1 Timothy 3 - Bishops and Deacons

An elder is an experienced Bible believing man and the word Bishop is simply the office of that man

First published on the 25th of October 2021 — Last updated on the 30th of October 2021

A bishop means an overseer but the overseers are elders

The leadership of the church is either left in the hands of a group of men acting as a team or it is placed in the hands of a single man who is elevated above everyone in the church.

A group of men are often called elders in the Bible or less often they are called bishops (plural).

But if a bishop (singular) becomes a one-man-leader then the door is opened to church dictatorship.

The Pope is the only dictator in Europe. He rules 1.4 billion Catholics worldwide.

The final Pope will rule the world as a dictator during the 3.5 years of great Tribulation.

How did this Nicolaitan tradition of elevating one man above the church happen?

It began with the word Bishop.

The word bishop in New Testament Greek [episkopos] literally means

“over” (epi) “watcher” (skopos) – an overseer.

So, anyone who was called a bishop in the Bible (mainly in Timothy) was simply an overseer.

But overseers were what Paul called the elders of the local church in Ephesus.

ACTS 20:17   And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.

ACTS 20:28   Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

The elders worked as a team to be overseers.

Thus, the elders were the bishops.

"Elder" tells you who the man was. "Bishop" describes his office.

But because the word “bishop” would open the door to one-man-church-leadership as a mini-dictator, the word “bishop” was seldom used in the New Testament. But the word “bishop” had to be in Timothy in order to give the evil Nicolaitans a word that they could craftily elevate above the church so those ambitious and greedy men could rise to the top of the church.

Satan imitates God.

Jesus is the Head of the church.

EPHESIANS 5:23   For the husband is the head of the wife,

even as Christ is the head of the church:

and he is the saviour of the body.

So, Satan wanted his man to be the head of the church.

His first success towards infiltrating the church was in the second church age that started in AD 170 when the churches foolishly accepted one man as the Bishop of a city. For example, the Bishop of Rome.

Quietly and unnoticed, the bishop (singular) had first become the head of the local church.

Then the bishop was head of the city.

All the emphasis was placed on the bishop as the one-man head of the church and elders faded from the leadership.

The singular term “elder” is never mentioned in the Book of Acts.

Elders were always spoken of in the plural in the Book of Acts when the church got started.

ACTS 11:29   Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:

ACTS 11:30    Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

The elders, as a group, handled the money of the local church so that no one person could claim that money as belonging to him.

A Nicolaitan is elevated above the church which is bad

A Nicolaitan is a man who is elevated above the church in order to be in charge of the church.

Church money is the goal that Nicolaitans have in mind. A Nicolaitan wants to be the head of the church so that he can claim that the tithes belong to him.

The early church, very sensibly, had a group of people handling the money so that it did not become a target for greedy and ambitious men.

Those who handled the money had to think of others, not of themselves.

ACTS 15:6   And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

The elders, as a group, discussed doctrinal issues with the apostles.

Today, we have what the apostles wrote in the New Testament. The local elders as a group should discuss what is written in the New Testament by the apostles, in order to understand God’s Will.

PHILIPPIANS 1:1   Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Bishops are overseers which are elders.

There were many of them in the city of Philippi.

Then, to contradict this Scripture, the Nicolaitans had to have one bishop in a city and he had to be above the elders.

A Bishop (singular) had to be elevated above the local elders.

ACTS 20:29   For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

A dominating Bishop is a wolf not a sheep. A wolf dominates the sheep to become the one-man leader.

The word “presbyter” means an elder.

Presbyter, (from Greek presbyteros, “elder”),

I TIMOTHY 4:14   Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

The presbyters (the group of local elders) ordained Timothy, not to give him a gift but to recognize the gift that operated within him.

Once again, it was elders operating as a group or a team.


Helps and governments are needed to assist the people

I CORINTHIANS 12:28   And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

When God set the church in the beginning of the church ages he never mentioned pastors.

The apostles wrote the New Testament and the apostles wrote the Old Testament Scriptures.

Then teachers were needed who could correctly run the doctrines through the various Scriptures.


“The teacher is a special man. He sits back under the anointing of the Spirit and is able to take the Words and put them together by the Holy Spirit, that, the pastor or evangelist either one could not compare with him”.


Apostles, prophets, and teachers were the main ministries because Bible teachers always refer back to what was written in the Old and New Testaments, and thereby they consult the apostles and prophets.

I TIMOTHY 5:17   Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

There are elders who are part of the five-fold ministry and do the evangelical work as well as the preaching and teaching. The local church may have local prophets who reveal local events that are about to happen and missionaries (modern-day apostles) who train the local people to take the Gospel to their own people.

But there are other elders who are not involved with the five-fold ministry and do not preach or teach or prophesy.

Then there were various helps and governments that would enable the local churches to operate more effectively. The men who would fulfill any such position in a local church would be ordained from amongst the local elders.

A typical example of this would be deacons.

Bishops are elders who are blameless

Elders must have no blame attached to them and, if married, must only have one wife.

A divorced man who remarried could not qualify as an elder.

The children of an elder must be well behaved.

TITUS 1:5   For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

TITUS 1:6   If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

TITUS 1:7   For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

Paul makes it clear to Titus that an elder is a bishop.

Verses 5 and 6 say that only a blameless elder can be ordained because verse 7 requires a bishop to be blameless. So, the blameless elder is a blameless bishop.


“But I believe in the supreme authority of the local assembly. Yes. Let each church be its own, choose its pastors, its deacons, its, whatever it is.

And then, that way, the man in there has no bishop over him.

The Holy Spirit wants to speak something to that church, they don't have to ask anybody about whether they could do this or do that. It's the individual in contact with the Holy Spirit.

Show me by the Bible what's greater, in the Bible, than a local elder to a local church?

That's right, yes, sir, the sovereignty of the local church, each church in itself. Now, brotherhood, that's wonderful. All churches ought to be in a brotherhood like that, together.

But the sovereignty of local church!”

Brother Branham hits out against the church tradition of elevating a bishop above an elder.

Bishop is just the name for the office of an elder

Nobody in the local church is above any of the local elders.


“Now this doctrine actually started as a deed in the first age. It appears that the problem lay in two words: 'elders' (presbyters) and 'overseers' (bishops). Though Scripture shows that there are several elders in each church, some began (Ignatius among them) to teach that the idea of a bishop was one of preeminence or authority and control over the elders.

Now the truth of the matter is the word 'elder' signifies who the person is, while the word 'bishop' signifies the office of the same man.

The elder is the man. Bishop is the office of the man.

'Elder' always has and always will refer simply to a man's chronological age in the Lord. He is an elder, not because he is elected or ordained, etc., but because he IS OLDER. He is more seasoned, trained, not a novice, reliable because of experience and long standing proof of his Christian experience.

But no, the bishops did not stick to the epistles of Paul, but rather they went to Paul's account of the time he called the elders from Ephesus to Miletus in Acts 20. In verse 17 the record states,

"elders" were called and then in verse 28 they are called overseers (bishops).

And these bishops, (no doubt political minded and anxious for power) insisted that Paul had given the meaning that 'overseers' were more than the local elder with official capacity only in his own church.

To them a bishop was now one with extended authority over many local leaders. Such a concept was neither Scriptural nor historical, yet even a man of the stature of Polycarp leaned toward such organization.

Thus, that which started as a deed in the first age was made a literal doctrine and so it is today. Bishops still claim power to control men and deal with them as they desire, placing them where they so will in the ministry.

… With the man-made doctrine of the elevation of bishops to a place not accorded them in Scripture, the next step was the handing out of graded titles that built up into a religious hierarchy; for soon there were archbishops over bishops and cardinals over the archbishops and by the time of Boniface the third there was a pope over all, a Pontiff”.

A bishop must be blameless

I TIMOTHY 3:1   This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

As one of the overseers, he must be a team-worker with the other bishops or elders as well as being a good example and hard worker.

I TIMOTHY 3:2   A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Blameless. This is very difficult. He must have no obvious faults.

What are the main weaknesses that must be avoided?

I TIMOTHY 3:3   Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

He must not drink alcohol. In Bible days wine had certain medicinal properties. But today there are many other medicines that can do the job. No excuse for drinking wine.

Not interested in getting rich. Content with a moderate lifestyle.

Patient with other people. Not aggressive or domineering. Not given to anger or revenge that could lead to a fight.

Content with what he has. No desire to have what others have.

I TIMOTHY 3:4   One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

He must be the head of his own home and able to keep his children under control.

I TIMOTHY 3:5    (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

A man who cannot look after his own home obviously cannot look after the people in the church.

I TIMOTHY 3:6   Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Not a beginner. A new person with talent can be self-elevated by any early success. This easily leads to an impression of self-importance. We all need difficulties and failure to knock humility into our heads. These trials come from experience as we slowly mature and become aware of how complex it is to deal with our fellow human beings who are riddled with their own complexes and hang-ups.

Jesus warned about Gentile leaders who think they are great and dominate those below them.

MATTHEW 20:25   But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

A minister is a servant. Bishops and elders lead by serving. A servant has little importance.

MATTHEW 20:26   But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

I TIMOTHY 3:7   Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

A bishop must also have a good reputation with the outside world who regard him as a positive and helpful member of the community.

Deacons help with the physical welfare of people

The bishop helps the people with their spiritual growth as they develop their faith in Scripture.

At the same time people have their material needs that must also be attended to.

Deacons were chosen to assist with the physical welfare of the church.

ACTS 6:1   And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Two problems.

The church grew big and immediately human bias and prejudice spread.

Small local churches are spared this to a large extent.

Racialism reared its ugly head.

The Hebrews favoured looking after Hebrew widows.

We humans are so easily tribalized and are biased in favour of our own tribe or nation or race group. This is unacceptable to God.

ACTS 6:2   Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

There was physical work in terms of food distribution to be done. That was a full-time job in itself because the church had got so big.

But it was pointless for those who had to study Scripture to occupy their time with welfare issues as well. When we multitask, research has shown that we end up doing each task less well.

“Deep Work” research has also shown that we do much better when we focus intensely on one job at a time.

ACTS 6:3   Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Business. Money is involved. Very few people can handle money to benefit others without trying to make some personal gain for themselves.

Church money should only be handled by elders who have a reputation for transparent honesty.

The only time that Jesus got angry was when He saw the religious money-makers in the Temple. He chased them and their ill-gotten gains out three times.

Once near the start of His ministry. Then on Palm Sunday and again on the next day, Monday. That was too much for the Jewish religious leaders. With their income threatened, they killed Him on Thursday, as He had to have 3 nights in the tomb before rising early on Sunday.

Remember Judas. The only apostle or church leader who betrayed Christ was the one who held the money bag. Christianity and money make a toxic mix.

ACTS 6:4   But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

The apostles dealt with Scripture, not with money.

Today, church leaders deal with the money and not with Scripture as they teach Trinity, God the Son, Eternal Sonship, Jesus is in the Godhead as the second Person, Christmas, 25 December, Good Friday, one man is the head of the church, etc.

A little wine only for recurring digestive problems

Today we have many medicines that can solve our digestive problems. We no longer need wine.

I TIMOTHY 3:8   Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

Deacons must be serious. Always tell the truth because they are involved with money matters and must never have underhand motives. No bias towards different race groups. No desire for self-enrichment.

Only drink a little wine and then purely for medicinal reasons. Not for social drinking.


I TIMOTHY 5:23   Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.

Wine had medicinal properties and helped to digest the food as Timothy was plagued by digestive problems.

Deacons, operating on the physical level, were allowed a little wine if they had stomach problems.

Bishops, as preachers, had to set a better example and were not allowed wine.

“Greedy of filthy lucre”.

Money lust. Always the downfall of the churches. The black horse with his antichrist rider that sells the Word of God for self-gain.

A greedy person never has enough. Millionaires and billionaires still cheat to make more.

I TIMOTHY 3:9   Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

One of the mysteries of the faith is to be uncorrupted by racialism or money matters.

I TIMOTHY 3:10   And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

People must be given a trial period to see if they can handle the welfare matters competently.

Not everyone is reliable or skilled when it comes to finance.

I TIMOTHY 3:11   Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

A deacon’s wife should be serious and never gossip. Not a drinker and a good example in all ways.

I TIMOTHY 3:12   Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

A deacon cannot be a divorced man who remarried. He cannot be a polygamist. His children must exercise self-control and good behaviour.

I TIMOTHY 3:13   For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

A good and honest deacon sees to the welfare of people who cannot help themselves. As such, by avoiding any self-gain he shines as an example of community service. This makes a great impression on the unsaved who are then far more ready to listen to him.

Paul wanted to see Timothy and also the last church

I TIMOTHY 3:14   These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:

Scripture has a compound meaning. Scripture refers to the events of that time as well as also referring to us at the end-time when the mysteries are revealed.

Paul was planning to see Timothy soon.

At a deeper level, Paul is looking ahead to the resurrection which will only happen when the end-time Bride believes everything that he taught.

So Paul has to wait until there is a Bride that is faithful to his teachings, because only then will the saints rise from the dead.

As much as Paul wanted to see Timothy, so Paul is also looking forward to being able to come and see all those who are alive today and who regard Paul as being the great masterbuilder that we must obey.

I TIMOTHY 3:15   But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Paul may have to tarry for 2000 years before he can visit us. But he has told us how to behave ourselves so that we do not reject Jesus, the revealed Word, and make Him stand outside our churches.

Each person who believes that what Paul wrote is the truth is a pillar in the church of God.

We must be strictly Scriptural and believe everything that Paul taught. Just like Timothy did.

Brother Branham relates an experience when he went beyond the curtain of time and saw his converts.

63-0322  THE  FIFTH  SEAL

He said, "Well now, He will come someday, and He will come to you first, and then you'll be judged." Said, "These people are your converts that you've led."

And I said, "You mean by being a leader, that He will judge me?"

He said, "Yes."

And I said, "Does every leader have to be judged like that?"

Said, "Yes."

I said, "What about Paul?"

He said, "He will have to be judged with his."

"Well," I said, "if his group goes in, so will mine, 'cause I've preached exactly the same Word."

I said, "Where he baptized in Jesus' Name, I did too. I preached..."

And the millions screamed out, all at once, said, "We're resting on that."

God in us is the manifestation of the mystery of God

I TIMOTHY 3:16   And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

The mystery of God is that He showed Himself or was manifest in the flesh of the Man Jesus Who ascended up to Heaven.

Then God was manifest in the flesh of His born-again Christians, which includes us. At the resurrection He will be manifest in the fulness of His church and then the entire Bride will be caught up to Heaven to meet Him in the air.

The Son is God with us as Emmanuel.

JOHN 14:17   Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost means God was manifest above, with, and in us.

The secret of bishops with their spiritual work and the deacons with their material work is that we must have God in us and use the gifts that He has given us for the benefit of others, not for ourselves.

The church is a club that exists for the benefit of members and non-members.

The bishops and deacons must focus on what they put in, not what they get out.

REVELATION 4:4   And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

REVELATION 4:10   The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

These elders have a leadership position and seat of authority plus a crown of reward.

They leave their seat of authority to humble themselves. They are not worthy to be in authority. Only Christ is.

They throw down their crowns of reward because it was Christ in them Who enabled them to do what they did. They draw no attention to themselves.

 So are you trying to make a name for yourself?

Do you think that you are important in any way? Then you have lost the plot.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” — 1 Corinthians 16:23