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Bible: What Does 1 Timothy 3 Teach Us About the Two Offices in the Local Church?

Updated on September 9, 2016

The Apostle Paul


The Model Shepherd


The Overseer (Bishop)

Paul records another “faithful saying” (cf. 1:15) when he writes that a man’s desire to become an overseer constitutes a good aspiration (v. 1).

He then delineates the several moral, social, professional, and spiritual qualifications that men must possess to assume this office (vv. 2-7).

[Ryrie provides a cogent summary of the biblical teaching on this subject, stating how the bishop’s role coincides with the role of the elder and the functions of the pastor.]

(1) Being blameless (“above reproach,” NASB) suggests that no one can successfully bring any moral charge against him.

(2) Being a “one-woman man”—that is, being married only once, not divorced— demonstrates faithfulness and self-control.

(3) Being “temperate” carries with it the idea of mildness or possessing self-restraint.

(4) Being “sober-minded” (“prudent,” NASB) points to the ability to exercise wisdom in his personal life.

(5) “Of good behavior” (“respectable,” NASB) indicates one whom others esteem highly for his moral uprightness.

(6) “Hospitable” shows that he should have a generous and friendly disposition.

(7) Being “able to teach” readies him to feed the flock (v. 2).

(8) He should not allow wine to control his judgment.

(9) He should not pick fights.

(10) The NU does not contain “not greedy for money,” probably because the later prohibition against covetousness (“loving money”) seems to cover the idea well.

(11) Being gentle and not quarrelsome (“uncontentious,” NASB) seem to go together as a corollary to not being pugnacious (v. 3).

The Pastor of Lambs


The Pastor-Teacher's Home Life

Verses four and five picture what the bishop’s home life should look like.

He should so exercise authority over his children that they both submit to his leadership and respect him as a person.

Paul recognizes that a bishop should experience success in this endeavor first, thus proving that he could handle a church of disparate families.

Acknowledging the danger that pride presents to a man who may acquire a high church office without having had much Christian experience, Paul commands that churches should not call new believers to become bishops (v. 6).

Men should first establish a good reputation among non-Christian people, so that the devil cannot use a bad relationship on the outside to spoil his appointment to the office (v. 7).

Gift Not Required For Deacons

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The Deacon (Servant)

The apostle now discusses the qualifications to the other office in the early local church: the deacon (vv. 8-13).

Very similar to those of the bishop, the standards include the following:

(1) Reverence (“men of dignity,” NASB) shows a proper attitude toward God and others;

(2) “Not double-tongued” suggests truthfulness in word.

(3) The rules established for deacons—“not given to much wine, not greedy for money”—correlate almost exactly with those of the bishop (v. 8; cf. 3:3).

(4) In relation to the body of revealed teachings (“the mystery of the faith”), deacons must pass the test of adherence to them without moral objection (v. 9).

Marriage a Necessity to Hold Office?

Must deacons and overseers be married men?

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(5) Like the prospect for the bishopric, deacons, too, must first experience enough of what it means to serve in the Christian life and pass muster before being appointed (v. 10).

(6) Deacon wives must show a respectful attitude toward God and others, keep themselves from malicious gossip, exercise self-control, and demonstrate faithfulness in every area of their lives (v. 11).

[The word translated "wives" here is actually "women," leading some to conclude that this verse refers to deaconesses.]

(7) Like bishops, deacons must have been married only once and never divorced, and must keep their children and household under control (v. 12).

Paul concludes his message about the deacon by stating that the proven, faithful servant earns widespread respect from the church at large and maintains a vibrant witness to the world (v. 13).

Incarnation, Resurrection, and Ascension


The Mystery of Godliness

Just in case some unforeseen circumstance delays his visit with Timothy, the apostle pens this church administration-related teaching beforehand, so that his associate knows how “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,” ought to operate, and how he should manage himself as a leader within it (vv. 14-15).

Speaking of the truth (that is, the body of Christian doctrine), Paul presents in terse clauses what Ryrie believes expressed an early Christian hymn (New Testament Study Bible, 381): “The Mystery of Godliness.”

(1) This clause refers to the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

[The context indicates that the masculine relative pronoun hos (NU) undoubtedly refers to God (M).]

(2) Christ’s resurrection from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit vindicated Him (or showed Him to be true);

(3) Angels saw Him on Resurrection morning;

(4) The apostles soon proclaimed that resurrection among the Gentiles, who trusted Christ as their Lord and Savior; and

(5) Jesus ascended to the Father’s right hand in glory (v. 16).

© 2014 glynch1


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    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I think he's from Pennsacola FL. A quick search on the internet will bring up plenty of material on him if you're interested.

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      I have never heard of him. Is he from your area?

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I don't know if he is a believer or not, but he is well known in some circles. Being that he also holds to many other heretical views, I hope you don't mind if I mention his name as a word of warning to others. if so, please delete this comment - no problem. His name is Peter Ruckman.

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      Do you think he is a believer? I guess he must think that Paul was just offering his human opinion on the subject.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I know of a "pastor" who has been married three times (divorced twice) and still feels it okay for him to hold the office of pastor. He uses all kinds of unscriptural thoughts to justify it. I do believe God will hold him accountable. Thanks for another accurate rendering of Scripture.

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      You are welcome.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      This article is clear concerning what the Bible says about the bishop and the deacon. Well presented. Thank you.