Translation & Notes

1 Timothy 3:1-7

3:1 πιστὸς ὁ λόγος. Εἴ τις ἐπισκοπῆς ὀρέγεται, καλοῦ ἔργου ἐπιθυμεῖ.

The saying is trustworthy: if anyone is eager for an office, he desires a good work.

“ἐπισκοπῆς ὀρέγεται” or “is eager for an office” implies that someone desires an office of oversight in the church. The word for office is different than but related to the word for overseer in the next verse. Here, the word refers not to the person who oversees, but to the position of oversight.

“καλοῦ ἔργου ἐπιθυμεῖ” or “he desires a good work” demonstrates that the desire for leadership in the church is an admirable desire. Certainly people can desire positions of leadership in the church for the wrong reasons (such as for financial gain), but the desire in itself is commendable.

In the context of 1 Timothy, with false teachers rising up from within the church, who thought that godliness was a means for financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5), Timothy and the Ephesian church needed to be reminded that the desire to lead in the church was not itself bad. Desiring to serve as a church leader for the right reasons is noble.

2 δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι, μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, νηφάλιον σώφρονα κόσμιον φιλόξενον διδακτικόν,

Therefore, it is necessary for the overseer to be above reproach, a husband of one wife, sober, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

“ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι” or “to be above reproach” serves as an overarching characteristic that functions as a heading for the rest of the list. The implication is not that the overseer is perfect but that there are no legitimate charges that could be brought against his character to disqualify him from this office.

The verb “to be” is implied in the rest of the list. Paul’s first claim is that the overseer must be above reproach, and then the rest of the list carries the implication that he is “to be” sober, self-controlled, etc.

“μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα” of “husband of one wife” implies faithfulness on the part of the overseer to his wife. This phrase has been interpreted to mean that Paul is addressing polygamy, remarriage after the death of a spouse, or men who have been divorced. Based on the rest of the New Testament, polygamy seems not to have been a pressing issue in the early church, and Paul elsewhere makes clear that marriage after the death of a spouse is acceptable (Rom. 7:1-3). The phrase “husband of one wife” or “one woman man” seems to indicate that divorce is not primarily on Paul’s mind here, but that Paul is suggesting that the overseer must be faithful in the context of his marriage relationship.

“νηφάλιον” or “sober” refers here not to drunkenness, which will be addressed later in the list, but to being level-headed or restrained in conduct.

3 μὴ πάροινον μὴ πλήκτην, ἀλλʼ ἐπιεικῆ ἄμαχον ἀφιλάργυρον,

not a drunkard, not quick-tempered but gentle, not contentious, not greedy for money,

The four characteristics in 1 Timothy 3:3 are all negative characteristics that must not be a part of the overseers life. The term ἄμαχον or “not contentious” is often translated as peaceable, but even this word is a form of negation. In that an overseer must be peaceable, he must avoid strife and fighting.

πάροινον or “drunkard” is variously translated as “given to drunkenness” (NIV), “addicted to wine” (NASB), and “an excessive drinker” (CSB). The implication seems to be that the overseer cannot be one known for excessive drinking.

4 τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου καλῶς προϊστάμενον, τέκνα ἔχοντα ἐν ὑποταγῇ, μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος

one who cares for his own household well, one who has children in submission, with all proper conduct,

1 Timothy 3:4 breaks the pattern of 3:2 and 3:3. In 3:2-3, Paul listed a series of characteristics, first positive and then negative. Here, Paul expands on the home life required of an overseer.

προϊστάμενον or “one who cares for” is technically the characteristic here, but this characteristic is modified by “τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου καλῶς” or “his own household well.” So in the realm of his own household, the overseer must be known for caring for his family well. The term προϊστάμενον or “one who cares for” can refer to functioning in an established position of leadership, but here the term most likely refers to showing a proper care and concern for one’s own family.

τέκνα ἔχοντα ἐν ὑποταγῇ or “having children in submission” further elaborates on the requirements for the overseers home life. The overseer must be one who is known for having children who are obedient and who are under the submission of his leadership as father.

μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος or “with all proper conduct.” Commentators are divided over whether this phrase refers to the overseers or to their children. The phrase should be true of both the church leader and his children, as he cares for his children with proper conduct, and they respond to his leadership with conduct proper.

5 (εἰ δέ τις τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου προστῆναι οὐκ οἶδεν, πῶς ἐκκλησίας θεοῦ ἐπιμελήσεται;),

(if anyone does not know how to lead his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)

This phrase provides the explanation for 1 Timothy 3:4. In other words, it answers the question, why does an overseer have to care for his own household well and have submissive children? The answer is that if he cannot lead well in the context of his home, then there should be no reasonable expectation that he will lead well in the context of God’s church. So a home life reflective of poor leadership disqualifies a man from church leadership.

τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου προστῆναι or “to lead his own household” here refers to the fact that this man, as the father, has a responsibility to provide leadership for his own family. If he is unwilling or incapable of providing leadership for his own family, he will not be able to lead God’s church.

6 μὴ νεόφυτον, ἵνα μὴ τυφωθεὶς εἰς κρίμα ἐμπέσῃ τοῦ διαβόλου.

not a new convert, so that he might not become proud and fall under the condemnation of the devil.

μὴ νεόφυτον “or not a new convert” implies that the man must have been a Christian for a reasonable period of time. Though the time is not specified, the implication seems to be that the period of time must be sufficient for the church to examine his conduct and for him to be able to demonstrate faithful, Christian character. Paul’s instructions on patience in appointing church leaders in 1 Timothy 5:22-25 reinforce this claim.

εἰς κρίμα… τοῦ διαβόλου or “the condemnation of the devil” could refer either to the condemnation that God will bring on the devil, or it could refer to judgment that the devil gives out, as in the overseer falling under the control or sway of Satan. It seems most likely that Paul is warning the church that a new convert might become proud if elevated too quickly to leadership, and that then he would be under the threat of receiving the kind of judgment from God that is reserved for the devil. Certainly the false teachers in Ephesus were in danger of exactly this possibility.

7 δεῖ δὲ καὶ μαρτυρίαν καλὴν ἔχειν ἀπὸ τῶν ἔξωθεν, ἵνα μὴ εἰς ὀνειδισμὸν ἐμπέσῃ καὶ παγίδα τοῦ διαβόλου.

And it is necessary also to have a good reputation with those outside, so that he might not fall into disgrace and a trap of the devil.

μαρτυρίαν καλὴν ἔχει or “to have a good reputation.” Earlier characteristics for church leaders were governed by the verb εἶναι or “to be.” Here, with the shift of the verb from “to be” to “to have,” Paul includes another statement emphasizing the necessity that overseers possess these characteristics.

ἀπὸ τῶν ἔξωθεν or “with those outside” most likely refers to those outside the church, to unbelievers. The overseers character must be such that even those outside the church respect him.

παγίδα τοῦ διαβόλου or “ a trap of the devil” refers to a trap set by the devil for the overseer. A bad reputation with those outside the church could lead both to the disgrace of the overseer and to him falling into the devil’s plots or schemes.


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