1 Timothy 3
Vincent's Word Studies
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
This is a true saying (πιστὸς ὁ λόγος)

Better, faithful is the saying. See on 1 Timothy 1:15.

Desire (ὀρέγεται)

Better, seeketh. Only here, 1 Timothy 6:10, and Hebrews 11:16. Originally to stretch forth, to reach after. Here it implies not only desiring but seeking after. Desire is expressed by ἐπιθυμεῖ immediately following. The word implies eagerness, but not of an immoderate or unchristian character. Comp. the kindred word ὄρεξις with its terrible meaning in Romans 1:27.

The office of a bishop (ἐπισκοπῆς)

oP. Ἑπίσκοπος superintendent, overseer, by Paul only in Philippians 1:1. The fundamental idea of the sword is overseeing. The term ἐπίσκοπος was not furnished by the gospel tradition: it did not come from the Jewish synagogue, and it does not appear in Paul's lists of those whom God has set in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). Its adoption came about in a natural way. Just as senatus, γερουσία and πρεσβύτερος passed into official designations through the natural association of authority with age, so ἐπίσκοπος would be, almost inevitably, the designation of a superintendent. This process of natural selection was probably aided by the familiar use of the title In the clubs and guilds to designate functions analogous to those of the ecclesiastical administrator. The title can hardly be traced to the O.T. There are but two passages in lxx where the word has any connection with religious worship, Numbers 4:16; 2 Kings 11:18. It is applied to God (Job 20:29), and in N.T. to Christ (1 Peter 2:25). It is used of officers in the army and of overseers of workmen. The prevailing O.T. sense of ἐπισκοπὴ is visitation for punishment, inquisition, or numbering.

He desireth (ἐπιθυμεῖ)

See on 1 Peter 1:12.

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Blameless (ἀνεπίλημπτον)

Or without reproach: one who cannot be laid hold of (λαμβάνειν): who gives no ground for accusation. oP. Only in 1stTimothy.

The husband of one wife (μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα)

Comp. 1 Timothy 3:12; Titus 1:6. Is the injunction aimed (a) at immoralities respecting marriage - concubinage, etc., or (b) at polygamy, or (c) at remarriage after death or divorce? The last is probably meant. Much of the difficulty arises from the assumption that the Pastorals were written by Paul. In that case his views seem to conflict. See Romans 7:2, Romans 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Corinthians 8:8, 1 Corinthians 8:9, where Paul declares that widows are free to marry again, and puts widows and virgins on the same level; and comp. 1 Timothy 5:9, according to which a widow is to be enrolled only on the condition of having been the wife of but one man. The Pauline view is modified in detail by the writer of the Pastorals. Paul, while asserting that marriage is right and honorable, regards celibacy as the higher state (1 Corinthians 7:1, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Corinthians 7:26, 1 Corinthians 7:34, 1 Corinthians 7:37, 1 Corinthians 7:38). In this the Pastoral writer does not follow him (see 1 Timothy 2:15; 1 Timothy 3:4, 1 Timothy 3:12; 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Timothy 5:10, 1 Timothy 5:14). The motive for marriage, namely, protection against incontinency, which is adduced by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Corinthians 7:9, is given in 1 Timothy 5:11-14. As in Paul, the married state is honorable, for Bishops, Deacons, and Presbyters are married (1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12; Titus 1:6), and the honor of childbearing conferred upon the mother of our Lord is reflected in the Christian woman of later times (1 Timothy 2:15). While Paul advises against second marriages (1 Corinthians 7:8, 1 Corinthians 7:9, 1 Corinthians 7:27, 1 Corinthians 7:39, 1 Corinthians 7:40), in the Pastorals emphasis is laid only on the remarriage of church-officers and church-widows. In the Pastorals we see a reflection of the conditions of the earlier post-apostolic age, when a non-Pauline asceticism was showing itself (see 1 Timothy 4:3, 1 Timothy 4:4, 1 Timothy 4:8; Titus 1:15). The opposition to second marriage became very strong in the latter part of the second century. It was elevated into an article of faith by the Montanists, and was emphasized by Tertullian, and by Athenagoras, who called second marriage "a specious adultery" (εὐπρεπής μοιχεία)

Vigilant (νηφάλιον)

Only in the Pastorals. See 1 Timothy 3:11, and Titus 2:2. olxx. The kindred verb νήφειν means to be sober with reference to drink, and, in a metaphorical sense, to be sober and wary; cool and unimpassioned. Thus Epicharmus, νᾶφε καὶ μέμνας ἀπιστεῖν be wary and remember not to be credulous. See on 1 Thessalonians 5:6. In N.T. the meaning of the verb is always metaphorical, to be calm, dispassionate, and circumspect. The A.V. vigilant is too limited. Wise caution may be included; but it is better to render sober, as A.V. in 1 Timothy 3:11 and Titus 2:2, in the metaphorical sense as opposed to youthful levity.

Of good behavior (κόσμιον)

oP. Only here and 1 Timothy 2:9, see note. Rend. orderly.

Given to hospitality (φιλόξενον)

oP. Comp. Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9. See note on pursuing hospitality, Romans 12:13.

Apt to teach (διδακτικόν)

oP. Only here and 2 Timothy 2:24. olxx, oClass. In the Pastorals the function of teaching pertains to both Bishops and Elders (see 1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:9). It is at this point that the tendency to confound and identify the two reveals itself. Bishops and Presbyters are not identical. Earlier, the teaching function does not seem to have attached to the position of ἐπίσκοπος. The office acquired a different character when it assumed that function, which is not assigned to it in Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians. In the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (about 100 a.d.) the ministry of teaching is to be assumed by the Bishops only in the absence of the Prophets and Teachers (xiii., xv).

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
Given to wine (πάροινον)

Only here and Titus 1:7. The verb παροινεῖν to behave ill at wine, to treat with drunken violence, is found in Xenophon, Aeschines, Aristophanes, and Aristotle. Once in lxx, Isaiah 41:12. Rev. renders brawler, which is not definite enough. Better, quarrelsome over wine. See Aristoph. Acharn. 981: παροίνιος ἀνὴρ ἔφυ which Frere renders "behaved in such a beastly way." Cicero, ad Att. x. 10, uses παροινικῶς equals insolently.

Striker (πλήκτην)

Only here and Titus 1:7. Some soften down the meaning into a pugnacious or combative person. In any case, it is a peculiar state of things which calls out such admonitions to Bishops.

Not greedy of filthy lucre


Patient (ἐπιεικῆ)

Better, forbearing. The word occurs Philippians 4:5, and ἐπιεικία forbearance in 2 Corinthians 10:1, where it is associated with πραΰ̀της meekness. From εἰκός reasonable. Hence, not unduly rigorous; not making a determined stand for one's just due. In 1 Peter 2:18; James 3:17, it is associated with ἀγαθὸς kindly, and εὐπειθής easy to be entreated. It occurs in lxx.

Not a brawler (ἄμαχον)

Better, not contentious.

Not covetous (ἀφιλάργυρον)

Only here and Hebrews 13:5. olxx, oClass. Φιλάργυρος money-loving, Luke 16:14; 2 Timothy 3:2. Rend. not a money-lover. The word for covetous is πλεονέκτης. For the distinction see on Romans 1:29.

This admonition is cited by some writers in support of the view that the original ἐπίσκοπος was simply a financial officer. It is assumed that it was prompted by the special temptations which attached to the financial function. Admitting that the episcopal function may have included the financial interests of the church, it could not have been confined to these. It can hardly be supposed that, in associations distinctively moral and religious, one who bore the title of overseer should have been concerned only with the material side of church life.

One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
That ruleth (προΐστάμενον)

Mostly in the Pastorals, but also in Romans 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:12. The participle means placed in front. Here in a general sense, but in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 of church authorities, but only functionally, not as a title of specially appointed officers. It is characteristic of the loose and unsettled ecclesiastical nomenclature of the apostolic age.

Having in subjection (ἔχοντα ἐν ὑποταγῇ)

The phrase is unique in N.T. Ὑποταγή subjection is a Pauline word: see 2 Corinthians 9:13; Galatians 2:5. olxx.

(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Shall he take care of (ἐπιμελήσεται)

Only here and Luke 10:34.

Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Novice (νεόφυτον)

N.T.o. From νέος new and φυτόν a plant. Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:6, 1 Corinthians 3:7; Matthew 15:13. Hence, a new convert, a neophyte. Comp. in lxx Job 14:9; Psalm 127:3; Psalm 143:12; Isaiah 5:7. Chrysostom explains it as newly catechised (νεοκατήχητος); but a neophyte differed from a catechumen in having received baptism. Better the ancient Greek interpreters, newly baptized (νεοβάπτιστος). After the ceremony of baptism the neophytes wore white garments for eight days, from Easter eve until the Sunday after Easter, which was called Dominica in albis, the Sunday in white. The Egyptian archives of Berlin give νεόφυτος a Fayum papyrus of the second century A. D., of newly-planted palm trees. Comp. lxx, Psalm 127:3 : "Thy sons as νεόφυτα ἐλαιῶν plants of olives."

Being lifted up with pride (τυφωθεὶς)

Only in the Pastorals. See 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:4. The verb means primarily to make a smoke: hence, metaphorically, to blind with pride or conceit. Neither A.V. nor Rev. puffed up, preserves the radical sense, which is the sense here intended - a beclouded and stupid state of mind as the result of pride.

Fall into condemnation (εἰς κρίμα ἐμπέσῃ)

Κρίμα in N.T. usually means judgment. The word for condemnation is κατάκριμα. See especially Romans 5:16, where the two are sharply distinguished. Comp. Matthew 7:2; Acts 24:25; Romans 2:2; Romans 5:18; 1 Corinthians 6:7. However, κρίμα occasionally shades off into the meaning condemnation, as Romans 3:8; James 3:1. See on go to law, 1 Corinthians 6:7, and see on 1 Corinthians 11:29. Κρίμα is a Pauline word; but the phrase ἐμπιπτεῖν εἰς κρίμα to fall into judgment is found only here.

Of the devil (τοῦ διαβόλου)

See on Matthew 4:1, and see on Satan, 1 Thessalonians 2:18. Paul uses διάβολος only twice, Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11. Commonly Satan. The use of διάβολος as an adjective is peculiar to the Pastorals (see 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3), and occurs nowhere else in N.T., and not in lxx. The phrase judgment of the devil probably means the accusing judgment of the devil, and not the judgment passed upon the devil. In Revelation 12:10 Satan is called the accuser of the brethren. In 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20, men are given over to Satan for judgment. In 1 Timothy 3:7 the genitive διαβόλου is clearly subjective. In this chapter it appears that a Christian can fall into the reproach of the devil (comp. Jde 1:9; 2 Peter 2:11), the snare of the devil (comp. 2 Timothy 2:26), and the judgment of the devil.

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
A good report (μαρτυριαν καλὴν)

Comp. Acts 6:3. Not only does καλός occur in the Pastorals nearly twice as many times as in Paul, but the usage is different. Out of 16 instances in Paul, there is but one in which καλός is not used substantively (Romans 7:16), while in the Pastorals it is, almost without exception, used adjectively. Μαρτυρίαν, better testimony. Comp. Titus 1:13. Not in Paul, who uses μαρτύριον.

Of them which are without (ἀπὸ τῶν ἔξωθεν)

Ἔξωθεν only once in Paul (2 Corinthians 7:6), and οἱ ἔξωθεν nowhere in Paul, and only here in Pastorals. Paul's phrase is ὁ ἔξω: see 1 Corinthians 5:12, 1 Corinthians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:12.

Reproach (ὀνειδισμὸν)

By Paul in Romans 15:3 : only here in Pastorals: three times in Hebrews.

Snare (παγίδα)

Comp. 1 Timothy 6:9; 2 Timothy 2:26. In Paul, Romans 11:9, see note. Both reproach and snare govern διαβόλου.

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

The office of Deacon appears in the Pastorals, but not in Paul's letters, with the single exception of Philippians 1:1, where the Deacons do not represent an ecclesiastical office, though they remark an advance toward it. Clement of Rome (ad 1 Corinthians 42. xliv.) asserts their apostolic appointment. But the evidence at our command does not bear out the view that the institution of the diaconate is described in Acts 6:1-6. The terms διάκονος and διακονία are, in the Pauline writings, common expressions of servants and service either to Christ or to others. Paul applies these terms to his own ministry and to that of his associates. Διακονία is used of the service of the apostles, Acts 1:25; Acts 6:4. Διάκονος is used of Paul and Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:5); of Christ (Galatians 2:17; Romans 15:8); of the civil ruler (Romans 13:4); of ministers of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:15). The appointment of the seven grew out of a special emergency, and was made for a particular service; and the resemblance is not close between the duties and qualifications of deacons in the Pastorals and those of the seven. The word διάκονος does not appear in Acts; and when Paul and Barnabas brought to Jerusalem the collection for the poor saints, they handed it over to the elders.

In like manner (ὡσαύτως)

Rare in Paul (Romans 8:26; 1 Corinthians 11:25). Frequent in Pastorals.

Grave (σεμνούς)

In Paul only Philippians 4:8. See on σεμνότης gravity, 1 Timothy 2:2.

Double-tongued (διλόγους)

N.T.o. olxx, oClass. Saying one thing and meaning another, and making different representations to different people about the same thing.

Given to much wine (οἴνῳ πολλῷ προσέχοντας)

See on 1 Timothy 1:4. Total abstinence is not enjoined, even on a deacon. Comp. 1 Timothy 5:23.

Greedy of filthy lucre (αἰσχροκερδεῖς)

N.T.o. olxx. The adverb αἰσχροκερδῶς in a base, gain - greedy way, 1 Peter 5:2. From αἰσχρός disgraceful and κέρδος gain. Comp. Hdt. i.:187: εἰ μὴ ἄπληστός τε ἔας χρημάτων καὶ αἰσχροκερδής if thou hadst not been insatiable of wealth and ready to procure it by disgraceful means. Aristoph. Peace, 622, alludes to two vices of the Spartans, ὄντες αἰσχροκερδεῖς καὶ διειρωνόξενοι sordidly greedy of gain, and treacherous under the mask of hospitality. Similarly Eurip. Androm. 451. Comp. turpilucricupidus, Plaut. Trin. 1, 2, 63.

Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
The mystery of the faith (τὸ μυστήριον τῆς πίστεως)

The phrase N.T.o. In the Gospels only, mystery or mysteries of the kingdom of God or of heaven. In Paul, mystery or mysteries of God, of his will, of Christ, of the gospel, of iniquity, the mystery kept secret or hidden away. Several times without qualification, the mystery or mysteries. See on 2 Thessalonians 2:7. The mystery of the faith is the subject - matter of the faith; the truth which is its basis, which was kept hidden from the world until revealed at the appointed time, and which is a secret to ordinary eyes, but is made known by divine revelation. Comp. Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 2:7. For the faith see on Galatians 1:23, and comp. Introduction to these Epistles, VI.

In a pure conscience (ἐν καθαρᾷ συνειδήσει)

Comp. 2 Timothy 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:5, 19. Const. with holding. The emphasis of the passage is on these words. They express conscientious purity and sincerity in contrast with those who are described as branded in their own conscience, and thus causing their followers to fall away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1, 1 Timothy 4:2). The passage illustrates the peculiar treatment of "faith" in these Epistles, in emphasizing its ethical aspect and its ethical environment. This is not contrary to Paul's teaching, nor does it go to the extent of substituting morals for faith as the condition of salvation and eternal life. See 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:1; Titus 3:5. Nonetheless, there is a strong and habitual emphasis on good works (see 1 Timothy 2:10; 1 Timothy 5:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:21; 2 Timothy 3:17; Titus 1:16; Titus 2:7, Titus 2:14; Titus 3:1, Titus 3:8, Titus 3:14), and faith is placed in a series of practical duties (see 1 Timothy 1:5, 1 Timothy 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:15; 1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:9; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Timothy 3:10). "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience" is a significant association of faith with ethics. As Weiss puts it: "It is as if the pure conscience were the vessel in which the mystery of the faith is preserved." The idea is sound and valuable. A merely intellectual attitude toward the mystery which, in every age, attaches to the faith, will result in doubt, questioning, and wordy strife (see 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9), sometimes in moral laxity, sometimes in despair. Loyalty and duty to God are compatible with more or less ignorance concerning the mystery. An intellect, however powerful and active, joined with an impure conscience, cannot solve but only aggravates the mystery; whereas a pure and loyal conscience, and a frank acceptance of imposed duty along with mystery, puts one in the best attitude for attaining whatever solution is possible. See John 7:17.

And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
These also (καὶ οὗτοι δὲ)

As well as the Bishops. No mention is made of a proving of the Bishops, but this may be fairly assumed. Comp. not a novice, 1 Timothy 3:6.

Be proved (δοκιμαζέσθωσαν)

Common in Paul; only here in Pastorals. See on 1 Peter 1:7. Not implying a formal examination, but a reference to the general judgment of the Christian community as to whether they fulfil the conditions detailed in 1 Timothy 3:8. Comp. 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 2:2.

Let them use the office of a deacon (διακονείτωσαν)

Much better, let them serve as deacons. In this sense only in the Pastorals. Comp. 1 Timothy 3:13. The verb is very common in N.T.

Being blameless (ἀνέγκλητοι ὄντες)

Rather, unaccused: if no charge be preferred against them. In Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:8; Colossians 1:22. Comp. Titus 1:6, Titus 1:7. It is a judicial term. The participle ὄντες signifies provided they are.

Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
Their wives (γυναῖκας)

Probably correct, although some find a reference to an official class of women - deaconesses (so Ellicott, Holtzmann, Alford). But the injunction is thrown incidentally into the admonition concerning Deacons, which is resumed at 1 Timothy 3:12; and if an official class were intended we should expect something more specific than γυναῖκας women or wives without the article. A Deacon whose wife is wanting in the qualities required in him, is not to be chosen. She would sustain an active relation to his office, and by her ministries would increase his efficiency, and by frivolity, slander, or intemperance, would bring him and his office into disrepute.

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
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.
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

These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
Shortly (ἐν τάχει)

The adverbial phrase once in Paul, Romans 16:20 : only here in Pastorals. Several times in Luke and Acts, and twice in Revelation.

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.
I tarry long (βραδύνω)

Only here and 2 Peter 3:9.

Thou oughtest to behave thyself (δεῖ ἀναστρέφεσθαι)

The verb ἀναστρέφεσθαι only here in Pastorals. In Paul, 2 Corinthians 1:12; Ephesians 2:3. The reference is not to Timothy's conduct as the A.V. implies but rather to the instructions which he is to give to church members. Rend. how men ought to behave. See on conversation, 1 Peter 1:15.

House of God (οἴκῳ θεοῦ)

An O.T. phrase, used of the temple. More frequently, house of the Lord (κυρίου); see 1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 6:1; 1 Chronicles 22:2, 1 Chronicles 22:11; 1 Chronicles 29:2, etc. Applied to the church only here. Paul has οἰκείους τῆς πίστεως Hebrews householders of the faith (Galatians 6:10), and οἰκεῖοι τοῦ θεοῦ householders of God (Ephesians 2:19), signifying members of the church. Christians are called ναὸς θεοῦ sanctuary of God (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 6:16); and the apostles are οἰκονόμοι household stewards (1 Corinthians 4:1). So of a Bishop (Titus 1:7). See also Hebrews 3:6.

Church (ἐκκλησία)

See on 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

Pillar and ground of the truth (στύλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας)

Στύλος pillar, in Paul only Galatians 2:9. In Revelation 3:12; Revelation 10:1. Ἑδραίωμα stay, prop, better than ground. N.T.o. olxx, oClass. The kindred adjective ἑδαῖος firm, stable, 1 Corinthians 7:37; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Colossians 1:23. These words are in apposition with church. The idea is that the church is the pillar, and, as such, the prop or support of the truth. It is quite beside the mark to press the architectural metaphor into detail. By giving to ἑδραίωμα the sense of stay or prop, the use of the two words for the same general idea is readily explained. The church is the pillar of the truth, and the function of the pillar is to support.

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.
Without controversy (ὁμολογουμένως)

Lit. confessedly. N.T.o.

The mystery of godliness (τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον)

(a) The connection of thought is with the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and the words mystery of godliness are a paraphrase of that word. The church is the pillar and stay of the truth, and the truth constitutes the mystery of godliness. (b) The contents of this truth or mystery is Christ, revealed in the gospel as the Savior from ungodliness, the norm and inspiration of godliness, the divine life in man, causing him to live unto God as Christ did and does (Romans 6:10). See 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 2:5; Colossians 1:26, Colossians 1:27. According to the Fourth Gospel, Christ is himself the truth (John 14:6). The mystery of godliness is the substance of piety equals mystery of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9). (c) The truth is called a mystery because it was, historically, hidden, until revealed in the person and work of Christ; also because it is concealed from human wisdom, and apprehended only by faith in the revelation of God through Christ. (d) The genitive, of godliness, is possessive. The mystery of godliness is the truth which pertains or belongs to godliness. It is not the property of worldly wisdom. Great (μέγα) means important, weighty, as Ephesians 5:32.

God (Θεὸς)

But the correct reading is ὃς who. The antecedent of this relative is not mystery, as if Christ were styled "the mystery," but the relative refers to Christ as an antecedent; and the abruptness of its introduction may be explained by the fact that it and the words which follow were probably taken from an ancient credal hymn. In the earlier Christian ages it was not unusual to employ verse or rhythm for theological teaching or statement. The heretics propounded their peculiar doctrines in psalms. Clement of Alexandria wrote a hymn in honor of Christ for the use of catechumens, and Arius embodied his heresy in his Thalia, which was sung in the streets and taverns of Alexandria. The Muratorian Canon was probably composed in verse. In the last quarter of the fourth century, there are two metrical lists of Scripture by Amphilochius and Gregory Nazianzen.

Was manifest (ἐφανερώθη)

More correctly, was manifested. The verb is used John 1:2; Hebrews 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 3:5, 1 John 3:8, of the historical manifestation of Christ; and of the future coming of Christ in Colossians 3:4; 1 Peter 5:4; 1 John 3:2.

In the flesh (ἐν σαρκί)

Comp. John 1:14; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 1:7; Romans 1:3; Romans 8:3; Romans 9:5. Σάρξ flesh only here in Pastorals.

Justified in the Spirit (ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι)

The verb δικαιοῦν, so familiar in Paul's writings, is found in the Pastorals only here and Titus 3:7. Its application to Christ as the subject of justification does not appear in Paul. Its meaning here is vindicated, indorsed, as Matthew 11:19; Luke 10:29. Concerning the whole phrase it is to be said: (a) That the two clauses, manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, exhibit a contrast between two aspects of the life of Christ (b) That ἐν in must have the same meaning in both clauses (c) That meaning is not instrumental, by, nor purely modal, expressing the kind and manner of Christ's justification, but rather local with a shade of modality. It expresses in each case a peculiar condition which accompanied the justification; a sphere of life in which it was exhibited and which gave character to it. In the one condition or sphere (the flesh) he was hated, persecuted, and murdered. In the other (the Spirit) he was triumphantly vindicated. See further the additional note at the end of this chapter.

Seen of angels (ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις)

Better, appeared unto or showed himself to, as Matthew 17:3; Luke 1:11; Acts 7:2; Hebrews 9:28. The same verb is used of the appearance of the risen Christ to different persons or parties (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). The reference of the words cannot be determined with certainty. They seem to imply some great, majestic occasion, rather than the angelic manifestations during Jesus' earthly life. Besides, on these occasions, the angels appeared to him, not he to them. The reference is probably to his appearance in the heavenly world after his ascension, when the glorified Christ, having been triumphantly vindicated in his messianic work and trial, presented himself to the heavenly hosts. Comp. Philippians 2:10; Ephesians 3:10, and, in the latter passage, note the connection with; "the mystery," 1 Timothy 3:9.

Was preached unto the Gentiles (ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν)

Better, among the nations., There is no intention of emphasizing the distinction between the Jews and other nations.

Was believed on in the world (ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ)

For a similar construction see 2 Thessalonians 1:10. With Christ as subject this use of ἐπιστεύθη is unique.

Was received up into glory (ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ)

Better, received or taken up in glory. Ἁναλαμβάνειν is the formal term to describe the ascension of Christ (see Acts 1:2, Acts 1:22), and the reference is most probably to that event. Comp. lxx, 2 Kings 2:11, of Elijah, and Sir. 49:14, of Enoch. Ἑν δόξῃ in glory: with attendant circumstances of pomp or majesty, as we say of a victorious general, the entered the city in triumph." This usage is common in N.T. See Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:31; Luke 12:27; 1 Corinthians 15:43; 2 Corinthians 3:7, 2 Corinthians 3:8, 2 Corinthians 3:11.

Additional Note on 1 Timothy 3:16

Christ's existence before his incarnation was purely spiritual (ἐν πνεύματι). He was in the form of God (Philippians 2:6): He was the effulgence of God's glory and the express image of his substance (Hebrews 1:3), and God is spirit (John 4:24).

From this condition he came into manifestation in the flesh (ἐν σαρκί). He became man and entered into human conditions (Philippians 2:7, Philippians 2:8). Under these human conditions the attributes of his essential spiritual personality were veiled. He did not appear to men what he really was. He was not recognised by them as he who "was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1, John 1:2); as "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15); as one with God (John 10:30; John 14:9); as he who had all power in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18); who was "before all things and by whom all things consist" (Colossians 1:17); who was "the king of the ages" (1 Timothy 1:17). On the contrary, he was regarded as an impostor, a usurper, and a blasphemer. He was hated, persecuted, and finally murdered. He was poor, tempted, and tried, a man of sorrows.

The justification or vindication of what he really was did not therefore come out of the fleshly sphere. He was not justified in the flesh. It came out of the sphere of his spiritual being. Glimpses of this pneumatic life (ἐν πνεύματι) flashed out during his life in the flesh. By his exalted and spotless character, by his works of love and power, by his words of authority, in his baptism and transfiguration, he was vindicated as being what he essentially was and what he openly claimed to be. These justifications were revelations, expressions, and witnesses of his original, essential spiritual and divine quality; of the native glory which he had with the Father before the world was. It was the Spirit that publicly indorsed him (John 1:32, John 1:33): the words which he spake were spirit and life (John 6:63): he cast out demons in the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28): his whole earthly manifestation was in demonstration of the Spirit. These various demonstrations decisively justified his claims in the eyes of many. His disciples confessed him as the Christ of God (Luke 9:20) some of the people said "this is the Christ" (John 7:41): others suspected that he was such (John 4:29). Whether or not men acknowledged his claims, they felt the power of his unique personality. They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority (Matthew 7:28, Matthew 7:29).

Then followed the more decisive vindication in his resurrection from the dead. Here the work of the Spirit is distinctly recognised by Paul, Romans 1:4. See also Romans 8:11. In the period between his resurrection and ascension his pneumatic life came into clearer manifestation, and added to the vindication furnished in his life and resurrection. He seemed to live on the border-line between the natural and the spiritual world, and the powers of the spiritual world were continually crossing the line and revealing themselves in him.

In the apostolic preaching, the appeal to the vindication of Christ by the Spirit is clear and unequivocal. The spiritual nourishment of believers is "the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:19): the Holy Spirit is called "the Spirit of Christ" (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6): Paul identifies Christ personally with the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17); and in Romans 8:9, Romans 8:10, "Spirit of God," "Spirit of Christ," and "Christ" are used as convertible terms. The indwelling of the Spirit of Christ is the test and vindication of belonging to Christ (Romans 8:9). Thus, though put to death in the flesh, in the Spirit Christ is vindicated as the Son of God, the Christ of God, the manifestation of God.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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