October 23

1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 2:1-3:13-Paul’s Instructions for Establishing the Organization of the Church (cont’d)

1 Timothy 3:1-7-Instructions Concerning the Office of Overseer

1 Timothy 3:1-The Identification of the Overseer

The English word "Overseer" (NASV, NIV; “Bishop”-KJV; “Elder”-NLT’) is a translation of the Greek word, “episkope”.  It is the title assigned to the primary leader in the local church, the Pastor.  This leader is variously referred to in other passages as Pastor, Bishop, Elder, Presbyter, and Minister.  These are all titles or translations that refer to the same leader.  In some churches there may be more than one pastor.  There is no organizational structure assigning authority to leaders outside of the local church.


  1. If a man desires the position of a bishop: The office Paul described is that of bishop. Our religious culture has given us a particular idea of what a bishop is; but the word bishop in New Testament Greek [episkopos] literally means "over" (epi) "watcher" (skopos) - an overseer.
  2. These were men with leadership and authority in the church. "The state has its monarch, the Church has its bishop; one should govern according to the laws of the land, the other according to the word of God." (Clarke)
  3. In Acts 20:17, we learn there were many bishops - that is, overseers - in one church in one city. Undoubtedly, these were men who had oversight over the many house-churches that met throughout the city. The idea of a "regional bishop" doesn't come from the Bible.

iii. Based on what bishop means, a bishop is someone with oversight in the church, a leader. Such a person may also sometimes be called an elder (presbuteros) or a pastor (poimen, which means "shepherd"), as in Acts 20:17, 28.

  1. "On the question as to the terms presbyter and episcopus, it is sufficient here to state my own conclusion, that they represent slightly different aspects of the same office, pastoral and official; aspects which came naturally into prominence in the Jewish and Greek societies respectively which gave birth to the names." (White)
  2. Of this passage, White adds: "Having given elementary directions concerning the scope of public prayer, and the ministers thereof, St. Paul now takes up the matter of Church organization." Yet this organization of the church is greatly limited. There is no advice or guidance on structure or exactly how the offices of bishop or deacon or anything else relate to each other. In the New Testament design, there seems to be some flexibility on structure and an emphasis rather on the character of leaders.

David Guzik :: Study Guide for 1 Timothy 3,



1 Tim. 3:1–13 thus presents a twofold pattern for the official ministry of the church, that of oversight (ἐπίσκοπος) and that of service (διάκονος). This same twofold pattern is also seen in Phil. 1:1 and seems to be reflected in the early division of labor at Jerusalem between the oversight ministry of the apostles (of prayer and of the ministry of the Word, Acts 6:1, 4) and the aid to widows on the part of the Seven (vv. 1–3). The early Jerusalem community presents not only a conceptual parallel but also linguistic parallels: (1) Peter, one of those apostles, can refer to himself as a “fellow elder” (συμπρεσβύτερος, 1 Pet. 5:1). That “elder” (πρεσβύτερος) was a synonym for ἐπίσκοπος is clear from Tit. 1:5, 7 and Acts 20:17, 28 (cf. 1 Pet. 5:2; 1 Tim. 5:17; see the still valid study of Lightfoot, “The Synonyms ‘Bishop’ and ‘Presbyter,’” Philippians, 95–99). (2) The responsibility for which the Seven were elected is referred to as the daily διακονία without further qualification, and their activity is described as διακονεῖν τραπέζαις (Acts 6:2). The linguistic connections with those who are in 1 Tim. 3:8–13 described with the noun διάκονοι and the verb διακονεῖν (used in a technical sense) is striking and is in accord with the division of labor in conceptual terms in Acts 6. These three passages show, then, a twofold division of labor in early, middle, and later time periods in the NT church, in key cities in three various geographical areas (Palestine, Greece, and Asia Minor), and in both Jewish and Greco-Roman settings.

But it is puzzling that such an early and widespread phenomenon is otherwise virtually absent from the rest of the NT, at least in terms of the διάκονοι, although not entirely so in terms of the ἐπίσκοποι/πρεσβύτεροι. The fundamental difference between the parallel instructions of Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 provides one clue regarding this difficulty. Tit. 1:5 suggests that the church in Crete had been established only a short time and was still virtually unorganized. In such a situation, only the initial rank of officers is prescribed, i.e., the bishops/presbyters, while 1 Timothy 3 refers to both bishops and deacons. Apparently, as in Jerusalem with the apostles, it was assumed that in Crete the bishops/presbyters would also care for the needy until such time as the work became too great and men qualified to serve as διάκονοι were available. The same approach was followed in Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 14:23), and concern for “the weak” was still perceived as the responsibility of the bishops/elders in Miletus (Acts 20:35), whether these men administered such aid or not.

Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 175). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, Logos Bible Software


1 Timothy 3:2-7-The Qualifications of the Overseer

Paul gave very specific and vital qualifications for those called to the Pastoral ministry in the church.


  1. In the primitive church there were but two orders of ministers or officers, bishops and deacons, Phil. 1:1. After-ages have invented the rest. The office of the bishop, presbyter, pastor, or minister, was confined to prayer and to the ministry of the word; and the office of the deacon was confined to, or at least principally conversant about, serving tables. Clemens Romanus, in his epistle to the Christian (cap. 42, 44), speaks very fully and plainly to this effect, that the apostles, foreknowing, by our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would arise in the Christian church a controversy about the name episcopacy, appointed the forementioned orders, bishops and deacons…
  2. In order to the discharge of this office, the doing of this work, the workman must be qualified.
  3. A minister must be blameless, he must not lie under any scandal; he must give as little occasion for blame as can be, because this would be a prejudice to his ministry and would reflect reproach upon his office.
  4. He must be the husband of one wife; not having given a bill of divorce to one, and then taken another, or not having many wives at once, as at that time was too common both among Jews and Gentiles, especially among the Gentiles.
  5. He must be vigilant and watchful against Satan, that subtle enemy; he must watch over himself, and the souls of those who are committed to his charge, of whom having taken the oversight, he must improve all opportunities of doing them good. A minister ought to be vigilant, because our adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, 1 Pt. 5:8.
  6. He must be sober, temperate, moderate in all his actions, and in the use of all creature-comforts. Sobriety and watchfulness are often in scripture put together, because they mutually befriend one another: Be sober, be vigilant.
  7. He must be of good behaviour, composed and solid, and not light, vain, and frothy.
  8. He must be given to hospitality, open-handed to strangers, and ready to entertain them according to his ability, as one who does not set his heart upon the wealth of the world and who is a true lover of his brethren.
  9. Apt to teach. Therefore this is a preaching bishop whom Paul describes, one who is both able and willing to communicate to others the knowledge which God has given him, one who is fit to teach and ready to take all opportunities of giving instructions, who is himself well instructed in the things of the kingdom of heaven, and is communicative of what he knows to others.
  10. No drunkard: Not given to wine. The priests were not to drink wine when they went in to minister (Lev. 10:8, 9), lest they should drink and pervert the law.
  11. No striker; one who is not quarrelsome, nor apt to use violence to any, but does every thing with mildness, love, and gentleness. The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle towards all, etc., 2 Tim. 2:24.
  12. One who is not greedy of filthy lucre, who does not make his ministry to truckle to any secular design or interest, who uses no mean, base, sordid ways of getting money, who is dead to the wealth of this world, lives above it, and makes it appear he is so.
  13. He must be patient, and not a brawler, of a mild disposition. Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, is so. Not apt to be angry or quarrelsome; as not a striker with his hands, so not a brawler with his tongue; for how shall men teach others to govern their tongues who do not make conscience of keeping them under good government themselves?
  14. Not covetous. Covetousness is bad in any, but it is worst in a minister, whose calling leads him to converse so much with another world.
  15. He must be one who keeps his family in good order: That rules well his own house, that he may set a good example to other masters of families to do so too, and that he may thereby give a proof of his ability to take care of the church of God: For, if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God. Observe, The families of ministers ought to be examples of good to all others families. Ministers must have their children in subjection; then it is the duty of ministers' children to submit to the instructions that are given them.-With all gravity. The best way to keep inferiors in subjection, is to be grave with them. Not having his children in subjection with all austerity, but with all gravity.
  16. He must not be a novice, not one newly brought to the Christian religion, or not one who is but meanly instructed in it, who knows no more of religion than the surface of it, for such a one is apt to be lifted up with pride: the more ignorant men are the more proud they are: Lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil. The devils fell through pride, which is a good reason why we should take heed of pride, because it is a sin that turned angels into devils.
  17. He must be of good reputation among his neighbours, and under no reproach from former conversation; for the devil will make use of that to ensnare others, and work in them an aversion to the doctrine of Christ preached by those who have not had a good report.

Matthew Henry :: Commentary on 1 Timothy 3,



1 Timothy 3:8-13-Instructions Concerning Deacons

1 Timothy 3:8-The Identification of Deacons

The "deacons" were servants to the church...helpers that assisted the Pastors.  The "women" (:11) spoken of here were the wives of the deacons.


διάκονος (diakonos), agent; assistant. Cognate words: διακονέω, διακονία. Heb. equiv. fr. LXX: נַ֫עַר (3×), שׁרת (1×)

35.20 (27) servant Mt 20:26; 22:13; 23:11; Mk 9:35; 10:43; John 2:5, 9; 12:26; Rom 13:4 (2); 15:8; 1 Co 3:5; 2 Co 3:6; 6:4; 11:15 (2), 23; Gal 2:17; Eph 3:7; 6:21; Col 1:7, 23, 25; 4:7; Poly 5.2 (2); Herm, S IX, xv, 4

53.67 (31) servant Rom 16:1; 1 Ti 4:6; Poly 5.3; deacon Phil 1:1; 1 Ti 3:8, 12; 1Cl 42.4, 5 (2); IEph 2.1; IMag 2.1; 6:1; 13:1; ITr 2.3 (2); 3:1; 7:2; IPhld, Salutation; 4:1; 7:1; 10:1, 2; 11:1; ISmyr 8.1; 10:1; 12:2; IPoly 6.1; Poly 5.2; Did 15.1; Herm, V III, v, 1; Herm, S IX, xxvi, 2

(2011). The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Logos Bible Software.


8) All that we know about deacons as they were found in Paul’s day is contained in this passage and in Rom. 16:1; Phil. 1:11. The διακονία used in Rom. 12:7 and the διακονεῖν used in 1 Pet. 4:1 point to the office of deacons although both passages refer to all who have the charisma of ministering to others. This is true also regarding the ἀντιλήψεις or “helps” mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:28. We must, therefore, be content with the little information that we have. The fact that two offices are referred to by “overseers” and “deacons” is assured by our passage and by Phil. 1:1. The fact that deacons held the minor office and did not teach is also certain. What the deacons actually did is nowhere stated in detail. To say that they performed the same work as the episcopoi with the exception of the teaching is not provable. They were not the overseers, did not act as pastors and spiritual leaders of the flock. The best we can say is that they assisted the overseers by performing the minor services and attending to incidental matters such as collecting and distributing alms, looking after the physical needs of the sick, keeping the place of worship in order, etc. Thus there were also women deacons (v. 11); Phoebe was one of these, and she is referred to as early as Rom. 16:1. We note the errand she performed for Paul.

Voluntary diakonia was plentiful. The regular choice and appointment of deacons in all probability grew out of this voluntary service. The fact that these deacons were called “elders,” and that together with the episcopoi they formed the πρεσβυτήριον or “presbytery,” is nowhere indicated. If we may use the word “clergy” with reference to the officers of this early period, the deacons were not considered as belonging to the clergy. The “overseers” oversaw also the deacons.

As far as Acts 6 is concerned, the seven men appointed in the mother church were not called deacons, yet the work for which they were chosen by the church was evidently that of deacons, attending to aid for the many widows when the mother church had grown to a membership of thousands, estimated at 20,000 to 25,000. This example seems to have prompted Paul’s congregations to appoint men for similar purposes and then to call them deacons. Stephen’s other activities such as doing miracles and testifying mightily in the synagogues were not a part of the work to which he and the six others were appointed. But all this was discontinued when Stephen was stoned and the mother church was widely scattered because of the first great persecution. It was then that we read of Philip doing evangelistic work in Samaria and elsewhere. His office in the mother church had ended. The scattered Christians, too, started congregations in the places to which they had fled.

Lenski, R. C. H. (1937). The interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon (pp. 592–593). Columbus, OH: Lutheran Book Concern, Logos Bible Software


1 Timothy 3:9-13-The Qualifications of Deacons

We have here the character of deacons: these had the care of the temporal concerns of the church, that is, the maintenance of the ministers and provision for the poor: they served tables, while the ministers or bishops gave themselves only to the ministry of the word and prayer, Acts 6:2, 4. Of the institution of this office, with that which gave occasion to it, you have an account in Acts 6:1-7. Now it was requisite that deacons should have a good character, because they were assistants to the ministers, appeared and acted publicly, and had a great trust reposed in them. They must be grave. Gravity becomes all Christians, but especially those who are in the office in the church. Not doubled-tongued; that will say one thing to one and another thing to another, according as their interests leads them: a double tongue comes from a double heart; flatterers and slanderers are double-tongued. Not given to much wine; for this is a great disparagement to any man, especially to a Christian, and one in office, unfits men for business, opens the door to many temptations. Not greedy of filthy lucre; this would especially be bad in the deacons, who were entrusted with the church's money, and, if they were covetous and greedy of filthy lucre, would be tempted to embezzle it, and convert that to their own use which was intended for the public service. Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience, v. 9. Note, The mystery of faith is best held in a pure conscience. The practical love of truth is the most powerful preservative from error and delusion. If we keep a pure conscience (take heed of every thing that debauches conscience, and draws us away from God), this will preserve in our souls the mystery of faith. Let these also first be proved, v. 10. It is not fit that the public trusts should be lodged in the hands of any, till they have been first proved, and found fit for the business they are to be entrusted with; the soundness of their judgments, their zeal for Christ, and the blamelessness of their conversation, must be proved. Their wives likewise must have a good character (v. 11); they must be of a grave behaviour, not slanderers, tale-bearers, carrying stories to make mi23schief and sow discord; they must be sober and faithful in all things, not given to any excess, but trusty in all that is committed to them. All who are related to ministers must double their care to walk as becomes the gospel of Christ, lest, if they in any thing walk disorderly, the ministry be blamed. As he said before of the bishops or ministers, so here of the deacons, they must be the husband of one wife, such as had not put away their wives, upon dislike, and married others; they must rule their children and their own houses well; the families of deacons should be examples to other families.

Matthew Henry :: Commentary on 1 Timothy 3,



1 Timothy 3:14-16-Paul’s Reason for Giving These Instructions

Paul writes that he hoped to come see them, soon.  However, in case he is delayed he is writing to them…

  1. to instruct them how to organize the church;
  2. to remind them how they should be relating together in the church;
  3. to confirm for them several of the fundamental points of the faith of the church. Verse 16 is possibly part of an early Christian hymn about Jesus.  It speaks of His:
  • incarnation on earth
  • resurrection from the dead
  • ascension into Heaven
  • proclamation of the Gospel through the church
  • salvation of the lost
  • reign in Heaven.

Prayer: Father, You have called me to serve You as a minister.  Please help the very details of my life, the daily, routine details...to bring honor to You.  Help me to be an example of Your grace and a model of the filling of Your Spirit.


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