1 Timothy 3:8-13

DeaconsDeacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Observation

  • Deacons are to be dignified.
  • Deacons are not to be deceivers.
  • Deacons are not people who drink a lot of alcohol.
  • Deacons are not to be greedy.
  • Deacons are not to thieves or cheats.
  • Deacons are to hold to the faith, even those parts that are a mystery.
  • Deacons must not only hold to the faith they must believe it.
  • Deacons are to be tested before they become deacons.
  • After deacons are tested they may serve as deacons so long as they are blameless.
  • A deacon’s wife must be dignified.
  • A deacon’s wife is not to slander.
  • A deacon’s wife is to be sober minded.
  • A deacon’s wife is to be faithful in everything.
  • The deacon is to have only one wife.
  • A deacon is to manage his children well.
  • A deacon is to manage his household well.
  • Those who serve well as deacons have a good standing.
  • Those who serve well as deacons have a strong confidence in the faith.

Interpretation

The first four qualifications of a deacon are easy to understand. They were also mentioned in the qualifications for elders. In the job of a deacon, it is easy to pretend to care and become calloused. That is why it is so important a deacon is not double-tongued.

Deacons are to hold to the mystery of the faith. They are to understand well the doctrines of Christianity. Even though deacons are not elders, they still communicate Christian doctrines. When Paul says they must hold them with a clear conscience, Paul is saying a deacon must sincerely believe Christian doctrines.

The term Paul uses, “mystery of the faith”, is a common phrase for Paul. Paul uses it to refer to the revealed truth of the gospel.

We are to test deacons. Different congregations have different methods of fulfilling this verse. Some actually give them an examination or test. Suffice it to say; we are to know a deacon well.  They are not to be new to the congregation. They have been tried by fire. They have proven themselves trustworthy. They are not subject to vices. The test of a deacon is not a single one-hour long test. It is a careful examination of their character and commitment. A deacon is an ordained office. Just being available and willing does not qualify one to be a deacon.

Paul abruptly inserts a comment about wives or women. The Greek literal translation is women. As a result, the meaning here is contested. Paul could be talking about the wives of the deacons and elders. Or, Paul could be referring to women serving as deacons. Elsewhere Paul indicates women served as deacons in the early church. For example, Paul mentions Phoebe in Romans 16: 1. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae…” In that verse, Paul used the word “diakonos”. The ESV translates it as “servant.” In other passages this same word the ESV, and other translations, translate it as “deacon.”

May a woman serve as a deacon? Let’s read the scripture for what it says. Often we let our dogmas put into scripture things it does not say. Also, our hearts are so hardened; we often refuse to hear what scripture does say. Pray that God opens your heart and mind. Pray His word overcomes all your prejudices against His commands. Pray for enlightenment not only on this question but on all His word.

Like an elder, a deacon is not to be a polygamist. Paul is not talking about remarriage here. As pointed out in the previous discussion on elders, examining the grammar clarifies this point. “Let deacons each be…” Paul uses the present tense.

Paul’s words “those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing…” show that those who fulfill this ministry in the church are not doing a simple or trivial job. A deacon’s job is not a simple job. This is a high and honorable office.

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