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1 Timothy 3

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Qualifications of Bishops Qualifications of Overseers Problems of Administration Leaders in the Church The Elder-in-Charge
3:1b-7 3:1-7 3:1-7 3:1-7 3:1-7
Qualifications of Deacons Qualifications of Deacons   Helpers in the Church Deacons
3:8-13 3:8-13 3:8-13 3:8-13 3:8-13
The Mystery of Our Religion The Great Mystery   The Great Secret The Church and the Mystery of the Spiritual Life
3:14-16 3:14-16 3:14-16 3:14-16 3:14-16

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This chapter lists three different types of ministers.

1. pastors (3:1-7)

2. deacons (3:8-10,12-13)

3. the widow's role (3:11; 5:9-16) or deaconesses (cf. Rom. 16:1)

 

B. These qualifications may be in direct contrast to the false teachers' lifestyle and teachings.

 

C. Verse 16 is an early creedal statement or hymn. Paul often incorporated this type of material (cf. Eph. 5:19; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-16; 3:15-20; II Tim. 2:11-13). The rhythmic structure is clearly seen in the six aorist passive indicative verbs combined with five locative or instrumental grammatical phrases.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT 3:1-7
 1It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

3:1 "It is a trustworthy statement" This idiom can act as both a concluding statement and an opening statement (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8). This is the second of five "trustworthy" statements in the Pastoral Letters. They function syntactically like Jesus' use of an introductory "amen" or "amen, amen" (translated "truly, truly" or "verily, verily"), drawing special attention to the statement.

▣ "if any man" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "aspires. . .desires" These are two strong Greek terms: (1) "reaches for" (cf. 6:10; Heb. 11:16) and (2) "sets his heart on" (cf. Matt. 13:17; Luke 15:16). This tells me that our modern emphasis on the necessity of an OT type call from God to the ministry may be too limiting. A desire to be in church leadership is sufficient. The desires of believers' hearts are from the Lord (cf. Ps. 37:4).

NASB"the office of overseer"
NKJV"the position of a bishop"
NRSV"the office of a bishop"
TEV"a church leader"
NJB"presiding elder"

This is the term episkopos, and it is usually translated in English "bishop" or "overseer." It seems to be synonymous with the other two NT terms for the office of leadership in a local church. The terms "pastor," "overseer," and "elder" all refer to the same office (cf. 5:17; Acts 20:17,28; Titus 1:5,7; I Pet. 5:1-2). The NT church had only two offices: pastor and deacon (cf. Phil. 1:1). It seems that "elder" had a Jewish background, while "overseer" had Greek city-state background.

3:2 "above reproach" This is the key qualification of the entire context for leadership in a local church. The phrase implies no handle for criticism, both in the believing community (vv. 2-6) and in the non-believing community (v. 7). This same theme of no reproach is repeated in verses 7,10; 5:7; and 6:14. There are no perfect leaders, but there are godly, respectable, acceptable believers. See note at Titus 1:6.

NASB, NKJV
NJB"the husband of one wife"
NRSV"married only once"
TEV"he must have only one wife"

This phrase has caused much discussion. It was obviously an issue for the church at Ephesus in the first century (cf. 3:1,12; 5:7; and in Crete, Titus 1:6). Here are the basic interpretive theories.

1. it refers to polygamy

2. it refers to a remarriage after divorce

3. it refers to the second marriage after the first wife's death

4. it refers to a man faithful and attentive to his wife (another way of asserting good family relationships, cf. NEB)

This obviously refers to family relationships, and any problem in the area of family relationships disqualifies one from leadership in a local church. Number 1 was not a problem in the Roman Empire, but was a potential problem in Judaism (though rare in the first century); #2 was a great problem in the Roman Empire, and also a problem in Judaism (Hillel vs. Shammai); #3 was a major concern of the Early church, especially Tertullian, and is still an issue in Baptist circles in Europe. However, 1 Tim. 5:14 is a parallel passage where younger widows can remarry with no reproach (cf. Rom. 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7).

There is one more option, that the requirement refers to marriage versus singleness. The false teachers had forbidden marriage (cf. 4:3). This may be a direct refutation of their tendency toward celibacy and asceticism. This is not to assert that an unmarried person cannot be a church leader, but that singleness cannot be a requirement. I think this is the best option and also that it answers the other interpretive problems relating to (1) "not addicted to much wine" and (2) the issue of women in 2:8-15. These must be interpreted in light of the false teachers.

If the issue is a strong, godly family, then divorce is not the only critical issue. Even in the OT divorce was sometimes the appropriate option: (1) YHWH divorces unfaithful Israel and (2) priests were commanded to divorce unfaithful wives (see "Old Testament Perspective on Divorce and Remarriage" in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Vol. 40 #4, Dec. 1997). All humans experience disruption in their family life in some areas. My major concern with taking this qualification strictly literally is the lack of consistency in taking all the others in this context literally as well. If divorce disqualifies, then so do (a) not addicted to wine (cf. "not. . .addicted to much wine" of v. 8, which is not necessarily a commandment to total abstinence) and (b) "keep his children under control" of v. 4, which would eliminate many modern pastors and deacons.

Truthfully, I do not know many Christian leaders who could consistently fulfill all of these requirements throughout their lives. So before we become too critical of the flaws of leadership remember that these qualifications are God's will for all His children. I am not advocating lowering the standards, but not using them in a legalistic, judgmental sense. The church needs godly, socially acceptable leadership. However all we have to choose from is saved sinners! Modern churches must seek out leaders who have proven themselves faithful over time, not perfect leaders.

One more point, if this list is taken too literally, then Jesus (because He was single) and Paul (because he was possibly divorced) could not have been church leaders. Makes one think, doesn't it?

▣ "temperate" This is literally "be sober." Because alcohol abuse is mentioned specifically in v. 3, this probably refers to the metaphorical use of this term meaning "be sensible" (cf. v. 11; Titus 2:2).

NASB"prudent"
NKJV"sober-minded"
NRSV"sensible"
TEV"self-controlled"
NJB"discreet"

This term sōphrōn meant "balanced" in the Greek philosophers. It was a very famous Greek term that denoted avoidance of the extremes (i.e., thereby advocation "the golden mean"). It was used of someone of sound mind (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:2,5). Related terms are also found in 1 Tim. 2:9,15; 2 Tim. 1:7; Titus 2:4,6,9,12,15.

The basic root (BAGD, p. 802) is found in several forms in the Pastorals.

1. verb, sōphroneō – "sensible," Titus 2:6

2. verb, sōphronizō – "encourage" (i.e., bring to one's senses), Titus 2:4

3. noun, sōphronismos – "disciple" (i.e., self-controlled), 2 Tim. 1:7

4. noun, sōphrosunē – "discreetly," 1 Tim. 2:9,15

5. adverb, sōphronōs – "sensibly" (i.e., moderately), Titus 2:12

6. adjective, sōphrōn – "sensible," "prudent," "thoughtful," 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:2,5

 

NASB, NRSV"respectable"
NKJV"of good behavior"
TEV"orderly"
NJB"courteous"

This is a form of the Greek term kosmikos. It is used in Titus in two different senses: (1) negatively of avoiding worldly lusts (2:12) and (2) positively of proper order (2:10). In I Timothy the context implies proper order or decorum. That which is proper, respected, and expected by the local society. Therefore, it is an aspect of v. 7a, "must have a good reputation with those outside the church."

▣ "hospitable" The inns of Paul's days were notorious houses of prostitution. Therefore, Christians, and especially Christian leadership, had to have their homes open for itinerant missionaries and for the needy of the community (cf. 1 Tim. 5:10; Titus 1:8; Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2; I Pet. 4:9; II John 5; and III John).

▣ "able to teach" Leaders are to be able teachers (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24). It is interesting that "teaching" is listed as a separate gift in I Cor. 12:28, but linked to the gift of pastor in Eph. 4:11. Apparently there were teachers, but also all pastors had to be able to function in this area, too. In a sense all of the gifted persons in Ephesians 4 are proclaimers of the gospel, but in different senses and with different emphases.

Some biblical scholars interpret this qualification as a reference to well-trained or educated people, or possibly those who are "teachable"!

Finally, this ability to teach may be related to the false teachers who thought they were teachers of the Law (cf. 1:7) but were self-deceived.

3:3

NASB"not addicted to wine"
NKJV"not given to wine"
NRSV"not a drunkard"
TEV"he must not be a drunkard"
NJB"not a heavy drinker"

It seems to be an allusion from the Septuagint to Pro. 23:29-35. It must be reemphasized that the Bible rails against drunkenness, but does not teach total abstinence (cf. 3:8; 5:23; Titus 1:7; 2:3). Total abstinence comes from an individual commitment of believers to the Lord Jesus based on the limiting of their personal freedoms because of the culture in which they minister (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13 and I Corinthians 8-10). For a good article see Hard Sayings of the Bible by Kaiser, Davids, Bruce, and Branch, pp. 673-674.

SPECIAL TOPIC: BIBLICAL ATTITUDES TOWARD ALCOHOL AND ALCOHOLISM

▣ "pugnacious" This is literally "not a striker" (cf. Titus 1:7). This may be related to the abuse of alcohol as it affects all interpersonal relationships (i.e., the family, the house church, the false teachers).

▣ "gentle" This refers to a loving reasonableness, which is prepared to yield to others (cf. Eph. 5:21). It describes a kind, gentle person (cf. Titus 3:2; James 3:17; I Pet. 2:18).

▣ "peaceable" This is the Greek term for a fight, a battle, a conflict, but with the alpha privative, which negates the meaning. Therefore, it means one who does not fight or stir up controversy (cf. Titus 3:2). It is easy to see how the false teachers are the literary foils to chapter 3 (and all the Pastoral Letters).

NASB"free from the love of money"
NKJV"not covetous"
NRSV"not a lover of money"
TEV"he must not love money"
NJB"not avaricious"

This is a compound word from the term for "silver" and the term for "brotherly love" with the alpha privative which equals "not a lover of money" (cf. 6:6-10; Titus 1:7; Heb. 13:5; I Pet. 5:2). This was another characteristic of false teachers. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH at 6:8.

3:4-5 "he must be one who manages his own household well" Leadership can be seen at home. Any kind of difficulty between husband and wife or children or grandparents or in-laws was a basis for disqualification in this early church setting. "No handle for criticism" is the main concern. How one rules his home will show one's tendencies in leading the church (cf. v. 5, which is a parenthetical question expecting a "no" answer). Oh, my, this would disqualify many modern ministers if taken literally and to the letter. The many positive as well as negative characteristics mentioned in vv. 2-3 are revealed in the home environment. "Check the home first" is good advice for personnel committees!

3:5 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "church"

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHURCH (EKKLESIA)

3:6 "and not a new convert" This is left out in Titus. 1 Timothy was written to Ephesus, which was an established church, while Titus was written to Crete, which was a new work. They were all new converts. The literal root term used here means "young plant." However, the exact time factor is uncertain.

▣ "so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil" Pride is a major problem for angels and humans (cf. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:4). The verb (aorist passive participle) means "become smoke-blinded." The genitive "of the devil" can refer to

1. the judgment caused by the devil (cf. v. 7)

2. the same type of judgment the devil received (cf. NKJV, TEV, NJB)

Paul mentions the spiritual enemy of mankind several times in 1 Timothy (but not in 2 Timothy or Titus):

1. devil (diabolos, 3:6,7)

2. Satan (Santanas, 1:20; 5:20)

3. the demonic (daimonion, 4:1)

The biblical worldview that mankind has a spiritual opponent (cf. Eph. 2:2; 6:10-19) is revealed in both the OT and NT.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN

3:7 "he must have a good reputation with those outside" Leadership must be viewed as honest and genuine by the unbelieving community which the church is trying to bring to faith in Christ (5:14; 6:1; Titus 2:5,6,10; I Cor. 10:32; Col. 4:5; I Thess. 4:12).

SPECIAL TOPIC: JUDGING (SHOULD CHRISTIANS JUDGE ONE ANOTHER?)

▣ "so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" Paul was concerned about spiritual warfare (cf. 6:9-10; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:14; 6:10-19). Godliness is an armor, but selfishness is an open door for evil to exploit!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:8-13
 8Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

3:8 "Deacons" Deacons are not mentioned at all in 2 Timothy and Titus. The office and function of a deacon is not defined in the NT. Many assume that Acts 6 is a beginning of this particular task-oriented office, but this seems unlikely. Here they are mentioned, along with pastors, as the two functions/offices in the local church (cf. Phil. 1:1). The term "deacon" means "to raise dust," which is metaphorical for menial service. It became the general word of "ministry" in the NT (cf. 1:12; 4:6; II Tim. 1:18; 4:5,11). Deacons are servants, not managers!

▣ "likewise" The qualifications of church leaders are extended to a new group, as they are to "women" in v. 11.

▣ "must be men of dignity" See note at 2:2.

▣ "not double-tongued" This means saying different things to different groups to be accepted under false pretenses. This is a form of lying and falsehood.

NASB"not. . .addicted to much wine"
NKJV"not given to much wine"
NRSV"not indulging in much wine"
TEV"moderate in the amount of wine they drink"
NJB"they must not drink too much wine"

This is a compound of pros and echō, which means "to have in addition" or "to hold to." In this context maybe "to give oneself up to" (Harold K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 349). This phrase, like v. 3, does not refer to total abstinence, but to abuse. In some cultures, even in our day, Christians have no problem with this statement. In America alcohol abuse led to the temperance movement which overstated the biblical passages. If we, for whatever reason, intentionally overstate the biblical position, we become the standard, not the Bible. It is as problematic to add to the Bible (even with the purest motives and for sincere causes) as it is to take away from the Bible. Is the Bible the only source for faith and practice? If so, it must judge all cultures! See Special Topic at 3:3.

▣ "or fond of sordid gain" This refers to the business honesty of these bi-vocational church leaders. If money is priority (cf. 6:9-10) then Jesus cannot be! False teachers are often characterized in the NT as greedy and sexually exploitive. Remember, this entire context reflects the abuses of the heretics.

3:9 "but holding to the mystery of the faith" This mystery seems to refer to both Jew and Greek being included in the family of God (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13; Col. 1:26,27). The term "faith" has the definite article, which means it refers to the body of Christian doctrine.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD'S PLAN FOR REDEMPTION, "MYSTERY"

▣ "with a clear conscience" The term "conscience" seems to imply that these leaders' walk and talk coincide with the truths of the gospel. See fuller note at 1:5.

3:10 "These men must also first be tested" This is a present passive imperative. This is the Greek term dokimazō, which is used with the connotation of "to test with a view toward approval" (cf. Rom. 2:18; 12:2; 14:22; I Cor. 3:13; 16:3; II Cor. 8:22; I Thess. 2:4). It is contrasted with peirazō, which connotes "to test with a view toward destruction" (cf. I Cor. 2:5; 10:9,13; Gal. 6:1; Phil. 1:10; I Thess. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:9). See Special Topic: Greek Words for Testing and Their Connotations at 6:9.

▣ "then let them serve as deacons" This is a Present active imperative.

▣ "if" This is another first class conditional sentence like v. 5.

▣ "they are beyond reproach" See note at 3:2.

3:11 "Women must likewise be dignified" This does not refer to deacons' wives (cf. KJV and NIV), but to women in servant roles in the house churches. The Greek syntax distinguishes another group of church servants (i.e. "likewise" of v. 8). Deaconesses are mentioned in Rom. 16:1 (cf. Charles B. Williams' translation) and possibly Phil. 4:3. The qualifications for these female servants are similar to those for the male leaders. They were meant to be deacon-helpers in situations where a male deacon would simply be inappropriate (caring for sick women, helping prepare women before and after baptism, regular visits to older women, etc). From the writings of the Early church fathers we know that the office of deaconess developed very quickly and was used throughout the early centuries. The problem in our day is that we have made deacons an executive board which, because of other passages in Timothy, seem to rule out women. However, deacons are meant to be servants and, therefore, women have an appropriate role. Possibly the deaconesses were synonymous with the "widows' roll" (cf. 5:9ff), which were widows over sixty with no family who the early church hired for ministry. I think to reprint my exegetical notes from Rom. 16:1 here may be helpful:

NASB, NKJV"who is a servant of the church"
NRSV"a deacon of the church"
TEV"who serves the church"
NJB"a deaconess of the church"

This is the term diakonos. It is an accusative singular feminine form. It is the Greek term for minister/servant. It is used (1) of Christ in 15:8; Mark 10:45; (2) of Paul in Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23,25; and (3) of deacons in Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:11.

There is evidence in both the NT and early post-biblical church writings for the office of deaconess. Another example of women in local church ministry in the NT is "the widows' roll" of the Pastorals (cf. 1 Tim. 3:11; 5:3-16). The RSV, Amplified, and Phillips translations have "deaconess" in 16:1. The NASB and NIV have it in the footnotes. The NEB has "who holds office." All believers are called, gifted, full-time ministers (cf. Eph. 4:12). Some are called to leadership ministry roles. Our traditions must give way to Scripture! These early deacons and deaconesses were servants, not executive boards.

M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, vol. 2, pp. 752 and 1196, says that the Apostolical Constitutions, dating from the late second or early third century, makes a distinction between the duties and ordination of female church helpers.

1. deaconesses

2. widows (cf. 1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9-10)

3. virgins (cf. Acts 21:9 and possibly I Cor. 7:34)

These duties involved

1. caring for the sick 4. teaching new believers

2. caring for those physically persecuted 5. assisting in baptism of women

3. visiting those in prison for the faith 6. some overseeing of female church members

 

▣ "not malicious gossips" This is a perfect example of the problems caused by the false teachers (cf. 5:13-15; II Tim. 3:1-7). It is possible that this refers to conversations about the false teachers' teachings. The term translated "gossip" was often used of the devil (cf. John 6:70). It literally meant "slander" (NKJV, NRSV, NIV, cf. 1 Tim. 3:11; 2 Tim. 3:3; Titus 2:3), not gossip (NASB, TEV, NJB).

▣ "temperate" See note at 3:3.

▣ "faithful in all things" This again may be pointing toward the false teachers' use of women in the house churches. These leaders/servants must be faithful in the faith (no article in v. 13 also) and in their lifestyle choices.

3:12 Most modern translations make vv. 8-13 into one paragraph. Deacons start the discussion (cf. v. 8) and end the discussion (cf. v. 13), yet in v. 11 deaconesses are discussed. This is why some translations call them "deacon's wives." However, I think that deacon helpers, or deaconesses, may be more culturally appropriate. Women servants (i.e., "widows") are specifically mentioned in 5:9-10.

Verse 12 is very similar to the qualifications of the overseer or bishop (i.e. pastor) in vv. 2-5.

SPECIAL TOPIC: QUALIFICATIONS FOR FEMALE CHURCH WORKERS

3:13 "served" This is the verb form of "deacon." It is the general term in the NT for "minister/servant." The term "deacon" is not in this verse in Greek.

▣ "obtain for themselves a high standing" This does not necessarily refer to a higher leadership position (i.e. pastor), but possibly respect within their community which allows them to boldly share the gospel.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:14-16
 14I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 16By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

3:14-15 Paul plans to visit Timothy in Ephesus. The Spirit directed that he write so that God's will expressed in I Timothy might bless and direct His church throughout time.

These verses confirm the interpretive context of chapters 1-3 as relating to public worship (as do I Corinthians 11-14). I also think that these chapters are reactions to and qualifications based on the presence of the false teachers. This is not a neutral setting!

This same theological situation is seen in Leviticus. The book is not a collection of hygienic laws or customs so much as a reaction to Canaanite culture. Just as many of the specific laws were written to keep Canaanites and Israelites as far apart socially and religiously as possible, these passages separate the Pastoral Letters and the Jewish/Gnostic false teachers.

3:15 "in case I am delayed" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

▣ "in the household of God" Paul uses many powerful corporate metaphors to describe the church, such as "body," but the family/household is one of the most insightful (God as Father, Jesus as Son, believers as children).

▣ "church" Ekklesia is a compound Greek word from "out of" and "to call." This was used in Koine Greek to describe any kind of assembly, such as a town assembly (cf. Acts 19:32). The early Jewish Church chose this term because it was used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT, written as early as 250 b.c. for the library at Alexandria, Egypt. This term translated the Hebrew term qahal, which was used in the phrase "the assembly of Israel" (Exodus; Num. 20:4). The NT writers asserted that they were the "divinely called out ones" who were the People of God of their day. The early Jewish believers saw no radical break between the OT People of God and themselves, the NT People of God. Believers, therefore, assert that the Church of Jesus Christ, not modern rabbinical Judaism, is the true heir to the OT Scriptures. See Special Topic at 3:5.

▣ "of the living God" The OT asserts that there is one and only one God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at 2:5, cf. Exod. 8:10; 9:14; Deut. 4:35,39; 6:4; 32:39; I Sam. 2:2; Isa. 40:10-13; 44:6-8; 45:5-7). The adjective "living" comes from the covenant name (cf. 4:10) for God, YHWH, which is from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14; see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 2 Tim. 1:2).

▣ "the pillar and support of the truth" This may be an allusion to Isa. 28:16, God's foundation is Jesus the cornerstone, which is also alluded to in 2 Tim. 2:19. This is the third in a series of descriptive phrases linking God and the church.

1. "household of God" (v. 15)

2. "the church of the living God" (v. 15)

3. "the pillar and support of the truth" (v. 15)

The term truth (alētheia) is very common in Paul's writings (and John's). It usually refers to gospel content (cf. Rom. 1:18,25; 2:2,8; 3:7; 15:8; I Cor. 13:6; II Cor. 4:2; 6:7; 7:14; 13:8; Gal. 2:5,14; 5:7; Eph. 1:13; 4:21; 5:9; Phil. 1:18; Col. 1:5,6; II Thess. 2:10,12,13; 1 Tim. 3:15; 4:3; 6:5; 2 Tim. 2:15,18,25; 3:7,8; 4:4; Titus 1:1,14). See Special Topic: Truth in Paul's Writings at 2:4.

3:16

NASB"by common confession"
NKJV"without controversy"
NRSV, NJB"without any doubt"
TEV"no one can deny"

This is the Greek term usually used for one's profession or confession of faith (see SPECIAL TOPIC: CONFESSION at 6:12). It is a literary marker that the following lines are an early creedal affirmation.

▣ "great is the mystery of godliness" "Mystery" in Paul's writings often refers to the Gentile mission (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13), which may be a key to v. 16. See Special Topic at 3:9. For "godliness" see Special Topic at 4:7.

This introduces an early confessional statement or a Christian hymn. Another of these is found in 2 Tim. 2:11-13. The structural pattern might be

1. A B C D E F (revealed truths about Christ)

2. AB, BA, AB (contrast between earth and heaven or humiliation and exaltation)

3. ABC, ABC (revealed truths about Christ and His church)

Chiastic Patterns within the Bible are becoming more apparent to modern scholarship. The Companion Bible published by Kregel in 1990 and Kenneth E. Bailey's Poet and Peasant use this approach extensively.

Paul seems to quote one verse of an early hymn or possibly church liturgy. This verse emphasizes Jesus' humanity and His world-wide ministry. It does not contain Paul's three major theological emphases: (1) the cross; (2) the resurrection; and (3) the Second Coming. Paul quotes several sources in I, II Timothy and Titus which explain the unique vocabulary and distinct use of theological terms used differently in either Pauline writing.

NASB"He who was revealed in the flesh"
NKJV"God was manifested in the flesh"
NRSV"He was revealed in flesh"
TEV"He appeared in human form"
NJB"He was made visible in the flesh"

This speaks of the Incarnation (birth) of Jesus Christ at Bethlehem: His life, teachings, death, and resurrection, which fully reveal the Father (cf. John 1:14-18). There is also the strong inference of His pre-existence (cf. John 1:1-5; 8:57-58; II Cor. 8:4; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:17). This is the central truth of the Gospels about Jesus Christ, that He was fully God and fully human (cf. John 1:14; Phil. 2:6-8; Col. 1:14-16; I John 4:1-6).

There is a later Greek manuscript variant in which the relative pronoun hos (MSS א, A, C, F, G; UBS4 gives this an "A" rating [certain]) is changed to theos. This later change may have occurred

1. with the confusion over OC (the abbreviations in uncial Greek for who) read as H C (the abbreviation in uncial Greek for "God") or

2. as a purposeful theological change by later scribes (cf. MSS אc, Ac, C2, and D2) wanting to make the text more specific against the adoptionist heresies (cf. Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 77-78)

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: FLESH (sarx)

NASB"Was vindicated in the Spirit"
NKJV, NJB"Justified in the Spirit"
NRSV"vindicated in spirit"
TEV"was shown to be right by the Spirit"

This phrase has been understood in several ways.

1. Does it mean vindicated or justified (i.e., shown to be just)?

2. Does this mean that the Holy Spirit was active in Jesus' ministry (NASB)?] 

3. Does it mean that Jesus' spirit was affirmed by the Father (cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5) while Jesus lived as a human being (NRSV)?

Some theologians see "Spirit" as referring to Jesus' divinity, which was vindicated by His resurrection (cf. Rom. 1:4; I Pet. 3:18).

▣ "Seen by angels" The angels longed to know what God was doing with fallen mankind (cf. I Cor. 4:9; Eph. 2:7; 3:10; I Pet. 1:12). However, it may refer to the angels' ministering to Jesus, either at His temptation experience (cf. Matt. 4:11; Mark 1:13), in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:43, which is a questionable text), or immediately after the resurrection (cf. Luke 24:4,23; John 20:12).

This phrase is so short and ambiguous that several theories have been offered by commentators and all are merely speculation:

1. angels ministering to Jesus (above)

2. angels beholding His ascension (godly angels and/or fallen angels cf. I Pet 3:19-20,22)

3. angels beholding His exalted heavenly enthronement

 

▣ "Proclaimed among the nations" This is the worldwide preaching of the gospel (cf. Luke 24:46-47) which would have been extremely shocking to the Jews of the first century, but this is really the whole point (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). This is the mystery of godliness (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

NASB, NKJV"Believed on in the world"
NRSV, TEV,
NJB"believed in throughout the world"

Not only was it a universal message, but there was a universal response, and now the Church is made up of both Jew and Gentile (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13). This has always been God's plan. The one true God has fulfilled His promise of Gen. 3:15. Personal repentance and faith (see Special Topic at 1:16) in the gospel now, in this life, opens heaven for "whosoever" (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-13). See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Kosmos at 1:16.

▣ "Taken up in glory" This seems to refer to His ascension. It is surprising that Jesus' death, resurrection, and return are left out, but if this was a Christian hymn, quoted possibly only in part, then it is understandable. Also, exactly which rhythmic (chiastic) pattern is followed determines one's interpretation (cf. v. 16). This hymn/creed linked to the opening statement would powerfully refute Gnosticism. The man Jesus was glorified (cf. chiastic pattern #2)! However, following the NRSV the last three lines may refer to the Church (cf. chiastic pattern #3). For a fuller note on "glory" see 1:17.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ASCENSION

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How many types of ministers are there?

2. Why are pastors, bishops, and elders called different names in the NT?

3. Did the NT have deaconesses? If so, what was their function?

4. Why is verse 16 thought to be a Christian hymn about Christ?

5. What is a chiasm? Why is it important?