1 Timothy


2. Qualifications for church leaders, 3:1b-13

i] Bishops / Overseers


Paul continues to deal with organisational matters in the church. In the passage before us he outlines the qualities that should be evident in the life of the church officer known as "the overseer" - senior pastor / elder / priest. The qualities of an "overseer" indicate a leading and teaching role. Only church members of the highest moral standing should undertake this role.


i] Context: See 2:1-7.


ii] Background: See 1:1-11.


iii] Structure: The qualifications of "an Overseer":

Ministry status - an overseer / bishop, v1b:

"A noble task."

Qualifications / Character traits:

Personal qualities, 2-3;

"Above reproach."

Personal behaviour, v4-5;

A person able to manage his own family.

Standing in the Christian community, v6;

A mature believer.

Standing in the wider community, v7;

Well respected.


iv] Interpretation:

What we have in this passage is a list of qualities which should be present in a person seeking to perform the task of a bishop / overseer in the church. Interestingly, it serves as a list of qualities, not duties. The list is virtually repeated for deacons, deaconess's, and also for presbyters in Titus 1:6-9. The only extras listed for a bishop is that he should not be a recent convert and that he should be well-thought-of within the secular community. The episkopoV, "bishop", unlike the presbuteroV, "elder", Tit.1:5, is referred to in the singular, which may imply that he is the chief-elder within a congregation. At any rate, as the father of his flock, his ministry, at this point of time in church history, is limited to the local congregation and for this reason the listed qualities more appropriately apply today to the minister / priest / paster of a local parish / congregation, rather than the head of a denomination. It has been suggested that the list is sourced from a list of qualities required of senior military appointments to the Roman legions, but this is a rather speculative point of view.


v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:1b

The office of Bishop / Overseer, v1b-7: i] The office is a noble undertaking, v1b. As noted above, many commentators regard this statement as the next trustworthy saying, rather than 2:15, eg., Barclay, "It has been said, and said truly, that to be ambitious to be the leader and guardian of the community is to set one's heart on a noble task."

ei + ind. "if" - if [anyone]. Introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case .... then ...." The presence of tiV makes the condition general. "If anyone aspires to high office, they aspire to a good occupation."

oregetai (oregw) ind. "sets his heart on being" - aspires to, desires, strives. Striving in a positive way, although the point being made is that seeking high office is worth striving for.

episkophV (h) gen. "overseer" - to be a carer, a person in charge. A genitive of direct object will often follow a verb of desire, but an ellipses is evident here; "if anyone desires the office of overseer." If the ellipses is read, then the genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of identification; "the office known as overseer." This word means "leadership", and is obviously crafted by the early church to identify the "position / office of bishop / chief-minister / elder."

kalou ergou gen. "a noble task" - [he desires] a good work. Genitive of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to desire", again a verb of desire. Better "task", as NIV.


ii] The qualities of a bishop / overseer, v2-7. Verses 2-6 consist of a single sentence in the Gk.

oun "now" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion, but possibly just establishing a logical connection, "now", as NIV. Given that the task of overseer is a noble one, "therefore" the overseer / bishop must.....

dei "-" - [to be without reproach] is necessary. This impersonal verb controls the Gk. sentence through to v6, with v5 usually treated as a parenthesis. A necessary consequence flowing from v1, "must of necessity be .....", although the intention of the verb may not be as strong as say divine necessity, but rather what is fitting.

ton episkopon (oV) sing. "the overseer" - for the elder, bishop, overseer, guardian. Accusative subject of the infinitive verb to-be. In secular society the word is used of a civil functionary. The singular use here may indicate a class of administrators / overseers, but see above.

ei\nai (eimi) inf. "is to be" - to be. The infinitive of the verb to-be serves as the subject of the impersonal verb "is necessary"; "to be ........ is necessary." The subject/s of the infinitive, "without reproach", etc, take the accusative case.

anepilhmpton adj. "above reproach" - blameless, irreproachable. Predicate adjective, accusative in agreement with the accusative subject of the verb to-be. Not open to criticism. Marshall suggests that this is a general requirement "which is then followed by a set of detailed qualifications which give shape to it." Probably referring to a past history that would offend. Possessing a bit of history does not bar a person from the Christian fellowship, nor even the exercise of some particular ministry, but it does bar someone from a "headship" role in the church.

gunaikoV (h koV) gen. "[the husband] of [one] wife / [faithful to his] wife" - [a man] of [one] woman. The genitive is adjectival, relational. Numerous possible meanings are proposed: he must be married, not a polygamist, not divorced, or remarried, or as Theodore of Mopseustia said "a man who having contracted a monogamous marriage is faithful to his marriage vows." Given the high ethical standard demanded of the office, the last option may be Paul's intention, but a similar designation is used elsewhere, even of widows; "the wife of one husband / man, 5:9. There is a question as to the commencement of these high expectations and most commentators assume they apply from conversion onward. This does seem rather arbitrary, given that stupidity is not unilaterally excised by the Holy Spirit at conversion, or that God does not make a distinction between the forgiveness of sins pre or post conversion. Anyway, if a persecutor of the church can become an apostle, then there is hope for all of us.

nhfalion adj. "temperate" - Predicate adjective. Normally used of being temperate in the use of alcohol, but here probably in a figurative sense; "self-controlled."

swfrona adj. "self-controlled" - sensible. Predicate adjective. An aspect of "self-controlled", so possibly "thoughtful".

kosmion adj. "respectable" - respectable, modest, well-behaved, virtuous [hospitable]. Predicate adjective.

didaktikon adj. "able to teach" - skilful in teaching. Predicate adjective. Obviously an important ability for an overseer, cf. Tit.2:24, 2Tim.2:24.


mh "not" - The negation mh, rather than ou, is used because the sentence is still controlled by the infinitive einai.

paroinon (oV) "given to drunkenness" - given to much wine. Predicate adjective. Probably "not given to too much wine", rather than drunkenness, but also possibly figurative, eg. "abrasive". An old minister friend of mine said his downfall came when he was appointed to a parish situated in Australia's premium wine growing region. A taste for the grape can become addictive!!!

alla "but [gentle]" - [not violent,] but [forbearing]. Strong adversative used in a counterpoint construction; "not ...., but ...."

amacon adj. "not quarrelsome" - [not violent, but forbearing], not quarrelsome, peaceable, uncontentious. Predicate adjective. "He must be gentle and not pugnacious", Barclay.

afilarguron adj. "not a lover of money" - not greedy, covetous, lover of money. Predicate adjective. "Nor must he be fond of money-grabbing", Phillips.


At this point there is a move from personal qualities to qualities of personal behaviour.

proistamenon (proiJsthmi) pres. part. "he must manage" - standing before, leading, managing, ruling, directing, applying oneself to, supervising, presiding over / being concerned about, taking care of, protecting. This participle, as with "having", serves as a substantive, accusative subject of an assumed dei, "is necessary", as in v2-3 where an infinitival construction is used; "managing [his own home well is necessary]" = "he must be able to manage his own household properly and to keep his children submissive and perfectly respectful", Moffatt. Perkins, on the other hand, regards it as adjectival, predicative, "another in a long list of predicate adjectives and nouns defining ton episkopon, "the elder." The word takes two meanings, "direct / lead" and "care". Both meanings may be present here. Some argue that pastoral care is more likely the sense here than administration.

toiu ... oikou (oV) gen. "[his own] family" - the = his household, house = family [of ones own]. Genitive of direct object after the pro prefix participle "standing before, leading".

kalwV adv. "well" - The overseer must be able to show that he can manage / care for his family "well", that he does a good job of it. When done well, his children respect him. If he can handle his family, then he can handle the church.

econta (ecw) pres. part. "see that his" - having = keeping. For the participle see "he must manage" above. "Keeping" in the sense of "actively maintaining", Marshall.

tekna (on) "children" - his children. Accusative direct object of the participle "having". The presence of children is presumed, here young children still under the authority of their parents, but their presence is surely not a requirement.

en + dat. "obey him" - in [subjection, subordination, obedience]. Local, expressing sphere / state or condition; "keeping his children in the sphere of obedience." The prepositional phrase so formed is adverbial, modifying "keeping", so also meta pashV sumnothtoV, "with all respect." The verse works well for the modern ear when the PPs are treated as adjectival, attributive; "he is to be outstanding in his direction of his own home, with children who are obedient and quite reverent", Quinn and Wacker.

meta + gen. "with proper respect / he must do so in a manner worthy" - with [all respect, dignity, seriousness, respectfulness, probity]. Again this preposition is functioning adverbially, modal, expressing manner, as TNIV.


This verse is best treated as a parentheses referencing v4. The verse establishes an important principle for Christian ministry. All believers slip and fall, and given the extent of divine forgiveness, the church family must similarly accept a fallen brother or sister. Yet, when it comes to leadership in the church, forgiveness, and thus acceptance and inclusion, does not override the simple principle that if a believer can't manage their own family life, then they can't expect to manage a church. As a general principle, ministers with a broken family, particularly where they are the cause (eg., adultery), usually step aside from their ministry and leave the fellowship they once pastored, but as forgiven sinners they remain full and accepted members of the Christian church. It has not been easy for secular society to accept the willingness of the Christian church to extend the hand of fellowship to pedophile priests after they have served their time in prison. The grace of divine mercy lies at the core of our faith, and yet even believers sometimes fail to understand the depth of "amazing grace."

de "-" - but/and. Transitional. Mounce treats this particle here as epexegetic, "for", since this parenthetical clause seeks to justify the requirement outlined in v4; "for if someone does not know how to manage his own household ..."

ei + ind. "if" - if [anyone]. Introducing a conditional clause, 1st. class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, .... then ....." The apodosis is in the form of a rhetorical question expecting a negative answer, cf., BDF#428(1) for the use of the negation ou in a 1st. class condition, rather than the classical mh. "If a person is unable to manage / care for their own family, how can they expect to be allowed to care for the church family?"

prosthnai (proiJsthmi) aor. inf. "to manage" - [does not know] to manage, lead. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "does not know how", although with a cognitive verb, as here, it may be classified as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what someone may not know.

tou ... oikou (oV) gen. "his [own] home" - the = his [own] household. Genitive of direct object after the pro prefix verb "to stand before" = "to manage", here as the infinitive.

pwV "how" - Interrogative particle introducing a question.

epimelhsetai (epimeleomai) fut. "can he take care of" - will he care for. The only other use of this verb in the New Testament is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan where it is used of the care given by the Good Samaritan. This rather powerful linkage gives weight to the sense of "care", rather than "leadership", as the quality required of the overseer / bishop.

ekklhsiaV (a) gen. "church" - the church, assembly [of god]. Genitive of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to take care of." Paul could be referring to either the local assembly, or the heavenly assembly. Probably the local assembly is in mind. This "church" is "God's" church, taking the genitive qeou as possessive, rather than subjective.


Paul gives advice with is particularly ignored in the secular world - hormones are preferred to wisdom, or is it that hormones / testosterone is confused with wisdom?

mh neofuton adj. "he must not be a recent convert" - not newly planted = a new convert. This adjective serves as a substantive. The main verb of the sentence, dei, "it is necessary", v2, is still active, but an infinitive, einai, must be assumed; "to be a new convert is necessary", ie., ton episkopon, "the overseer", is not to be a new convert to the faith. "He aught not be a man who has recently accepted the faith", Cassirer.

iJna mh + subj. "or" - lest. Introducing a negated purpose clause; "in order that he may not ...." This purpose clause, expressing negative intent, identifies the purpose of not appointing a young person to a position of authority, namely the avoidance of two related dangers. First, the growth of pride / conceit and that to which it leads to, condemnation.

tufwqeiV (tufow) pas. part. "he may become conceited" - having become conceited, puffed up. The participle is adverbial, possibly causal, or instrumental; "lest, by becoming conceited / due to conceit, he might fall ...." The advice is that young people should not be appointed to positions of authority. Referring to the danger of power going to the head of a young person. "He must not be a new convert in case he gets conceited", Moffatt.

empesh/ (empiptw) aor. subj. "and fall under" - he might fall. Figuratively used of coming under the influence of sin, falling into temptation.

eiV "-" - to, into. Spacial; of movement toward and arrival at.

tou diabolou (oV) gen. "[the same judgment] as the devil" - [judgment, condemnation, judicial verdict] of the devil. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, but is usually treated as verbal. It may be a subjective genitive, ie., the judgment administered by the devil, it is the devil's judgment, probably better, the condemnation he calls for rather than administers, so in the sense of "slander", but even something more general, "lest he be filled with selfish pride and come under the influence of Satan", Junkins, so Marshall, Kelly, Ridderbos, Towner. On the other hand it may be an objective genitive; the judgment that has already been received by the devil, so Mounce, Hendriksen, Knight. As with most translations, the NIV follows this sense, given that the word "judgment" does not carry a definite article. If objective, the timing of the devils judgment carries the typical "now / not yet" eschatology of the New Testament. The devil is judged, condemned and defeated, but we still experience his death-throws. "And so incur the same judgment that was passed on the Devil for his pride", Barclay.


Having listed the qualities of being "above reproach", v2-6, Paul, in a new sentence, adds another important quality - "he must be well thought of."

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument; "Now .....".

dei (dew) pres. "he must" - it is necessary. Main verb.

kai "also" - and = also. Adjunctive, "also", "moreover", NRSV, or possibly ascensive, "even", or emphatic, "indeed".

ecein (ecw) pres. inf. " have" - for him to have [is also necessary]. As in v2, the infinitive serves as a the subject of the impersonal verb "is necessary."

marturian kalhn "a good reputation" - a testimony good. Accusative direct object of the infinitive "to have." "Beyond reproach." The meaning of "testimony" here is that which is said of a person on the basis of an evaluation of their conduct*.

apo + gen. "with [outsiders]" - from [the ones outside]. Expressing source / origin. The overseer must be regarded highly by non Christians. "He must have a good reputation among those who are not members of the church", Barclay.

iJna mh + subj. "so that" - lest. The use again of a negated purpose clause, or negated hypothetical result. The overseer is to be of "good reputation" lest so-and-so happens.

oneidismon (oV) "disgrace" - [he might fall into] reproach, disgrace, insult. If the overseer is not of the highest moral standing in the eyes of the wider community, then that community will inevitably judge everything he does harshly. Grammatically, the "reproach" could be "of the devil", but is more likely from the secular community.

tou diabolou (oV) gen. "[the] devil's [trap]" - [and a trap, snare] of the evil one. The genitive is adjectival, possessive / verbal, subjective, or attributive / idiomatic, limiting "trap"; "the snare which has been set by the devil." The unfavourable onslaught of a secular community will inevitably tempt an overseer to handle the truth lightly, lose his head, and so follow the devil's lead. "Then they won't be trapped and disgraced by the Devil", CEV.


1 Timothy Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]