I Timothy Brief Study Notes

Chapter Three

Verse 1: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”  We begin our studies in chapter 3 with Paul talking about the office of a bishop.  The word “bishop” is synonymous with the word “elder”.  Notice what Thayer defines the word bishop used in this verse as: “overseership, office, charge, the office of an elder.”  So, we are going to be talking about men who have a desire to serve as overseers of a local church.   In the similarities that we find between what Paul wrote to Timothy and what he wrote to Titus we see that the qualifications of elders were taught to both Timothy and Titus (Titus 1:6-9).  The reason being that these evangelists had a duty of installing elderships in local churches (Titus 1:5).

In this first verse of chapter 3 let’s notice three key factors we need to remember.

1. “If any man…” shows us that elders are to be male.
2. The office of an elder must be desired.
3. Being an elder is good work.

Elders are needed in local churches.  They are commanded in every local work (Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5).  We need to realize and stress that the oversight elders have is only to their own local work (I Peter 5:1).  Without elders in place in the local church, we have men who are spiritually immature making the decisions for the direction of the local church.  We often times find that preachers take all the control of these congregations.  Men need to start desiring at a young age to be leaders within the body of Christ and began studying and learning to reach that goal.  Realistically, most aged male members of the local church should meet many of the qualifications of elders if they are trying to grow as Peter instructed (II Peter 1:4-10).

Elders have various tasks which include:

1. Feeding and protecting the flock (Acts 20:28).
2. Overseeing the local work (I Peter 5:2).
3. Being examples to the brethren (I Peter 5:3 and Hebrews 13:7).
4. Exhort and convince those that speak against the truth (Titus 1:9).
5. Watch over the brethren (Hebrews 13:17).

Verse 2: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.”  As we get into the qualifications of elders we see the third qualification listed, the first being an aged man and the second being his desire to be an elder, is to be blameless [irreproachable].  An elder must be the husband of one wife.  Some have suggested that this means “one wife at a time”.  However, the Bible clearly shows that this is a false concept (Matthew 19:5-9, John 4:5-19, Romans 7:1-3, and I Corinthians 7:2).  We find then that an elder is to be vigilant [temperate / clam].  It is very difficult to get a man that is calm to lose control.  We find that an elder must be sober.  This instruction, like most of the others, is expected of all Christians (I Peter 5:8).  The behavior of an elder must be good.  He must be hospitable (Hebrews 13:1-2, Matthew 25:31-46, and Acts 2:42-46).  This verse concludes with the qualification of being apt to teach.  An elder cannot fulfill his duty to feed the flock if he cannot teach.  The ability to teach is a sign of spiritual maturity (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Verse 3:“Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.”  The first thing we find in this verse surrounds the usage of alcohol.  Thayer defines the phrase “not given to wine” as “drunken”.  The Lord has not placed a requirement on elders that is unique.  All Christians are forbidden from drinking alcohol whether it be social drinking, partying, or outright drunkenness (I Peter 4:3).  The Lord also commands that elders are not to be strikers [contentious, quarrelsome person] (I Corinthians 3:3 and Titus 3:9).  Someone who is eager for gain could not be an elder.  Paul later teaches Timothy that the love of money is the root of all evil and that we need to be content with what we have (I Timothy 6:6-10).  Paul says that an elder needs to be patient and not contentious.  An elder with patience would be hard to provoke to anger to start a fight.  Covetousness is certainly in violation of the scriptures, again not just for men desiring to be elders, but for all Christians (I Corinthians 6:9-10).  Notice what the Lord taught on this subject of covetousness: Luke 12:13-21.

Verses 4-5: “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)”  One clear quality of a godly man would be the ability to rule his house well.  The Bible teaches that the man is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18, and I Peter 3:1).  The Bible also shows that children are to be in subjection to their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2 and Colossians 3:20).  The clear role of authority, man – wife – children, focuses the ability of the man to run his own house.  The reason for this, as explained by Paul in verse 4, is that if a man cannot run his own household he cannot take care of the Lord’s church.  Much debate also occurs over the word “children” in this verse and whether or not that means one child or more than one child.  When one researches the Greek word used “teknon” [Strong’s # 5043], they will find the implication in definitions such as Thayer gives, shows the word to mean “one or more”.  The same Greek word is used in Luke 1:7 and is translated as “child”.  It would not be appropriate to have the text say “having his child in subjection” for that would limit the elder to having only one child.

Verse 6: “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”  An elder cannot be a new convert or inexperienced in the faith.  If a man is simply old in physical age, that does not speak for his spiritual maturity.  Spiritual maturity in this verse is shown to demonstrate humility and knowledge.  One who is young in the faith is more susceptible to the devices of the devil.

Verse 7: “Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”  An elder must be of a good report of those who are not members of the body of Christ.  This man must be one who has truly let his light shine before men that they may see his good works and that glory might be given to God (Matthew 5:14-16).

Verses 8-12: “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.  And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.  Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.  Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.”  A deacon is a servant put in office to do the work that is more tedious.  We see the selection of deacons [servants] in Acts 6:1-6 that shows clearly the nature of this office.  There are some things mentioned in the qualifications of deacons that were mentioned for elders that we will pass over since they have already been discussed.  However, there are some things mentioned that we have not yet discussed, and it is to those things we will pay attention to.

A deacon must be grave [honorable – dignified] and not doubletongued [saying one thing with one person another with another (with the intent to deceive)].  In other words, a deacon would be wrong to display the characteristics of a modern day politician.  Deacons are to hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience, they should be proved [tried] (I John 4:1), then they may use the office of a deacon because of their being found blameless.  The wife of a deacon must be honorable just as her husband, she must not be one who slanders others, she must be temperate, and she must be faithful.  When looking at a man to be in office, the church must also consider how his wife carries herself.  That does not suggest in any way that a woman is to fill the role of a “deaconess”.  There is no such thing in the Bible and it would be an outright violation of her natural role.  The deacon, just as the elder, is to be a good ruler of the house, not greedy of filthy lucre, and the husband of one wife.  We also read here a passage that is often times perverted.  Some argue that in verse 8 Paul used the words “much wine” which would allow for a little wine to be consumed by deacons.  However, as pointed out in the qualifications of elders, all types of drinking of alcohol are prohibited in the pages of the New Testament (I Peter 4:3).

Verse 13: “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.” Those that serve well as deacons obtain a good standing among the local church as well as a confident [bold] faith.  One who serves truly understands faithfulness.  The deacon may do the less meaningful works and things that often go unnoticed by the saints, but nonetheless they are important and significant to the structure of the local church. Their works will testify of their faith (James 2:14-26).

Verses 14-15: “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”  Paul wanted to come shortly to be with Timothy, however, he stressed a possibility that this would not occur.  So, he wrote to Timothy with the instructions on the organization of the local church we have seen above.  The house of God is the church.  The church is the body of Christ, of which Christ is the head of (Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18).  The church needs scripturally qualified men to lead and serve.  This is the Lord’s plan.

Verse 16: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”  Christ was God in the flesh (Matthew 1:23).  The plan God had set forth long ago has been realized by this time (I Peter 1:17-25).  When Christ came to earth he showed his humility (Philippians 2:3-9 and Hebrews 2:9), but did not give up His being deity (Colossians 1:12-18).  Jesus became as man in the flesh, but was God in Spirit (Colossians 2:8-9).

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2003 by Brian A. Yeager may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.