The Agora
Godliness with Contentment - 1 Timothy

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IV. Qualifications Of Brethren (3:1-13)

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 serving brethren.

A. 3:1-7: Bishops

The word "bishop" 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 New Testament word translated here and elsewhere as "bishop". (Note in this connection Christ's words about John the Baptist's modest clothing and manner -- Mat 11:7-11).

The New Testament word is epi-scopes -- literally an 'overseer' or superintendent. In the common usage of the word, "bishop" 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 (epi-scopes). 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.

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

This is the second occurrence of the phrase faithful saying. (Most likely, this occurrence refers back to 2:15.) See the list, 1:15, and the progression outlined there.

In the phrase if a man desire the office of a bishop, desire literally means 'to stretch forward in order to grasp'. 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.

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).

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.

This verse presupposes the existence of bishops in Ephesus where Timothy was. Bishops were also known in Crete where Titus resided. Furthermore, James, one of the elders or bishops 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 bishops 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 bishops).

A bishop must be blameless or literally "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 cause.

The phrase the husband of one wife 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 embraced 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. (John Thomas 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: Eureka, vol. 1, p. 437: Mosheim's "Ecclesiastical History", pp. 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 (1Co 7:8,9).

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 in turn.)

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 fellowship.

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).

The word vigilant means to be 'wide awake, watchful, discerning and aware, concerned for the needs and the dangers in an ecclesia'. A 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 "bishops" 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 fellow-servants" (Mat 24:49);
  6. a growing sense of self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency and complacency;
  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 shew 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).

The word sober 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 Word.

Again, the bishop 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 4:16).

Sober is related to inward feeling: of good behaviour ("respectable" -- NIV) to outward conduct. Together, both of these characteristics give a complete, balanced picture.

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 "of a good behaviour".

Given to hospitality literally means "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 (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 traveller 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 25:40).
The word translated apt to teach is used only here and in 2 Timothy 2:24 in the New Testament. 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 bishops 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 word.

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.

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 2 Sam. 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 a bishop 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'.

In the Bible wine is used for anything that dulls the mind and the senses. 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 bishops 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).
The word striker is used twice in the New Testament, once here and once in Tit 1:7. A bishop 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).

Not greedy means 'not a lover of money' (NIV) or 'not anxious for base (or questionable) gain'. Compare 1Pe 5:2: "Feed the flock... take the oversight thereof... not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind". A true bishop 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.

The word patient suggests waiting meekly for God's salvation... " It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD" (Lam 3:26). Real patience is the same as faith in God's ability to supply a man with whatever he needs. We all profess to believe that "what God has promised, He is able also to perform" (Rom 4:21). But unless we demonstrate our faith in our daily lives, by truly waiting for His help and by refraining from evil pursuits just for the sake of gain and apparent security, we have no real patience or faith. To be truly patient means to be calm even in the face of a raging storm, or calm in the midst of a great crisis, or calm in the simple little inconveniences and bothers of natural life -- having true inner peace, knowing that ultimate deliverance will come from God.

A bishop must not only be patient toward God's promises; he must also be patient toward his brethren: "Love suffering long" (1Co13:4). Of this quality we have the example of Christ, who patiently taught his disciples time after time, who helped them when they stumbled and lacked faith. No doubt, at times he felt like abandoning the effort, for they were so slow to learn and so bent on keeping their own natural affections. But he loved them dearly; he loved them despite their short-comings; he prayed for them and he persisted until his efforts began to bear fruit. Can we do any less toward our brethren?

Whatever the precise meaning of brawler, it cannot be very different from the "striker" considered just above. It probably indicates an individual who is prone to quarrelling or feuding. A bishop must be considerate for the feelings of others. He must not be pushy, headstrong, high-handed, disrespectful, or presumptuous. He may often achieve success by tact. This is not to say that he must be a shrewd and crafty manipulator but rather that he must have a sympathy for the beliefs and prejudices of others and he must whenever possible not offend weaker brethren (Rom 15:1). Much harm has been done by brethren who were right in their concepts, but too hasty in their actions -- stepping on toes and offending brethren.

Not to be covetous seems quite similar to the injunction just above, against greediness for gain. But a person may covet more than money. He may be envious of another's power, influence, or prestige. For this reason some men desire to be teachers while lacking the necessary qualities (1:6, 7). A covetous person helps no one, not even himself.

Covetousness is a sickness that eats at a person, until it consumes him, until he can think of nothing but himself and his own pride. It was such a sense of self-importance that prompted the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram against Moses and Aaron ("They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD" -- Psa 106:16). And their miraculous destruction is God's warning to us (Num 16). Such covetousness may arise within an ecclesia, where older brethren vie with one another for leadership and preeminence. Let us pray (and exert ourselves) that it be otherwise:

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Psa 133:1).
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.

These next two verses, as well as v 2 above, prove that first-century Christian bishops married and reared families. How could such verses as these apply to the '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 Israel.

One that ruleth well his own house means 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" is too harsh. A bishop 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.

A person who rules well his house will have his children in subjection with all gravity or as the NIV has it "He must... 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.

Gravity is translated as 'dignity' in the Diaglott and other versions. The same word is given as 'honesty' in 2:2. Paul tells Titus that elders should have "faithful children not accused of riot, dishonesty, or unruliness" (Tit 1:6).

For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the ecclesia of God?

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. (The AV rendition "church" is of course "ecclesia" in the Greek, meaning the assembly of ones "called-out" -- all those who have been separated from the world -- Acts 15:14.)

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 bishops 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 bishops -- 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 possible?

And finally if we found in our home some terrible threat to the wellbeing of the family members should we not expel it? Would we tolerate the presence, for example, of some dread disease in our household, where the infection might be easily passed from one to another, if we had the power to isolate and finally eradicate it? Of course we would not! And the principle is precisely the same with the ecclesia and the fearful diseases to be found in the world today. A righteous elder cannot ignore such problems, hoping they will go away by themselves.

Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

The word novice in Greek is neophuton (compare the English "neophyte") and means literally, "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). A bishop should not be a new convert, still trying to sink down his first roots, for then he will have even greater difficulties.

Lifted up means "puffed up" and is from the Greek tuphos, which signifies "smoke". (Compare 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!"

There has been sufficient comment on pride already. Let us simply quote the well-known proverb.

"Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov 16:18; see also 18:12; 29:23).
The word devil (Greek 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 '... 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; compare 1Pe 5:8 and Rev 12:10). This thought is carried forward in the succeeding verse.

We must mention 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 are much greater than those of other men:

"To whom much is given, much will be required" (Luke 12:48).
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

A bishop must have a good report of them which are without. 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).

See notes on v.2: "Blameless" and "Of good behaviour".

Lest he fall into reproach refers primarily to the reproach of men. Enemies of the Truth are very quick to spot our inconsistencies and use them against us.

The snare of the devil (diabolos) is 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. Men who are proper for the job of bishops 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 7:14).

B. 3:8-13: Deacons

There seem to have been in Paul's day two classes of serving brethren: bishops and deacons. Judging by the literal meaning of the words, we may conclude that the bishops 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 diakonous 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.)

The word diakonous appears often in the New Testament, referring to the many variations of service and classifying many varied (and probably overlapping) groups as servants. It is used of the following:

  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-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;
  7. A special class of ecclesial servants -- as here.
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" (1Pe 4:11).
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. Robert Roberts 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, pp. 13, 14).

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre.

Nearly all of the qualifications listed in this verse may be found in verses 2, 3 where they are considered in the notes. The "likewise" at the beginning of this verse points backward to those verses. 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.

Not doubletongued 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" (Prov 20:19). "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8).

Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

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 liveth 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 4:16).

And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

Proved means 'to be purified, 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 brethren.

The phrase then let them use the office of a deacon sounds very officious and bureaucratic. It is much better to say, "Let them serve". (Diakoneo -- to serve as deacons.)

Being found blameless means 'having (already) been found blameless (irreproachable or unaccused)', as best Timothy was able to determine. 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 verses.

Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

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!

Slanderers 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.

Faithful in all things is certainly 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" (Ruth 2:11).
Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife ruling their children and their own houses well.

For the phrase let the deacons be the husbands of one wife see the note on v 2.

For the phrase ruling their children and their own houses well see notes on v 4.

For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

For they that have used the office of a deacon well is better translated as "For they that have served well as deacons" (compare v 10). 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 "today") we must continue serving: there is no "early retirement" from the Truth!

Purchase to themselves has the idea of 'gain' (NIV), but not in the sense of a bargain struck. We cannot "buy" with time, money, or works either an honorable position or eternal life.

The phrase a good degree means an honorable position, a good standing. 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" (John 13:14,15,17).
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).

Through our service we demonstrate the faith in Christ we have acquired and through serving we acquire more confidence [which is a better word than boldness] and assurance in what we believe and hope. Through serving we become more familiar with our faith and with whom our faith rests. Such "boldness" 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" (compare Eph 6:19).

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