1 Timothy 3:1–16 (NKJV)
1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.1 Timothy 3:1-7
Paul moves from instructions to Timothy per se to instructions for choosing and qualifying bishops and deacons. In this first section of the passage, Paul outlines the value and the requirements related to the office of a bishop. It is commonly assumed among theological scholars that bishops were overseers of a city or region within the church. This work was more broad than what we would consider a pastor in today’s church, and was meant to be someone who oversaw several house churches or congregations within the overall body of Christ. The Roman Catholic churches still recognize this office by this title, but other movements or denominations use different terminology while still recognizing the office of overseer. The qualifications required to hold this office are listed here, and include general requirements of lifestyle, attitude, integrity, reputation, experience, and temperament. With a good reputation, a well-behaved family, and holy lifestyle, one would be a candidate to oversee the church in a city or region if otherwise equipped with the skill set to do so. Anyone not showing these signs of leadership would likely be in over his head and not rule well, perhaps become prideful, or even suffer reproach from those outside the church. The office of a bishop is an elevated service of leadership, and is not to be appointed lightly or served without excellence.
8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.1 Timothy 3:8-13
Paul then moves to a similar list of requirements for deacons, who would be leaders in local congregations, servant-leaders who know how to keep confidence, follow higher leadership, and be proven as servants and leadership with experience in matters of the church. There is an added layer of qualification for the deacons wife to be a woman of discretion, temperate and faithful in all things. Paul speaks of the good standing and boldness in the faith to be obtained by those who serve well as deacons.
14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself 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 manifested in the flesh,1 Timothy 3:14-16
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.
Paul sums up this passage with the rationale for the teaching, that is, to help Timothy know how to conduct himself as he helps lead the church, establishing leaders in each congregation and helping resource the church in various locations. Paul’s care for the church, the “pillar and ground of the truth,” is the driving force behind him wanting to see the church cared for and organized. Paul longs to see the church continue long-term and successfully. Paul’s defense and sacrifice for the gospel is justified by the work of God to save mankind through Jesus Christ. His work (manifested, seen, preached, believed on, received) makes it possible for men and women everywhere to believe. This is the driving force behind Paul’s sacrificial witnessing and preaching at the peril of his own life. This is why he cares. My hope is that leaders of the church everywhere care like Paul cared, and raise up young leaders like Paul did. Through sacrificial care and service, the church moves forward.