up in glory'. Thus an intelligible mystery characterizes
the once hidden wisdom of God, and becomes the subject matter of an enlightened
faith" (Elp 3,4).
The remainder of this verse is a point-by-point development of
that "mystery of godliness" -- the revelation of Christ to all men and man's
step-by-step comprehension of the love of God directed toward his salvation. In
the Greek original this section is rhythmic, much like the Hebrew poetry of the
OT. Possibly Paul is quoting from some well-known Christian hymn of the first
century, or an early "statement of faith". Notice how these several points form
parallels with the very last part of Mark's Gospel, and with a section of
Peter's first letter also.
"The Deity delights in stimulating the intellect of His
creatures. In revealing Himself therefore to them, He manifests himself
mysteriously. 'It is the glory of Elohim,' says Solomon, 'to conceal a word; but
it is the glory of kings to search out the word.' A word is concealed when it is
enigmatically expressed; and it is the glory of those whom God has chosen for
His kings in the future government of the world, to search out the wisdom He
hath hidden from the wise in their own conceit. 'The world by wisdom,' saith
Paul, 'knew not God... but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, THE HIDDEN,
which none of the chiefs of this Aion knew; for had they known they would not
have crucified the Lord of glory' (1Co 1:21; 2:7,8)... This mystery, which as we
see, was the burden of the apostolic preaching, was a great enigma -- an enigma,
dramatically, as well as doctrinally, explained. 'Without controversy,' says
Paul, 'great is the mystery of godliness -- DEITY MANIFESTED IN FLESH, justified
by spirit, made visible to messengers, preached among nations, believed on in
the world, received again to glory' (1Ti 3:16)" (Phan 14,15).
The remainder of this verse is a point-by-point development of
that "mystery of godliness" -- the revelation of Christ to all men and man's
step-by-step comprehension of the love of God directed toward his salvation. In
the Greek original this section is rhythmic, much like the Hebrew poetry of the
OT. Possibly Paul is quoting from some well-known Christian hymn of the first
century, or an early "statement of faith". Notice how these several points form
parallels with the very last part of Mark's Gospel (Mar 6:15,16), and with a
section of Peter's first letter (1Pe 3:18-22) also. (It almost seems as if these
were well-memorized points in the early Christian's "statement of faith", so
often are they reiterated in the New Testament writings. Possibly here is
another of those "faithful sayings" scattered throughout the pastoral letters).
Such a parallel would be of value in demonstrating the true meaning of "the
spirits in prison" (1Pe 3:19).
HE APPEARED IN A BODY: All modern editors reject the
reading "God was manifest in the flesh" (KJV) in favor of "Who was manifest...
", with obvious reference to Christ. Nevertheless, Christ was and is a
manifestation of God, properly understood. The Word (Wisdom, Purpose, Message)
of God was made flesh, and dwelt among men (John 1:14; 1Jo 4:2). Christ,
although the Son of God, was also "born of a woman, made under the law" (Gal
4:4) -- shaped in flesh (Psa 51:5; Rom 8:3; Eph 2:14) -- made in all points like
his brethren (Heb 2:9,14). Christ in his own self bore our sins in his own body
(Isa 53:4; 1Pe 2:24). In other words, he suffered from the effects of Adam's sin
in his mortal nature, just as all of Adam's other descendants. "Every spirit
(teacher) that professes that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God" (1Jo
But how could a mere man in any way be the "Word of God"? The
Jews who heard Jesus speak asked how a mere man could speak as he did. They
imagined that his words were only the utterance of a fleshly mind. JT speaks of
this: "But he told them that this was not so; for he said, 'My teaching is not
mine, but His who sent me', and John also testified that 'he whom the Deity has
sent, spake the words of the Deity', as Moses predicted in Deu 18:18, concerning
the Christ, saying, 'I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto
them all that I shall command him. And it shall be, that whosoever will not
hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of
him.' And so when the Word became flesh, the Word-Flesh recalled attention to
what Moses had written and said, 'He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my
words... the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last days.
For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father who sent me, he gave me a
commandment what I should say, and what I should speak' -- John 12:47 -- 'the
words of eternal life.'
"The words, then, that came out of the mouth of Jesus, are to
be received as the direct teaching of the Eternal Spirit, and to be interpreted
of him" (Eur 1:103).
VINDICATED BY THE SPIRIT: While Christ was like all
other men in his nature and the temptations he had to undergo, he was different
in that he never succumbed to the lusts of the flesh. By his whole life he
condemned sin in the flesh (Rom 8:3), becoming "dead to sin". And when Christ
died, death could have no more dominion over him: "He that is dead is freed from
sin" (Rom 6:7). The grave had no more dominion over him and God, after declaring
His own righteousness in condemning Jesus' body of sin (Rom 3:26), could
demonstrate His mercy as well, in raising Christ from the dead to eternal life.
Jesus was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of
holiness, by the resurrection of the dead" (Rom 1:4). Jesus was "vindicated" or
"endorsed" -- as the Greek word signifies (Mat 11:19; Luke 10:29). Jesus was
justified (declared just or righteous) in the spirit by being "born of the
spirit" through a resurrection to life (Rom 1:4; 1Pe 3:18): "Therefore let all
the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye
have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
Christ's resurrection to life was a proof of his righteousness
and an example and guarantee to those "in Christ" that they might similarly be
accounted righteous through him (Rom 4:25).
SEEN OF ANGELS: This may be a simple reference to the
angels who attended upon the events of the resurrection and shortly thereafter
(Mark 16:5). When Jesus was elevated to his new immortal state he was able to
say, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Mat 28:18). And with
the mention of this new power, there seems always to be present the angels of
God, as a witness of that newly-gained dominion: "Who is gone into heaven, and
is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made
subject unto him" (1Pe 3:22).
But a more satisfying explanation, in view of the context here
in 1Ti, as well as the parallel in Mark 16, might be this: The "angels"
(messengers) relate to the disciples who saw Jesus shortly after his
resurrection to life: "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And
she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And
they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed
not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked,
and went, and told it to the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he
appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their
unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen
him after he was risen" (Mark 16:9-14). These appearances (1Co 15:5-8) were of
more immediate importance than those to the angelic beings, as it was in this
way that Jesus established the first-century ecclesia and instructed the early
believers in the more complete principles of the gospel. Since this section of
Paul's letter is concerned with the ecclesia, God's house and the "mystery of
the faith", it would seem to be more appropriate to understand the term angels
as referring to those mortal messengers who were to witness to the world the
foundation of the faith -- Jesus, a living Messiah. (Compare such passages as
Luke 24:34; Acts 9:17; 13:31; 26:16).
PREACHED AMONG THE NATIONS: All the "mystery of
godliness" points to this, that God in His love wished all men to be saved (1Ti
2:4) and that He has provided His son to be the Saviour of all men that believe
(1Ti 2:6). For this reason, Christ told His disciples: "Go ye into all the
world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15; Mat 28:19; Rom
16:26). Paul especially would be inclined to emphasize this, being the special
apostle to the Gentiles. In Eph 2:13, Paul tells these Ephesians, to whom
Timothy ministered: "Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made
nigh by the blood of Christ."
Even Peter saw this same thing, for he told the Jews at
Pentecost: "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that
are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39).
This was driven home to Peter even more forcibly when he saw
the vision of all manner of animals, clean and unclean, after which he remarked:
"God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (Acts
Of course God's plan, ultimately to offer salvation to the
Gentiles, is foreshadowed a hundred times in the Old Testament and in many of
Christ's parables too. Sometimes it is even stated in simple prophecy (Isa 49:6;
WAS BELIEVED ON IN THE WORLD: It is not necessary from
this that Christ must be believed throughout the earth. It means only that he
will be believed upon by a remnant, a mere handful called out of the various
races and nations of mankind. This is the mystery of godliness, that a few of
the poor and humble of this world, who have made themselves nothing for Christ,
may yet gain all things in the age to come. True Christianity never will be a
popular religion of the masses in this present age; rather, it will always be
the "sect everywhere spoken against" (Acts 28:22) or ignored by the
WAS TAKEN UP IN GLORY: The consummation of God's
mystery of revelation. This same Jesus who once walked and taught among other
men was taken into heaven (Psa 110:4), but he will so return in like manner as
he ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11). Until then he is the life of God, by
anticipation, for all the saints. For our life is hid with him or in him now
(Col 3:3), but it will soon be revealed to those of us who may be found worthy
when hopefully "we shall be like him" (1Jo 3:2; 1Co 13:12). Christ the high
priest, having offered his own blood for an atonement, will return from the Most
Holy to his waiting brethren "the second time without sin unto salvation" (Heb
Thus the mystery of godliness has its beginning in God's
manifestation through Jesus alone and its conclusion in God's manifestation by
Spirit in a multitude of sons -- "God all in all" (1Co 15:28).
The mystery of godliness is the greatest of all things: the
development of the ecclesia, God's pillar and household, first by the preaching
of Christ, in his life, and then the preaching of his disciples and the ecclesia
today -- with the ultimate expectation of taking out a remnant, of preparing a
people for their Lord.
"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In
whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,
lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should
shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and
ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to
shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2Co 4:3-6).
Truly we may exclaim, with Paul: "O the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and
his ways past finding out! For of him, and through him, and to him, are all
things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." (Rom 11:33,36).