This message was presented on February 23, 2014 as part of the series on 1 Timothy.
Last week we began looking at the qualifications of the elder and I wanted to make sure we understood that first verse. Paul said, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (1 Tim. 3:1 NKJ) I emphasized that word “if” and said it was not a Third Class Condition as it was in 1 Tim. 2:15, but a First Class Condition, which means the phrase is a statement of fact. In other words, it is not saying, “if a man desires the position (maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t).” Rather, it is saying, “Since a man desires the position of bishop…” The man who is filled with the Spirit will “stretch” for the position of bishop and the fruit of his life will prove whether he is ready or not. If he does not “stretch” for the position, he is acting like the first Adam (the creature), rather than the second Adam (the Lord Jesus Christ). Women, you have the opportunity to influence your sons to desire (stretch) to the position of being a bishop.
We now transition to the qualifications of a deacon. Let’s begin by hearing what Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 NKJ) In fact, He calls every believer to serve “If [maybe he does, and maybe he doesn’t, which is a third class condition clause] anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. (John 12:26) Serving and being a deacon is held in high esteem by the Lord.
The best passage to see the description of a deacon is Acts 6:1-7,
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. 7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7 NKJ)
The disciples described here were those Christians who were following Jesus, not the twelve apostles. When roles are fulfilled, then disciples can multiply and that is the Divinely blessed result.
The word “deacon” referred to a table waiter, but can be expanded to refer to any ministry, relief, service, or support. Deacons served the church community, which allowed the Word of God to spread and disciples to multiply. Their main focus was to first, ensure elders can focus on prayer and ministry of the Word; secondly, to serve the needs of the congregation. Specifics of their responsibility would be defined by the needs of the community they served. God is far more concerned with character than task accomplishment.
Interestingly, God calls all Christians to do the work of “deaconing” which is also translated “ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12, the work of ministry). Every believer has privileges and responsibilities to use their spiritual gifts in a variety of “ministries” (1 Cor. 12:4-5, the differences of ministries). Our deacons have a wide variety of responsibilities including maintaining the facilities, maintenance, showing benevolence, IT, the operations of welcoming and ushering, doing outside landscaping and special projects. How do you disciple men to serve?
1) Disciple men who qualify to serve (3:8-9)
8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money (1 Tim. 3:8 NKJ)
Paul begins with the word “likewise” which echoes 1 Timothy 3:1 and the statement about men stretching to serve as a bishop; here they are assumed they will “stretch” to be a deacon. It’s a good thing for a man to seek to serve. It’s a good work as in 1 Timothy 3:1. Elders pray, oversee and teach; Deacons lead in service and benevolence. Let’s note the character qualities.
The first is reverent, which means “august or dignified.” It is translated the same way in Titus 2:2, “that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience.” (Tit 2:2 NKJ), where it is described of an older man. The deacons’ focus is on pleasing the Lord, not gaining recognition. They want to be taken for granted, like the power company IPL. They don’t want attention, because that always means someone doesn’t have power! This is explained by three following words:
He is to not be double-tongued. This means he doesn’t say one thing to one person and something else to another. He doesn’t speak to satisfy one person, while saying something else to satisfy another person. He is not like a man who has a mistress on the side from his wife. He is trustworthy and holds confidences.
He is also not given to much wine, which means he is “not giving heed to much wine.” He is known for self-control. As a deacon, he must be alert and able to think clearly.
Additionally, he is not greedy for gain. Deacons are known for their generosity and graciousness; they are not known to be ruthless or cutthroat in their practices. This next quality is very important:
9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. (1 Tim. 3:9 NKJ)
A deacon holds the mystery with pure conscience. This is in contrast to what Paul will address in 1 Tim. 4:1-2. Remember that Mystery Truths were not revealed to the Old Testament saints. An example is the mystery of “Christ in you the hope of glory.” No one in the Old Testament ever thought of the Godhead indwelling a believer!
The word “faith” is used here in a passive sense. The word “faith” (pistos) can be used in three ways:
- actively, referring to a person’s trust,
- passively, referring to what is believed, or
- adjectivally, referring to describing the faithfulness of a person.
Here is it used passively of that which is believed. They are not only servants, but they understand doctrine. And the word “pure” refers to a cleansed (catharsis) conscience. They are convicted about what they believe, therefore they are given to serving. They watch what enters their life, because they understand the GIGO principle – garbage in/garbage out. Church is not a social club. It is a sacred assembly where holy God is served. Their service puts feet to this truth.
How do you disciple men to serve? Disciple men who qualify with godly character. How do you do that?
2) Disciple men who have been tested in action (3:10)
10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. (1 Tim. 3:10 NKJ)
This is important! They must be tested first – not with a written examination, but with tests that prove their character. The definition of “test” is “put to the test for the purpose of approving.” Examine him, even scrutinize him. You want to approve the candidate, but he must first prove himself. Notice it says to first test. The church is not to choose and then test. Sometimes, people will say, “If we make Samuel a deacon, maybe he’ll be more faithful going to church.” That should never be said. The position of deacon is too important, as well as too holy to God. Jesus made it clear, “You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” (Matt. 25:21) It may be mundane things they do, but they are sacred in God’s eyes. Can you give them something to do and you can trust that they will do it? Or do they have to be reminded?
The passage says, “being found blameless,” which means he is beyond reproach. Deacons have to be proven, but once proven, let them serve. Paul urgently commands them, “Put them into service!”
How do you disciple men to serve? Disciple men who qualify and disciple men who have been tested in action. Now Paul begins a new category.
3) Disciple women to godliness (3:11)
11 Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. (1 Tim. 3:10)
Is this talking about Deacon wives, or is it talking about women in general? Is it talking about the office of deaconess? Most of the translations lean toward Deacon wives. However, let me give you several things to consider. First, there is a transitional conjunction, “likewise,” that would indicate a separate office. Secondly, there is no pronoun “their.” Thirdly, there is no description given for Elder’s wives. Fourthly, the qualities could easily fit to those who serve as deaconesses. Fifthly, the text immediately following describes the deacon’s responsibility in his family.
Why would this office be necessary? There are some service tasks that are best done by women, and not men. Does it violate Paul’s restriction of women not having authority over a man? No, 1 Tim. 2:12 is not violated, because deacons are serving, they do not carry authority. They serve under the leadership of an elder to minister to women and families. Let’s note the qualities.
First, she is to be reverent, that is respectable, dignified and honorable. Secondly, she is not to be a slanderer (literally, she is not to be a devil). Slander means unjust injuring of one’s good reputation, and women are prone to this! Men, as we saw in 1 Timothy 3:8, are prone to being double-tongued. I had a chaplain friend in another state and when he went to a small country church, the average age was 70. The organist was 80 and said, “Watch out for Elly, she’ll control you.” The song leader was 75 and said, “Watch out for Betty, you have to do things her way or she’ll not play well.” They were both unjustly injuring the good reputation of the other person.
Thirdly, she is to be temperate, which is the same word we saw in 1 Timothy 3:2 for the overseer and means sober, or self-controlled.
Fourthly, she is to be faithful in all things. This is the same word found in verse nine, but here it is used in the adjectival way and refers to her faithfulness. She is trustworthy, or true to the trust imposed on her in doctrine.
Consider that you do not have to have an “official” office to serve in the church. Those who want a title may want more than the office (power, prestige, etc.). Now Paul clearly refers back to the male deacons in verses 12 – 13.
4) Disciple men to look for a good standing in Jesus (3:12-13)
12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. (1 Tim. 3:12 NKJ)
All men must lead in the home, and especially elders and deacons! Paul uses the same phrase that is used of an elder in 1 Timothy 3:2, “a one woman man.” I won’t repeat all the erroneous interpretations, but just give you the correct one. The nouns are anarthrous, so the emphasis is on the quality of the noun and refers to a man who is focused, leading and loving one woman. He is not gazing at other women and wishing he were with them, but instead finds his contentment in his.
Furthermore, he stands before his children. He and they are not perfect, but he leads and they follow. He spends time with his family, because he knows his responsibility at home.
13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 3:13)
Deacons are looking to obtain a good standing. The phrase, “good standing” refers to the rank of a soldier or the honor among men, and the deacon is to be looking to obtain this (Paul wrote, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31 NKJ)). He is in a position of trust who can influence for the kingdom. Some deacons will change their roles and become an elders or pastors.
Finally, we should note they are exhorted to have great boldness in the faith. The word faith refers to the active use of faith, or that trust which is in Jesus.
The best illustration of serving is the Lord’s example in John 13. Jesus had called the disciples together to celebrate the Last Supper with them. In the ancient world, things like dust, dirt, mud, and animal dung accumulated on people’s feet. The custom was to wash one’s feet for refreshment. No one took up this responsibility, so Jesus removed his outer garment and proceeded to wash the disciples’.
When it was Peter’s turn (who refused at first), Jesus said He must or Peter would have no part in Him. Peter responded by saying, “Well, wash me all over then!” And Jesus responded that he (Peter) was already clean, but not all of the other disciples were. His feet needed to be cleaned to teach the important Christian principle of confession of sins of 1 John 1:9. John recorded for us,
10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you. 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” 12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:10-17 NKJ)
Did Jesus receive praise, a pay increase, or any earthly reward? No, and the same is often true with serving on earth. However, God will bless and reward in eternity, if He chooses not to during our time on earth.
Disciple men to serve the Lord with eternal opportunities!
- Character is more important than the task-mindedness. What was important to Jesus? Character and humble service. Women, disciple your boys to serve.
- There are no unimportant positions in the Christian life or the church. We need each other and must connect to each other.
- Test people in life before giving them the position.
- There is great reward for those who serve, but it is not always given on earth. The position is important, but you don’t need the position to serve. Serve for the Lord’s recognition and build His Kingdom!
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) What are different ways people can serve in the church?
2) Are elders and deacons equal in importance? _____________ What are the two first characteristics mentioned for the elder qualification and deacon qualification (they are different Greek words)? Why are those qualifications so important?
3) Did God know that David would be anointed king during King Saul’s reign as king? ___________ How did God train King David before he was given the throne in Israel?
4) Does a deacon’s home life matter if most of his serving is done at church? ________________Why or why not? If he is primarily a server, maintainer, repairman, administrator for the church’s facilities, or a provider of service, relief or service, does it matter?
Making application of the message to life:
5) What are ways that men can raise up young men to be good deacons? How can we exhort men to do that?
6) What are ways to honor the position of deacon, so men will want to serve in that capacity?
7) Is it wrong to look for reward in life? Why or why not? How would you help disciple someone through 1 Timothy 3:13?