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The Qualification of a Bishop in 1 Timothy 3

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Lesson 42:
“Be Thou an Example of the Believers”




In 1 Timothy 3, Paul is writing to Timothy, a fellow Church leader, and one that Paul has mentored sharing council relating to calling of bishops and other functionaries such as deacons. Because the discussion centers on policy we need not be overly surprised at differences between then and now. Nevertheless, there is a great deal in Paul’s description of what a bishop ought to be like that we can easily relate to our typical experience in the latter days. Beginning with verse 1,

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

Paul could have also reasonably said, “a lot of work,” but most of those I have known who have served as a bishop found that it was also an eminently good experience where they put in a lot of effort and the Lord inspired them to do things and did things through them that were far beyond their independent abilities.

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

Wayment renders the KJV “blameless” as “above reproach.” In other words, he should be a person who can be respected. Regarding the statement that a bishop should be “the husband of one wife,” it should be noted that in this time period neither the Jews, the early Christians, or the surrounding Greeks were practicing plural marriage. Plural marriage was strongly discouraged in Greek culture, so we can be reasonably assured that this is not the issue that Paul is discussing, and so he is not, for example, disqualifying Abraham, Moses and so forth, should they have been available and willing to serve, from doing so should they be called in that capacity. Instead what he is saying is that men ought to be faithful in their commitments to their spouse before being made responsible for many. For the latter part of the verse, Wayment has that a bishop should be, “clear thinking, self-controlled, respectable, hostpitable, a capable teacher,” Continuing with verse 3 in King James,

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

Wayment renders this as “not inclined to being drunk, not violent but gentle, not argumentative, not a person who loves money.” Continuing with verse 4, KJV,

4 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?)

Paul’s argument here is that it would not be appropriate to make someone responsible to watch over a congregation that has not been responsible enough to watch over those they have brought into the world. As Jesus taught in Luke 16:10, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” Continuing on,

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

Wayment renders this as, “He should not be a recent convert, so that he does not become arrogant and fall into condemnation of the devil.” Similar the experience of those working in a number of other fields, a little knowledge sometimes makes one feel pretty confident while more knowledge helps one see the vast ocean of ones own ignorance stretching in all directions as far as the eye can see. Seeing ones own weakness can help us be humble, and the Lord can work with us when we are humble.

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

Thus Paul concludes his recommended qualifications for a bishop with the observation that the bishop should also be well respected in the wider community.

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