on 1-timothy 3 :1
This is a true saying - Πιστος ὁ λογος· This is a true doctrine. These words are joined to the last verse of the preceding chapter by several of the Greek fathers, and by them referred to the doctrine there stated.
The office of a bishop - Επισκοπης· The episcopacy, overseership or superintendency. The word ορεγεται, which we translate desire, signifies earnest, eager, passionate desire; and επιθυμει, which we translate desire, also signifies earnestly to desire or covet. 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, awl 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 that were to come, than for those which were then; and in reference to after ages the whole of what follows is chiefly to be understood.
A good work - A work it then was; heavy, incessant, and painful. There were no unpreaching 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.
on 1-timothy 3 :1
This is a trite saying - Greek, "Faithful is the word" - the very phrase which is used in 1 Timothy 1:15; see the notes on that verse. The idea here is, that it was worthy of credence; it was not to be doubted.
If a man desire - Implying that there would be those who would wish to be put into the ministry. The Lord, undoubtedly, by his Spirit, often excites an earnest and irrepressible desire to preach the gospel - a desire so strong, that he in whom it exists can be satisfied in no other calling. In such a case, it should be regarded as one evidence of a call to this work. The apostle, however, by the statements which follow, intimates that wherever this desire exists, it is of the utmost importance to have just views of the nature of the office, and that there should be other qualifications for the ministry than a mere desire to preach the gospel. He proceeds, therefore, to state those qualifications, and no one who "desires" the office of the ministry should conclude that he is called to it, unless these qualifications substantially are found in him. The word rendered "desire" here (ὀρέγω oregō), denotes properly, "to reach" or "stretch out" - and hence to reach after anything, to long after, to try to obtain; Hebrews 11:16.
The office of a bishop - The Greek here is a single word - ἐπισκοπῆς episkopēs. The word ἐπισκοπή episkopē - "Episcope" - whence the word "Episcopal" is derived - occurs but four times in the New Testament. It is translated "visitation" in Luke 19:44, and in 1 Peter 2:12; "bishoprick," Acts . Acts 1:20; and in this place "office of a bishop." The verb from which it is derived (ἐπισκοπέω episkopeō), occurs but twice, In Hebrews 12:15, it is rendered "looking diligently," and in 1 Peter 5:2, "taking the oversight." The noun rendered bishop occurs in Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25. The verb means, properly, to look upon, behold; to inspect, to look after, see to, take care of; and the noun denotes the office of overseeing, inspecting, or looking to. It is used to denote the care of the sick, Xeno. Oec. 15, 9; compare "Passow;" and is of so general a character that it may denote any office of overseeing, or attending to. There is nothing in the word itself which would limit it to any class or grade of the ministry, and it is, in fact, applied to nearly all the officers of the church in the New Testament, and, indeed, to Christians who did not sustain "any" office. Thus it is applied:
(a) to believers in general, directing them to "look diligently, lest anyone should fail of the grace of God," Hebrews 12:15;
(b) to the elders of the church at Ephesus, "over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers," Acts 20:28;
(c) to the elders or presbyters of the church in 1 Peter 5:2, "Feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof;
(d) to the officers of the church in Philippi, mentioned in connection with deacons as the only officers of the church there, "to the saints at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons," Philippians 1:1;
(e) to Judas, the apostate. Acts 1:20; and,
(f) to the great Head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:25, "the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."
From this use of the term it follows:
(1) That the word is never used to designate the "uniqueness" of the apostolic office, or so as to have any special applicability to the apostles. Indeed, the term "bishop" is "never" applied to any of them in the New Testament; nor is the word in any of its forms ever used with reference to them, except in the single case of "Judas," Acts 1:20.
(2) it is never employed in the New Testament to designate an order of men superior to presbyters, regarded as having any other functions than presbyters, or being in any sense "successors" to the apostles. It is so used now by the advocates of prelacy; but this is a use wholly unknown to the New Testament. It is so undeniable that the name is never given in the New Testament to those who are now called "bishops," that even Episcopalians concede it. Thus, Dr. Onderdonk (Tract on Episcopacy, p. 12) says, "All that we read in the New Testament concerning 'bishops' is to be regarded as pertaining to the 'middle grade;' that is, to those who are now regarded as 'priests.'" This is not strictly correct, as is clear from the remarks above respecting what is called the "middle grade;" but it is strictly correct, so far as it affirms that it is "never" applied to prelates.
(3) it is used in the New Testament to denote ministers of the gospel who had the care or oversight of the churches, without any regard to grade or rank.
(4) it has now, as used by Episcopalians, a sense which is wholly unauthorized by the New Testament, and which, indeed, is entirely at variance with the usage there. To apply the term to a pretended superior order of clergy, as designating their special office, is wholly to depart from the use of the word as it occurs in the Bible.
on 1-timothy 3 :1
3:1 He desireth a good work - An excellent, but laborious, employment.