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1 Timothy chapter 3

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What does 1 Timothy chapter 3 mean?

Chapter 3 consists of three major sections. Verses 1 through 7 discuss the qualifications of elders in the church. These verses resemble the quality traits Paul gave to Titus in Titus 1:5–9. "Elders," in this case, are the senior leaders within the church. According to Paul, these men must be capable teachers, with a good reputation, known for their patience and fairness. Elders are not necessarily required to be married or have children, but those who are must be faithful to their wives and have reasonable control over their children.

While the information Paul gives for elders is similar to his instructions elsewhere, the second section of this chapter is unique to 1 Timothy. Here Paul gives qualifications for deacons, in verses 8 through 13. The character requirements are almost identical to those of elders in verses 1 through 7, though deacons are not explicitly required to be able to teach. However, this section also adds characteristics of a deacon's wife and a mandate that deacons be "tested" prior to being fully installed in their role. These additional points of emphasis probably reflect the fact that those being considered as "elders" are most likely already well-known to the church and have already shown themselves to meet the requirements.

The third section of this chapter relates to the church and covers verses 14 through 16. It includes a summary of Paul's first section of his letter to 1 Timothy (1 Timothy 3:14), as well as words that speak highly of the importance of the church (1 Timothy 3:15). Verse 15 is often misinterpreted as endowing the church—the earthly body of Christian believers—with special power or authority. In reality, Paul clearly sets the written words of the Bible as authoritative (2 Timothy 3:16). And, when discussing the "foundation" in terms of Christ, he uses Greek words which are very different from those written in this passage to describe the church.

The chapter concludes with a hymn-like doxology (1 Timothy 3:16) which reflects the theme of glory, similar to Paul's earlier hymn in 1 Timothy 1:17.

The three chapters to this point have been both personal and focused on "big picture" concepts in the church. Chapters 4 through 6 transition to a more practical tone. Paul will discuss specific dangers within the church, instructions toward various groups of people, and thoughts about money and trust.
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