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Judgment and Snare of the Devil (1 Tim 3:6-7)

I am preparing a talk on leadership, so I have been spending some good time back in the Pastorals. I came across a great example of two genitives that are either subjective or objective genitives.

Remember the grammar. If the word in the genitive is doing (i.e., the subject) of the implied action in the head noun, it is a “subjective genitive.” If the word in the genitive is receiving (i.e., the object) of the implied action in the head noun, it is an “objective genitive.”

Paul tells Timothy that due to the importance of the office of overseer, it is essential (δεῖ) that the person not be “a recent convert, lest having become conceited, he fall into the judgment of the devil (κρίμα … τοῦ διαβόλου). And it is also necessary for an overseer to have a good reputation with those outside, lest he fall into reproach, which is the snare of the devil (παγίδα τοῦ διαβόλου) (vv 6-7).

We know from elsewhere in the Pastorals that Satan can act (unwittingly) as an agent of God (1 Tim 1:20), so the theology does help us decide which types of genitive we are looking at.

If the two genitives are subjective, then Satan is the judge and is laying the snare. If they are objective, then Satan receives the judgment of conceit and is caught in the snare.

It seems to me that in the case of the latter, the genitive is clearly subjective (see 2 Tim 2:26). Satan is a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8) seeking to devour everyone in his path, including church leaders; he sets snares to entangle and destroy them, bringing them into public disgrace and so disgracing the cause of Christ. Church leaders should consider this before launching into gossip, backbiting, power-mongering, and pornographic obsessions.

Interpretation of the first genitive is a little more difficult. My decision was that is is objective. The spiritually immature overseer is more liable to fall prey to judgment for that pride, the same judgment that befell Satan. See my commentary for the arguments why.

By the way, if you think your elders are free from pornography, you are dangerously naïve. Please check the statistics and the moral failure rate. Satan knows the value and influence of leadership, and so he targets leaders.

As a pastor, so should you.

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