The First to Timothy 3:1-16

3  This statement is trustworthy: If a man is reaching out to be an overseer,+ he is desirous of a fine work.  The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible,+ a husband of one wife, moderate in habits, sound in mind,+ orderly, hospitable,+ qualified to teach,+  not a drunkard,+ not violent, but reasonable,+ not quarrelsome,+ not a lover of money,+  a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having his children in subjection with all seriousness+  (for if any man does not know how to preside over* his own household, how will he care for the congregation of God?),  not a newly converted man,+ for fear that he might get puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed on the Devil.  Moreover, he should also have a fine testimony* from outsiders+ so that he does not fall into reproach* and a snare of the Devil.  Ministerial servants+ should likewise be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in a lot of wine, not greedy of dishonest gain,+  holding the sacred secret of the faith with a clean conscience.+ 10  Also, let these be tested as to fitness* first; then let them serve as ministers, as they are free from accusation.+ 11  Women should likewise be serious, not slanderous,+ moderate in habits, faithful in all things.+ 12  Let ministerial servants be husbands of one wife, presiding in a fine manner over their children and their own households. 13  For the men who minister in a fine manner are acquiring for themselves a fine standing and great freeness of speech in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 14  I am writing you these things, though I am hoping to come to you shortly, 15  but in case I am delayed, so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in God’s household,+ which is the congregation of the living God, a pillar and support of the truth. 16  Indeed, the sacred secret of this godly devotion is admittedly great: ‘He was made manifest in flesh,+ was declared righteous in spirit,+ appeared to angels,+ was preached about among nations,+ was believed upon in the world,+ was received up in glory.’+


Or “manage.”
Or “disgrace.”
Or “a good reputation.”
Or “tested as to whether they qualify.”

Study Notes

Not that we are the masters over your faith: Paul was confident that as faithful Christians, his brothers wanted to do what was right. It was their faith that made them steadfast, not Paul or any other human. The Greek verb rendered “are the masters over” (ky·ri·euʹo) can have the nuance of domineering others or being overbearing. In fact, Peter used a related term when he urged elders not to be “lording it over those who are God’s inheritance.” (1Pe 5:2, 3) Paul appreciated that any authority he had as an apostle did not give him license to exercise it in a domineering way. Furthermore, in stating we are fellow workers for your joy, Paul showed that he viewed himself and his companions, not as superiors, but as servants who were doing all they could to help the Corinthians worship Jehovah with rejoicing.

This statement is trustworthy: While some hold that the Greek phrase here used refers to what Paul mentioned earlier (1Ti 2:15), the expression “this statement” better describes what follows. Apparently, Paul is indicating that what he is going to say about reaching out to be an overseer is particularly important and worthy of attention.

is reaching out: The Greek verb used here literally means “is stretching out”; it suggests that a man has to exert himself vigorously to qualify as an overseer. In the following verses, Paul lists qualities that imperfect men can develop if they put forth earnest effort. (1Ti 3:2-10, 12, 13) Of course, not only appointed men but all Christians need these qualities.​—Compare Ro 12:3, 18; Php 4:5; 1Ti 3:11; Tit 2:3-5; Heb 13:5; 1Pe 2:12; 4:9.

to be an overseer: It is the responsibility of an overseer to watch over and protect fellow believers entrusted to his care. (See Glossary, “Overseer.”) So he should be a spiritually mature man, displaying the qualities Paul lists in the following verses. Although the Greek word Paul uses can be rendered “office of oversight” (Ac 1:20), it does not imply that an overseer has a position that elevates him above his brothers and sisters. Paul said to the Christians in Corinth: “Not that we are the masters over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy.”​—2Co 1:24 and study note; 1Pe 5:1-3.

a fine work: The work of an overseer is described as fine, that is, excellent or useful, but it is still work. One reference states: “The adjective [ka·losʹ, “fine”] expresses the excellence, the noun [erʹgon, “work”] the difficulty of the work.” So an overseer must be selfless, willing to make sacrifices and to work hard for the good of others.

Follow the course of hospitality: The Greek term for “to follow the course of” could literally be rendered “to hasten; to run.” Paul here uses the term to encourage Christians to do more than show hospitality when called on to do so. Rather, he urges them to pursue hospitality, to take the initiative to show this quality regularly. The Greek word for “hospitality,” phi·lo·xe·niʹa, literally means “love of (fondness for) strangers.” This would indicate that hospitality should be extended beyond one’s circle of close friends. Paul also uses this term at Heb 13:2, apparently alluding to accounts in Genesis chapters 18 and 19 about Abraham and Lot. When these men showed hospitality toward strangers, it resulted in their unknowingly entertaining angels. At Ge 18:1-8, Abraham is described as running and hurrying to take care of his guests. The related adjective phi·loʹxe·nos occurs three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures in other contexts where showing hospitality is encouraged.​—1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:8; 1Pe 4:9.

overseers: Paul here uses the plural form of the Greek word for “overseer” (e·piʹsko·pos) when referring to those taking the lead in the congregation in Philippi. (Compare Ac 20:28.) Elsewhere he mentions that a “body of elders” appointed Timothy to a special assignment. (1Ti 4:14) Since Paul does not single out any one individual in those congregations as the overseer, it is evident that there was more than one overseer. This provides insight into the way first-century congregations were arranged. The terms “overseers” and “elders” are used interchangeably in the Christian Greek Scriptures, showing that they refer to the same position. (Ac 20:17, 28; Tit 1:5, 7; compare 1Pe 5:1, 2.) The number of those serving as overseers in a congregation depended on how many men were qualified to serve as “elders,” or spiritually mature men, in that congregation.​—Ac 14:23; see study notes on Ac 20:17, 28.

overseers: The Greek word for overseer, e·piʹsko·pos, is related to the verb e·pi·sko·peʹo, meaning “carefully watch” (Heb 12:15), and to the noun e·pi·sko·peʹ, meaning “inspection” (Lu 19:44, Kingdom Interlinear; 1Pe 2:12), “to be an overseer” (1Ti 3:1), or “office of oversight” (Ac 1:20). Therefore, the overseer was one who visited, inspected, and directed members of the congregation. Protective supervision is a basic idea inherent in the Greek term. Overseers in the Christian congregation have the responsibility to care for spiritual concerns of their fellow believers. Paul here used the term “overseers” when speaking to the “elders” from the congregation in Ephesus. (Ac 20:17) And in his letter to Titus, he uses the term “overseer” when describing the qualifications for “elders” in the Christian congregation. (Tit 1:5, 7) The terms, therefore, refer to the same position, pre·sbyʹte·ros indicating the mature qualities of the one so appointed and e·piʹsko·pos indicating the duties inherent in the appointment. This account about Paul meeting with the elders from Ephesus clearly shows that there were several overseers in that congregation. There was no set number of overseers for any one congregation, but the number serving depended on the number of those qualifying as “elders,” or spiritually mature men, in that congregation. Likewise, in writing to the Philippian Christians, Paul referred to the “overseers” there (Php 1:1), indicating that they served as a body, overseeing the affairs of that congregation.​—See study note on Ac 1:20.

holding firmly to the faithful word: An elder would adhere to God’s word by the way he teaches and by the way he lives. When teaching before the congregation, he relies, not on his own ideas, experience, or abilities as a speaker, but on “the faithful word,” or “the trustworthy message,” contained in the Scriptures. (1Co 4:6 and study note) In this way, he reaches hearts and motivates his listeners to love and serve Jehovah. (Heb 4:12) Further, by living according to the Scriptural principles he teaches, he avoids any taint of hypocrisy. An elder who holds to this standard helps the congregation remain unified and serves as “a pillar and support of the truth.”​—See study notes on 1Ti 3:2, 15.

encourage: Or “exhort.”​—See study note on Ro 12:8.

teaching them: The Greek word rendered “to teach” involves instruction, explanation, showing things by argument, and offering proofs. (See study notes on Mt 3:1; 4:23.) Teaching them to observe all the things that Jesus had commanded would be an ongoing process, which would include teaching what he taught, applying his teaching, and following his example.​—Joh 13:17; Eph 4:21; 1Pe 2:21.

The overseer: Paul here uses the singular form of the Greek term for “overseer” (along with the definite article), but he does not mean that each congregation should have only one overseer. The congregation in Philippi, for example, had more than one overseer. When Paul wrote to the Christians there, he addressed the letter to the congregation “along with overseers and ministerial servants.”​—See study note on Php 1:1; see also study note on Ac 20:28.

irreprehensible: The Greek word used here could also be rendered “above reproach” or “above criticism.” This does not mean that an overseer must be perfect, but no one should be able to make a valid accusation against him. His conduct, his dealings with people, and his way of life should be above reproach. He must be a man of the highest moral standards. (2Co 6:3, 4; Tit 1:6, 7) Some scholars suggest that all the qualifications for Christian men who are appointed as overseers could be summed up in this one word.

a husband of one wife: Jesus had earlier restored Jehovah’s original standard of monogamy. (Mt 19:4-6) Therefore, a Christian overseer could not be a polygamist, even though polygamy was permitted by the Mosaic Law and was common among non-Christians. Divorce and remarriage were also common, even among Jews. However, Jesus taught that without Scriptural grounds, a Christian could not divorce his wife and marry another. (Mt 5:32; 19:9) While these standards applied to all Christians, overseers and ministerial servants were to set the example. (1Ti 3:12) Further, a married overseer had to be faithful to his wife, not guilty of sexual misconduct.​—Heb 13:4.

moderate in habits: According to one lexicon, the Greek word used here literally means “sober, temperate; abstaining from wine, either entirely . . . or at least from its immoderate use.” However, the word came to be used in a broader sense to describe a person who is well-balanced, controlled, or levelheaded. This verse shows that a Christian overseer must be moderate in all areas of life. In the next verse, Paul makes a more direct reference to the misuse of alcoholic beverages.​—1Ti 3:3.

sound in mind: Or “have good judgment; be sensible.” According to one lexicon, the Greek words rendered “sound in mind” and “soundness of mind” refer to being “prudent, thoughtful, self-controlled.” A person who is sound in mind would show balance and avoid judging matters hastily.

orderly: Lit., “arranged.” An overseer should have a decent, well-arranged pattern of life. The Greek word can also denote good behavior. Thus, a man would not qualify as an overseer if he was unruly or disorderly.​—1Th 5:14; 2Th 3:6-12; Tit 1:10.

hospitable: All Christians need to be hospitable. (Heb 13:1, 2; 1Pe 4:9) However, a brother who is appointed as an overseer should be exemplary in this regard. (Tit 1:8) The Greek term for “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers.” (See study note on Ro 12:13.) Some lexicons define the related adjective here rendered “hospitable” as “having regard for the stranger or visitor” and “generous to guests.” One reference work describes the spirit shown by a hospitable man as follows: “The door of his house​—and of his heart​—must be open to strangers.” So hospitality should be extended not only to his circle of close friends but also to others. For example, Christians are encouraged to show hospitality to the poor or to the traveling representatives of the congregations.​—Jas 2:14-16; 3Jo 5-8.

qualified to teach: An overseer should be a skillful teacher, able to convey Scriptural truths and moral principles to his fellow believers. In his letter to Titus, Paul says that an overseer needs to hold “firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching” in order to encourage, exhort, and reprove. (Tit 1:5, 7, 9 and study notes) Paul also uses the expression “qualified to teach” in his second letter to Timothy. There he says that “a slave of the Lord” needs to show self-control and instruct “with mildness those not favorably disposed.” (2Ti 2:24, 25) So an overseer should be able to reason convincingly from the Scriptures, to give sound counsel, and to reach the hearts of his listeners. (See study note on Mt 28:20.) He needs to be a diligent student of God’s Word in order to teach others who themselves are students of the Bible.

not to be quarrelsome: Lit., “not disposed to fight.” Paul wanted Christians to avoid being contentious in their dealings with others, including those in positions of secular authority. (Tit 3:1) Some lexicons define the Greek word used here as “peaceable.” The same expression appears in the list of qualifications for elders.​—1Ti 3:3.

abusive speech: Paul here uses the Greek word bla·sphe·miʹa, which is often rendered “blasphemy” when it refers to speech that is disrespectful to God. (Re 13:6) Originally, however, its meaning was not restricted to insults directed at God. The term can also denote evil or slanderous speech against fellow humans, and the context suggests that Paul uses it in that sense here. (See also Eph 4:31.) Other translations of this verse use such expressions as “slander,” “defamation,” and “insults.” One reference work says of this word: “It indicates the attempt to belittle and cause someone to fall into disrepute or to receive a bad reputation.”

reasonableness: The Greek word rendered “reasonableness” is broad in meaning, conveying the idea of being yielding, courteous, or tolerant. This quality involves, not insisting on carrying out the letter of the law or demanding one’s rights, but being willing to adapt to existing circumstances. A reasonable person strives to be considerate and gentle. This quality of a Christian should become known to all men, that is, also to those outside the Christian congregation. One Bible translation renders the first part of the verse: “Have a reputation for being reasonable.” While all Christians strive to be reasonable, it is specifically required of the overseers in the congregation.​—1Ti 3:3; Tit 3:2; Jas 3:17; see study note on 2Co 10:1.

kindness of the Christ: Paul was not harsh when writing to the Christians in Corinth about some of their shortcomings. Instead, he appealed to them in a mild, kind, Christlike manner. The Greek word here translated “kindness” literally means “yieldingness,” and it could also be translated “reasonableness.” This quality is an outstanding characteristic of Christ Jesus. When here on earth, Jesus perfectly reflected his Father’s supreme example of reasonableness. (Joh 14:9) Similarly, although the Corinthians needed strong counsel, Paul tried to appeal to them kindly rather than simply issue commands.

not violent: Or “not a smiter.” The Greek word here rendered “violent” can literally refer to one who strikes another with physical blows. However, the meaning can be broader; the word is also defined as “a bully.” A person may bully others by using cruel or vicious words that can be as painful as a physical beating. (See study note on Col 3:8.) Paul taught that Christians should be gentle and mild, even when they face challenging situations. That inspired standard would especially apply to elders.​—Compare 2Ti 2:24, 25.

reasonable: The Greek word Paul uses here is broad in meaning and can also convey the idea of being gentle, courteous, or tolerant. (See study note on Php 4:5.) Its literal meaning is “yielding.” In using this word, however, Paul is not saying that an overseer would yield to or tolerate wrong or that he would compromise divine standards. Rather, Paul is saying that in matters of personal preference, an overseer would be willing to yield to the views of others. He does not rigidly insist on his own rights or on doing things the way he has always done them. Instead, when it comes to personal views, he respects the preferences of others and he readily adapts to changing circumstances. An overseer is firm in upholding Bible laws and principles, but he seeks to apply those standards in a kind, balanced way. Reasonableness is an aspect of divine wisdom and a hallmark of Jesus Christ’s personality. (Jas 3:17; see study note on 2Co 10:1.) It is also a quality for which all Christians should be known.​—Tit 3:1, 2.

not quarrelsome: See study note on Tit 3:2.

not a lover of money: A person who is focused on acquiring material possessions cannot at the same time give proper attention to shepherding “the flock of God.” (1Pe 5:2) With his sights fixed on the material things of this world, he cannot effectively help God’s people reach out for everlasting life in “the coming system of things.” (Lu 18:30) And he cannot convincingly teach others “to place their hope . . . on God” when he himself is relying on “uncertain riches.” (1Ti 6:17) Therefore, “a lover of money” would not qualify to serve as an overseer. This qualification for overseers is in agreement with inspired counsel given to all Christians.​—Mt 6:24; 1Ti 6:10; Heb 13:5.

the one who presides: Or “the one who takes the lead.” The Greek word pro·iʹste·mi literally means “to stand before (in front of)” in the sense of leading, conducting, directing, showing an interest in, and caring for others.

care for: The Greek word used here is also used by the Gospel writer Luke in the illustration of the neighborly Samaritan who “took care of” a man who had fallen victim to robbers. (Lu 10:34, 35) An overseer should likewise tenderly “care for” the needs of those in the congregation.

presiding over: Or “managing.”​—See study note on Ro 12:8.

presiding over his own household in a fine manner: The meaning of the phrase “presiding over,” or “managing,” is clarified by verse 5. There Paul likens the way a husband is to preside over his family to the way an overseer is to “care for the congregation of God.” (1Ti 3:5) According to one reference work, the verb rendered “care for” in that verse “implies both leadership (guidance) and caring concern.” So the context shows that a husband and father is to be, not a harsh ruler or a dictator, but a man who lovingly cares for his family.​—See study note on 1Ti 3:5.

having his children in subjection with all seriousness: The phrase “with all seriousness” seems to refer to “his children” and not, as some suggest, to the father. Christian children can be “in subjection with all seriousness” by being obedient, respectful, and well-behaved. They act in a way that is appropriate to their age and circumstances. The Bible shows that it is natural for children to laugh and to play. (Lu 7:32; compare Ec 3:4; Isa 11:8.) At 1Co 13:11, Paul acknowledges that when he was a child, he spoke, thought, and reasoned “as a child.” So he is not suggesting that children should be expected to reason or behave as if they were adults.

care for: The Greek word used here is also used by the Gospel writer Luke in the illustration of the neighborly Samaritan who “took care of” a man who had fallen victim to robbers. (Lu 10:34, 35) An overseer should likewise tenderly “care for” the needs of those in the congregation.

a newly converted man: Paul uses a Greek word that literally means “newly planted.” In a figurative sense, this expression refers to someone who has recently become a Christian. (Compare 1Co 3:6-8, where Paul likens the disciple-making work to planting.) Here Paul makes it clear that a man who is appointed as an overseer must be a mature Christian, not one who recently became a believer.

puffed up with pride: See study note on 2Ti 3:4.

and fall into the judgment passed on the Devil: Paul cites the warning example of the perfect spirit creature who became Satan the Devil. Instead of fulfilling the assignment God gave him, the Devil got “puffed up with pride.” His pride and selfish ambition led to his downfall and judgment. Paul thus shows that before a man can be entrusted with authority as an overseer in the Christian congregation, he needs time to demonstrate that he is truly humble. A humble man follows the pattern of Jesus, who was never ambitious for more authority.​—Php 2:5-8; Heb 5:8-10.

puffed up with pride: The Greek verb used here (ty·phoʹo·mai) is related to the word for “smoke.” It could be used of one who was enveloped in and even blinded by smoke. This term occurs three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, always in a figurative sense and apparently describing one who is blinded by pride. (1Ti 3:6; 6:4; 2Ti 3:4) Some translations render it “conceited” or “swollen with self-importance.” One reference work says that the word describes people “who are full of themselves.” Jewish writer Josephus used the term to describe some Greek authors who looked down on the Jews and slandered them.

fall into reproach and a snare of the Devil: A Christian man who is appointed to be an overseer needs to have “a fine testimony” from people outside the congregation. If he were to be appointed despite having a bad reputation, he would bring reproach on himself, on the congregation, and especially on Jehovah. Also, he would be in danger of falling into one of the snares of the Devil, such as pride or ambition, which might lead him to disobey God. (1Ti 3:6; 2Ti 2:26) Paul’s wording also allows for the idea that “reproach” is part of the “snare” set by the Devil. Satan would delight to see the Christian congregation reproached because of the bad reputation of an overseer.

Ministerial servants: Or “Assistants.” A rendering of the Greek word di·aʹko·nos, which is often translated “minister” or “servant.” In this context, it refers to those who were appointed to be servants in the congregation and assistants to the body of elders. It appears that they helped with many practical matters related to the smooth functioning of the congregation. Such assistance freed the elders to focus on teaching and shepherding.​—See Glossary, “Ministerial servant”; study note on Php 1:1; see also study note on Mt 20:26.

serious: The Greek word rendered “serious” at 1Ti 3:8, 11, and Tit 2:2 could also be rendered “worthy of respect,” “dignified,” or “honorable.” In order to qualify as a ministerial servant, a man should conduct himself in a dignified manner that would win respect. He should be reliable and dependable, taking his duties seriously.

double-tongued: Or “deceitful in speech.” Lit., “double-talking.” The expression Paul here uses conveys the idea of being insincere. A man appointed to be a ministerial servant or an overseer must not be hypocritical, perhaps flattering others or misleading them for his own benefit. Also, he must not be deceptive, saying one thing to one person and the opposite to another. (Pr 3:32; Jas 3:17) Rather, he must be truthful and straightforward, a man whose word can be trusted.

greedy of dishonest gain: This expression (also found at Tit 1:7) basically refers to someone who, according to one lexicon, is “shamefully greedy for material gain or profit.” (Compare 1Ti 3:3; 1Pe 5:2.) Lovers of money put their relationship with Jehovah at risk, and greedy people will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (1Co 6:9, 10; 1Ti 6:9, 10) For good reason, such men do not qualify to be overseers or ministerial servants. They would likely take advantage of fellow Christians. For instance, appointed men might be entrusted with handling congregation funds and distributing them to the needy. Any who were “greedy of dishonest gain” would be tempted to steal some of the money, not only harming the congregation but also offending Jehovah.​—Joh 12:4-6.

ministerial servants: Or “assistants.” The Greek word di·aʹko·nos, literally meaning “servant,” is here used in an official sense, referring to appointed “ministerial servants” in the Christian congregation. It is used in a similar sense at 1Ti 3:8, 12. Paul’s use of the term in the plural indicates that the congregation had a number of such servants assisting the overseers with various assignments. Instead of the terms “overseers and ministerial servants” in this verse, some Bibles use such titles as “bishops and deacons,” which Christendom uses to give the impression that there was a hierarchy among first-century Christians. However, renderings that clearly convey the intended meaning of these terms show that positions of responsibility in the Christian congregation do not elevate one above another. The rendering “ministerial servants” highlights the service that these hardworking men render in behalf of the congregation.

minister: Or “servant.” The Bible often uses the Greek word di·aʹko·nos to refer to one who does not let up in humbly rendering service in behalf of others. The term is used to describe Christ (Ro 15:8), ministers or servants of Christ (1Co 3:5-7; Col 1:23), ministerial servants (Php 1:1; 1Ti 3:8), as well as household servants (Joh 2:5, 9) and government officials (Ro 13:4).

the sacred secret of the faith: This phrase apparently refers to truths about the Christian faith. These truths had been secrets, or they had been unknown, until God revealed them to followers of his Son. So a ministerial servant had to do more than assist the elders in practical ways. He also had to be a firm and loyal supporter of revealed truth, eager and able to defend this body of beliefs.

a clean conscience: See study note on Ro 2:15.

conscience: The Greek word sy·neiʹde·sis is drawn from the words syn (with) and eiʹde·sis (knowledge). Thus, the Greek term literally means “coknowledge” or “knowledge with oneself.” Here Paul explains that even a human who knows nothing about God’s laws has a conscience, that is, a capacity for looking at himself and rendering judgment about his own behavior. However, only a conscience that is trained by God’s Word and that is sensitive to God’s will can correctly judge matters. The Scriptures show that not all consciences operate properly. A person can have a conscience that is weak (1Co 8:12), one that is seared (1Ti 4:2), or one that is defiled (Tit 1:15). Regarding the operation of his conscience, Paul says: “My conscience bears witness with me in holy spirit.” (Ro 9:1) Paul’s goal was to “maintain a clear conscience before God and men.”​—Ac 24:16.

Women should likewise: When Paul outlines the qualifications for appointed men, he also lists similar qualities for Christian women. The Greek word here used can mean either women or wives. (1Ti 3:2, 12) So the counsel that follows would apply to all Christian women, especially the wives of those entrusted with responsibility in the congregation.

a husband of one wife: Jesus had earlier restored Jehovah’s original standard of monogamy. (Mt 19:4-6) Therefore, a Christian overseer could not be a polygamist, even though polygamy was permitted by the Mosaic Law and was common among non-Christians. Divorce and remarriage were also common, even among Jews. However, Jesus taught that without Scriptural grounds, a Christian could not divorce his wife and marry another. (Mt 5:32; 19:9) While these standards applied to all Christians, overseers and ministerial servants were to set the example. (1Ti 3:12) Further, a married overseer had to be faithful to his wife, not guilty of sexual misconduct.​—Heb 13:4.

presiding over his own household in a fine manner: The meaning of the phrase “presiding over,” or “managing,” is clarified by verse 5. There Paul likens the way a husband is to preside over his family to the way an overseer is to “care for the congregation of God.” (1Ti 3:5) According to one reference work, the verb rendered “care for” in that verse “implies both leadership (guidance) and caring concern.” So the context shows that a husband and father is to be, not a harsh ruler or a dictator, but a man who lovingly cares for his family.​—See study note on 1Ti 3:5.

husbands of one wife: See study note on 1Ti 3:2.

presiding in a fine manner: See study note on 1Ti 3:4.

freeness of speech: Or “outspokenness; boldness.” The Greek word par·re·siʹa has the basic meaning “boldness in speech.” In effect, Paul is here telling the Corinthians: “I am able to speak to you with great openness (frankness).”​—See study note on Ac 28:31.

great freeness of speech: See study note on 2Co 7:4.

pillars: Just as a literal pillar provides support to a structure, so the men here described as figurative pillars were a source of support and strength to the congregation. The same word is used to call the Christian congregation “a pillar and support of the truth” (1Ti 3:15) and to describe the fiery legs of an angel (Re 10:1-3). James, Cephas, and John were known to be like pillars​—solidly fixed, spiritually strong, and reliable in their support of the congregation.

those related to us in the faith: Or “those who belong to the household (family) of faith.” The Greek word rendered “those related to” refers to members of a literal family, or household. (1Ti 5:8) In the Greco-Roman world, a household could designate a close-knit group of people who shared the same beliefs, ideas, or purposes. This well describes the first-century congregations that usually met in private homes (Ro 16:3-5) and whose members felt a close spiritual kinship with one another.​—Eph 2:19.

members of the household of God: Paul uses the expression “members of the household” to illustrate how the anointed members of the Christian congregation were organized as a close family unit. (1Ti 3:15) In a godly household, members of the family show respect for the family head as well as for the arrangements and standards that he sets for the household. Similarly, the members of the first-century congregations felt a close spiritual kinship with one another and respected Jehovah’s arrangements regarding the congregation.​—See study note on Ga 6:10.

God’s household: Paul calls the entire congregation of anointed Christians “God’s household.” This word picture is used several times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (See study notes on Ga 6:10; Eph 2:19.) It conveys the idea that Christians are organized as a close family unit and enjoy a pleasant familylike atmosphere.

the living God: This descriptive phrase was often used in the Hebrew Scriptures. (De 5:26; 1Sa 17:26, 36; Isa 37:4, 17) In this context, it contrasts Jehovah, “the living God,” with the lifeless idols worshipped by pagans in Ephesus and elsewhere. Paul may also have used this phrase to remind Christians of the superiority of their worship.

a pillar and support of the truth: Paul uses two architectural terms in a figurative way to describe the Christian congregation. Pillars were sturdy structural features of many large buildings in Paul’s day; they often served to hold up a heavy roof. Paul may have had in mind the temple in Jerusalem or some impressive buildings in Ephesus, where Timothy was then residing. (Paul also used the term “pillars” at Ga 2:9. See study note.) Here at 1Ti 3:15, Paul describes the entire Christian congregation as a figurative pillar that upholds the truth. The Greek word for “support” means “that which provides a firm base for something.” The word may also be rendered “foundation,” “buttress,” or “bulwark.” Paul uses the two words in combination to emphasize that the congregation was to uphold and support the sacred truths of God’s Word. In particular, those entrusted with oversight in the congregation had to be “handling the word of the truth aright.” (2Ti 2:15) Paul saw the matter as urgent; he wanted Timothy to do all that he could to strengthen the congregation before the great apostasy took hold.

the sacred secret of this godly devotion: This is the only place in the Scriptures where these two expressions, “sacred secret” and “godly devotion,” occur together. (See study notes on Mt 13:11; 1Ti 4:7.) Paul here focuses on this sacred secret: Could any human live a life of perfect godly devotion? When Adam selfishly rebelled against Jehovah in Eden, he failed in that regard. So the question was full of meaning for his descendants. For some 4,000 years, the answer was a mystery, or a secret. No imperfect descendant of Adam and Eve could keep perfect integrity. (Ps 51:5; Ec 7:20; Ro 3:23) But Jesus, a perfect man like Adam, showed godly devotion in every thought, word, and action, even under the most severe tests. (Heb 4:15; see study note on 1Co 15:45.) His personal attachment to Jehovah was based on unselfish and heartfelt love. By setting a perfect example of godly devotion, Jesus provided the answer to this sacred secret for all time.

godly devotion: For a discussion of the expression “godly devotion,” see study note on 1Ti 4:7; see also study note on 1Ti 2:2.

‘He . . . in glory’: The phrases within the single quotes may have been taken from a well-known saying or possibly from a song sung by the first-century Christians. (Compare study note on Eph 5:19.) Scholars base this conclusion on the structure, the sentence rhythm, and the parallelism of the original Greek text.

was made manifest in flesh: This phrase applies to Jesus, apparently from the time of his baptism in the Jordan River. (See study note on Mt 3:17.) At that moment, Jesus of Nazareth became Jehovah’s Anointed One, or Messiah. Though his origin was in heaven, Jesus was a perfect flesh-and-blood human and often referred to himself as “the Son of man.”​—Mt 8:20; see Glossary, “Son of man.”

was declared righteous in spirit: This phrase refers to the time when Jehovah resurrected his Son from the dead to life as a spirit. (1Pe 3:18) Upon resurrecting Jesus, Jehovah granted him immortal life. (Ro 6:9; 1Ti 6:16) God thus confirmed that Jesus had proved righteous in every way.​—See study note on Ro 1:4.

appeared to angels: After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to unfaithful angels, or demons, and pronounced God’s judgment on them. (1Pe 3:18-20) These angels, the ones who rebelled in Noah’s day, are now in figurative bonds. They exist in deep spiritual darkness, and they are apparently restrained from materializing in human form.​—2Pe 2:4; Jude 6.

was preached about among nations: After Pentecost 33 C.E., Christians began preaching to circumcised Jews and proselytes, including those who had been living among the Gentile nations. (Ac 2:5-11) Later, the message was spread among the Samaritans. (Ac 8:5-17, 25) Then, in 36 C.E., Peter witnessed to Cornelius and other uncircumcised Gentiles who had assembled in the home of Cornelius. (Ac 10:24, 34-43) Paul, Timothy, and other missionaries later declared the good news in Asia Minor and Europe. (Ac 16:10-12) About 60-61 C.E., Paul could write that the Christian message had been “preached in all creation under heaven.”​—Col 1:23 and study note; see also Ac 17:6; Ro 1:8, 24, 28; Col 1:6; App. B13; and Media Gallery, “Pentecost 33 C.E. and the Spreading of the Good News.”

was believed upon in the world: The first-century Christians spread the good news about Jesus “to the ends of the earth.” (Ac 1:8 and study note) As a result, people in various parts of the world became believers. For example, in the book of Acts, we read of new believers in Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, and Iconium (Ac 13:48; 14:21, 23), Philippi (Ac 16:12, 33, 34), Thessalonica (Ac 17:1, 4), Beroea (Ac 17:10-12), Athens (Ac 17:16, 34), and Ephesus (Ac 19:17-20).

was received up in glory: Here Paul refers to Jesus’ ascension to heaven. (Ac 1:9, 10) Jehovah placed Jesus at His right hand, giving him more glory than any other creature in the universe.​—Mt 28:18; Joh 17:5; Php 2:9; Heb 1:3, 4.

to the most distant part of the earth: Or “to the ends (extremity) of the earth.” The same Greek expression is used at Ac 13:47 in a prophecy quoted from Isa 49:6, where the Greek Septuagint also uses the term. Jesus’ statement at Ac 1:8 may echo that prophecy, which foretold that Jehovah’s servant would be “a light of nations” so that salvation would reach “the ends of the earth.” This harmonizes with Jesus’ previous statement that his followers would perform “works greater” than his. (See study note on Joh 14:12.) The statement is also in line with Jesus’ description of the worldwide scope of the Christian preaching work.​—See study notes on Mt 24:14; 26:13; 28:19.

was preached in all creation under heaven: Paul is not indicating that the good news had literally reached every land around the globe. Rather, he is describing in broad terms how far the good news had spread. (Ro 1:8; Col 1:6) By the time Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, the Kingdom message was widely known throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. In fact, nearly 30 years before that time, Jews and proselytes who embraced Christianity at Pentecost 33 C.E. carried the message at least as far as Parthia, Elam, Media, Mesopotamia, Arabia, Asia Minor, the parts of Libya toward Cyrene, and Rome​—encompassing the world known to Paul’s readers. (Ac 2:1, 8-11, 41, 42) However, Paul’s own words in Romans chapter 15 show that his statement was not meant to be taken literally. There he stated that the good news had not yet been preached in the then “untouched territory” of Spain.​—Ro 15:20, 23, 24.

declared: Or “demonstrated to be; established as.” Here Paul says that Jesus was declared God’s Son by means of resurrection from the dead. At Ac 13:33, Paul explained that Jesus’ resurrection fulfilled what is written at Ps 2:7. That verse was also fulfilled at Jesus’ baptism when his Father declared: “This is my Son.”​—See study note on Mt 3:17.

This is my Son: As a spirit creature, Jesus was God’s Son. (Joh 3:16) From the time of his birth as a human, Jesus was a “son of God,” just as perfect Adam had been. (Lu 1:35; 3:38) However, it seems reasonable that God’s words here go beyond a mere statement of Jesus’ identity. By this declaration accompanied by the outpouring of holy spirit, God evidently indicated that the man Jesus was His spirit-begotten Son, “born again” with the hope of returning to life in heaven and anointed by spirit to be God’s appointed King and High Priest.​—Joh 3:3-6; 6:51; compare Lu 1:31-33; Heb 2:17; 5:1, 4-10; 7:1-3.

psalms, praises to God, and spiritual songs: First-century Christians continued to use the inspired psalms in praising Jehovah. The Greek word for “psalm” (psal·mosʹ), also used at Lu 20:42; 24:44; and Ac 13:33, refers to Hebrew Scripture Psalms. Additionally, there appear to have been Christian compositions​—“praises to God,” or hymns, and “spiritual songs,” that is, songs with spiritual lyrics. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul mentions that Christians teach and encourage one another by means of “psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs.”​—Col 3:16.

godly devotion: The Greek term used here (eu·seʹbei·a) refers to reverence and deep respect for God. (For a discussion of the Greek expression rendered “godly devotion,” see study note on 1Ti 4:7.) The same Greek word is sometimes used in the Septuagint. For example, it occurs at Isa 11:2 and 33:6, where the Hebrew text uses “the fear of Jehovah,” an expression that likewise refers to deep respect for Jehovah God. When 1Ti 2:2 was translated into Syriac (the Peshitta) in the fifth century C.E., this Greek term was rendered “reverence for God,” explicitly including the word for “God.” Similarly, some later translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew have rendered eu·seʹbei·a “fear of Jehovah” in this verse and others where it appears. (1Ti 3:16; 4:7, 8; 6:3, 6, 11) However, the New World Bible Translation Committee decided that there was not sufficient support for using the divine name in the main text of this verse.​—See App. C, where the reasons for restoring the divine name in other verses are discussed; compare study note on Ro 10:12.

godly devotion: The Greek word (eu·seʹbei·a) conveys the idea of profound reverence and awe for God that a Christian expresses by serving God loyally and obeying him fully. The word is broad in meaning; it also suggests the kind of loyal love for or personal attachment to God that moves a person to seek to do what pleases Him. One lexicon thus summarizes the overall idea as “to live as God would have us live.” Paul also shows that godly devotion is not an inborn trait. Thus, he urges Timothy to work hard, training as an athlete would, to strengthen this quality in himself. Earlier in the letter, Paul reminded Timothy that Jesus Christ set the greatest example of godly devotion.​—See study note on 1Ti 3:16.

The first man Adam . . . The last Adam: In the first part of the verse, Paul quotes from Ge 2:7 (“the man became a living person”), but he adds the words “first” and “Adam.” In the second part of the verse, he calls Jesus “the last Adam.” Then at 1Co 15:47, Paul calls Adam “the first man [or, “human”]” and Jesus “the second man [or, “human”].” The first Adam disobeyed his Father and Life-Giver; the last Adam showed complete obedience to Him. The first Adam spread sin to his offspring; the last Adam gave his human life as a sin-atoning sacrifice. (Ro 5:12, 18, 19) Jehovah then restored Jesus to life as a spirit. (1Pe 3:18) Like Adam, Jesus was a perfect man, so in harmony with His own justice, Jehovah could accept Jesus’ sacrifice as “a corresponding ransom” to buy back Adam’s descendants. This ransom sacrifice would restore to humans the life prospects that the first Adam had forfeited. (1Ti 2:5, 6) Thus, Jesus could rightfully be called “the last Adam,” a term that indicates that there will be no need for another Adam after him.​—Compare study notes on Lu 3:38; Ro 5:14.

godly devotion: The Greek word (eu·seʹbei·a) conveys the idea of profound reverence and awe for God that a Christian expresses by serving God loyally and obeying him fully. The word is broad in meaning; it also suggests the kind of loyal love for or personal attachment to God that moves a person to seek to do what pleases Him. One lexicon thus summarizes the overall idea as “to live as God would have us live.” Paul also shows that godly devotion is not an inborn trait. Thus, he urges Timothy to work hard, training as an athlete would, to strengthen this quality in himself. Earlier in the letter, Paul reminded Timothy that Jesus Christ set the greatest example of godly devotion.​—See study note on 1Ti 3:16.

sacred secrets: The Greek word my·steʹri·on is rendered “sacred secret” 25 times in the New World Translation. Here used in the plural, this expression refers to aspects of God’s purpose that are withheld until God chooses to make them known. Then they are fully revealed but only to those to whom he chooses to give understanding. (Col 1:25, 26) Once revealed, the sacred secrets of God are given the widest possible proclamation. This is evident by the Bible’s use of such terms as “declaring,” “making known,” “preach,” “revealed,” and “revelation” in connection with the expression “the sacred secret.” (1Co 2:1; Eph 1:9; 3:3; Col 1:25, 26; 4:3) The primary “sacred secret of God” centers on the identification of Jesus Christ as the promised “offspring,” or Messiah. (Col 2:2; Ge 3:15) However, this sacred secret has many facets, including the role Jesus is assigned to play in God’s purpose. (Col 4:3) As Jesus showed on this occasion, “the sacred secrets” are connected with the Kingdom of the heavens, or “the Kingdom of God,” the heavenly government in which Jesus rules as King. (Mr 4:11; Lu 8:10; see study note on Mt 3:2.) The Christian Greek Scriptures use the term my·steʹri·on in a way different from that of the ancient mystery religions. Those religions, often based on fertility cults that flourished in the first century C.E., promised that devotees would receive immortality, direct revelation, and approach to the gods through mystic rites. The content of those secrets was obviously not based on truth. Those initiated into mystery religions vowed to keep the secrets to themselves and therefore shrouded in mystery, which was unlike the open proclamation of the sacred secrets of Christianity. When the Scriptures use this term in connection with false worship, it is rendered “mystery” in the New World Translation.​—For the three occurrences where my·steʹri·on is rendered “mystery,” see study notes on 2Th 2:7; Re 17:5, 7.


Timothy Meets With Fellow Elders in Ephesus
Timothy Meets With Fellow Elders in Ephesus

While serving as an elder in Ephesus, Timothy receives a letter from the apostle Paul. (1Ti 1:3) No doubt both Timothy and his fellow elders benefit greatly from this spirit-inspired letter. In it, Paul lists the qualifications for men who are to serve as elders or ministerial servants in the Christian congregation. (Ac 20:17, 28; 1Ti 3:1-10, 12, 13) He encourages Timothy to “become an example” to fellow believers and to apply himself to public reading, exhortation, and teaching. (1Ti 4:12, 13) Paul also reminds Timothy not to neglect the special gift, or assignment, that “the body of elders” had given him.​—1Ti 4:14.

“He Was Made Manifest in Flesh”
“He Was Made Manifest in Flesh”

Shown here is a page from the Codex Sinaiticus, a parchment manuscript of the fourth century C.E. The inset in the image includes the part of 1Ti 3:16 that many translations have rendered “He was manifested in the flesh,” or they have used similar expressions. However, as can be seen in the image, someone made an addition above the original text and added two letters to change the wording from “He” to “God.” (This addition was made later, probably in the 12th century C.E.) A similar change can be found in some other early manuscripts. As a result, a number of Bible translations here read “God was manifest [or “manifested”] in the flesh” (King James Version; New King James Version), giving the impression that God himself appeared as a human of flesh and blood. However, as some reference works point out, Greek manuscripts earlier than the eighth or ninth century C.E. do not support the use of the word “God” in their original wording. (See, for example, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament, by Roger. L. Omanson.) So a careful study of ancient manuscripts helps scholars to uncover the few erroneous readings that crept into later manuscripts.​—See App. A3 and Glossary, “Codex Sinaiticus.”