THE BOOK OF 1 TIMOTHY
Deacons Get the Job Done/AdHoc Ministry
11/25/12 SCC 1 Timothy 3:8-16
You know how it is when you get into a new situation and then learn the inside of the operation. Well, here we are emerging into the inside of the body of Christ. This is not like the inside of a corporation but of a spiritual body—a network of believers growing in love for one another. Oversight is expected by ones who know and seek the mind of the Lord, to guide developing ministry of the believers, in direct inspiration of the Spirit of God, as each one finds what the Lord wants him or her to do. Elders are to oversee that, to guide it, to correct it, if need be, along the lines of what the Scriptures teach and what the Spirit of God has led them to understand as they seek the mind of the Lord in prayer. The qualifications for spiritual service are not so much what our talents might be or what we are able to do or what we are willing to do. The qualifications are all about what we are. They have to do with spiritual life more so than talent, effort or even willingness.
In the passage on oversight within the body of Christ, the apostle said nothing about women, for in the New Testament churches there were no women functioning this way. It is obvious that the Lord himself chose no women apostles. But when he comes to deacons it is clear that Paul includes women in this ministry. This function of deacon in the early church arose from the quarrel over the distribution of food, described in the sixth chapter of Acts. There was a murmuring among the Greek-speaking Jews who had become Christians, because they said their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. The Greek-speaking widows felt neglected. They brought the problem to the apostles, who told them to choose out from among them seven men (for whom they gave certain qualifications) who were to handle this problem -- "but we (apostles) are to give ourselves continually to the ministry of the Word of God and to prayer, seeking the mind of the Lord,". Thus arose the first evidence of the work of deacons in the church.
Here are the three qualifications the apostles laid down for those deacons:
1. They were to be men of good reputation, well known for their character in the congregation.
2. They were to be filled with the Spirit—they were to have a biblical view of life.
3. They were to possess the gift of wisdom (they were to know how to apply the truth of the Word of God to specific situations). These men were appointed to serve the church. Deacons are to serve the church and their Lord by handling the practical problems of administration, of distribution, of finances, whatever may be the problem within the church. But essentially, they were the church's helpers, not the servants of the church; they were the servants of the Lord, but they were serving the practical needs of believers, doing for the many what would be difficult for individuals to do for themselves. Deacons were volunteers who took on specific assignments of service in order that the congregation might be able to conduct its services and its ministry in helpful and wonderful ways.
First, the men: These are personal qualifications.
Men of Dignity: It means to be a realist, not to be a dreamer who chases after rainbows, not one who is easily influenced, but one who sees life realistically and handles it that way.
Deacons are not to be "double-tongued: A tongue that says two things, one thing to one person and another thing to someone else. Those people, male or female, are not to be deacons in the church. They are straightforward, honest-speaking people.
Third, deacons are not to be "given to much wine”: We have already commented on this with regard to elders. It is clear that the wine involved here did have the possibility of being intoxicating, so it was not to be indulged in very much. Deacons are not to be winos or alcoholics or to give themselves, even occasionally, to excessive use of wine. They are to be moderate and temperate in this regard.
Fourth, they are "not greedy for gain." They are not to be "wheeler-dealers," always looking out for a fast buck, always out to take advantage of situations to gain some more money.
Like the elders, deacons are also to have a track record of certain things they have demonstrated.
First, "They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience”: It means the Scriptures, the whole revelation from God. A mystery is not something mysterious in the New Testament but is something that is revealed only to the initiated; it is not something everyone understands. It is the world that is confused and dealing unrealistically with life. The Bible sees things the way they really are. So a deacon should be one who has understood the Word of God, who holds it and believes it himself.
Elders have to be teachers of the Word of God. So, the deacon then must hold to New Testament revelation. The spiritual character then of an individual who serves as a deacon begins with an affirmation of New Testament doctrine. He holds to the mystery of THE faith. THE faith simply means the content of Christian truth.
Second, deacons are to hold it in "a clear conscience”: They practice what they preach; they believe it, and they behave accordingly. That standard of practical behavior is necessary.
Third, deacons are to be tried out first: This means in some kind of an initial assignment, when one is watched to see how he does. The reward of service is always more service. We are all called to be servants of Christ. To be given opportunity to do more is a great privilege. So, "let them also be tested first." If they do well, then they are to serve as deacons. This seems to imply a longer term of service.
The apostle now turns to women deacons v 11:
First, they too are to be dignified: This is the same word, which was used to describe the men. Women deacons are to be realistic people, not dreamers following after rainbows, not given to visionary tasks, but people who deal realistically with what life presents before them.
Second, they are not to be "slanderers”: Women are not to be she-devils. It refers to women who were given to the practice of gossiping and slandering the reputations of others. Care must be exercised, therefore, in choosing women deacons. They must not be known as wreckers of reputations.
Third, women deacons are to be "temperate”: Here again is a word about their drinking habits. Women are to be temperate in that regard as well.
The last qualification is that they are to be "faithful in all things”: They are to be responsible, trustworthy individuals; having been given assignments, they will carry them through.
Paul closes with instruction, both for the males, and male and female deacons alike:
This is addressed to male, married deacons. If they are married, they are to be, literally, "one-woman men." That is not really insisting that they be married, because Paul himself was not married, nor was Timothy, as far as we can tell at this point. Deacons are to be men who, if they are married, have their eye only for one woman. Deacons also are to manage their children and their households well. How they handle them family is a significant qualification. All this is to be taken note of when people are chosen to be deacons.
Finally, the last word here is v 13:
Two things will result when the service of a deacon is done in a rightful way:
First, it will create a great sense of appreciation within his/her network of believers:
Deacons will have "good standing for themselves”: Their own ministry will be widely received and appreciated. It is right that we should give thanks, and not take for granted those who so diligently and faithfully serve in the name of Christ. So before God and the faithful, one who serves well in this area gains a good standing. The reason for this is because the one giving and serving has the power. These are the ones with the real influence!
Second, deacons earn for themselves, "great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus”: The word is really, "boldness." When you serve the Lord with all your heart in whatever ministry he gives you, you develop a wonderful sense of God at work with you helping you solve problems, and this creates a deep sense of boldness.
So two things accrue then to the person who is a faithful deacon.
One, respect by which he becomes the model that others emulate.
Two, confidence which even a snowballing effect spins you on to greater usefulness and greater effectiveness and greater resource.