1 Timothy Chapter 3: Elders and Deacons

Jan 10th, 2010 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Timothy, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Timothy Chapter 3:  Elders and Deacons

1 Tim. 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

If a brother desires the office of a bishop, he desires “a good work.” However, the office has certain conditions and responsibilities, and behavioral conduct has to be within the parameters, or guidelines, listed in verses 2-7.

Q: What is the distinction between a “bishop” and an “elder”? (See 1 Tim. 3:1,2; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:7; and 1 Pet. 2:25 for “bishop”; Acts 1:20 for “bishopric”; and Titus 1:5 for “elders.”)

A: The Roman Catholic Church has used various terms to justify a hierarchy of power (priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, and pope), and the Protestant churches have ministers. However, the Bible teaches that there are only 12 apostles and 7 messengers.

A “bishop” is not necessarily confined to one congregation but is like a pilgrim in some respects, traveling around and giving advice to other ecclesias or congregations. We feel that Paul was more or less saying to Timothy, “Keep up the good work.” When Timothy went around from place to place, brethren looked to him for counsel and advice, knowing that he had been with Paul during much of the apostle’s ministry. In his two letters, Paul gave instruction and advice that Timothy could pass along to others in his travels. Accordingly, Paul was suggesting that Timothy have a larger ministry than just the local area. Thus, in contradistinction to a brother who was more or less confined to one area, a bishop traveled from place to place, establishing the faith and giving advice. Down through the Gospel Age, there have been many bishops. For example, many of the Reformers were bishops.

Q: In Titus 1:5-7, the terms “elder” and “bishop” seem to be used interchangeably. Is that thought correct?

A: The word “bishop” means “overseer.” Although an elder is an overseer in a local ecclesia, a bishop oversees a larger area. Although the qualifications are the same for both, the New Testament does make a distinction. Both have positions of much responsibility. They should not be domineering or have peremptory authority as overseers but should be shepherds guiding the flock. Perhaps we could say that an elder is a bishop is a localized sense, and some elders are favored in a broader sense in their ministry.

The Pastor treated this subject from another standpoint. He tried to show that Timothy and Titus “ordained” elders in the sense of teaching how an elder should be elected. In other words, the local brethren were shown the advisability of having a leader, what his qualifications should be, and that the election should be determined by raising the outstretched hand. The Pastor took a lot of time to explain these points because of the prevailing thought that the clergy and the laity were two separate bodies with the laity having nothing to say. He was trying to break up the old thinking with regard to the priesthood.

Q: Did Paul write to Timothy that it was good for a man to desire the office of a bishop in order to encourage him to accept that office? Perhaps Timothy was hesitant to take on this additional responsibility (see 1 Tim. 1:18). As Paul was giving a charge, he reminded Timothy of the earlier prophecies about him so that he would “war a good warfare.”

A: Yes, Timothy could have been discouraged. When Timothy, whom Paul loved dearly, visited the church at Corinth, he was not effective because of his youth, whereas Titus had been successful (see 1 Tim. 4:12). Timothy had capabilities but needed encouragement. Since Paul would shortly be off the scene, he was preparing Timothy for future work.

1 Tim. 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Verses 2-7 give the qualifications for an elder or bishop. A list of qualifications is also given in Titus 1:6-9, and a few additional squibs are in other epistles. When all of the information is consolidated, it describes the ideal elder or bishop, but we cannot always have elders who match the ideal, for most do not possess all of these qualifications. Thus there is the practical aspect, and there is the ideal aspect. For example, a class might bar a brother from eldership because they think his children are not under his control. First, brethren have different ideas of what it means to have a household under control. Second, many do not take into consideration the free moral agency, age, physical circumstances, etc., of the child. Even King David, who was loved by God, had disobedient children, so we must be reasonable in our judgment of the situation. If we view the matter too rigidly, who would qualify for eldership?

The first qualification is that an elder or bishop “must be blameless.” The thought is that one who wants the office should be able to judge himself as blameless. The person in that office needs to be blameless because the larger his sphere of influence, the greater the responsibility.

For example, Paul was criticized and his apostleship questioned, but he knew he was blameless and had pure motives. He knew his chief aim in life was to develop Christlikeness and to serve God fully. Had Paul lacked the knowledge, the zeal, and the perseverance to keep going under pressure, persecution, and rejection, he would not have been received by brethren. To be “blameless” means to be above reproach and of good character. The words “faultless” and “blameless” are not synonymous. We all have faults, but we might be blameless for a particular fault. Certainly bishops are not perfect in thought, word, and deed, but from God’s standpoint, they are blameless through the robe of Christ’s righteousness. The thought is that their heart condition and manner of life are above reproach; there is nothing special to find fault with. Those who are hypercritical may still find fault, as some did even with Jesus, so the thought is that bishops must be of good character among the brotherhood.

At the same time, we should keep in mind the statement “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” and some of that persecution may come from brethren (2 Tim. 3:12).

Since slander and evil speaking can adversely affect an elder’s ministry, we cannot say that one should be barred from eldership if another finds fault with him. Generally speaking, only those who fail to take a positive stand on any issue, never speak on prophecy (for example), and always talk on nice, innocuous topics or illustrations do not receive persecution. In fact, in large classes, such individuals usually get more votes than those who are much better qualified.

A bishop must be “the husband of one wife”; that is, monogamy is the teaching of Jesus. With regard to this stipulation, several points have to be considered. The implication is that a bishop must be the husband of one wife at a time. For example, if a brother is married and his wife dies, he is scripturally free to remarry and still be a bishop, for that is having one wife at a time. Another situation is that some who consecrated and came into the early Church already had more than one wife, so they were barred from becoming a bishop. We think one reason the gospel went westward instead of eastward is that the custom of having multiple wives was very prevalent, even in our Lord’s day, in the nations going eastward. Confusion, turmoil, and many perplexing situations would have resulted in distracting disputes and problems.

Incidentally, in the lands where the gospel went, the practice of having more than one wife phased out very naturally and quite quickly, as did the gift of speaking in tongues when the apostles died.

Comment: If an elder divorces his wife not on scriptural grounds and remarries, he has two wives in the eyes of the Lord and should be removed from office by the ecclesia.

Reply: Yes. When a divorce occurs, the brother (or sister) should make the grounds known to the class. However, an elder cannot necessarily be held responsible for a disobedient wife. Each situation has to be considered separately and the facts weighed in view of these Scriptures.

Comment: Of course an elder does not have to be married; he can be celibate.

A bishop must be “vigilant,” that is, watchful, but in what sense? He should be concerned for the character and well-being of others as well as for himself. In addition, he should be vigilant in regard to not only prophecy but also doctrines becoming prevalent that may be pernicious or harmful to the faith of the brotherhood. In other words, a bishop should be alert enough to inform the brotherhood in both of these areas.

A bishop must also be “sober.” He should be serious-minded as a general trend and not given to frivolity. Although cheerfulness can be a good quality, it should not be pursued when damage would result to the subject matter at hand. The principle is that we should sympathize with those who sorrow and rejoice with those who are happy. A bishop is to have “good behaviour,” that is, good conduct. Blamelessness is both inward and outward, with inward character being generally manifested by outward behavior. We appraise an individual by his words, his actions, and his normal habit of thought.

Comment: The term “blameless” pertains to one’s reputation with others, whereas “good behaviour” pertains to actions that are observed.

A bishop should be “given to hospitality”; that is, he should be hospitable within scriptural limits, which caution us not to tolerate spongers, for example.

Comment: Since a bishop’s goods are the Lord’s, they should be used for, or shared with, the brethren. He should want to help the brethren as opportunity affords.

Reply: In other words, being hospitable is not limited to the home. Wherever we are, we should make brethren feel welcome.

Comment: A married elder would perhaps be in a better situation to extend hospitality on a regular basis if his wife is also consecrated.

Reply: That is true, but of course one does not have to be married to become an elder. In fact, a eunuch for the Kingdom of heaven’s sake is to be highly esteemed.

Comment: Hospitality is largely going out of one’s way to help others spiritually, especially new interests but other brethren as well.

Reply: Yes, there are various ways to manifest hospitality in the circumstance in which we find ourselves. For example, the Apostle Paul did not have a home, but he was hospitable to others by being approachable. Bishops should not be so dignified and sedate that others are almost fearful to draw near to them.

A bishop must be “apt to teach.” This requirement applies to an elder, not to a deacon. Aptness to teach, which is not necessarily public speaking, is the ability to communicate doctrines and truths to others.

Comment: Being “apt to teach” is a requirement for eldership, but this ability can vary depending on the brother.

Reply: Aptness to teach is an important requirement, but how is aptness measured? Some classes make a distinction between a teaching elder and a speaking elder, although we are somewhat reluctant to make such categorizations. Sometimes a very capable individual with a lot of knowledge and understanding is unable to transmit the information to others.

Conversely, some who are less knowledgeable are better able to teach and communicate.

Q: How did the disciples “ordain” elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5)?

A: When the Pastor was still alive, if a deeply consecrated colporteur was stirring up new interest in a particular area, he instructed the colporteur to arrange for a meeting of those who expressed interest. The Pastor then suggested to certain individuals that, if convenient, they open their homes for meetings, and he recommended a particular brother to lead the meetings for four or five consecutive weeks. After that, the brother would privately say to one of the newcomers who seemed to be deeply dedicated and zealous, “If for some reason I cannot attend the meeting next week, would you take over?” Then the brother was intentionally absent in order to give the newcomer an opportunity to lead the meeting. When the brother returned to the meeting the following week to teach, he learned the reaction with regard to the previous week. This alternating procedure continued, with more frequent absences, until the ecclesia could be autonomous and function on its own. The brother taught the newcomers how to elect their leaders by the outstretched hand. Thus the brother took the initiative of starting the meetings and even participated as the leader, and then he appointed one to take over the meeting in his absence. Timothy, Paul, and others in the early Church would have done something analogous to this halfway, in-between method over a period of time and eventually would have left the new brethren on their own to provide for their teachers. This type of arrangement was necessary in virgin territory, where there were no previous classes.

The subject of the laying on of hands requires much study, for it can mean one thing in one case and another thing in another case. Moreover, we would have to study the principles in the Old Testament. However, enough examples are given in Scripture for us to understand that elders are to be elected by a vote with the outstretched hand. On Paul’s first missionary tour, the brethren at Antioch prayed and put their hands on both him and Barnabas. When Paul later referred back to that incident, he made it clear that his commission was from God, not from the brethren, who were reading into the laying on of hands more than was merited. The brethren were privileged in that they were allowed to enter sympathetically into Paul’s work. The laying on of hands in that instance implied that they would send donations and other types of assistance for Paul’s ministry. Subsequently, however, the brethren felt that Paul presumed to go above the authority they had delegated to him. Therefore, he had to set them straight by disassociating himself from the wrong significance of the laying on of hands. The point is that the circumstances have to be weighed in each instance in order to understand the procedure and the significance of the laying on of hands.

1 Tim. 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

A qualification for bishop is that he be “not given to wine.” Verse 8 states that a deacon should be “not given to much wine.” What is the distinction? “Not given to much wine” could be having just one glass of wine with every meal, or dinner, that is, drinking wine with great moderation. However, “not given to wine” means to take wine only on a special, happy occasion, such as a wedding, and not habitually or regularly. In other words, a bishop is required to curb his lifestyle to a greater extent than a deacon.

For example, if a person has hypertension or is excitable by nature, then even one glass taken habitually with each meal can noticeably affect his personality. Thus there is wisdom in the requirement for a bishop versus a deacon. Wine relaxes the individual so that he lets his guard down.

Comment: Wine is associated with happiness and happy occasions. Therefore, although the wine itself may have little effect, the mental attitude of a person who takes a glass of wine every day at mealtime is kept away from the dignified decorum that is proper for the consecrated.

Reply: The very fact the Apostle Paul made a distinction between elders and deacons is significant. Wine does have some effect, especially on decision making. Incidentally, beer comes under the same category as wine.

Comment: There should be even further limitations depending on the circumstance. For instance, it is proper to curtail the drinking of a glass of wine at mealtime in public situations lest others think this is a regular habit. Of course a wedding could be an exception.

In the early Church, wine was often part of the way of life with meals, but it was not consumed to excess. Today this can still be true but not to the same degree. Jesus probably partook of wine at the wedding of Cana, for the Scriptures indicate he had wine on other occasions, yet his behavior was very reserved.

Incidentally, the very fact Paul advised Timothy to take a “little wine” medicinally for his stomach shows that the apostles did not regularly drink wine at dinner (1 Tim. 5:23). As already stated, these qualifications for elder are the ideal. Sometimes mitigating circumstances exist. Moreover, there is a difference between being a teetotaler (absolute abstinence), taking wine only on extreme and rare occasions, and regularly drinking wine.

Q: What about drinking wine in the privacy of one’s home?

A: It is advisable for the respective requirements of elders and deacons to be followed at all times lest one develop a habit. And if an elder or a deacon drank wine regularly even in his own home, his actions would be somewhat a matter of deception. The individual would be giving the impression of abstinence when such would not be the case.

Another qualification for elder is to be “no striker”; that is, he is not to be given to blows or have a violent temper. A person who is righteously indignant might think he has the liberty to exert force because he sees a matter in its proper light. If someone does not agree, he feels justified in laying down the law with a little authority.

Comment: Bad tempers are part of the fallen nature in some people. If this tendency is not overcome following consecration, such individuals may suddenly lash out. If one with this tendency partakes of wine, violence is even more apt to occur. The “striking” could be either physical or verbal. For an elder to get violent would be a serious matter indeed.

Reply: The requirement of not being a “brawler” is related to not being a “striker.” Brawling is sometimes defined as being “quarrelsome,” a tendency that must be curbed.

An elder is not to be “greedy of [for] filthy lucre [riches, wealth, money, property].” He should not be primarily seeking reward, gain, excessive property, etc. Money becomes “filthy” when it is the center of one’s love and ambition. A good example of this principle is smoking, which is a filthy habit that contaminates the air, room, clothing, etc. Similarly, if money is the topic of conversation and is an idol, even to a lesser extent, it can become very engaging and absorb a lot of time and attention.

An elder should be “patient.” Other translations have “kind,” “gentle,” and “of a forbearing disposition.” However, this quality should be considered in context. Being patient is related to wine and money. A person who is relaxed and off his guard with wine tends to talk about topics that are not profitable for the new creature. Drinking wine is contrary to vigilance, sobriety, hospitality, and good behavior, and it leads to being a striker, greed for filthy lucre, impatience, being quarrelsome, and covetousness. In other words, “patience” is the opposite of losing one’s temper or allowing wine to alter one’s personality.

What is the difference between covetousness and greed for filthy lucre? Being “covetous” is desiring what someone else has, whereas being “greedy” is wanting more and more money, property, etc., for oneself.

Comment: “The love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10).

Reply: The word “all” should be “much”—the love of money is the root of much, not all, evil.

1 Tim. 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

David, Samuel, and Eli all had disobedient children, but only in some cases did the Lord charge the parents with responsibility. When a doctor examines a patient to see if he is healthy or sick, he usually relies on a number of factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature for any symptoms or clues. The same principle applies when we consider a brother for eldership and look to see if he has certain qualifications. Generally speaking, an elder or bishop should be able to manage his household well, but there can be extenuating circumstances such as an unconsecrated wife who is pulling the children in an opposite direction. The point is that we should not make a decision against eldership because just one quality is lacking. However, the lack of two or more qualities would require serious consideration, based on the principle “in the mouth of two or three witnesses” is a matter established (2 Cor. 13:1).

Q: With regard to the requirement for an elder to have “his children in subjection with all gravity,” at what age does one cease to be a “child”?

A: The age would vary depending on the child and the time period in which the Christian lives. The age factor is different today because children are given a lot of knowledge at a young age.

Under the Law, the age of adulthood was 25 for the Levites and 30 for the priesthood (Num. 4:3; 8:24). Today the age would be around 15 or 16—teen-age years. The schools in this country are mentally developing children to be independent of their parents, and many are greater and taller in physical stature than their parents. Also, in the past, children were weaned at a minimum age of five years, whereas now they are often weaned in a month or two. Incidentally, the word “gravity” should be “respect” (see the RSV and the NIV). A bishop’s or elder’s children should be submissive (under control) and respectful.

1 Tim. 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

Verse 5 is common sense. If a brother cannot rule his own house, how can he preside in the Church? For children to be allowed to make loud noises and run up and down in the aisle during a discourse is a reflection on the consecrated parent(s).

1 Tim. 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

“Novice” is a good word, for one can be a novice regardless of his chronological age. An elder should not be a newcomer. Paul was warning against inducting a brother too quickly into office. One’s age “in the truth” is what is important. Thus, depending on the level of maturity in character and understanding, a brother does not have to be consecrated for 15 or more years in order to be considered for elder.

A bishop or an elder should not be a novice because he could be “lifted up with pride” and thus “fall into the condemnation of the devil.” The Adversary was lifted up with pride, and a novice is susceptible to that same temptation. Lacking a firm foundation, he is more vulnerable to the influence of the Adversary along various lines.

Comment: Ecclesia members who elect a novice would bear some of the responsibility should he “fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

Reply: As an illustration, it is relatively easy to legislate a law, but to abolish a law is difficult.

1 Tim. 3:7 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 have a good report of them which are without,” that is, outside the Church, in the world. This requirement does not mean that the unconsecrated will praise and think highly of a bishop or an elder, but they should know that he is not a thief, a robber, a murderer, etc.— that there is nothing against his record in that sense. Consider John Bunyan, who was a reprobate of the worst kind. When he became a Christian, the public was startled by his remarkable conversion and had to acknowledge that he had changed.

An elder is to have a good report “lest he fall into [the] reproach … of the devil.” Some people are critical not only if an individual is overly righteous but also if they can find a flaw in his character. Therefore, the “reproach … of the devil” means that if the Adversary can find a conspicuous flaw in a bishop’s or an elder’s character that is observed by others, he will capitalize on it. Consider how Satan dared to accuse Job, a righteous man, by saying to God in allegory, “Look what you have given him—lands, a house, riches, etc. No wonder Job serves you faithfully! If you remove these temporal riches, he will cease to serve you.” If Satan could find fault with a righteous man, accusing him of a form of hypocrisy—that is, of rendering obedience because of prosperity—what would happen if the individual had a conspicuous blemish in his character? Satan would say, “Look at him. He is doing this and that, yet he calls himself a Christian!” From his vantage point, Satan can look down and be very sarcastic. Thus the “reproach” of verse 7 would be on the Adversary’s part—he would reproach the Christian.

There is an additional aspect as well. A bishop or an elder must have a good report among the unconsecrated “lest he fall into … the snare of the devil.” A “snare” is a hidden trap; that is, it is a premeditated trap that is set and concealed in advance by one who is devious. Accordingly, the Adversary sometimes prepares traps, and this thought would be scary if it were not for the protection of Providence. As Paul said, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood [merely], but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). In other words, if a bishop or an elder does not have a good report among the unconsecrated, Satan will cause a reproach to fall on Christianity, on the cause of Christ.

1 Tim. 3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

The requirements for a deacon are similar to those for an elder, except that the guidelines are a little less stringent. Deacons must be “grave” (serious, sober, and earnest) and “not doubletongued” (saying one thing to one person and another thing to another person). Being double-tongued is a subtle form, or the early stages, of hypocrisy. Double-mindedness is apt to go hand in hand with being double-tongued. A deacon should be stable in his conduct, thinking, speech, answers, and teaching.

A deacon should be “not given to much wine,” whereas an elder must be “not given to wine” (verse 3), the distinction being that the latter would take wine only on very rare occasions.

Deacons, however, can drink wine in moderation, which is a less stringent qualification. As stated earlier, Paul suggested to Timothy, “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake,” or infirmity (1 Tim. 5:23). Timothy was not accustomed to taking wine, but the suggestion was made in deference to the chronic condition of his stomach. Even so, only a “little” would be imbibed—and that was from a medicinal standpoint.

“Not given to wine” means that wine is not consumed with frequency and regularity, the exception being a medicinal reason. A person could make a qualified vow such as, “I vow never to drink wine except for medicinal purposes.” That would be a wise vow, for many medicines have an alcohol base. In addition, a number of foods contain alcohol, but they could be considered medicinal, since food is a “medicine” for good health. However, to drink wine in a separate decanter is another matter.

As we study the qualifications for elders and deacons, we should keep in mind that they are the ideal situation, for mitigating circumstances sometimes exist, such as Timothy’s taking wine for his ailing stomach.

A deacon should not be “greedy of filthy lucre [money].” Money is necessary in order to buy goods and services, but it can be contemptible in the sense that the love of money is the root of much evil.

1 Tim. 3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

For a deacon to hold “the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” means that his conduct is consistent with his profession. Paul mentioned the thought of a pure conscience several times in his two epistles to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:5,19; 2 Tim. 1:3).

1 Tim. 3:10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

A brother should not be elected deacon right after he consecrates but should be tested for stability first. Several years ago a brother seemed to grasp present truth so joyously and enthusiastically that the ecclesia made him a deacon almost immediately after his consecration, but that sad mistake caused much distress and grief. Had the class waited a little while—even one year—and tested him, the unstable condition would have manifested itself.

1 Tim. 3:11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

The Revised Standard has, “The women likewise must be serious, no slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.” The Greek word gune, rendered “wives” in the King James Version, is more properly translated “women” in this instance. Moreover, a footnote in the New International Version has “deaconesses” as an alternate translation for “wives.” Thus this verse can be considered as referring to deaconesses, a thought that is permissible under certain circumstances. When the gifts to the Church are enumerated, they are always in the male gender: apostles, teachers, etc. Nevertheless, there are exceptions in some cases, such as a sister being a deaconess.

If we consider the rendering to be “wives,” there is a problem, for the question would be, Are the wives consecrated? According to that rendering, a brother could not be a deacon if his wife was not consecrated, for then she would not be “grave, sober, and faithful in all things.” The implication is that whoever is meant by the Greek word gune would be of the same faith, that is, consecrated.

Surely a brother should not be debarred from being elected elder or deacon solely because his  wife is not consecrated. Of course his family situation should be seriously taken into consideration, but even if a consecrated wife is out of order, let alone an unconsecrated one, the brother (husband) may not be responsible for her behavior (see verses 4 and 5). No matter how capable and faithful a brother is, his family may not necessarily be obedient. In other words, the conduct of the wife is not an essential qualification for elders and deacons.

Comment: Then “women” is a better translation than “wives” lest the impression be given that even when a brother is not at fault, his wife has to be faithful and obedient if he is to be elected elder or deacon.

Reply: Yes, the Diaglott translates the Greek word as “women.”

“In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” is again the governing principle (2 Cor. 13:1). When a Christian makes a decision on either doctrine or conduct, two factors, Scriptures, qualifications, etc., should be considered. If a person has two strikes against him, then he should not be elected to an office. If there is only one factor, there may be extenuating or mitigating circumstances.

Verses 5 and 12, which pertain to elders and deacons “ruling … their own houses well,” include the wife. She should be in subjection to her husband and not be irresponsible and wild.

However, if unconsecrated, she need not be “grave, … sober, [and] faithful in all things,” and even if she is consecrated, she may not fulfill all of these requirements. In other words, even consecrated wives might be disobedient to their husbands, yet the husband could retain his eldership depending on the circumstances. Consider the case of Pastor Russell and his wife.

However, a sister should definitely have these qualifications in order to be elected a deaconess. Years ago a sister who made and displayed Tabernacle plateaus and models was criticized, but she was serious, not given to frivolous talk, and very earnest, and she simply read Scriptures when showing her exhibits. In other words, no teaching or sermonizing was done. Thus she was perfectly in order. She had great zeal, and no brother had such an interest in the Tabernacle, coupled with the time and the ability to make the exhibits.

When a person consecrates and has an unbelieving spouse, the unequally yoked marriage will have the Lord’s approval if husband and wife agree to stay together and not separate (1 Cor. 7:12-16). And perhaps at a later date, because of the consecrated individual’s manner of life, the unbelieving partner will change and consecrate. The Scriptures leave the degree of compatibility up to the consecrated individual.

Comment: “Not slanderers” is a qualification for a deaconess but is omitted in the list of qualifications for elders and deacons perhaps because sisters are more apt to be guilty of this sin.

1 Tim. 3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

In the New Testament, the family lives and situations of the apostles and the disciples are not discussed, whereas the Old Testament provides information on some of the families of the Ancient Worthies. When we combine verses 4, 5, and 12, should a brother be barred from the office of elder or deacon if his children are unruly? Are the ages of the children a factor? Some in the Old Testament who were men after God’s own heart had derelict families. David, for example, did some unusually commendable deeds, such as standing up to Goliath, yet certain sons were rebellious. Therefore, a person’s deeds should be weighed against any family problems. God made an allowance because of David’s repentance and public confession, and we should do the same. Thus family problems are not necessarily a barrier to election as elder or deacon.

The qualifications for deacon are very much like those for elder. The missing qualification is being “apt to teach” (verse 2).

1 Tim. 3:13 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.

The word “ministered” (meaning “administered”) is in the King James margin. “For they that have administered the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith.” In other words, if a brother makes his calling and election sure, that is one thing. If a deacon makes his calling and election sure, that is another thing. And if an elder makes his calling and election sure, that is still another thing. According to the degree of responsibility assumed and faithfulness to that degree, consecrated brothers purchase to themselves varying degrees of honor in the Kingdom. The reward will be proportional to faithfulness in the area in which one operates.

In what way would serving well in the office of a deacon result in “great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus”? If one seriously and diligently applies himself in whatever area opens up to him, he will ultimately be judged faithful by God. Stephen is an illustration. He had great boldness as a deacon. He spoke before the Sanhedrin yet was not an appointed elder. No doubt, however, he was recognized as an elder in God’s sight. Therefore, it is possible to not be an elder in man’s sight but to be one in God’s sight in the final analysis. We are to comply with rules and regulations down here, but the final evaluation is made by God in the Kingdom. With any one of us, no matter what our experiences in the present life happen to be, if we are faithful enough to be of the Little Flock, we will look back on our experiences—whether humiliation, nonrecognition, or whatever—as nothing. Why? Because we made good in the final analysis. Our momentary experiences in the present life will be far outweighed by the new experiences and reward in the Kingdom.

1 Tim. 3:14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:

Paul had been in prison under Nero, so this statement indicates that either he had just been released or he was about to be released. Probably it was the latter situation, but in either case, the year was AD 64 or 65, and he expected to go shortly to Timothy in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3).

1 Tim. 3:15 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.

1 Tim. 3:16 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.

“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.” While Paul hoped to go to Timothy shortly, he saw the possibility or likelihood that he might be delayed in coming. Should the delay be long, or if Paul could not get there at all, he wrote this first epistle to instruct Timothy what to do in his absence. Paul wrote so that Timothy would know how to “behave” (conduct) himself in the house of God, the Church. Timothy was thus instructed how to react to others and their teaching, the degree to which he would be responsible for rebuking or admonishing, what pitfalls to avoid, how to advise various ecclesias on their government or administration, etc.

In all translations except the Diaglott, “the pillar and ground of the truth” is part of the same sentence, but that is not correct. Verse 15 should end with the words “the church of the living God.” “The pillar and ground of the truth” should be included in the next verse for several reasons. We can see that the Church in glory will be the “pillar” because of the promise in Revelation 3:12, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God,” but there is no Scripture to show that the Church in the flesh is the foundation of the truth.

Consider the Tabernacle as an illustration. Although the Tabernacle pictures the Church, the silver sockets, which are the basis or foundation of the Tabernacle, represent the ransom price.

Redemption or atonement money was used to form the solid silver sockets. Each man had to give, or pay, half a shekel in recognition of the fact that the nation of Israel was a redeemed people. Therefore, the atonement money was synonymous with the doctrine of Christ’s Ransom and faithfulness, and Christ is the foundation of the Church. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). The redemption money represents recognition of that truth.

The truth is God’s Word, so instead of the Church being the foundation of the truth, the reverse is true. The Church is built upon the foundation of truth, which is God’s Word built upon the foundation of Christ.

Verse 16 should read, “The pillar and ground of the truth—and without controversy great—is the mystery of godliness.” Verse 9 mentions the “mystery of the faith in a pure conscience,” and now verse 16 adds the “mystery of godliness [piety, reverence].” These are synonymous terms. Holiness is a pervading theme of this epistle.

The thought is, “Without question, the mystery of godliness is great, and it is the pillar and ground [foundation] of the truth.” The sentence should end there, and the next sentence explains what the “mystery of godliness” is. The King James Version has, “God was manifest in the flesh,” but ancient and modern translations are worded differently; namely, “He who [‘He,’ ‘Who,’ or ‘The One’] was manifested [past tense] in the flesh.” This is a reference to Jesus. (We should keep in mind that nearly all of Timothy is missing in the Vatican 1209 manuscript, including this part.) Jesus “was manifest[ed] in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”

Comment: The Diaglott footnote reads, “This is according to the pointing of Griesbach. Nearly all the ancient MSS., and all the versions have ‘He who,’ instead of ‘God,’ in this passage. This has been adopted. The latter reading, however, is also according to the analogy of the faith, and well supported.”

Reply: Yes, the word is hos, but some of the ancient Greek manuscripts put a line through the “o,” making the word “theos” (God), but “theos” is not in the original. When the Sinaitic manuscript was copied, the first scribe thought the word should be theos, but he did not want to mar the manuscript, so he put a horizontal line through the “o” to make it “th.” About AD 500, an elderly king, Anastasius I, the emperor of the eastern portion of the Roman Empire, demoted from office and banished the leading Greek patriarch of the Church for inserting that line through the “o” to change hos to theos. The king felt that the patriarch had improperly taken the liberty of correcting the Word of God. However, the pope then anathematized the king for finding fault with the change in the manuscript.

For “God was manifest in the flesh,” the usual explanation is that if God Himself were to come down here to earth, He would behave exactly as Jesus did. In this sense, Jesus was God manifest in the flesh. However, a better translation is that “Jesus was manifested in the flesh.” Jesus was “justified in the Spirit.” The Pastor said, and the usual explanation of Bible Students is, that when Jesus was resurrected to spirit nature, his course was justified. Stated another way, Jesus’ resurrection confirmed the fact that he had lived a godly life. His resurrection and full acceptance and approval by God showed there was no fault in him. He was “justified in the Spirit” by his resurrection change. Then the explanation continues with the thought that his death and resurrection were an object lesson to the angels.

Expanding this reasoning a little, we would start by saying that Jesus “was manifest in the flesh [he was made flesh].” He was “justified in the Spirit” by being faithful unto death, and the recognition of his faithfulness was made manifest in his resurrection from the dead. Stated another way, his resurrection was a justification of his faithfulness. Jesus was “seen of angels [both the holy and the unholy angels].” In addition to preaching to the fallen “spirits in prison,” his whole life on earth was an object lesson to the angels, good and bad (1 Pet. 3:18,19). The greater part of the 40 days following his awakening from the tomb but prior to his ascension was spent preaching to the fallen angels in tartaroo. Probably some of the fallen angels were converted at that time. Jesus was “preached unto the Gentiles” by the Apostle Paul, “believed on [by some] in the world,” and “received up into glory.” However, there are problems with this explanation.

One problem is the order of the events listed. Verse 16 ends with Jesus’ being “received up into glory,” which occurred when he ascended on high. Therefore, the previous events had to occur prior to his ascension. When was Jesus manifested in the flesh? When was he “preached unto the Gentiles”? The preaching had to occur before his death and not during the 40 days following his resurrection. Jesus could be “seen of angels” both before and after his death, during the 40 days prior to his ascension, and during his death, so this event is no problem.

The difficulty lies in the word “Gentiles.” Jesus was “preached unto the Gentiles.” The word “Gentiles” is proper in at least 75 percent of the cases, as the context shows, but that is not the case here. The Greek word is ethnos, which can also be translated “nations,” the next most frequent use of the word. However, it can additionally be translated—and should be here— “people.” In the two cases in the New Testament where ethnos is rendered “people,” the context plainly rules out “Gentiles” and also “nations.” There is a third exception, for ethnos should be translated “people” here in 1 Timothy 3:16.

Therefore, verse 16 is saying that Jesus’ life and death were witnessed by angels—just as we are compassed about now, in the present life, with angels, who are a “cloud of witnesses” beholding what is happening down here on planet Earth (Heb. 12:1). In the time period between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, he appeared to 500 people in Galilee and to other people in certain other places. Prior to his death, he was also “seen of angels,” and he preached unto people. Ethnos is used for the people of Samaria in one of the two cases where the Greek word is translated “people” (Acts 8:9). At the end of his ministry, Jesus mentioned the Greeks,

another “people.” Some Greeks spoke to one of the apostles in their attempt to reach Jesus, and when he was informed of the matter, he said, “Now is the time come that I am to be glorified” (John 12:20-23 paraphrase). In other words, he had covered his ministry to the Israelites, and now others outside the pale of Jewry were beginning to get interested. Thus Jesus was preached to “people” during his ministry: to Samaritans, Israelites, and Greeks. Remember the two possessed men who said, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment [judge] us before the time?” (Matt. 8:28,29). Aware that Jesus was the Christ, the demons inside the individuals spoke these words. Thus our Lord’s life during his earthly ministry was witnessed by the angels, both holy and fallen. From this standpoint, Jesus’ being “justified in the Spirit” began at a particular point in time, namely, at his baptism at Jordan. When he was born according to the flesh, a number of signs and evidences indicated he was the Messiah, but relatively few knew it—just the shepherds, the wise men, his immediate family, and a few others. Until Jordan, Jesus lived as a perfect, obedient man. So well was his behavior manifested that when he went to be baptized, John said, “Why do you come to me? I should be baptized by you, and not you by me!” In other words, Jesus was an outstanding person even before his consecration. In fact, his life was so exemplary that under the Law, he would have had life because he obeyed perfectly. And thus he was manifested in the flesh. The Apostle John said, “We saw him, we heard him, and he acted in accordance with what he claimed to be: the Son of God. He was as the Son of God in our presence” (1 John 1:1-3 paraphrase).

From the time Jesus went to Jordan to be baptized, several things happened that were further justification of his Messiahship—the dove came down from heaven; the voice said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”; and he performed miracles for 3 1/2 years. Thus, after his consecration, Jesus was justified in the Holy Spirit as a new creature. He manifested godliness not only as a man but also as a new creature, and his changed life was a further confirmation that he was the Messiah. Jesus was “manifest[ed] in the flesh” and “justified in the Spirit” during his earthly ministry, not by his resurrection.

And Jesus was “seen of angels.” Both the holy and the fallen angels witnessed Jesus’ birth as a human, his development into manhood, his consecration, etc. Next he was “preached unto the people”—not unto the Gentiles, for Jesus had instructed his apostles, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5,6). However, even though Jesus came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, certain Gentiles heard him, such as the Syrophoenician woman whose daughter was healed by him and the centurion whose servant was cured (Mark 7:25-30; Matt. 8:5-13). Jesus was preached to the people when he was here. Announcements and miracles called attention to his being the Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus was “believed on in the [Jewish] world [at the First Advent].” This statement does not refer to the world down through the Gospel Age. Not only did Jesus preach to the nation of Israel at his First Advent, but some of the Jews in that nation believed. Finally, he was “received up into glory.” In short, verse 16 furnishes a sequence.

Q: Please repeat the reasoning about “the pillar and ground of the truth” in verses 15 and 16.

A: “The pillar and ground of the truth, and without controversy great, is the mystery of godliness.” This godliness was manifested by the life of Jesus from beginning to end, from birth to death, throughout his First Advent. Jesus is the example of one approved of God. The mystery of godliness was manifested in Jesus’ life and ministry here on earth, and then he was received up into glory. The “mystery” is that Jesus is the Messiah and that he provided an example of the course to be followed by others.

In other words, both the pillar and the foundation of the truth are the mystery of godliness. Godliness is so important, so supreme—this truth is so basic—that it is the foundation of the truth. Paul stressed the theme of godliness throughout this epistle, and this “mystery” is exemplified in Jesus. Therefore, godliness is the pillar and ground of the truth. Stated in reverse, the pillar and ground of the truth, as far as we are concerned, is to have the piety and reverence of Christ for his Father. We state the principle that justice is the foundation of God’s throne, but we can go a step further and say that the principle of godliness is not only the foundation but also the superstructure of God’s throne.

To state the matter another way, Paul said he was writing this letter in case he was deferred in getting to see Timothy in person. He wanted Timothy to know what his duties were—how he should behave himself in the “house of God.” Paul gave a long list of instructions on what should be done, but throughout that list, he emphasized purity, holiness, and godliness time and time again. Now he came to a point where he said, “Godliness is the basic quality if you are to be a faithful Christian.” “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Therefore, Paul was saying, “A fundamental truth, a cardinal tenet, which you must always keep in mind, Timothy, is that godliness is the key to understanding the true mystery of God.” The mystery of godliness is such a great and important truth that it is the pillar and the base foundation of the truth. Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness. The understanding of verses 15 and 16 is very important to the Christian.

(1982 Study with Excerpts from 1999 Study)

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