by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 Lincolnton, NC November 7, 2004
1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
1901 ASV Translation:
1 Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
In chapter 3 verse 2, there is one variation between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 that consists of a simple, one-letter difference in the spelling of the word translated "blameless/without reproach". It makes no difference in meaning.
I. Paul says that the work of a "bishop" is a good work.
II. He then proceeds to a detailed description of the "worker". What qualifications does he have to have?
A. He must be "blameless".
1. The concept of "blame" is very great when it has no context.
2. The implication of Paul's current text is that "blamelessness" must be determined in the light of the following characteristics. In other words, the context of "blame" consists in the following 14 categories that he brings to bear in describing the "qualified man".
B. He must be "the husband of one wife".
1. This statement is problematical in terms of interpretation because of the gamut of possibilities.
a. Is Paul addressing the problem of "polygamy"?
b. Is Paul addressing the problem of "divorce and remarriage"?
c. Is Paul addressing the problem of "remarriage after the death of a wife"?
d. Is Paul addressing the "celibacy of the priesthood"?
e. Is Paul addressing the problem of "a man's sexual fidelity"?
2. The actual wording of Paul's "requirement" is "of one woman, a man".
a. The strength of the wording is that it focuses upon the concept of a "one-woman man".
b. The issue that is involved is the question of what Paul's is really addressing...
1) Is he addressing the issue of how many women a man has had sex with?
2) Is he addressing the issue of a man's real, inner, loyalty to the woman with whom he had entered into a covenant relationship?
c. Part of the answer to this issue is to be found in Paul instruction to widows in 1 Timothy 5:3-15.
1) In that text, Paul uses the mirror image of his wording in this text.
a) He wrote there that a widow who was to be helped by the church was to have been "of one man, a woman"...translated "the wife of one man".
b) This is the mirror image of his wording in our text.
2) In that text, Paul clearly teaches that he wants the younger widows to "remarry".
3) This means that Paul was teaching that a widow could have been the "wife of more than one husband" and still qualify as a "of one man, a woman".
a) This conclusion is drawn by the reasoning process that argues that Paul would never have counselled a widow to "remarry" if that "remarriage" would automatically disqualify her from receiving help from the church in her old age.
b) This means that his phrase "of one man, a woman" cannot be taken to address the question of how many men a woman has had sex with. Instead, it seems to be a "loyalty" characteristic that demands that a widow who is to receive help from the church in her old age cannot have been a person who was "disloyal" to her covenant commitments while she was young.
d. This parallel text in the same book seems to strongly insist that we take Paul's meaning to be a matter of "loyalty" that a man has, or does not have, toward any woman with whom he has entered into a covenant commitment.
3. Thus, we conclude that what Paul is addressing is the "overseer's" qualification/disqualification in the realm of his covenant commitments in regard to marriage and its relational-loyalty issues.
a. This would mean that his "of one woman, a man" does not address the character of an overseer who is unmarried. Paul does not appear to be insisting that only married men can be overseers (as that would disqualify both Timothy -- as far as we know he was unmarried -- as well as himself -- for he told the Corinthians he was unmarried).
b. This would also mean that his "requirement" addresses more than external issues of sexual fidelity. Paul would "disqualify" a man who was married and was sexually unaccusable in respect to physical adultery, but was also a viewer of porn or one who denigrated his wife verbally in public or private. The issue is "loyalty" and it transcends the marriage bed.
c. The "of one woman, a man" is a requirement of relational loyalty to the woman with whom he has entered into a "relational commitment", and, since relational loyalty involves far more than sex, so does this requirement.
d. This conclusion means that "divorce and remarriage" and "death and remarriage" are not in view. What is in view is the man's present demonstration of relational loyalty to his present wife -- if he is married.