Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 3. Apostolic Selection of the Assistant Ministry
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.1. This is a true saying] Better, It is a faithful saying; R.V., as in 1 Timothy 1:15, literally ‘Faithful is the saying’; most probably to be referred, as there and in the other three passages, to the following sentence. So A.V. and R.V., though the margin of R.V. mentions that ‘Some connect the words … with the preceding paragraph’; and Westcott and Hort in their text by the mode of printing so connect it. The early Greek Fathers are divided; Chrysostom, e.g. is for reference to the preceding, Theod. Mops, to the following, quoting our Lord’s ‘Verily, verily.’ The various reading of D anthrôpinos (some Latin Versions have humanus) ‘this is a human saying,’ read also in 1 Timothy 1:15, cannot very well be explained as by Ellicott, an equivalent of benignus, for how could benignus at all fairly represent pistos, faithful, trusty? Nor can it have arisen from the spread of the nolo episcopari feeling, causing this place to give offence, so that ‘human,’ ‘carnal’ was substituted; for when substituted it turns the context upside down, and the explanation could not hold in 1 Timothy 1:15. We may look for the explanation rather in the use by St Paul of the phrase kata anthrôpon, anthrôpinos, Romans 6:19; Galatians 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:32, where the original idea is ‘according to the way of ordinary human speaking.’ So here ‘the saying has won its way to acceptance in the common speech,’ has become proverbial, representing the wisdom of many and the wit of one.
desire] R.V. seeketh, the word being stronger than that in the next clause and meaning literally ‘stretcheth out to take’; it is used (in N. T.) only in 1 Timothy 6:10, ‘love of money, which some reaching after,’ and Hebrews 11:6 ‘a rewarder of them that seek after him.’
the office of a bishop] The episcopate, lit. ‘overseership,’ which Alford would retain as the translation, to avoid the later limitations suggested by ‘the office of a bishop.’ Fairbairn on the other hand urges ‘pastorate.’ But ‘pastor’ originally meant only ‘bishop’ in its English ecclesiastical use. It is clear that the originals of our episcopate, diaconate and apostolate were at first interchangeable as general terms; Acts 1:17, ‘this diaconate,’ 20 ‘his episcopate,’ 25 ‘this diaconate and apostolate,’ all used of the office from which Judas fell: diaconate expresses the service done for Christ, and apostolate the mission from Him; episcopate the oversight and care of those among whom the service is done and to whom the mission is.
For the first trace of separation of the term ‘diaconate’ to a distinct class cf. Acts 6:1-2, contrasted with 1 Timothy 3:4; though the word is still used of St Paul’s apostleship, 1 Timothy 1:12, and of Timothy’s office, 2 Timothy 4:5. A separate ‘bishop’ or ‘overseer’ and a separate ‘deacon’ or ‘minister’ come first in Php 1:1, ‘all the saints with the bishops and deacons’: then in Acts 20:17, compared with acts 20:28, ‘the presbyters of Ephesus at Miletus’ … ‘the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops,’ we get a new name synonymous with bishop—‘presbyter’; and later 2 John 1:1 this new name ‘presbyter’ is used of the apostle St John and 1 Peter 5:1 by St Peter of himself.
We infer then that in N. T. times ‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter’ were both used of certain senior ministers and of the apostles, and that there were junior ministers called ‘deacons’; but the word ‘deacon’ could still be used generally. The conclusion of Bp Wordsworth is that the reference of episcopate here, while mainly to be made to the office of presbyter, does not exclude the office to which Timothy was appointed in the room of the apostle, to which the term was afterwards restricted, and from which comes our word ‘bishop.’ See Introduction, pp. 13–28, 53, 54; Appendix, C.
he desireth a good work] With all commentators from Chrysostom we must lay stress on good work; ‘non dignitates sed opus eo quod pro communi est utilitate constitutum.’ Theod. Mops.
1–7. The duties and characters of Bishops or Presbyters
Following the directions concerning the general arrangements for public worship come instructions as to the character and qualifications of the appointed ministers, the presbyterate, and the diaconate (male and female). These are introduced by a well-known saying among them, declared to be ‘faithful’ or ‘trustworthy.’ See Appendix, E.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;2. A bishop] R.V. The bishop, as St Mark 4:3, ‘the sower’: so George Herbert, ‘The country Parson’: ‘A bishop’ is however quite idiomatic too.
blameless] R.V. without reproach; twice again, ch. 1 Timothy 5:7 and 1 Timothy 6:14, nowhere else in N. T.; ‘giving no handle’ is exact, though rather colloquial, implying in Greek and in R.V. the absence of definite acts or habits to give occasion for reproach. See note on 1 Timothy 3:7.
the husband of one wife] A regulation apparently very simple, but one that has much exercised both ancient and modern commentators. We may pass by the view (1) ‘husband of a wife,’ i.e. ‘a married man,’ as ungrammatical; because the definite numeral has not lost its force ‘one’ in N.T.; in all the 36 or 37 passages where it might be thought to approach the sense of the indefinite article there is something in the context which draws attention to the singleness, the individuality of the person or thing named in a way which is lost by simply rendering ‘an’ or ‘a.’ This is virtually the view of the Greek Church, which requires all priests to be married, but forbids a second marriage, and requires the priest who has lost his wife to cease from exercising his functions.
We may pass by also view (2), that of the Mormons, though at least grammatical, ‘husband of one wife if not more.’
The weight of authority is divided between (3) ‘not a digamist’ and (4) ‘not a bigamist.’
Alford, Wordsworth and Ellicott adopt (3) and understand a second marriage after the loss of the first wife, however happening, to be forbidden, digamia; relying on (a) the very early interpretation by many Greek and Latin Fathers, the action by many bishops and the enactment of some councils, (b) the supposed propriety of greater strictness for officers of the Church.
But as to (a), the more general interpretation by the prevailing ‘voice of the Church’ in the first and second centuries was for (4), and St Paul has express statements on this point, Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:39, countenancing second marriages; as to (b), St Paul’s usage is not to make laws of a ‘higher life’ for ministers than for people, but to expect the same laws kept in a way to serve for ensample to the flock. We adopt (4) therefore—which is the prima facie meaning, and was the view of the Antiochene fathers (though Chrysostom seems to have changed his mind when he came to annotate Titus 1:6), and was acted upon by some of the Eastern bishops. Many converts to Christianity would have more than one wife. They are nowhere commanded to put away all but one; but it was not seemly that a man in such a position should be a Christian minister, who ought in all respects to be an ensample to the flock. See further on Titus 1:6. The parallel passage in ch. 1 Timothy 5:10 need cause no difficulty: then as now many a woman would change her partner and with or without a so-called re-marriage feel no scruple so long as she was faithful to the new partner. The elementary principle of Christian relationship needed then to be taught in Christian Asia, and needs teaching now in many still half-heathen circles of Christian England.
vigilant, sober] Rather sober, pure; the first word, from which nephalism comes, occurs only here and in 1 Timothy 3:11 of the ‘women deacons,’ and in Titus 2:2 of ‘the aged men,’ and is rendered by R.V. ‘temperate’; while the verb with which it is connected, occurring 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:8, 2 Timothy 4:5, and 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7, is rendered ‘be sober.’ The second word here and usually in the Pastoral Epistles, where it and its connexions occur nine times, is rendered by R.V. ‘soberminded’: in the passage however where both the verbs occur, 1 Peter 4:7, we have ‘be of sound (not sober) mind and be sober unto prayer.’
‘Sober,’ not indulging the desire of ‘winebibbings, revellings, carousings’; ‘pure,’ not indulging in the thought of ‘lasciviousness and lusts.’ See 1 Peter 4:3 compared with 7. Cf. also 1 Thessalonians 5:6, and Titus 2:2.
of good behaviour] R.V. with Conybeare and Lewin orderly; the same word describes the ‘modest’ dress of the women above 1 Timothy 2:9, and occurs nowhere else in N. T. The root-idea of the word is the ‘beauty of order,’ such as made it an appropriate word to describe the world, ‘kosmos,’ created out of bare blank chaos. Our word ‘decent’ had originally a somewhat similar force; see Prayer-Book rubrics in Communion Service, directing the alms to be received in a decent, i.e. fair and fitting bason, and the priest so to place the bread and wine that he may with the more readiness and decency, i.e. fair and holy order, break the bread.
Here the word expresses the character of the presbyter in his outward behaviour, ‘modest’ but not ‘shy,’ ‘genial’ but not ‘noisy’—that of a Christian gentleman.
given to hospitality] The adjective occurs (excepting in the parallel account of the presbyter, Titus 1:8) only in 1 Peter 4:9, the same passage from which we have just drawn two other of the characteristic words of the Pastoral Epistles. The subst. occurs however Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2. ‘Brethren in their travels could not resort to the houses of the heathen, and would be subject to insult in the public deversoria.’ Alford.
apt to teach] The only specially ministerial qualification, enlarged in Titus 1:9, ‘able both to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers.’
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;3. not given to wine] Margin R.V. expresses exactly the usage of the word, ‘not quarrelsome over wine,’ like the term so painfully familiar in our police-courts, ‘drunk and disorderly’: again peculiar to these Epp., here and Titus 1:7. For the simpler word with St Paul, cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11, ‘a drunkard,’ Ephesians 5:18, ‘be not drunken with wine.’
no striker] The necessity for specifying this and the preceding qualification, so elementary as they seem to us, shews a state of society in which the plainest, most obvious meaning for ‘husband of one wife’ is the one most likely to have been meant, as argued above.
not greedy of filthy lucre] Omit as not having ms. support and having come in from the parallel passage Titus 1:7.
patient, not a brawler] R.V. rightly ‘gentle, not contentious,’ ‘patient’ being too weak an attitude of the mind, and ‘brawler’ going beyond the mental attitude; whereas both words express ‘an active attitude of the mind’ in contrast to the acts of quarrelling and striking; ‘gentle,’ i.e. ‘anxious to shew considerateness and forbearance’ according to the now well-known meaning of Php 4:5, ‘forbearance,’ margin R.V. ‘gentleness,’ (cf. 1 Peter 2:18), ‘offering to give up one’s just rights’: not contentious, not aggressive, averse to disputing, nearly as Conybeare renders ‘peaceable’; only here and Titus 3:2.
not covetous] Rather, with R.V. no lover of money; the word only occurs here and in Hebrews 13:5, and represents the ‘avaricious’ rather than the ‘covetous,’ which is pleonektês, a frequent word with St Paul in his other epistles; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:10, ‘with the covetous and extortioners.’ See Trench, N. T. Syn. § 24. The qualification interprets in a practical concrete form for daily life the Master s word, ‘He that loveth his life loseth it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.’
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;4. that ruleth well his own house] In distinction to ‘God’s household’ the Church, 1 Timothy 3:5; 1 Timothy 3:15.
his children] Rather, from the emphatic position of ‘children,’ and the absence of the article, the sense is ‘with a household of his own rightly under his rule, with children held in subjection.’
with all gravity] There should be, that is, all propriety of conduct on his part, according to the line ‘maxima debetur pueris reverentia’; so Titus in order to commend his exhortations to the young men to be pure is himself ‘to set an example of propriety,’ Titus 2:7. There should be the same propriety on the children’s part, according to the similar passage in Titus 1:6, that they be ‘not accused of riot.’
Compare St Paul’s eloquent appeal to the Philippians to ‘think thoughts true and seemly, righteous and pure,’ thoughts of truth, morality, righteousness and purity, Php 4:8.
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)5. for if a man know not] but, the force of the adversative conjunction being, ‘You may think me needlessly particular in requiring this, but a straw will shew how the wind blows, a bad parent will make a bad pastor.’ The negative is to be taken closely with the verb ‘is ignorant.’ There is a preference, especially in later Greek, for the stronger negative where there is an antithesis or where there is special emphasis by the negativing of a single word. Cf. Winer, § 55, 2; James 2:11; 1 Timothy 5:8; 2 Timothy 2:14.
Both the words ‘rule’ and ‘take care’ have an obvious bearing on St Paul’s conception of the ministry as being especially for government. So too what follows.
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.6. “Do not set a new convert to rule in high place lest ‘pride come’ again ‘before a fall’ as in Satan’s case: and again, let your ruler be one at whom the world can throw no stone; or its reproaches will do harm and may drive him back into his old sins.”
Not a novice] Lit. ‘a neophyte,’ a new convert. The objection raised against the authenticity of the Epistle from this verse cannot be sustained when the later date is granted, since we get a period of twelve years from a.d. 54, the commencement of St Paul’s three years’ work at Ephesus, to a.d. 66, the most probable date for this Epistle. See Introduction, ch. 6 fin.
lifted up with pride] Rather, puffed up. See note on 1 Timothy 6:4.
the condemnation of the devil] The same condemnation as that under which the devil came for pride; objective genitive. Compare ‘… what time his pride Had cast him out of heaven, with all his host Of rebel angels.’ Milton, Par. Lost, I. 36.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.7. them which are without] Outside the circle of believers, the Christian Church: the same phrase is used by St Paul, 1 Thessalonians 4:12, ‘walk honestly toward them that are without’; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.
the snare of the devil] Probably we should take this as a separate phrase apart from ‘reproach,’ considering the use in 2 Timothy 2:26, ‘recover themselves out of the snare of the devil.’ The genitive here must be subjective, ‘the snare laid by the devil.’ So Huther, ‘It is a figurative name for the lying in wait of the devil, who is represented as a hunter.’ See Appendix, K.
The devil entraps a man, that is, into ‘proud despair’ by the temptation arising out of the ‘reproach’ for the past thrown in his teeth; ‘You can never be of use or in repute; these old sins will dog and clog you; you may as well return to your “wallowing in the mire” ’; cf. 2 Samuel 12:14, By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.’ We know the terrible struggle David’s life was to him afterwards, through the weakening of his authority, in consequence of the old, well-known fall; how for example he was drawn again into deeds of violence and injustice by the sons of Zeruiah, who, as he bitterly complained, were ‘too hard’ for him.
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;8–13. The duties and characters of Deacons, both Men and Women
8. the deacons] There is no article; for ‘deacons’ in the accusative we must supply from 1 Timothy 3:2 the remainder of the construction ‘it is right that deacons be.’ This elliptical abruptness is among the characteristics of the style of these Epistles. See Introduction, p. 31. The title ‘deacons’ is only used in this special sense here and Php 1:1. But the title ‘deaconess’ is given to Phœbe, Romans 16:1. In other passages such as Romans 13:4; 1 Timothy 4:6; 1 Peter 4:10 the word still retains the general sense explained on 1 Timothy 3:1. Both in Php 1:1 and Romans 14:1 we may trace a fitness in the mention from the office of almoner, the original function assigned to the deacons, Acts 6:1. In writing to the Philippians St Paul, as Bp Lightfoot points out, mentions the officers, since the contributions were probably sent to him in their name as well as of the Church generally. In commending Phœbe to the Roman Church he speaks of her as ‘a succourer of many and of mine own self.’ Though the duties were now enlarged, St Paul still lays stress here on fitness for their first charge; they of all men must be ‘not greedy of filthy lucre.’ He had not mentioned this in speaking of the presbyters; though in Titus 1:7 he does.
grave] Considering the emphasis laid on purity of life and bearing in the case of the presbyters ‘pure,’ ‘orderly,’ we see in this epithet the corresponding qualification of ‘seemly morals and propriety,’ cf. 1 Timothy 2:2,
not doubletongued] Or, better, not talebearers. The word is used here only in N.T. Xen. de Equestri, viii. 2, uses the noun of repeating gossip. Polycarp has this very rare word, ad Phil. c. v., of the deacons. Bp Ellicott attributes the interpretation of Theodoret ‘saying one thing to one and another to another’ to Theodore; who has however a singular explanation of his own, ‘non bilingues’; ‘si enim deferunt illa quae mandantur a presbyteris sive viris sive mulieribus ad quos et mittuntur, iustum est eos sincero arbitrio sicut convenit implere quae sibi mandantur quae per eos mandantes audiunt.’
not given to much wine] The word for ‘given’ is used five times by St Paul in these Epistles, and nowhere else by him except in Acts 20:28 to the elders of Ephesus, ‘take heed to yourselves.’ Lit. ‘giving heed.’
Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.9. the mystery of the faith] Apparently repeated again 1 Timothy 3:16 as ‘the mystery of godliness.’ The word ‘mystery’ is significant. Coming from the Greek, ‘to close the mouth,’ and so ‘to initiate,’ it was originally used of the secret rites of Eleusis in Attica, into which each year the youth of Athens were initiated at the annual celebrations. Thence by the process so loved by St Paul of consecrating old words to higher use it becomes the pregnant expression of the truth, ‘latet in vetere novum testamentum, vetus in novo patet.’ It is a truth once hidden but now revealed, a truth which may be apprehended though not comprehended. So the Atonement is a mystery, 1 Corinthians 2:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:7, the Catholicity of the Church is a mystery, Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9; the Incarnation is a mystery, 1 Timothy 3:16. In St Paul’s final thought of revelation in this chapter the ‘secret now told’ embraces the whole of God’s saving love, in one or other of its aspects, here as the ‘creed of creeds,’ in 1 Timothy 3:16 as the ‘work of works,’ here the life of Christ, there ‘the life in Christ’ We are familiar with a somewhat similar use of ‘mystery’ in the ‘mystery plays’; and compare the word ‘mystery’ in the Prayer-Book Communion Office as the equivalent of ‘Sacrament,’—the union of the outward and visible sign and the inward and spiritual grace, the living spirit through the lifeless matter—‘the dignity of that holy mystery’; ‘He hath instituted and ordained holy mysteries’; ‘have duly received these holy mysteries.’ See further, Appendix, G.
And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.10. And let these also] These, as well as the presbyters, for whom 1 Timothy 3:7 defines a very searching test. Bp Ellicott s note, rightly explaining that the first conjunction is ‘Also,’ ‘Moreover,’ and the second ‘and’ in this phrase, shews that the stress must be on ‘these,’ the force of the first conjunction being necessarily limited to it. Yet Alford quotes the note while saying ‘there is no connexion by means of the conjunctions with the former requirements concerning presbyters.’ The test or proof here too is the judgment of the general community. Cf. 2 Timothy 3:12 for the same conjunctions.
Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.11. Even so must their wives be grave] The R.V. translates literally Women in like manner must be grave, i.e. women deacons, favouring the general view of the earliest commentators, as Chrysostom and Theod. Mops.,’ mulieres quae diaconis officium implere statuuntur,’ and the latest, as Bps Wordsworth and Ellicott. Fairbairn gives well the reasons; ‘the mode of expression “likewise” apparently marking a transition to another class (as at 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 2:9; Titus 2:3; Titus 2:6); also the absence of the article or the pronoun to connect the women with the men spoken of before; the mention only of qualifications for deacon work, while nothing is said of those more directly bearing on domestic duties.’
slanderers] The word is only used in these Epistles, here and Titus 2:3 of women; in 2 Timothy 3:3 of men. It corresponds to the ‘double-tongued’ above. Theod. Mops. Lat. gives ‘accusatrices,’ and this shews well the identity of the word with that for the great ‘accuser,’ the devil (diabolus).
faithful in all things] That is, in all the duties of a deaconess.
Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.12. ruling their children] The sentence gives compendiously the same requirements as to domestic relationships for deacons as for presbyters; the briefer form of the latter clause favours the interpreting ‘all gravity’ above of the children rather than the father.
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.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.’
These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:14–16. The importance of these directions based on the character of the Church and its Head
14. to come unto thee shortly] The comparative adverb if retained will have the force given by Fairbairn ‘more speedily than I at one time thought or than would seem to call for more detailed communications,’ cf 2 Timothy 1:18, ‘very well,’ lit. ‘better than I need say.’ Westcott and Hort however with Lachmann follow mss. ACD in reading the substantive and preposition ‘with speed.’ As to the supposed inconsistency of this intention with Acts 20:25; Acts 20:38, St Paul certainly there bids the Elders of Ephesus farewell, saying that they will ‘see his face no more.’ But circumstances alter cases. The Spirit did not give him definite knowledge of what would befall him in every place; and it is sufficient to say that at the time he was expecting bonds and possible martyrdom and was impressed with the belief, a mistaken one, that he would not return.
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.15. how thou oughtest to behave thyself] There is little in the Greek words and little in the context to decide us in translating either thus with A.V. and margin of R.V. or how men ought to behave themselves, with R.V. For (1), Timothy himself is in St Paul’s mind throughout; the directions are given for his guidance in seeing to a properly qualified ministry; for (2), presbyters and deacons have just had their proper equipment and behaviour fully detailed. Perhaps the latter is to be preferred from the long phrase (for so brief a style) ‘that thou mayest know how (one) ought to walk’ instead of ‘in order that thou mayest walk’; and from the brevity of the style solving by omission the difficulty of finding a phrase which should include bishops, deacons, and women deacons.
behave thyself] The verb is used by St Paul twice besides, 2 Corinthians 1:12, ‘we have (had our conversation) behaved ourselves in the world’; Ephesians 2:3, ‘we also (had our conversation) lived in the lusts of the flesh’; and the cognate substantive in the next chapter, 1 Timothy 4:12, ‘manner of life,’ and twice besides, Galatians 1:13, ‘my (conversation) manner of life in time past’; Ephesians 4:22, ‘put off concerning the former (conversation) manner of life the old man.’ It was represented exactly by the Latin conversari (conversatio), whence our A.V. ‘conversation’ in its old sense.
the house of God] In O.T. the Temple; cf. Mark 11:17, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ quoted from Isaiah 56:7; and then spiritually God’s household and temple the chosen people, cf. Hebrews 3:6, ‘Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, Christ as a son over God’s house,’ quoted from Numbers 12:7. St Paul had elaborated the metaphor in his letter to Ephesus, Ephesians 2:22; and so in the later Epistles it is natural and appropriate as a title of Christ’s Church; Hebrews 10:21, ‘having a great high priest over the house of God’; 1 Peter 4:17, ‘the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God.’ See Appendix, K.
which is the church of the living God] The lengthened form of the relative is used to give the characteristic attribute ‘which is, to describe it aright, the Church.’ ‘The Church,’ ecclesia, is used (1) simply for ‘a gathering,’ ‘a calling together,’ i.e. the regular law-court, Acts 19:39; (2) for ‘the congregation’ of the children of Israel, in LXX. constantly; (3) from this, by our Lord twice for His own constituted community, Matthew 16:18; Matthew 18:17; (4) hence, 23 times in the Acts, the first history of that community, 62 times in the Epistles of St Paul its widest organiser, and 23 times in the Epistles and Apocalypse of St John, its venerable champion and prophet; sometimes of the Church at large, as here, ‘holy and Catholic,’ sometimes of one or other of its constituent parts, e.g. in Asia, Galatia, Judæa, Macedonia. See Bp Browne on Art. XIX., who quotes the following among other definitions of the earliest Fathers: ‘Tertullian speaks of the Church as composed of all the Churches founded by Apostles or offsprings of Apostolic Churches, and living in the unity of the same faith and discipline. The Church according to Clement of Alexandria is the assembly of the elect, the congregation of Christian worshippers; the devout Christians being as it were the spiritual life of the body of Christ, the unworthy members being like the carnal part. Origen says, “the Church is the body of Christ, animated by the Son of God, the members being all who believe in Him.” The visibility of the Church he expresses by saying that “we should give no heed to those who say, There is Christ, but show Him not in the Church, which is full of brightness from the East to the West and is the pillar and ground of the truth.” ’
the living God] At Lystra, where ‘the gods’ were thought to have come down in the likeness of men, St Paul besought them to ‘turn from these vanities unto the living God which made heaven and earth and the sea’; so now at Ephesus, where the Jewish and oriental speculations of physical and moral sciences, ‘the endless genealogies of emanations and æons,’ were clouding the simple truth ‘as it is in Jesus,’ St Paul insists on all his teachers being ‘good churchmen,’ holding and teaching the faith in ‘one living God’ manifested in Christ Jesus.
the pillar and ground of the truth] It will be felt unworthy of the rising greatness of the passage to refer this to Timothy or to the teachers; it is the Church penetrated through with this faith which, as the single central column in the chapter-house at Salisbury, supports and sustains and combines all the orb of truth, God’s progressive revelation of Himself in Nature, Art, Conscience. ‘Christ is the centre of mankind, and mankind is the centre of the world. If that be so, we have a central point round which all knowledge groups itself. The physical and the moral sciences have each their part in the building up of the great human temple in which God dwells; and the highest education is that which gives man a complete conception of the world thus viewed as centred in humanity and in Christ, its head.’ Fremantle, The Gospel of the Secular Life, p. 98.
There is no difficulty in a certain shifting of the metaphor, any more than in the above passage, itself a modern undesigned expansion of the phrase. The Church is, first, the house of God, and the Son of the living God its centre; and then this house is itself a centre, the central pillar of a larger house, the world, God’s home.
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.16. without controversy] We may render, And confessedly mighty is that holy truth revealed, the very grain and fibre of a reverent Christian life, which counts all as ‘holy ground,’ for Christ is ‘all in all.’
God was manifest in the flesh] The controversy is well known which has so long prevailed as to the original reading; whether the passage should begin ‘God’ or ‘who’: the Greek abbreviated form of writing ‘God’ being very like the Greek for ‘who,’ ΘΣ and οσ. Since the minute inspection of the Alexandrine ms. by Bps Lightfoot, Ellicott, and others, there is no doubt of its original reading being ‘who,’ as is also the reading of א, and all the Versions older than the 7th century, of Origen, Epiphanius, Jerome, Theodore, and Cyril. The neuter relative is indeed found in one uncial ms. (D1) in the It. and Vulg. and in all the Latin Fathers except Jerome, a correction apparently to make it agree with the neuter word mustêrion. The support of mss., Versions and Fathers is comparatively weak for ‘God’: while ‘it is a most significant fact that in the Arian controversy, no one of the Catholic champions except Gregory of Nyssa produces this passage, though it would have been their strong weapon.’ All the evidence preponderates in favour of a relative masc. or neut., and it seems incredible that θσ should have been altered into οσ because of the difficulty of the reading. Moreover it is difficult to understand how it could be said that God was justified in spirit or seen of angels or received up in glory. We take the reading ‘who’ unhesitatingly, and refer it to ‘an omitted though easily recognised antecedent, viz. Christ.’ The Person is implied in the Mystery. In Colossians 1:27, He is expressly called ‘this mystery among the Gentiles.’ In order to bring out the personal reference contained in the word ‘mystery’ as followed by the masculine relative, we must render in English with R.V. the mystery of godliness; He who. The abruptness and the rhythmical parallelism of the passage have been very probably accounted for by supposing it to be part of one of the earliest of the Christian creeds or hymns; as in Ephesians 5:14, ‘Wherefore he saith “Awake thou that sleepest” ’ where the words cannot be referred to any known passages of Holy Scripture. Westcott and Hort in their new critical edition of the Greek Testament have arranged the lines in both places according to this explanation; here in two divisions, the first two clauses in each pointing to earthly, the third to heavenly relation:—
‘He Who was manifested in the flesh,
Was justified in His spirit,
Was shewn to the angels,
Was proclaimed among the nations,
Was believed on in the world,
Was taken up in glory.’
The clauses have been however divided by Fairbairn and others into pairs; the first pair describing Christ’s human nature—in flesh manifested as true man, in spirit judged or approved as sinless man ‘fulfilling all righteousness’; the second pair recording the revelation of Himself by sight to the angels, by preaching to the Gentiles—the highest and the lowest of His subjects; the third pair closing with the acceptance of Himself by faith below, by ascension into glory above. We may shew something perhaps of the rhythmical effect thus for modern ears:
‘Who in flesh was manifested,
Pure in spirit was attested;
By angels’ vision witnessèd,
Among the nations heralded;
By faith accepted here,
Received in glory there!’
‘Manifested in the flesh’ is the first part of the statement of the Incarnation; ‘an historical appearance of One Who had previously existed but had been kept from the knowledge of the world’; the flesh, the material part of Christ’s human nature being the sphere of His manifestation. ‘Justified in the spirit’ is the second part; His spirit, the highest portion of the immaterial part of His human nature, is the sphere of His justification; the challenge which He made to the Jews, ‘Which of you convicteth Me of sin’ was one which He could make to His own conscience. He was justified when it spake and clear when it judged (Romans 3:4; Psalm 51:4). See Dr Plummer, Pastoral Epistles, pp. 135 sqq.
On the perfection of Christ’s human nature, body, soul and spirit, see Appendix, A.