1 Timothy 3:1-7

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

[The office of a bishop] The episcopacy, overseership or superintendency. The word which we translate desire signifies earnest, eager, passionate desire. It is strange that the episcopacy, in those times, should have been an object of intense desire to any man when it was a place of danger and exposure to severe labor, want, persecution and death without any secular emolument whatsoever. On this ground I am led to think that the spirit of God designed these words more for the ages to come than for those which were then, and in reference to after ages the whole that follows is to be understood.

[A good work] A work it then was; heavy, incessant, and painful. There were no unpeaching prelates in those days, and should be none now. Episcopacy in the church of God is of Divine appointment, and should be maintained and respected. Under God there should be supreme governors in the church as well as in the state. The state has its monarch, the church has its bishop; one should govern according to the laws of the land, the other according to the word of God.

What a constitutional king should be, the principles of the constitution declare; what a bishop should be, the following verses particularly show.

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

First: This Christian bishop must be blameless, a person against whom no evil can be proved; one who is everywhere invulnerable; for the word is a metaphore, taken from the case of an expert and successful pugilist, who so defends every part of his body that it is impossible for his antagonist to give one hit. So this Christian bishop is one that has so conducted himself, as to put it out of reach of any person to prove that he is either unsound in a single article of the Christian faith, or deficient in the fulfilment of any duty incumbent on a Christian. He must be irreprehensible; for how can he reprove that in others which they can reprove in him.

Second: He must be the husband of one wife. He should be a married man, but he should be no polygamist; and have only one wife, i.e. one at a time. It does not mean that, if he has been married and his wife die, he should never marry another. The apostle's meaning appears to be this: that he should not be a man who has divorced his wife and married another; nor one that has two wives at a time. It does not appear to have been any part of the apostle's design to prohibit second marriages, of which some have made such a serious business.

Third: He must be vigilant, from not to drink. Watchful; for as one who drinks is apt to sleep, so he who abstains from it is more likely to keep awake and attend to his work and charge. A bishop has to watch over the Church, and watch for it; and this will require his care and circumspection.

Fourth: He must be sober, or from the entomology of the word, from sound and mind, a man having a sound mind; having a good understanding and the complete government of all his passions. A bishop should be a man of learning, of an extensive and well cultivated mind, dispassionate, prudent and sedate.

Fifth: He must be of good behavior; orderly, decent, grave and correct in the whole of his appearance, carriage and conduct. The preceeding term, sober, refers to the mind, this latter, to the external manners. A clownish, rude or boorish man should never have the rule of the Church or God; the sour, the sullen and the boisterous should never be invested with a dignity which they would most infallibly disgrace.

Sixth: He must be given to hospitality; literally, a lover of strangers; one who is ready to receive into his house and relieve every necessitous stranger. Hospitality in those primitive times, was a great and necessary virtue; then there were few inns, or places of public entertainment; to those who were noted for benevolence the necessitous stranger had recourse. A Christian bishop, professing love to God and all mankind, preaching a religion, one half of the morality of which was included in, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," (Leviticus 19:18) would naturally be sought to by those who were in distress and destitute of friends.

Seventh: He should be apt to teach; one capable of teaching; not only wise himself, but ready to communicate his wisdom to others. One whose delight is to instruct the ignorant and those who are out of the way. He must be a preacher; an able, zealous, fervent and assiduous preacher.

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

Eighth: he must not be given to wine. This word not only signifies one who is inordinately attached to wine, a winebibber or tippler, but also one who is imperious, abusive, insolent, whether through wine or otherwise.

Ninth: He must be no striker; not quarrelsome; not ready to strike a person who displeases him; no persecutor of those who may differ from him, not prone as one so wittily said, "To prove his doctine orthodox by apostolic blows and knocks."

Tenth: He must not be greedy of filthy lucre; not desirous of base gain; not using base and unjustifiable methods to raise and increase his revenues.

Eleveth: He must be patient; meek, gentle; the opposite of a quarrelsome person. Where meekness and patience do not reign gravity cannot exist, and the love of God cannot dwell.

Twelfth: He must not be a brawler; not contensious or litigous, but quiet, peaceable.

Thirteenth: He must not be covetous; not a lover of money, not desirous of office for the sake of its emoulments. He who loves money will stick at nothing in order to get it. Fair and foul methods are to him alike, provided they may be equally productive. For the sake of reputation he may wish to get all honourably, but if that cannot be, he will not scruple to adopt other methods.

4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

Fourteenth: He must be one who properly presides and governs his own family. One who has the command of his own house, not by sternness, severity or tyranny, but with all gravity; governing his household by rule, every one knowing his own place and each doing his own work, and each work having the proper time assigned for its beginning and end. This is a maxim of common sense; no family can be prosperous that is not under subjection, and no person can govern a family but the head of it, the husband, who is, both by nature and the appointment of God, the head or governor of his own house.

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

Look at a man's domestic arrangements; if they be not good, he should not be trusted with any branch of government, whether ecclesiastical or civil.

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

Fifteenth: It is required that he be not a novice; not a young plant, not recently ingrafted, that is, one not newly converted to the faith. One who has been of considerable standing in the church, if he has the preceeding qualifications, may be safely entrusted with the government of that church.

The apostle gives another reason: Lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. It is natural for a man to think himself of more importance than his fellows when they are entrusted to his government. The apostle's term, puffed up, inflated, is a metaphore taken from a bladder when filled with air or wind. It has substance, a certain size, is light, can be the sport of the wind, but has nothing in it but air. From these words of the apostle we are led to infer that pride or self-conceit was the cause of the devil's downfall.

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

Sixteenth: Upstanding in his dealings before all men so that he be not tempted or entrapped by the accuser.

Historical information drawn from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 09/12/2008

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