1 Timothy 3:1-16.
The Ministry of Servant-Leadership

         Copyright 2006, J.W. Carter. Scripture quotes from KJV
Sermon, Cedar Rock First Baptist Church.  September 3, 2006

We see from the first chapter of this letter to Timothy that he and Paul found the church in Ephesus in a state of confusion.  Those who live outside of a Judeo-Christian culture might be the first to understand how the situation at the Ephesian church came to be, while those who live in one might not.  There were few, if any, members of the Ephesian church who were raised with a Christian world-view.  Most of the membership were of Jewish and Greek pagan background,  They had firm beliefs that came from their way of seeing their world.  For example, the Jewish members held the Mosaic law in a high regard, a veneration that for many was held to the point of worship.  The pagan Greeks had a pantheon of gods of whom the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was simply one more.  As we observe Paul's letters to the various churches in Asia Minor we find a wide variety of false doctrines being practiced and promoted in the church by its leadership.  The result of this situation was confusion, conflict, and debate.  The love of Christ and the agape ministry to the lost that it should engender was lost.  The church was reduced to a social club with a variety of religious themes.

So, when Paul was ready to leave Ephesus for the area of Mesopotamia, he asked Timothy to stay behind and serve as a pastor-leader in this church.  Paul had tremendous confidence in Timothy's knowledge of the true Christian doctrine and faith, and Timothy had a deep concern for the welfare of the people of the church.  As an emissary of Paul, the church leadership would respect his doctrine, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, Timothy might be able to bring the church back to the truth.

When such confusion arises in the church it is devastating to the gospel, and only Satan wins.  When the people in the church are arguing and the congregation becomes self-promoting, self-centered, and divided, the work of the gospel essentially ceases as the church becomes ineffective in its primary purpose:  to reach the lost and to disciple the saved.  How does a church get into such a situation, and how can it overcome it?  The answer to these questions lies in the true motives of the leadership of the church.  As the leadership in the Ephesian church was turning the church away from its intended purpose, I am reminded of the words of James, 

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. James 3:1.

This verse introduces a discussion on how the words used by those in leadership can cause tremendous damage to the gospel.  Those who have been entrusted with leadership have a tremendous responsibility, and theirs is the greater condemnation, for as a leader, they have the capacity of leading the church away from God's intended purpose.  Church leadership is not something so much to be sought, as it is ordained.  That is, if one seeks leadership, usually the motivation for this desire is based on personal pride and self promotion, an inappropriate attitude for church leadership.  We do not see scriptural examples of good leaders who chose to lead, in fact the very opposite seems to be the pattern.  Jesus teaches that the true leader is a servant.  If one were to ask the true servant to lead the household, he would be humbled and feel inadequate for the task.  It is this model from which true Christian leadership arises.  Paul saw in Timothy a humble, loving spirit and skill-set that would serve the church in Ephesus well, so when Paul went on, Timothy remained.

1 Timothy 3:1.

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 

Just as Paul could see the potential of Timothy to serve the church in Ephesus, it is very common for godly men and women to feel a clear calling from the Lord to ministry, whether as a career minister, or as a church leader who maintains secular employment.  In light of James' words, and Timothy's example, what is the appropriate motivation for seeking leadership in the Christian church?    From the example of Timothy, we see an individual who has a true love and concern for the church (Phil. 2:20).  When one seeks leadership a simple question should be asked:  is the desire for leadership motivated by a carnal desire to lead, or is it from a true love for lost?  The work of leading others to win the lost and disciple the saved is a godly work, one that's very foundation is agape love.  The work of the church in Ephesus was strangled by the conflict that arose from carnal leadership.  Churches today are not any less prone to suffer the same problem when self-promoting leadership insists on the church following their own desired direction.  Even pastors are not immune from this sin.  A pastor can easily forget his place as a loving and humble servant.  The world's view of leadership and the church's view are quite different, and as our churches become more and more like worldly businesses, the pastors become more and more like chief executive officers.  It is not a far step for pastors to become masters rather than servants, dictators rather than listeners.  It is not a far step for deacons to become executive board members rather than bondservants of Jesus Christ.

The work of the ministry is a work that is not one to be carnally esteemed, but is a good work of love and grace to which many are called.  Because of the damage that can be done by a leader with an inappropriate motivation, quite evident by the situation in the Ephesian church, Paul describes some of the characteristics of individuals who may have the appropriate motivation and skill-set for Christian leadership.

It should be understood that the word used here, translated bishop in the KJV, episkope, refers to one who, literally, "cares for."  It is not a reference to the orthodox position of Bishop, though the orthodox position is certainly a fulfillment of the scriptural term.  The Greek term refers to a broader range of leadership that can include all of those who take an active role of servant leadership.  All who aspire to assume the responsibility of leadership in the church are included in this word.  This is an individual that will be making decisions for the body, and will be teaching, preaching, setting direction, discipling, and in other ways providing spiritual leadership.  In Christian denominations, many positions qualify under this description including pastors, teachers, deacons (where they have a leadership role), elders, or any other leadership position.  Of course in churches with a hierarchy of leadership such as orthodox denominations and Catholicism, this also includes the priests, bishops, archbishops, and other ecclesiastical leaders.  This hierarchy did not exist in Paul's time.  Almost all churches were small house churches where the master of the house was the pastor-leader.  In this context, the bishop is the pastor.

1 Timothy 3:2.

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

The list we are about to observe is not a set of laws that must be conformed to in order to be a church leader.  If it were, it would have to be inclusive and without "loopholes."  There are most likely many behaviors that would reveal one to be unprepared for the ministry that are not included in this list.  Here, Paul is simply listing some of the characteristics of one who is a potential leader.  These are traits that are already part of an individual's life that are indicators of that person's spiritual condition: a state of relative maturity in the faith.

The first trait is "blamelessness," or "above reproach," translated from a single word in the Greek that literally means "cannot be laid hold of."  What does it mean to be above reproach?  I once was engaged in a ministry that necessitated frequent late-night visits to the bars in an upstate New York city.  Some members of my congregation were highly critical of this ministry, stating "what if somebody sees you," thinking that my Christian witness would somehow be damaged by such a sighting, and the consequences of such a sighting outweigh any ministry that could be taking place there.  My answer was simple.  Selecting an individual whom I knew was held in the highest regard, I asked, "What would you think if you saw Pastor Day stepping out of a bar?"  The answer was, "That would be OK, people would know he was there for a ministry purpose."    Apparently, this individual did not feel that I was above reproach, but the person I used for an illustration was.  A person who is above reproach has demonstrated a life that is not open to criticism by those of whom they are known.  This is a person who continually demonstrates godly behaviors that are listed in the following statements.

The husband of one wife.  There is no lack of sexual perversion in today's culture as we seem to be moving towards the cultural attitude of the ancient Greeks who embraced homosexuality and polygamy.  Both practices were rampant in society.  Recall that this list is not a list of law but a list of characteristics.  An individual who is without reproach is one who is not engaged in polygamy or homosexuality, and not as much by choice, as by his or her basic nature.  The person who is above reproach would not be interested in such behavior because their heart desires obedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit within them.  This is true for each of the behaviors on this list.  Some would take this verse out of context to attempt to justify the condemnation those who have experienced divorce, equating divorce with polygamy.  I would only suggest that, before one makes such a judgment, one considers the capacity of God to forgive, and the need for his people to also forgive as He has done, looking into the heart of the one they would condemn.  The husband of one wife is a "one-woman man" who has no interest or engagement in impure sexual practices.  Likewise, the wife of one husband is a "one-man woman" who is likewise characterized.  One who is unmarried would be characterized as chaste, not engaged in sexual relationships of any kind.

Vigilant.  The next characteristic comes from the Greek word, nephalios.  With no single English word to accurately translate this concept, we find a variety of words used in different translations.  Found only in the pastoral epistles, this word refers to one who is "not mixed with intoxicants."  Though our first thought of an intoxicant might be alcohol, the term has a much broader sense, and alcohol is particularly mentioned in the next verse.  One is intoxicated when one gives up self-control.  In this way, temper, lust, greed, or many other strong emotional stimulants can be intoxicants.  One who is free of such forces and who is obedient to the Holy Spirit demonstrates a level of integrity-of-desire (vigilance) that comes from the Lord.

Sober.  Sobriety, sophronos, is a continuation of the concept of nephalios that clearly identifies this characteristic as also demonstrated by self-control, or sober-mindedness.  The word, again, does not refer to physical intoxication, but rather to a sobriety of the mind.

Good behavior.  This is another Greek word that is hard to clearly translate, and it is quite freely used in a variety of ways in the New Testament.  It's basic meaning is "orderly" but Greek writers usually use the word to refer to one who is held in honor and respect by his/her peers.  Together, we see the picture of one who is respected for the orderly nature of his or her life.  Their life is not characterized by chaos.

Given to hospitality.  Literally, one who loves strangers.  If one seems to have all of the characteristics illustrated up to this point, but lacks a love for people, their previous behaviors are probably based on either phileo love or the individual is a very good actor/actress.  One whose behavior is motivated by obedience to the Holy Spirit is empowered by His agape love that constrains one to love others as they love the Lord.  As an introvert, for me the demonstration an outgoing love for strangers is difficult, and I am probably not alone with this fear.  It is difficult for me to go up to a stranger and initiate contact.  However, to be obedient to the Lord, I have no choice but appropriate His purpose as mine, and step out.  

Apt to teach.  Vine comments, "Not merely a readiness to teach is implied, but the spiritual power to do so as the outcome of prayerful meditation in the Word of God and the practical application of its truth to oneself."1    One who is "apt to teach" is one who sees "teaching moments," who tends to share God's Word openly and spontaneously in situations where another can be edified by it.  One who is "apt to teach" is one who has some knowledge and enjoys giving that knowledge to others without restraint, and without any hope for reward. 

1 Timothy 3:3.

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

Not Given to wine.  This is one word in the Greek, paroinos, which can also be literally rendered, "not lingering with the cup."  In the previous verse, Paul referred to the intoxicants of personal desire.  This verse refers to one being controlled by physical intoxicants.  In our culture there is almost no limit to the number of physical intoxicants one can obtain.  In ancient times, there were only a few available, and without question, the most common was alcohol.  The lack of good drinking water promoted the prolific and proper use of wine in their culture.  This same situation is still true in many cultures today.  Paul gives no prohibition here to drinking wine.  However, there is a very strong prohibition to being "given to" it, or being under its control.  One who desires to be led of the Holy Spirit would have no interest in being controlled by an intoxicant, so such sobriety would be evident in their lives.

No striker.  Me plekten, refers to one who is not violent.  This is an individual who is not prone to lash out.  Such an individual has sufficient self-control as to avoid being drawn into conflict.  The individual is characterized by gentleness and patience.

Not greedy of filthy lucre.  Again, one word in Greek, aphilarlargyros, refers to one who is simply not a lover of money, power, and possessions.  One who has a heart for the Lord is not that interested in the things of the world and is not greedy for them.  One who has an obsession with money and possessions will probably have a difficult time turning away from it to take part in meaningful ministry.  Note that Paul's statement does not exclude the wealthy from Christian service.  He only points out those who exhibit greed, and such greed can be relative.  Jesus taught that it is very difficult for a rich man to turn to Him in faith (Matt. 19:24).  Yet, it is not impossible.

Patient, not a brawler.  The nature of one who is a potential Christian leader is also patient and temperate.  He/she is not one who easily loses self-control; is temperate.  Such an individual does not get angry easily.  Like many other characteristics, this one is predicated on self-control, a control that comes from reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Not covetous.  Covetousness is a desire to have that which belongs to another.  One who lives a Spirit-led life is both satisfied with what he/she has and is thankful for the blessings experienced by those he loves.  

1 Timothy 3:4-5.

One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 

The word translated "ruleth"  is probably more accurately, "manages" in today's English.  The man is not to rule his family like a king rules a domain, since a domain is literally owned by the king.  The members of the King's domain are his subjects.  This is not the appropriate model for a family.  Over the years many have taught a false doctrine of domination based upon this word that the KJV translates as "rule."  It is obvious that such a position does not fit the context of the surrounding verses, and autocratic rule is contradictory to the expression of agape love.  One who is called to a position of leadership in the church is responding to a calling that is similar to serving as the father in a home.  The relationships within the home are based upon mutual submission and love.  If the potential leader's home is not characterized this way, then it is likely that his/her leadership in the church will not be based upon that model.  

The importance of this is emphasized by the amount of text that Paul gives to this one point.  Most other points were made with one or two words.  Does this verse imply that any man or woman who has a problem in the household is unfit for leadership?  Again, this is not a list of law, it is a description of characteristics that are based upon the heart of the one considered.  Many times godly people are grievously impacted by the sins of others, and in their suffering, blamed for their circumstance.  Was Job an ungodly man because of the difficulties that surrounded him?  We must be very careful to look into the heart of an individual in crisis when we will never know the details of the conflict.   Likewise, even a child of the father can be drawn into sin from an external source.  Is such a circumstance a litmus test of the integrity of the father?  Is this an indicator that he is unfit for leadership?  There is no expectation here that the family of a potential leader is perfect, as none is perfect.  We are simply called to look at how the individual manages his/her home to see if it is done in a godly fashion, promoting mutual submission and love, and promoting a love for the Lord in the home.

1 Timothy 3:6.

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

One who is called to Christian leadership should be one who is mature in the faith.   Literally, not a neophyte, or one who is "newly planted."   Like the observance of many other characterizations that Paul makes, this one requires a level of spiritual discernment.  How do we know that an individual is mature in the faith?  An individual's maturity is demonstrated by the other characterizations in the list that Paul writes here.  We see maturity in the way an individual responds to events.  One grows spiritually from difficult experiences, much like James describes in chapters 1 and 2 of his letter.  One who is elevated too quickly can easily be overwhelmed and unprepared for true ministry.  Likewise, their immaturity can easily foster a prideful attitude, one that would not be as evident in one who has more experience.  Just as Satan fell, a neophyte has the same potential to fall until some level of spiritual maturity is developed.

1 Timothy 3:7.

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

The church is to be a testimony of God to the community.  Consider the damage to that testimony that can take place if the church leadership is not respected by the community.   

1 Timothy 3:8-10.

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 

This next section of Paul's letter describes some of the characteristics of deacons.  The Greek, diakonos, refers to a bond-servant, one who submits entirely to the service of another out of choice.  It should be understood that this is not a position that is "higher or lower" in esteem or authority than the bishop since the LORD of the church is Christ, and no man is esteemed any greater than any other.  In this sense, a deacon is more of a description of the task, that of a church servant.  Many churches use the name and office of deacon in an administrative capacity that is more consistent with Paul's description of a bishop.  Some refer to select elders as a "board of elders" or a "board of deacons" that is much like a board of directors in a secular corporation.  This is not the role that Paul views as a deacon.  Paul saw a need for individuals to serve in non-leadership, pastoral support roles, and it is these he to whom he refers as deacons.   He also used a form of the same word to describe himself in the salutation of several of his letters.  Churches who desire to use deacons in a more New-Testament role tend to assign administrative roles to committees and individuals who are closest to the issues, and use their deacons in the support of church ministry.  They may assist the pastor in many ministerial roles including visitation, counseling, evangelism, and any other practical pastoral ministries.  One can see a literal illustration of a deacon when one goes to a formal restaurant and is served by a waiter or waitress.  It is not the waiter or waitress' position to lead and direct the person at the table.  It is the function of the waiter or waitress to serve the individuals at the table, addressing their needs with both grace and humility.  Likewise, deacons are servants who minister to the needs of the flock with the same humility that is seen in the restaurant metaphor.  This is the model of the deacon that Paul assumes.  It is this deacon ministry role that most effectively supports the pastoral ministry needs of the church.

The list of qualifications of the deacon is essentially the same as that of the bishop.  Though the ministry of the deacon is no less important than the ministry of the bishop, the deacon's ministry is more "behind the scenes."  Most people will not be aware of the work done by the deacon, whereas the work of the bishop is quite visible.  Consequently, the list for the deacon is a bit shorter and less detailed.  However, it is obvious that the nature of the character of the individual is the same whether they serve behind the scenes as a deacon or in the leadership role of the bishop.  The deacon, like the bishop, should also demonstrate self-control, honesty, sobriety, experience, etc.  

1 Timothy 3:11.

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

A single word, gyne, is used in the Greek and is rendered "their wives" in the KJV.  This word simply means "women," as opposed to "young girls."  It would be literally correct to read this phrase, "Even so, must women ...".  Consequently there is a wide range of interpretation of this verse.  We must always remember when we attempt to interpret scripture that we maintain the grammatical context within the historical situation as we do so.  With this consideration, the rendering of "wives" is defensible.   Many feel that this statement is a reference to the wives of the deacon, and it is certainly appropriate that a deacon's wife exhibit the qualities listed here.    

Still others believe that this is a list of qualifications of a deaconess, a position that is also defensible if the literal Greek is considered.   There are certainly examples of women in the first-century church who were referred to by Paul as deaconesses (e.g. Rom 16:1).  If a church feels led to utilize women who feel called to this ministry, the requirements for them would obviously be the same as for a man.  This may be the reason that Paul does not pursue the woman deacon as a separate issue.  Jesus lifted the value of a woman to a position equal with that of a man, and Paul did the same.  This was extremely contrary to their culture which treated women with tremendous distain.  This conflict of culture was one that the church was immersed in, greatly complicating matters of leadership and service where women were involved.  Much of that conflict still endures today in modern culture, and unfortunately a similar misogyny, still exists in the church.  Women are often disallowed to be engaged in any number of ministries simply because they are women, as though an individual's gender has something to do with a person's value to God, or their ability to discern spiritual matters.  This argument is so far out of scriptural context to become impossible to defend from any position other than personal prejudice or worldly culture.

What are the characteristics of the person that Paul refers to here?  The word translated "grave" is similar to that used for the male, and is the feminine form of a word that means "worthy of respect."  In verse 8 the same term is used in its masculine form.  Why single out the women when discussing gossip?  Do women tend to gossip more than men?  In this verse, women who are characterized as mature in their faith are not engaged in the practice of gossip and slander.  Gossip is a product of ignorance.  Certainly, men also engage in slander and gossip.  However, in a culture where women are excluded from leadership, whether secular or sacred, men are typically closer to the issues of the day than the women who are kept from them, left only to address those issues from a position of distance, a position that leads to gossip.   Ancient stereotypical dogma places the woman in the home, caring for the children (and animals) and for the needs of the man, preparing meals, and spending her time away from the issues that she may share with other likewise stereotyped women.  Deprived of the facts, it is no surprise that this is a culture that could evoke gossip.  It is evident that the church in Ephesus experienced this phenomenon as Paul specifically noted that women engaged in the deacon ministry, either directly or as the wife of a deacon, would not be one who took part in this practice.

The woman should also be sober and faithful, temperate and trustworthy.  Like the men, the women are expected to exhibit integrity in the way they act and in what they do.  

1 Timothy 3:12.

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

The circumstance of the deacon's family is one that is similar to that which is expected of a potential bishop.  The deacon will choose to live a life of sexual integrity and not be engaged in polygamy, homosexuality, or any other inappropriate sexual practice.  Furthermore, similar and proper family relationships will be evident as the deacon leads the family to love the Lord, teaching mutual submission and love.  The conduct of their children serves as a measure of the extent of godly leadership in the home.

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.

When considering the office of deacon, Paul addresses an additional issue that is worth consideration.  When Paul considers the office of deacon, he is not describing a leader, but a servant.  There is a part in all of us that desires some form of recognition for our work, whether it be from man or from God.  Even separated from the power of personal pride, one needs encouragement, particularly one who serves "behind the scenes" as is the state of the deacon.  If nobody sees the work that you do, from where does that encouragement come?  As a minister in a Baptist congregation, I have always been continually encouraged by the membership, and I would not trade those wonderful expressions from caring people for anything.  Still, I am quite aware of those who hear no such words because their work is done more in the form of the true deacon, a work that is unseen and unheralded.  These may include those in music ministry, in teaching, and in any of the many areas of service that take place within the church fellowship. Still, they continue in the work without man's encouragement.  What does this person, who works in an unheralded ministry, gain from their efforts?  

Paul explicitly offers some encouragement for these servants that he does not offer for the bishop when he states that they will be building for themselves a few important assets.  The first of these is a "good degree."  Though the text is vague, the principle is not.  God knows the work that is done by the faithful servant, and just like one builds a resume in a career of skills, the servant builds a resume before God, a resume that illustrates the sincere love and efforts of the individual.  God will not forget the service to the kingdom of God by the faithful deacon.  Also, Paul identifies that, though the work of the deacon is quiet and humble, the experience of deacon service will build in the individual a strength and boldness of faith.  Those who work in the trenches see God at work in the lives of those to whom they minister, and such evidence of God's purpose in man serves to build one's faith.  

Many aspire to the office of deacon because they want to be seen as a leader in the church.  I have seen church deacons carry the office like a badge of accomplishment and authority, exercising that authority over the congregation much like a police officer would exercise his authority over the community, with the exception that they make up their own rules.  The greatest conflicts that I have experienced in the church, and there have been many over the years, have often been rooted in the pride of deacons.  These have been men who want to control, who want their own agenda to be imposed on the congregation.  Many times church members, rather than face the potential conflict of opposition allow these pride-centered deacons to continue in their office.  The result can be disastrous as the true deacon ministry goes untended and the confusion and conflict engendered by such polity stifles the spiritual expression of the individual church members, stifling the expression of the very purposes of the church.  Many churches could gain much from appropriating for themselves the scriptural approach to the deacon ministry where that model is not currently present.  

This point is firmly made here because this same issue is the one that was being dealt with in the Ephesian church, and is common today.  Let us not wander away from the context of these verses.  The Ephesian church was in a state of division and confusion as it was being led in different directions by sincere, but inappropriate leadership.  If a church is experiencing conflict, a lack of growth, or a lack of a significant impact for the kingdom of God, it might be worthwhile to look at its leadership model and see if it fits the Pauline model, or is it more like the Ephesian model that Paul left Timothy behind to change.

1 Timothy 3:14-16.

These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15But 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. 16And 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.

We have no knowledge of the length of time that passed between Paul's leaving Timothy in Ephesus and the receipt of this letter.  However, Paul does make it clear that he intends on getting back to Ephesus in the near future.  However, to encourage and direct Timothy, Paul expresses an unusual creed.  Not given to much poetry, Paul forms a poetic creed for Timothy.  Paul does not want Timothy to forget the "big picture," the basic truths that form the foundation of his ministry.  It can be a difficult task to maintain the big picture when one is embroiled in the details of the work.  An appropriate metaphor that I have heard states, "it is difficult to remember when you are up to your neck in alligators that your purpose is to drain the swamp."  One can become so busy dealing with the issues that the original purpose becomes vague or even forgotten. 

So that Timothy would not forget, Paul reminds him that this is the church of the living God.  It is not a social club.  It's foundation is grounded on the truth of the gospel, not on the constitution of man.  Many churches today might be described as social clubs that are grounded on the constitution of man, and consequently have little or no spiritual impact on their communities.  Again, if this is the case, it may be worthwhile to evaluate the leadership model, and if necessary, repent, seek God's forgiveness, and move to a model that will enable the church to be what it is intended to be.

Paul then offers words of poetry as a memorable creed.  It is possible that these were words of a hymn, and if they were not at the point of his writing they certainly have been used as a hymn in later years.  Paul describes the gospel as an open mystery, that is a secret that has been revealed to those who believe.  This construct was common in ancient societies, so the recipient of this message would understand its context.  The gospel is herein described in six lines of verse:

God was manifest in the flesh
    justified in the Spirit
seen of angels
    preached unto the Gentiles
believed on in the world
    received up in glory.

Serving in the body of Christ is no trivial task.  In this chapter of his first known letter to Timothy, Paul describes the characteristics of an individual who is an appropriate choice for service in the church.  He refers to the leader as bishop, and to the servant as deacon.  This characterization is, without a doubt, quite different from what Timothy observed when he and Paul first arrived together in Ephesus.  They saw a collection of men who were pride-driven to move the church in directions of their own choosing, directions that were formed from the world views of their disparate experiences rather than on the word of God.  Many churches today are wrestling with issues of church polity.  Many are in conflict that is created, in part, by confusion created by leadership that is more business-centered, or self-centered, or world-centered, than it is spirit-led.  Paul gives in this chapter some very distinctive and comprehensive suggestions on how to identify individuals who are potential candidates for church leadership and service.  By so doing, Paul describes the characteristics of a mature Christian, a model of what every Christian should strive to attain.  We can use Paul's advice as we form or reform the polity in our church such that it can be more of what God intends.  Furthermore, as one aspires to Christian ministry, either in a volunteer or career capacity, this list of characteristics can become a benchmark to look into one's own heart to see if they are yet ready for such a responsibility.

Let us take these words of Paul to heart, both personally and corporately.  The impact on our hearts and on our churches could be profound.


Earle, Ralph. (1978)  1 & 2 Timothy.  The Expositor's Bible Commentary.  Vol. 11.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House.  Pages 363-370.

Vine, W.E. (1940).  An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. 4 vols. Westwood, NJ:  Revell, Page 51.