1 Timothy 3:13
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) For they that have used the office of a deacon well.—Better rendered, for they that have served well as deacons. It was with good reason that the Apostle laid great stress on the many and varied qualifications necessary for one undertaking the duties of a deacon of the Church—for very great indeed was the reward reserved for the true, loyal deacon when his work was over and done (and if for the man who had performed well his work in the lower office, à fortiori for the one who should faithfully fulfil the yet higher duties of an elder or overseer in the Church).

Purchase to themselves a good degree.—Some scholars have suggested as a better rendering, “are acquiring (or gaining) to themselves a good standing. The old translation perhaps is best. Alford writes strikingly on the change of tense: “They that have used are acquiring or purchasing.” The Apostle having begun by placing himself at the great day of retribution, now shifts the scene and deals with their present conduct. “Those who shall then be found to have served well, &c. . . . are now, &c.”

The “good degree” they are now purchasing by earnest, patient work may refer to advancement to the higher ministries of the Church, but, more probably, has reference to their future position in the blessed life to come. This is one of the passages not unfrequent in St. Paul’s Epistles, where degrees of glory among the redeemed are clearly spoken of. The plain words of St. Paul and his Master teach the people of God that although the great act of redemption alone belongs to Christ, that through His merits only men obtain salvation, still His own, will in a great measure determine, by their works and days on earth, the position they will occupy in His kingdom.

And great boldness.—The true and faithful deacons not only will in the life to come win the great reward, but here the result of their loyal, earnest service would be, that before men they would do their work with serene, fearless confidence, and would at the same time be encouraged to approach that heavenly Father at all times with the loving trustfulness of children.

In the faith which is in Christ Jesus.—Faith was the foundation of the “great boldness,” and the faith rested on Jesus Christ.

3:8-13 The deacons were at first appointed to distribute the charity of the church, and to manage its concerns, yet pastors and evangelists were among them. The deacons had a great trust reposed in them. They must be grave, serious, prudent men. It is not fit that public trusts should be lodged in the hands of any, till they are found fit for the business with which they are to be trusted. All who are related to ministers, must take great care to walk as becomes the gospel of Christ.For they that have used the office of a deacon well - Margin, "ministered." The Greek word is the same as deacon, meaning ministering, or serving in this office. The sense would be well expressed by the phrase, "deaconizing well." The "word" implies nothing as to the exact nature of the office.

Purchase to themselves - Procure for themselves; see this word explained in the notes on Acts 20:28.

A good degree - The word here used (βαθμός bathmos) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, "a step," as of a stair; and the fair meaning is that of going up higher, or taking an additional step of dignity, honor, or standing. So far as the "word" is concerned, it may mean either an advance in office, in dignity, in respectability, or in influence. It cannot certainly be inferred that the apostle referred to a higher grade of "office;" for all that the word essentially conveys is, that, by exercising this office well, a deacon would secure additional respectability and influence in the church. Still, it is possible that those who had performed the duties of this office well were appointed to be preachers. They may have shown so much piety, prudence, good sense, and ability to preside over the church, that it was judged proper that they should be advanced to the office of bishops or pastors of the churches. Such a course would not be unnatural. This is, however, far from teaching that the office of a deacon is a subordinate office, "with a view" to an ascent to a higher grade.

And great boldness in the faith - The word here rendered "boldness" properly refers to boldness "in speaking;" see it explained in the Acts 4:13 note; 2 Corinthians 3:12 note; Philippians 1:20 note. But the word is commonly used to denote boldness of any kind - openness, frankness, confidence, assurance; John 8:13, John 8:26; Mark 8:32; 2 Corinthians 7:4. As it is here connected with "faith" - "boldness in the faith" - it means, evidently, not so much public speaking, as a manly and independent exercise of faith in Christ. The sense is, that by the faithful performance of the duties of the office of a deacon, and by the kind of experience which a man would have in that office, he would establish a character of firmness in the faith, which would show that he was a decided Christian. This passage, therefore, cannot be fairly used to prove that the deacon was "a preacher," or that he belonged to a grade of ministerial office from which he was regularly to rise to that of a presbyter.

13. purchase to themselves a good degree—literally, "are acquiring … a … step." Understood by many as "a higher step," that is, promotion to the higher office of presbyter. But ambition of rising seems hardly the motive to faithfulness which the apostle would urge; besides, it would require the comparative, "a better degree." Then the past aorist participle, "they that used the office of deacon well," implies that the present verb, "are acquiring to themselves boldness," is the result of the completed action of using the diaconate well. Also, Paul would not probably hold out to every deacon the prospect of promotion to the presbytery in reward of his service. The idea of moving upwards in Church offices was as yet unknown (compare Ro 12:7, &c.; 1Co 12:4-11). Moreover, there seems little connection between reference to a higher Church rank and the words "great boldness." Therefore, what those who have faithfully discharged the diaconate acquire for themselves is "a good standing-place" [Alford] (a well-grounded hope of salvation) against the day of judgment, 1Ti 6:19; 1Co 3:13, 14 (the figurative meaning of "degree" or "step," being the degree of worth which one has obtained in the eye of God [Wiesinger]); and boldness (resting on that standing-place"), as well for preaching and admonishing others now (Eph 6:19; a firm standing forth for the truth against error), as also especially in relation to God their coming Judge, before whom they may be boldly confident (Ac 24:16; 1Jo 2:28; 3:21; 4:17; Heb 4:16).

in the faith—rather as Greek, "in faith," that is, boldness resting on their own faith.

which is in Christ Jesus—resting in Christ Jesus.

Purchase to themselves a good degree; a good degree of honour, so that none hath reason to decline or to despise that office. This seems rather to be the sense, than what pleaseth some better, viz. that they purchase to themselves a higher degree in the ministry of the church; for though it be very probably true, and but rational, that the primitive church did out of their deacons choose their higher officers for the church, yet neither was this done universally as to all persons chosen into those high employments, nor as to all those that used the office of a deacon well, there doubtless being many who had done so, who yet were not didaktikoi, fitted with an ability sufficient to be preachers, without which fitness the primitive church would not choose any to such employment.

And great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus; by the well performance also of the office of a deacon, many obtained a great liberty, or freedom of speech, parrhsian, as to the doctrine of the faith of Christ. For by the exercise of the deacon’s office, they had much converse both with the pastors and members of the church; which converse did not only improve their knowledge in the doctrine of faith, but took off that excessive bashfulness which possesseth many till they come to be fully acquainted with the thing of which, and the persons before which, they are to speak, which we see by daily experience. Or, the apostle intends that courage that arises from a good conscience. Those that are careless and unfaithful in the discharge of their duty, guilt makes them timorous; but the good and faithful servant of God enjoys that liberty and courage which faith in the Lord Jesus gives, and without fear discharges all the parts of his office. For they that have used the office of a deacon well,.... With diligence and faithfulness, with simplicity and cheerfulness; taking good care of the minister and poor, and of the discipline of God's house:

purchase to themselves a good degree; not an higher office, as that of presbytery or episcopacy, which is a sense calculated to serve a hierarchy; nor a degree in glory and happiness hereafter; but rather an increase of gifts and grace; or a degree of respect and honour in the church: or the sense is, they possess and enjoy, which is the meaning of the word rendered "purchase", a very honourable office in the church; and which is so to them, they using it well, and discharging it in an honourable manner; unless the apostle should design what the Jews called , "a degree of faith": (b) but that is expressed in the next clause:

and great boldness in the faith, which is in Christ Jesus: either in the exercise of the grace of faith at the throne of grace; or in asserting the doctrine of faith before men; and in reproving either for error or immorality: all which may be boldly done by those who use this office well.

(b) Zohar in Exod. fol. 36. 3.

For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good {g} degree, and {h} great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

(g) Honour and estimation.

(h) Bold and assured confidence without fear.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Timothy 3:13. To these instructions he adds in this verse a reason: οἱ γὰρ καλῶς διακονήσαντες (διακονεῖν is here and in 1 Timothy 3:10 used in the official sense) βαθμὸν ἑαυτοῖς καλὸν περιποιοῦνται.[130] The word ΒΑΘΜΌς, which occurs only here, denotes, like gradus, in the figurative sense, a degree of honour. As to what is to be understood by this, expositors are not agreed; but we may reject at once all explanations in which a comparative is put in place of the positive καλόν. This objection applies to the view that ΒΑΘΜΌς denotes here the higher ecclesiastical office, the office of bishop (Jerome: “bonum hic pro gradu majori posuit; sunt enim minores [diaconi];” Bengel: “gradum ab humilitate diaconiae ad majora munera, in ecclesia. Qui in minore gradu fidelis est, ad majora promovetur;” so, too, Theophylact, Erasmus, Beza, Grotius, Heumann, Heydenreich, Baur, Plitt, and others), which view, moreover, presupposes a regulation of rank altogether foreign to the apostolic age. The same objection applies to the view that ΒΑΘΜῸς ΚΑΛΌς is a higher stage of the life of faith, i.e. an increase in Christian perfection. The expositors who hold by the positive καλός, interpret the idea, some of the future, others of the present life. The former understand by it “a higher stage of blessedness;” so Theodoret (τὸν τίμιον τοῦτον βαθμὸν ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι λήψονται βίῳ), Flatt, and others; the latter explain the expression as applying to “respect in the church;” so Calvin, Planck, Wegscheider, Leo, Matthies, and others.

Heinrich, de “Wette, and Wiesinger agree with the view of the former, only modifying it to mean not a stage of holiness, but “the expectancy of it.” This modification is, however, unwarrantable, since the idea of “expectancy or claim” is imported. βαθμός means a stage; it cannot at the same time mean the claim to a stage; and if ΒΑΘΜΌς must mean the claim to something, then there is nothing to indicate what the claim refers to.

The decision between the two interpretations depends on the explanation of the words that follow: ΚΑῚ ΠΟΛΛῊΝ ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑΝ ἘΝ ΠΊΣΤΕΙ Τῇ ἘΝ ΧΡΙΣΤῷ ἸΗΣΟῦ] ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑ means, in the first place, candour in speech; then more generally, bold courage in action, synonymous with ἌΔΕΙΑ (Hesychius); and lastly, firm confidence in something; thus in reference to men, 2 Corinthians 7:4 (ΠΟΛΛΉ ΜΟΙ ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑ ΠΡῸς ὙΜᾶς), or to God, viz. the confidence which the Christian in faith has in the saving grace of God; so in the Epistle to the Hebrews and in the First Epistle of John.[131] If βαθμός is to be referred to future blessedness, then παῤῥησία here, as in 1 John 3:21, Hebrews 4:16, is confidence toward God. But in 1 John 3:21 we have πρὸς τὸν Θεόν along with παῤῥησία, and in Hebrews 4:16 μετὰ παῤῥησίας is added to define more precisely the clause: προσερχώμεθα τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος; as to the parallel passage in 1 Timothy 6:19, to which de Wette likewise appeals, the reference to the future life is distinctly expressed by the words εἰς τὸ μέλλον. Of all this there is nothing here; there is nothing, either here or with καλὸν βαθμόν, to direct us to the future life, nothing to indicate that with παῤῥησία we should supply πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, or the like. Hence it is more natural to refer these ideas to the sphere in which the διακονεῖν takes place, and to understand by βαθμός, respect in the church;[132] by ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑ, confidence in their official labours. These two things stand in closest relation to one another, since only he can possess right confidence in his office who is open to no just reproach, who is honoured for conducting himself well in the matters with which his office is concerned. Wiesinger, against this view, maintains that “the aorist (διακονήσαντες) makes the ΒΑΘΜῸΝ ἙΑΥΤ. ΚΑΛ. ΠΕΡΙΠ. appear to be the final result of the official labour;”[133] but if that were the case, the present ΠΕΡΙΠΟΙΟῦΝΤΑΙ should not have been used, but the perfect; for the acquisition does not take place after the official labour, but during it.

Certainly the aorist is somewhat strange; but it may mean that the βαθμὸς κ.τ.λ. is always the result of good service.[134]

The verb περιποιεῖσθαι, in the N. T. only here and in Acts 20:28, has even in classical writers the meaning “gain for oneself.” The dative ἙΑΥΤΟῖς is added to show clearly that he is speaking of the gain to the deacons themselves, and not to the congregation.

ἘΝ ΠΊΣΤΕΙ Τῇ ἘΝ ΧΡΙΣΤῷ ἸΗΣΟῦ] is not to be joined with ΒΑΘΜΌΝ and ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑΝ (van Oosterzee), but only with ΠΑῤῬΗΣΊΑΝ.[135] It is not the sphere in which, nor the object in regard to which, there is παῤῥησία (Heumann: “the boldness to teach the Christian faith even in public;” Wegscheider: “free activity for Christianity, or a greater sphere for the spread of Christianity”); but it denotes the παῤῥησία as Christian, as rooted in Christian faith. The construction of πίστις with ἐν following it, is found also in 2 Timothy 3:15; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 1:15; Colossians 1:4 (only that in these passages there is no article before ἐν, while there is one before πίστις; on the other hand, comp. Acts 20:21; Acts 26:18). This construction may be explained to mean that Christ is the object of faith already apprehended; the believer not only has Christ before him, but he lives in communion with Him.

[130] Hofmann thinks that ver. 13 is connected only with ver. 12; because a man might fill the office of deacon well, though he lacked the qualities named in vv. 8–10, but not if his house were badly managed. But that is not the case. Those qualities, not less than the one given in ver. 12, are the necessary conditions for filling the office of deacon well.

[131] Regarding Luther’s translation of παῤῥησία by “joyfulness,” see my Comment. on the Epistles of John , 3 d ed., on 1 John 4:17.

[132] Van Oosterzee’s opinion is manifestly wrong, that βαθμός is “a beautiful stage of the spiritual life, and also of eternal blessedness.”

[133] The other grounds apply only to the exposition of Matthies, who understands by βαθμὸς καλός “the influential post;” by παῤῥησία, “the free play of thought and speech, a wide open field of spiritual activity.” In this he certainly exceeds the meaning which may be assigned to these words.

[134] Hofmann’s explanation of βαθμός and παῤῥησία agrees in substance with that given here. He is wrong, however, in asserting that the deacons do not acquire both during, but only after their tenure of office. If the latter were the case, the means by which it takes place would not be given.

[135] Hofmann, indeed, holds even this connection of ideas to be unsuitable; but we do not see why the παῤῥησία may not be marked as Christian, as rooted in faith in Christ. To connect it with what follows, would be to suppose that the apostle lays emphasis on a point, which to Timothy would be self-evident.1 Timothy 3:13. From what has been noted above on St. Paul’s teaching in relation to men’s lawful aspirations, it will appear that it is not necessary to explain away the obvious meaning of this clause in accordance with a false spirituality which affects to depreciate the inducements of earthly rewards. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:21), implies Christ’s approval of reasonable ambition. Nor is this to be answered by a statement that “the recompense of reward” to which we are permitted to look is heavenly and spiritual. For the Christian, there can be no gulf fixed between the earthly and the heavenly; at least in the category of things which are open to him, as a Christian, to desire. The drawing of such distinctions is akin to the Manichaean disparagement of matter.

The βαθμὸν καλόν which the man may acquire who has served well as a deacon is advancement to the presbyterate or episcopate. So Chrys. The R.V., gain to themselves a good standing, does not necessarily imply an advance in rank, but an assured position in the esteem of their fellow-Christians. We know that among the many who possess the same rank, whether in church or state, some from their character and abilities gain a standing that others do not.

Some modern commentators follow Theodoret in giving a purely spiritual force to βαθμόν, i.e., ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι βίῳ, “a good standing place, viz., at the Great Day” (Alf.); “the step or degree which a faithful discharge of the διακονία would gain in the eyes of God” (Ell.). Alf. lays emphasis on the aor. part. as viewing the διακονία from the standpoint of the Day of Judgment; but it is equally suitable if the standpoint be that of the day on which they receive their advancement. There is more force in his emphasis on the present, περιποιοῦνται, they are acquiring. This interpretation does not seem to be in harmony with the context. The qualifications that are noted in 1 Timothy 3:12 have relation to the effectual administration of the Church on earth. It would be harsh to affirm that one who was a digamist and who could not keep his household in order would suffer for it in the Day of Judgment, however unsuitable he might be for office in the church.

πολλὴν παρρησίαν: a Pauline phrase. See reff. In these passages παρρ. means confidence, without reference to speech.

Although Ell. renders the clause “great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus,” he explains the boldness as resting on faith in Christ Jesus, and as descriptive of the believer’s attitude in regard to, and at, the Day of Judgment. See 1 John 4:17. If we reject his explanation of βαθμόν, it would be natural to interpret παρρ., κ.τ.λ., of a confident public expression of the faith, such as would belong to an experienced Christian who had gained a good standing, and had, in consequence, no temptation to be δίλογος. Von Soden connects ἐν πίστει with περιποιοῦνται, cf. 2 Timothy 1:13.13. purchase to themselves a good degree] The word for ‘degree’ occurs only here in N.T., having been used in LXX. for a ‘step’ or ‘threshold,’ e.g. 1 Samuel 5:5, ‘the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod.’ It may be compared with 1 Timothy 6:19, ‘a good foundation,’ and may, from the drift of that phrase, be interpreted so as to combine something of all the three most general explanations, (a) a better degree or post, promotion to the priesthood; (b) esteem and regard from the Church for good service; (c) honour and promotion from God in the final day of reckoning. In 1 Timothy 6:19 the right use of wealth by the wealthy is the best basis for the whole of the life ‘which is life indeed’ to be gradually built up on, in the days yet to come on earth, and the unending day after: no spiritual life can be sound that is not built in and upon the faithful doing of our duty in that state of life to which it may please God to call us. An illustration of the metaphor may be taken from the building of Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse and all lighthouses of the kind since. ‘All the lower courses of stone were joggled and morticed into the rock, hewn for that purpose into a series of six steplike courses. The lower portion of the building was solid throughout, and from its peculiar dovetailing practically but one stone with the rock upon which it was raised.’ So we may translate here with R.V. they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and interpret ‘good standing’ not to mean a higher post but good solid work done by them as deacons, leading (a) to ‘boldness of speech in the faith,’ the acceptable performance of functions such as St Stephen and St Philip, though deacons, were privileged to perform. We then gain a force for ‘to themselves’ in accordance with (b), adopting Theodore’s comment ‘though second in rank to presbyters, they will themselves have an esteem second to none,’ and (we may add) real ‘freedom in speaking’ too, from the consciousness of their people’s sympathy and support. Finally the life now is part only of the whole life; and ‘life is the use of the gifts of God according to the will of God’; hence good deacon’s work now is the basis (c) for a joyous expectation of the Master’s smile of approval, ‘ye have done it unto Me,’ a joyous acceptance of His seal of approval, ‘Be thou ruler over many things.’ See Appendix, K.

the faith which is in Christ Jesus] Here, like ‘the faith of the Gospel’ in Php 1:27; Galatians 3:23 (see Bp Lightfoot), objective; the doctrine and scheme of ‘Christianity.’ Compare James 2:1, ‘the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ’; Judges 3, ‘the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.’1 Timothy 3:13. Βαθμὸν) a degree, from the humble deaconship to the higher offices in the church. He who is faithful in an inferior degree, is promoted to a higher station.—ἑαυτοῖς, to themselves) They do not merely promote the interests of others.—πολλὴν παῤῥησίαν) great boldness with regard to God and man, from being well exercised.—ἐν πίστει, in the faith) that they may perceive that they are made most richly partakers of His faith and benefits.Verse 13. - Served well as deacons for used the office of a deacon well, A.V.; gain to themselves a good standing for purchase to themselves a good degree, A.V. Served... as deacons (διακονήσαντες); as in ver. 10. In this technical sense only found in these two passages; which well agrees with the late date of this Epistle, when the technical sense of διάκονος was established. Gain to themselves a good standing. The sense of the passage depends a good deal upon the exact meaning of βαθμός. In 1 Samuel 5:4, 5, in the LXX., βαθμός is the rendering of מִפְתָּן (rendered αἴθριον in Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:4), a somewhat unusual word for a "threshold." In 2 Kings 20:9, 10, 11, it is the rendering of מַעֲלָה, "a degree on the sun-dial." This latter seems to suit better the verb περιποιοῦνται, they gain or acquire, which suggests the idea of advancement. It does not follow that St. Paul had in his mind their advancement from the "inferior office" to "the higher ministries in the Church" (Ordination Service); he may merely have meant to say that the discharge of the duties of a deacon in an efficient and exemplary manner raised a man to high estimation in the Church, and so gave him confidence in confessing the faith of Jesus Christ both by word and deed. Gain to themselves (περιποιοῦνται); acquire by purchase or otherwise. Frequent in the LXX.; but only elsewhere in the New Testament in Acts 20:28. Boldness (παρρησίαν); very common in the New Testament (comp. Acts 4:13, 29, 31; Ephesians 6:19; Philippians 1:20, etc.), where it is especially applied to boldness in preaching the gospel of Christ. This seems to imply that St. Paul contemplated preaching as a part of the deacon's work. We know that Philip the deacon and Stephen the deacon were both preachers. Purchase (περιποιοῦνται)

Only here, Luke 17:33, and Acts 20:28 on which see note. Purchase is unfortunate from the point of modern usage; but it is employed in its original sense of to win, acquire, without any idea of a bargain. So Bacon, Ess. iv. 14: "There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong's sake; but thereby to purchase himself profit, or pleasure, or honor, or the like." And Shakespeare:

"Then, as my gift and thine own acquisition

Worthily purchased, take my daughter."

Temp iv. 1, 14

Rend. acquire or obtain for themselves.

A good degree (βαθμὸν καλὸν)

Βαθμός, N.T.o. Primarily, a step. In lxx, 1 Samuel 5:5; Sir. 6:36, a threshold: 2 Kings 20:9, a degree on the dial. In ecclesiastical writers, order, grade, rank: see, for instance, Eusebius, H. E. vii. 15. Also degree of relationship or affinity. Here the word apparently means a position of trust and influence in the church; possibly a promotion from the diaconate to the episcopate. Others (as De Wette, Ellicott, Pfleiderer) refer it to a high grade in the future life, which Holtzmann sarcastically describes as a ladder-round in heaven (eine Staffel im Himmel). John the Scholar, known as Climacus, a monk of the latter half of the sixth century, and Abbot of the Sinai Convent, wrote a mystical work entitled Κλίμαξ τοῦ Παραδείσου the Ladder of Paradise. The ladder, according to him, had thirty rounds.

Boldness (παρρησίαν)

Primarily, free and bold speaking; speaking out every word (πᾶν, ῥῆμα). Its dominant idea is boldness, confidence, as opposed to fear, ambiguity, or reserve. The idea of publicity is sometimes attached to it, but as secondary. Only here in the Pastorals: several times in Paul, as 2 Corinthians 3:12; 2 Corinthians 7:4; Philippians 1:20. The phrase πολλή παρρησία much boldness is also Pauline. An assured position and blameless reputation in the church, with a pure conscience, would assure boldness of speech and of attitude in the Christian community and elsewhere.

In faith

Connect with boldness only. It designates the boldness as distinctively Christian, founded on faith in Christ

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