The Expository Files

Commentary on 1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 3

1st Timothy Commentary, chapter 3
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?); and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, Beheld by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory (1st Tim 3:1-15).

There was obviously a problem in leadership where Timothy was located, and order needed to be set. Leaders needed to be appointed to guide this congregation. It had been caught up in much fruitless discussion. Perhaps many people wanted to become leaders, but only some are fit to serve as one of the leaders in the church. It seemed wrong people, with the wrong qualities, were running the show. It was certainly time for a reminder of the type of man that was to lead the church of God.

1. The office of an overseer is a good office and it is a fine work. First, a man must have the desire to put the effort needed and required by such an office

2. Above reproach -- An elder's character should be one that no one has anything bad to say about him. His character is proven to all who know him. The husband of one wife. An elder should have one wife, only one, no less or no more. A question could arise rather a man would qualify as an elder if his first wife had passed away, or his divorce was scriptural and he was a man who married for a second time. Nothing in the context clarifies this, and it simply states "husband of one wife." If in death, a marital bond is broken, then it would seem that marrying again would not disqualify him from being an elder. At the same time, later in Timothy, a widow is said to be put on the list only if she has been the wife of one man. If she had married twice in her life, then she would be ineligible to be put on the list, this will be investigated later. Does this show that a man should only have one wife, and that wife be the same wife for his entire life? Death breaks a marriage bond, and a man who remarries is only married to one wife, but has he been the husband of one wife, or two? Perhaps the husband of one wife refers to an attitude of the elder, as if he was a one woman man. Not really stressing the number, but the character of him. This would mean that at any point of his life, he remained faithful to one woman. An elder should also be temperate. He should be a man that does things in moderation. Not a man that gets taken in by extreme things. He should be prudent, not overly excitable, but restrained. He should be respectable, someone people can look up to and admire. He should be hospitable and willing to help any traveler out, or person who needs a home. An elder must be able to teach. Being that the essence of his job is to guide people, and help them in their Christian walks, it is fundamental that he is able to teach, and teach well.

3. Not addicted to wine or pugnacious. An elder should not get mixed up in the dangers of strong drink, and should always have his temper under control, and not react violently. Not only should there be a lack of negative attitude, but his attitude should be one of gentleness. A patient and kind man when confronted with opposition. An elder needs to be uncontentious. He should stand for truth, but his spirit is one that is searching for truth, and not seeking his own pleasure. He should be free from the love of money. A man of God has his treasures in heaven, and his life is not ruled by the dollar. If he loves money, then there is a potential for evil to come from that love in many areas that not loving money would free him from many temptations.

4. A good example of rather a man would be fit to rule the church would be simply to check how he rules his household. He should be able to keep his children under control with all dignity.

5. If in order to manage his children, he cannot keep a patient gentle attitude, or does not rule his household well, then he is not fit to rule the church of God.

6. A young man that receives power or a new convert who is given a leadership position is in danger of becoming conceited. It is always a trap for anyone to lose sight that they are a servant, and not a master themselves. This is especially true for a new convert, and the younger man. This trap is incurred by the devil and has sadly tripped up many men.

7. If a man lives in such a way that even those outside of the church think of him as a good man, then he will avoid a lot of problems that the devil might stir up. People are sometimes judged by the leaders of the group they are in, and if a leader has a dark spot on his reputation to those outside, it could hurt the whole churches influence for good.

8. Deacons are servants who like elders must be men of dignity. They are separate from elders, but they are servants to help out the elders. They should not be double tongued, this is almost like being two faced, say one thing, and meaning another, or saying what people want to hear instead of what the situation calls for. Not addicted to much wine, does not mean he is addicted to some wine. When alcohol is involved in a servant's life he is treading a fine line, and is on dangerous ground. A deacon, like an elder, should not be fond of sordid gain, or enjoy worldly materials too much. A deacon is striving to be like an elder, and have his qualities.

9. He holds to the faith, the mystery of faith. He holds to everything revealed by God dearly to his heart. He is not only knowing, but becoming as the word of the Lord would have him, so his conscience may be clear.

10. Though a Deacon would not be as qualified as an elder, he still needs to be tested to make sure he is worthy of the office. He should be someone who has shown that he stands for the truth, and there is nothing a person can have against him, and he shall serve as a deacon when he is found beyond reproach.

11. Women, possibly wives of deacons, or just a woman servant who would possibly serve in certain ways that a man could not. Nevertheless a woman should be dignified, and not a malicious gossip. Her tongue better be under control in every situation. She should be temperate, and moderate, and not get carried away by things. They should be faithful in all things. You should be able to trust her with anything, and she will hold it safely and not spread rumors that cause dissensions.

12. Back to deacons; they should be the husband of one wife too and should also be a good manager of his own household. Though he is not an overseer, he still must have certain leadership qualities in order to serve in the church of God.

13. As it is a fine work for an elder, it is a fine work for a deacon. If he serves well, he obtains a high standing and great confidence in Christ.

14. Paul hopes to see Timothy soon to help Timothy in setting up these offices.

15. Timothy though needs to know how to conduct himself in the church, which is the pillar of the truth.

16. The common confession of this truth reveals the plan of God, which was a mystery to man. Christ was revealed in the flesh. And showed the spirit was in Him through His power and miracles. Angels beheld Him and announced his birth and ministered to him in the wilderness. His name was and is proclaimed throughout nations, and is being believed on in the entire world. Many witnessed Him being taken up into the glory of heaven, to be seated with God.

By Nathan E. Quinn
From Expository Files 8.9; September 2001