1 Timothy 3:8-16

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

[Likewise must the deacons] The term deacon signifies a regular or stated servant. As nearly the same qualifications were required in the deacons as in the bishops, the reader may consult what was said on the preceeding verses. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

[Grave] Of a sedate and dignified carriage and conduct.

[Not double-tongued] Speaking one thing to one person and another thing to another on the same subject. This is hypocrisy and deceit. This word might also be translated liars.

[Not given to much wine] Neither a drunkard, tippler, nor what is called a jovial companion. All this would be inconsistent with gravity.

[Not greedy of filthy lucre] See on verse 3. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

What has since been called antinomianism, that is, making void the moral law by a pretended faith in the righteousness of Christ, is that which the apostle here has particularly in view.

10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

[Let them first be proved] Let them not be young converts or persons lately brought to the knowledge of the truth. This is the same in spirit with what is required of the bishops, verse 6.

Let no man be put into an office in the chruch till he has given full proof of his sincerely and steadiness by having been for a considerable time a consistent private member of the church.

[Being found blameless] Being irreproachable; persons against whom no evil can be proved. The same as in verse 2, though a different word is used.

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

[Even so must their wives be grave] The original is simply (here three greek words are displayed - ed.), Let the women likewise be grave. Whatever is spoken here becomes women in general, but if the apostle had those termed deaconesses in his eye, which is quite possible, the words are particularly suited to them. See Romans 16:1.

[Not slanderers] Literally, not devils. This may be properly enough translated slanderers, backbiters or tale-bearers for all these [behaviors] are of their father the devil... .

[Faithful in all things] The deaconesses had much to do among the poor, especially the poor women, dispensing the bounty of the church. They were not only faithfully to expend all they had got, and for the purpose for which they got it, but they must do this with impartiality, showing no respect of persons, the degree of distress being the only rule by which the distribution was to be regulated.

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

This is the same that is required of the bishops. See verses 2, 4 and 5.

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.

They who, having been tried or proved, having shown by their steadiness, activity and zeal that they might be raised to a higher office, are here said to have purchased to themselves a good degree for, instead of having to minister to the bodies and bodily wants of the poor, the faithful deacons were raised to minister in holy things; instead of ministering the bread that perisheth they were raised to minister the bread of life to immortal souls.

It seems to have been a practice dictated by common sense, that the most grave and steady of believers should be employed as deacons; the most experienced and zealous of deacons should be raised to the rank of elders; and the most able and pious of the elders be consecrated bishops.

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

[And, without controversy] And confessedly, by general consent, it is a thing which no man can or ought to dispute; any phrase of this kind expresses the meaning of the original.

[God was manifest in the flesh] If we take in the whole of the 14th, 15th and 16th verses we may make a consistent translation in the following manner and the whole paragraph will stand thus:
Hoping to see thee shortly, but should I tarry long, these things I now write unto thee, that thou may know how thou ought to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God. The mystery of godliness, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, is without controversy, a great thing. And then he proceeds to show what the mystery of godliness is, which he sums up in the six following particulars: 1. God was manifest in the flesh; 2. Justified in the Spirit; 3. Seen of angels; 4. Preached unto the gentiles; 5. Believed on in the world; 6. Received up into glory.

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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