1 Timothy 3

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Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Passage

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This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

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?)

Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

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.

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

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

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

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.

14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:

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.

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.

Analysis

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To Be a Bishop

The term “bishop” carries much more meaning today than it did in the early days of the Church. Before the Catholic trappings of the bishopric, we had the “episkopos” or “supervisor and overseer”. A bishop, then, is a brother who carries earthly authority over a regional church or congregation – not unlike a pastor or a council of elders. This is a good work that hearkens back to the days of the Judges over Israel, and it serves a very similar purpose for the Church.

What characteristics should we look for in a bishop? As the bishop is a leader of the Church, he must first exemplify what it is to be a good Christian. He must be blameless – not only without known cause to be blamed, but with sufficient self-control and wisdom as to avoid such causes. He must be husband to one wife, so that he might be a help to other married men and women as they live their married lives together and be without blame before them. He must be vigilant and sober, keeping control of himself so that he maintain good behavior at all times.

A bishop must be hospitable – ready to give of himself and all he possesses to help the brethren in their times of need with clear teaching and kind compassion. He must not be given to excess of drink nor given to fight, and he must not be greedy for wealth or status. He must be patient in his dealings with other men, not prone to fighting nor to covet what others possess. He must be a sound ruler of his own house before he can oversee the Church, for a man who cannot manage his own house is ill-fit to manage much else. His children must be obedient to their father and heed his wisdom, so that it might go well with them and they might enjoy long lives upon the earth.

A novice cannot be a bishop, for he lacks the wisdom and foundation in faith and the Word to be resilient to the devil’s schemes. He must not be proud, and he must be well-respected not only within the Church but also without (for a man of ill-repute brings shame upon his house).

A man who possesses all these qualities is well fit to lead the church, and we are blessed under such leadership.

To Be a Deacon

Under the bishop, there are many deacons. A deacon is a servant, one who carries out duties passed down by a king or one who serves food and drink. Deacons are faces of the Church as much as bishops, and though they carry less authority they still bear much responsibility.

A deacon ought to be grave in performing his duties, knowing that he represents his master (that is, our Lord Jesus Christ) in all he does. He must not be given to lies or drink, lest he bring shame and doubt upon his work and teachings. He must not be greedy, for one cannot serve both God and mammon (that is, the desire for wealth and status). He must have pure conscience in holding to his faith and preaching thereof, lest he make himself out to be a hypocrite and cast doubt on all Scripture and truth.

A man who can measure up to these requirements may serve well in the office of the deacon, being found blameless and true.

Further, the wives of the deacons ought also to be grave, for they represent not only themselves and their God but also their husbands. A slanderous wife brings shame upon her husband, and if her husband be a deacon she brings shame upon his office and God. As with bishops, the wives of deacons ought to be sober and controlled, faithful in all things (not just to their husbands, but in their commitments, to their children, and to their God). A deacon must be husband to one wife and rule his children well, for such is the measure of a good man and one prepared to minister the needs of the Church.

A deacon who carries out his role faithfully and well has done a great service to our God, and they will be blessed with faith and the Holy Spirit both now and in the life to come.

Why

Why has Paul written these things? As we saw in the first chapter, Paul has left Timothy in Ephesus to carry out his duties there while Paul continued his ministry elsewhere. Paul hopes that he can come to Timothy soon and teach him in person, but if that is not the case at least Timothy might know how to behave himself as a minister of the Church of the living God.

The Mystery of Godliness

The Church is a living instrument of the living God. We worship not a dead God or a symbol of godliness, but a God who lives and reigns over all of creation. Even our Lord Jesus Christ, who was dead, is now alive at the Father’s hand, for he was raised up with a body immortal, never again to die. The Church is the pillar and ground of the Truth which is in Christ Jesus.

The mystery of godliness is great and possibly beyond full understanding. Our God made himself manifest in the flesh in our Lord Jesus, who was justified in the Spirit, seen of men and angels, preached unto the Gentiles (though born to the Jews), believed on by all peoples of the world, and taken up into glory with the Father. This is true, yet it is hard to fully understand.

Let us Pray

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Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Lord, impress on us the severity of the responsibilities inherent to representing You in the Church. We are sinful men, wicked in a wicked world, yet you have known us and redeemed us. Make us ready to serve the Church in all sobriety, fully aware of the duties and obligations implied with such responsibility. Give to us now bishops and deacons ready to serve, blameless and pure in Your sight and before men, so that we might better work in this world. Prepare us daily for the things you have made ready for us to do.

We ask these things in faith, knowing that you hear our prayers because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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I have been a false Christian and a pagan, but now I seek to serve the Lord.