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1 Timothy 3 - Pastors and Deacons

INTRODUCTION: The guidance in this chapter, and in a parallel section in Titus, is used in the Christian church for qualifications for those who serve in leading a local congregation. Paul also gave similar directions in Acts chapter 20 to the leaders of the church at Ephesus who met with him as he was on his way to Jerusalem. The Apostle Peter In his first general letter gave this type of instruction to those in leadership of churches in Asia.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the World English Bible.


1Timothy 3 "1 This is a faithful saying: if a man seeks the office of an overseer, he desires a good work. 2 The overseer therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, modest, hospitable, good at teaching; 3 not a drinker, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having children in subjection with all reverence; 5 (but if a man doesn't know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the assembly of God?) 6 not a new convert, lest being puffed up he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have good testimony from those who are outside, to avoid falling into reproach and the snare of the devil."

COMMENTS: There are two slightly different Greek words translated above as overseer, the first speaks to the position for exercising oversight, and the second designates the one who has oversight. Together they carry the sense of one who diligently searches out the matters of his responsibilities. Paul says this is a good work for a man to seek, but there are some important prerequisites for such a man, to protect the integrity of the church and the name of the Lord as the overseer cares for the assembly of God. The physical age of the man is not the key issue as Paul was writing to the relatively young man Timothy, but a new convert to the faith should not be an overseer because he is more likely to be carried away in his pride, while at the same time not sufficiently skilled in the word to combat false teaching. A good reputation in the outside community is also essential to avoid bringing disgrace and shame to the leadership position of the church. Paul lists a range of personal characteristics for a candidate for a pastor/overseer, and some of those are common to other New Testament writings.

Paul's letter to Titus was for his oversight of multiple churches in Crete, which Paul had entrusted to him. Titus 1 "6 if anyone is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, who are not accused of loose or unruly behaviour. 7 For the overseer must be blameless, as God's steward; not self-pleasing, not easily angered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for dishonest gain; 8 but given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober minded, fair, holy, self-controlled; 9 holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict those who contradict him. 10 For there are also many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped; men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for dishonest gain's sake."

Paul was traveling from Macedonia on a long route for his final visit to Jerusalem, hoping to arrive there before Pentecost. Acts 20 "17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to himself the elders of the assembly." ... "27 for I didn't shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them."

Peter, who had been a fisherman, and the son of a fisherman, also had a shepherd's heart. 1 Peter 5 "1 I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and who will also share in the glory that will be revealed. 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, not for dishonest gain, but willingly; 3 neither as lording it over those entrusted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock. 4 When the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the crown of glory that doesn't fade away."


1Timothy 3 "8 Servants, in the same way, must be reverent, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for money; 9 holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 Let them also first be tested; then let them serve if they are blameless. 11 Their wives in the same way must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let servants be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well gain for themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."

COMMENTS: This next section describing qualifications for those who serve within the assembly of believers is closely related to the course taken by the apostles in Jerusalem as they directed the large congregation to appoint men to serve the widows. Acts 6 "1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, a complaint arose from the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily service. 2 The twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore select from among you, brothers, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will continue steadfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word."" This is an important function within the assembly of believers, and the qualifications for those who serve are very much like those for the overseers. But even in a more general sense, all members of the church should consider their part in serving one another, and in following personal conduct in keeping with their position in Christ.


1Timothy 3 "14 These things I write to you, hoping to come to you shortly; 15 but if I wait long, that you may know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16 Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great: God was revealed in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory.

COMMENTS: Paul had the hope of being able to return soon to Ephesus, but if he could not, he wanted Timothy to have the type of guidance he would have provided in person, so he gave specific detail for overseers and servants in the church. he concluded this section by asserting that it is important that there be proper behavior by all members in the house of God, which is the assembly of the living God, and the very foundation and pillar of truth. He said it is incontrovertible and unquestionable that the mystery of godliness is great. Paul listed six aspects of that mystery and I have selected other scriptures that may serve as illustrations of the brief phrases he employed.
God was revealed in the flesh,
Isaiah 7 "14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
John 1 "14 The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth."
justified in the spirit,
Matthew 3 "16 Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him. 17 Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.""
seen by angels,
Matthew 4 "10 Then Jesus said to him, "Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.'" 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and served him."
Luke 22 "41 He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and he knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him."
preached among the nations,
Acts 13 "46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, "It was necessary that God's word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so has the Lord commanded us, saying, 'I have set you as a light for the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.'""
believed on in the world,
Acts 13 "48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
and received up in glory.
Mark 16 "19 So then the Lord, after he had spoken to them, was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God."


Help me Lord to consider the qualities outlined by the Apostle Paul as they have direct application to the way I should conduct myself in the household of God. Paul has given brief phrases about the Lord Jesus that serve to prompt my thoughts about the stages the Lord Jesus followed to verify his fulfillment of prophecy to open the way of salvation for my soul. As a redeemed child of God, I am now part of the assembly of the living God, and of the very foundation and pillar of truth. Since Jesus now lives in me through the Holy Spirit, I want to be careful to act responsibly in the local assembly of believers, and to have a good reputation outside the church to avoid bringing reproach to the name of Christ. I know I am weak in the flesh, but I trust you Lord that you will provide great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus as I remain connected to you through your word and through prayer. . Show me the ways you have designed for me to serve you. Amen.

Published 21 May 2013