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Does the reference to "their wives" in 1 Timothy 3.11 refer only to the wives of deacons, or does it refer to all sisters in fellowship?

Quite a few expositors have contended that the phrase "their wives" should be translated as "their women". It is unfortunate and misleading that the RV renders it this way. "Their women" is a translation that does not fit in with the context, for we do not believe that the expression refers to all the women in the Ephesian assembly. It is also, in our view, wrong to apply it to a third special class like the elders and deacons in the previous part of the context. This would conflict with Paul’s teaching regarding the place of women in the assembly (see 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2). W E Vine links it with Phebe in Romans 16.1 who is called a deaconess. This reference is used to prove that there was in those days an order of deaconesses who engaged in various duties in the assembly. We cannot find anywhere in the book of Acts or in the epistles clear evidence that such a separate institution existed in the early church. Yet others have seen in "their wives" those who are assistants to the deacons.

It is much better in the context to take "their wives" to refer to the deacons of v.8 and the elders of v.2. The word at the beginning of v.11, "Even so", is not introducing a new class in the assembly, but rather is a new statement of truth. J Allen in his commentary on 1 Timothy in the What the Bible Teaches series is worth quoting on this point: "A study of the four occurrences of the word hosautos [rendered "Even so" in v.11] in the epistle (2.9; 3.8,11; 5.25) or the other thirteen NT occurrences does not support the view that it necessarily introduces a new class, but rather it serves to compare a new statement with what has gone before". There is a practical issue here that should not be overlooked. A wife of one who serves full time or otherwise should be marked by a certain befitting conduct. Hence we have the mention of the four qualities in the verse. By her behaviour she will support her husband. How sad it is if a servant of God is let down by his wife. Thus it shows the seriousness of the wife’s part in God’s work.

John J Stubbs

Is the priesthood of the Lord Jesus eternal? If not, how was the function of high priesthood carried out before the ascension of the Lord Jesus?

Under the old economy, the high priest from the family of Aaron ministered to the needs of God’s people. Hebrews 5.1-4 deals with the priesthood in general; here there is emphasis upon the two prerequisites for high priesthood: a) selection from among men - "For every high priest taken from among men…" (v.1), and b) summons by God - "no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God" (v.4). His work was a) in sacrifice - "that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins" (v.1), and b) in compassion - "Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way" (v.2).

There were priestly features about the Lord Jesus when He was here upon earth; these features are particularly displayed in Luke’s Gospel (sometimes spoken of as the priestly Gospel), where there are more references to the Lord Jesus praying than in any other Gospel. Indeed, this Gospel ends with Him in priestly character, as He is about to be carried up into heaven, where we are told that "he lifted up his hands, and blessed them" (Lk 24.50).

However, the Lord Jesus did not officially become High Priest until He took His place at the Father’s right hand where "he ever liveth to make intercession" (Heb 7.25). Indeed, the writer to the Hebrews plainly states: "For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood" (7.14), and again, "For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest" (8.4).

Although Christ’s priesthood is after the pattern of Aaron, it is, nevertheless, after the order of Melchisedec: "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" (Heb 5.6). This Melchisedec priesthood of Christ will be seen in all its fulness during the millennial reign of Christ, when "he shall be a priest upon his throne" (Zech 6.13). The references to "a priest for ever" do not mean that His priesthood is eternal; the context in each case confirms the fact that Christ’s priesthood can never be superseded. It will not be replaced by another. There will be no need for such a ministry in the eternal state.

David E West


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