Monday, March 18, 2013

1 Timothy 3: Hospitable and Able to Teach

Hospitable and Able to Teach

1 Timothy 3:2

What has gone before...

Paul's description of a person suitable for consideration as overseer of a church began with one who was above reproach: faithful in marriage, sober-minded, self-controlled and respectable.

Moving on...

"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable..." 1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV)

HOSPITABLE: philoxenos "fil-OX-en-os" (fond of guests); from philos (dear, as a friend; fond or friendly, referring to an associate or neighbor) and xenos (foreign, as alien or novel; a guest or entertainer)

"Hospitable" seems to provide at the same time the means and the motive for spending time with new acquaintances: treat them as friends and regard their quirks as entertaining.

The word, "hospitable" is found three times in the Bible: used twice by Paul in similar directions to Timothy and Titus concerning overseers. The third instance was from Peter:

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace." 1 Peter 4:7-10 (ESV)

Peter's admonition focuses on the importance of self-control, sober-mindedness, prayer and love in regarding others. The implication here is that Christians can be judgemental, unable to see beyond past offences. If we look at God's grace toward ourselves, we allow His Holy Spirit to bring our rebellious hearts in line with His...we become more self-controlled, more aware of the danger of bitter unforgiveness...we will be moved to pray more for others, and love for the unloveable will become possible, even desireable.

Hospitality is the opportunity to show others, especially others who are different than us, the gift of love and grace that God has given to us. There may be others in our church, or in our work, or in our homes, who are "different": they may dress differently or smell differently...they may worship high fashion, or sports, or another religion...they may talk too much or too little.

Peter warns us to avoid grumbling:

GRUMBLING: gongysmos "gong-goos-MOS" (to grumble: murmur or mutter in complaint; to growl or snarl; to rumble)

We often grudgingly show hospitality to others, showing a fake smile and complaining afterward of the cost, the discomfort or the boredom. The muttering and snarling after our guests are gone show our disregard for the grace shown to us by God.

"Hospitable" includes a root word which means "foreign":

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Matthew 25:35 (ESV)

STRANGER: xenos “XEN-os” (foreign, as alien or novel; a guest or entertainer)

"Stranger" is the word found in the root of "hospitable". Jesus was identifying Himself with people off the streets, hungry and thirsty, ill-clothed, sick or in prison. When the religious people shunned strangers, Jesus rebuked them, warning them of impending eternal punishment. Treating the unloveable as friends, loving to share food and drink with people in need of friendship, is a result of a righteous heart, which is given as a gift of God.

Hospitality is sharing with others what God has given us.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Paul and Peter both connected hospitality with prayer, and Paul identified four different occasions of prayer. Can you make a comparison of the four types of prayer with four types of hospitality? What would each type of hospitality look like?


  • Supplications: urgent, desperate prayer from deep emotional desire
  • Prayers: consistent, regular prayer of worship and praise
  • Intercessions: momentary, unexpected encounters with others which lead to prayer
  • Thanksgivings: expressing gratitude for God's favor, His gifts of joy


  • ________________________________________
  • ________________________________________
  • ________________________________________

Of the four occasions of hospitality, which do you find yourself providing most often? Which do you experience the least often?

Hospitality can easily connect with the next characteristic of the ideal overseer:

"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach..." 1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV)

ABLE TO TEACH: didaktikos "did-ak-tik-OS" (instructive, "didactic"); from didaktos (instructed or communicated by teaching); from didasko (to teach); from dao (to learn)

Inviting others, especially others who are "different", seems a good situation in which we may share food and drink, physically and spiritually. Paul encourages the leaders of the church in Ephesus to be "able to teach", as well as hospitable.

The word translated as "able to teach" only occurs twice in the Bible, once in each of Paul's two letters to Timothy. This first instance refers to the overseer of Christ's church, and the second refers to "the servant of the Lord":

"The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV)

"The Lord's servant" referred to one who is given the "grace that is in Christ Jesus", "a good soldier of Christ Jesus", one who "endures everything for the sake of the elect", "an approved worker" of God, "rightly handling the word of truth". (2 Timothy 2:1-15)

Paul introduced this exhortation to "the Lord's servant" by urging Timothy to put together a group of faithful men:

"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." 2 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV)

Interestingly, "able to teach" is translated from a phrase that is different, although related, to that used in Paul's first letter to Timothy:

ABLE TO TEACH: hikanos didasko "hik-an-OS did-AS-ko" (competent to teach, as if coming in season; ample in amount, or fit in character); related to heko (to arrive, to be present) and dao (to learn)

Why the difference between the two verses?

Paul's first use of "able to teach" seems to be a general term for teaching, similar to that of a job title or function. The second version of "able to teach" seems to emphasize the quality of teaching, rather than the function. Both references to "able to teach" include the root word: "didasko", to teach. But Paul qualifies the second instance by adding the word "hikanos", which is related to "heko", meaning to arrive or to be present.

"Able" (hikanos) is found 41 times in the Bible. John the Baptist declared that he was "not worthy" to even tend to the shoes of Jesus, using the same word that is elsewhere translated as "able" (Matthew 3:11). A Roman centurion humbly said that he was "not worthy" to have Jesus enter his house, using the same word (Matthew 8:8).

The Jewish leaders successfully persuaded Roman soldiers to lie about the disappearance of the body of Jesus after His crucifixion, paying them "a sufficient sum of money", using the same word that is elsewhere translated as "able" or "worthy" (Matthew 28:12).

Luke used the same word in connection with teaching:

"Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people." Acts 11:25-26 (ESV)

"A great many" is translated from the same Greek word as "able".

Paul's modification of "teaching", adding the word "able", emphasizes both the quantity and the quality of teaching required for "the Lord's servant". Paul was describing a situation much different than simply doing the job of teaching. Timothy was not to be a teacher in name only, but was to have a heart and mind that was "worthy" of the priceless truth of Christ. The teaching provided by Timothy was to be "large" enough to encompass the timeless, universal truth of Christ. Timothy was to regard teaching as a major part of his ministry to the church.

Paul didn't allude to this in his first letter to Timothy. The verse with which we began this study uses the simple word "teacher", with no reference to the quality or quantity of teaching required for overseers.


About 30 years after meeting Christ, Paul completed three separate mission trips. He was arrested and imprisoned by the Roman emperor, then acquitted and freed from prison. During this time of freedom he wrote his first letter to Timothy, sometime after 63 AD.

Five years passed. Paul traveled throughout what is now Europe and the Mediterranean states. Rome was burned and horrific persecution of Christians ensued, with Paul being re-arrested, tried and executed by emperor Nero. Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy shortly before his martyrdom.

It was his last letter.

Paul's final letter, his second letter to Timothy, is tender and passionate. He expects death soon, and prepares Timothy for similar persecution. Paul's first letter to Timothy was a primer on pastoring a church. His second letter was a love letter written to the church, full of last words, urgent prayer, lessons borne of suffering.

We should consider the simple word, "teacher", found in Paul's first letter, to be closely connected with "able", used in his second letter. Overseers, as well as all who consider themselves "the Lord's servant", should grasp the depth of the phrase, "able to teach".

For a leader, teaching is not to be a duty, or an assignment, or a "have-to". Teaching should be considered a primary, heartfelt, life-consuming expression of worship and ministry.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Paul's first reference to "teacher" seems to place it as one of several desireable character qualities for an overseer, without special emphasis. But his second reference describes it as much deeper and urgent. Should we regard pastors as different than overseers in regard to their teaching? Not all Christians are gifted with the ability, or desire, to teach...are they never to be considered for the office of overseer? Why would Paul later not require of deacons, or their wives, the ability to teach? Who in our church do you consider to be "overseers" or "the Lord's servants", and is teaching a major part of their ministry?

Friends & Coffee by David, Creative Commons License