1 Timothy 3:1 MEANING

1 Timothy 3:1

(1) This is a true saying.--There is no reason why the rendering of this formula adopted in 1 Timothy 1:15, "faithful is this saying," should be altered here. The "faithful saying" here refers to the wish for high and arduous work in the Church of Christ, and declares such a wish to be a noble one; for the office in question was a beautiful one, and honourable, and in those days meant stern and ceaseless work, grave and constant danger. It was no doubt one of the well-known sayings among the brethren of the first days, and not improbably, with the other "faithful sayings" of this group of Epistles, formed a part of their liturgy, and was woven into some of their special prayers offered in public. Perhaps this "faithful saying" was a portion of a prayer offered not unfrequently in the public assembly, asking that volunteers might be moved by the Holy Ghost to present themselves for the then dangerous office of ordained ministers of the Word.

"Well might a man desire the office of chief pastor; it was indeed a good work;" but, in the first place, such a dignity could only be held by one possessing many qualities, then and there enumerated.

If a man desire the office of a bishop.--More accurately rendered, If a man seeketh. In the . . Pastoral Epistles the Greek words rendered "bishop" and "presbyter" or elder (episcopos, presbuteros), are applied indifferently to the same person, for up to this period (A.D. 65-6) no necessity had arisen in the constitution of the Church for the appointment of a special order of superintending presbyters. The numbers of the members of the brotherhood, though every year showing a vast increase, were still, comparatively speaking, small. St. Peter, St. Paul, St. James and St. John, and certainly the majority of the apostolic college, were still living; while, till A.D. 70, the Jerusalem congregation still acted as the central authority of the Church, and grave questions continued to be referred to the Fathers resident there.

Early in the second century, however, there is not a shadow of doubt that the episcopal office, as we understand it, was widely established. During the last thirty years, then, of the first century, this great change in Church organisation must have been effected--that is, during the life-time of St. John. How this was brought about is admirably stated by Professor Rothe, of Heidelberg, as quoted by Canon Lightfoot in his dissertation on the Christian ministry (Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians), who, without accepting all the details suggested, still in the main agrees with the famous Heidelberg professor in his theory respecting the very early establishment of episcopacy in the Catholic Church. After painting the distractions and growing dissensions of the Church, occasioned by the jealousies between the Jewish and Gentile brethren, and the menacing apparition of the Gnostic heresy, Rothe states how, in the face of this great emergency, St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. James were carried away by death almost at the same time; while, with the overthrow of Jerusalem very shortly after, the visible centre of the Church was removed, the keystone of the fabric was withdrawn, and the whole edifice was threatened with ruin. There was a crying need for some organisation which should cement together the diverse elements of Christian society, and preserve it from disintegration. Out of this need the Catholic Church in its episcopal character arose. From notices in Eusebius, Irenaeus, and Clement of Rome, Rothe (quoted by Lightfoot) concludes "that, immediately after the fall of Jerusalem, a council of the surviving Apostles and first teachers of the gospel was held to deliberate on the crisis, and to frame measures for the well-being of the Church. The centre of the system thus organised was episcopacy, which at once secured the compact and harmonious working of each individual congregation, and, as the link of communication between the separate brotherhoods, formed the whole into one undivided Catholic Church. Recommended by this high authority, the new constitution was immediately and generally adopted."

He desireth a good work.--The office of a presbyter of the Church in the days of St. Paul was a difficult and dangerous post. It involved much labour; it was full of risk; it meant a hard and severe life; yet, from the Christian's standpoint, it was a work, if faithfully performed, of all toils the most beautiful, the most honourable, the most noble. "Negotium non otium" comments Bengel, in his usual pithy, untranslatable way.

Verse 1. - Faithful is the saying for this is a true saying, A.V.; seeketh for desire, A.V. Faithful is the saying (see above, 1 Timothy 1:15, note). This manifestly refers to what follows, not, as Chrysostom and others, and margin of the R.V., to the saying which precedes, in 1 Timothy 2:15. Seeketh (ὀρέγεται); literally, stretches out his hands after. It is peculiar in the New Testament to the pastoral Epistles and the Epistle to the Hebrews, though common in classical Greek (see 1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 11:16). The noun ὔρεξις, appetite, desire (which is found several times in the LXX.), is used once by St. Paul (Romans 1:27). The office of a bishop; meaning here, as everywhere else in Scripture, that of a presbyter, or priest. Ἐπισκοπή, in the sense of "the episcopate," occurs only here and Acts 1:20, where it is rendered "bishopric" in the A.V., and "overseer-ship" in the margin of the R.V., being the translation in the LXX. of Psalm 108 (Psalms 109, A.V.) of the Hebrew פְקֻדָתו, "his office." Elsewhere (Luke 19:44; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 5:6) it means "visitation." But ἐπίσκοπος, "bishop" (ver. 2) - except in 1 Peter 2:25, where it is applied to Christ - always means the overseer of the particular flock, - the presbyter (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:7); and ἐπισκοπεῖν the functions of such ἐπίσκοπος (1 Peter 5:2 compared with 1). It was not till the sub-apostolic age that the name of ἐπίσ᾿οπος was confined to the chief overseer who had "priests and deacons" under him, as Timothy and Titus had. Possibly this application of the word arose from the visits of the apostles, and afterwards of men sent by the apostles, as Timothy and Titus, Tychicus and Artemas, were, to visit the Churches, being occasional and temporary only, as those of Visitors. For such occasional visitation is implied in the verb ἐπισκέπτεσθαι (Matthew 25:36, 43; Luke 1:68, 78; Acts 7:23; Acts 15:36; James 1:27). Afterwards, when the wants of the Churches required permanent oversight, the name ἐπίσκοπος - vescovo (It.), eueque (Fr.), bischof (Get.), bisceop (A.S.), aipiskaupus (Moeso-Goth.), etc. - became universal for the chief overseer of the Church. A good work (καλοῦ ἔργου, not ἀγαθοῦ, as ver. 10). Καλού means "honourable," "becoming," "beneficial," and the like.

3:1-7 If a man desired the pastoral office, and from love to Christ, and the souls of men, was ready to deny himself, and undergo hardships by devoting himself to that service, he sought to be employed in a good work, and his desire should be approved, provided he was qualified for the office. A minister must give as little occasion for blame as can be, lest he bring reproach upon his office. He must be sober, temperate, moderate in all his actions, and in the use of all creature-comforts. Sobriety and watchfulness are put together in Scripture, they assist one the other. The families of ministers ought to be examples of good to all other families. We should take heed of pride; it is a sin that turned angels into devils. He must be of good repute among his neighbours, and under no reproach from his former life. To encourage all faithful ministers, we have Christ's gracious word of promise, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world, Mt 28:20. And he will fit his ministers for their work, and carry them through difficulties with comfort, and reward their faithfulness.This is a true saying,.... Some think this clause belongs to the last verse of the preceding chapter; and then the sense is, this is a doctrine that is true, and to be believed, that there is salvation through the birth of a Son, or through the incarnate Son of God, for men and women that believe in him, and continue in the faith of him, and love to him, joined with works of righteousness and holiness. And so the same phrase seems to belong to what goes before in 1 Timothy 4:8. Though it regards what follows in 1 Timothy 1:15 and so it seems that it should be considered here; and is used to excite attention, and suggests that what was about to be said was of moment and importance, and what was without controversy, and unquestionably true. The apostle, having denied to women the work and office of teaching, proceeds to observe, that though this belonged to men, yet not to every man; and therefore he gives the qualifications of such; which might serve as a direction to churches, in the choice of them; as well as be a means of stirring up persons in such an office, to a proper regard to themselves and their work:

if a man desire the office of a bishop; which is the same with that of a pastor or elder; and so here the Syriac version renders it, "if a man desires presbytery, or eldership"; and it lies in preaching the word, administering the ordinances of the Gospel, and taking care of the discipline of the church, and in the visiting, inspection, and oversight of it; as the word "episcopacy", here used, signifies; and this work and office may be lawfully and laudably desired, with a view to the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls. Nor should any undertake it, but such who find in themselves an hearty desire, and inclination to it, on such principles, and a real delight and pleasure in it; and such an one

he desireth a good work: the office of a bishop, elder, or pastor of a church, "is a work", and a very laborious one; wherefore such are called labourers in the word and doctrine: it is not a mere title of honour, and a place of profit, but it is a business of labour and care; yet a good one, a famous and excellent one; it being an employment in things of the greatest excellency in themselves, and of the greatest usefulness for the good of men, and the honour of God; as the doctrines, ordinances, and discipline of the Gospel; and so must be excellently, honestly, pleasantly, and profitably a good work.

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