The Office of Deacon
1 Timothy 3:8-13
- At the beginning of every year the members of our church nominate individuals to serve in different ministry responsibilities around the church. One of those areas of ministry is the office of deacon. It is crucial that we have an accurate understanding of who is qualified to be a deacon, and who is not. That is what we will discover this morning.
- There are only 2 offices that exist in the NT Church. They are overseer/bishop/elder/pastor and deacon. They are both important positions, but they are distinct in what each does. This morning we will be studying what the standards are for a man to serve in the office of deacon. Deacons have an incredibly important responsibility in the church, so it is important that the right men are selected.
- Deacons, like overseers/elders/pastors, must be men of quality (spiritually, morally), this is true even though the function of overseers and deacons is significantly different. The Greek word diakonos means humble servant. The role of deacons in the Church is to carry out the physical and spiritual caring ministry (traditionally known as pastoral care) under the oversight/supervision of the overseers. The office of deacon exists so that the overseers can be freed up for leadership and training believers to serve. This necessitates a man to be humble, and submissive to the overseers/pastors that he is serving under. There must be character, competence, and chemistry.
- The qualifications of a deacon are almost as high as that of an overseer because of the public nature of their ministry and because of the servant nature of their ministry which requires strong qualities of maturity and faithfulness.
> Qualities a man must possess to serve as a deacon the same Greek word is used of women in 1 Timothy 3:11). Deacons are involved in assisting the overseers/pastors in carrying out the spiritual and physical caring ministry of the church and therefore for them as deacons to be taken seriously they must be men who are respectable. Their ministry in the lives of the people they are caring for will only be effective if the people that they are responsible for actually trust them and desire to receive their ministry. All of this hinges on the deacon being a man who is respectable.
2) He must be a sincere man (not double-tongued) (8)
- Deacons must be sincere (not double-tongued) in the sense of being honest and not being hypocritical. It has the sense of saying one thing to one person, and then saying the opposite to a different person. So for a man to be qualified as a deacon, he must be consistent, genuine, not a people pleaser.
3) He must be a man who does not indulge in much wine (8)
- Deacons must not be heavy wine drinkers. Apparently heavy drinking was a problem in Ephesus because Paul (the author of this letter) wrote to the Christians at Ephesus on another occasion to say, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18) So the deacons were to be examples in their conduct, not coming under the dominating control of anything that would impair their judgment or their service to God.
4) He must be a man who is not pursuing dishonest gain (8)
- Deacons must not be greedy chasers of dishonest gain. Deacons are involved in the handling of finances and a man who is pursuing dishonest gain would not be trustworthy in this regard. If a man were to steal from the church it would be devastating to the reputation of the church and God in the community.
5) He must be a man who keeps hold of the deep truths of the faith, with a clear conscience (9)
- Deacons must be men of spiritual depth (cf. Acts 6:3). They should be men who understand and hold fast to the deep truths of the faith (i.e. Christianity). The phrase with a clear conscience (good conscience in 1 Tim 1:5) meant that there must be nothing in the conduct of these men that was glaringly inconsistent with their professed beliefs. They should not profess one thing, but do another.
6) He must be a man who has first been tested and has nothing against him(10)
- Deacons, like overseers, are to demonstrate their maturity before being placed in a position of responsibility (v6), they must be tested first. These men prove their quality over time in the ordinary activities of life and ministry. If they are beyond reproach (NASB), then let them serve as deacons. Nothing against them (NIV) is from two Greek words which mean, being free from accusation. It means that the person is –> unaccused, free from any charge/accusation at all. Christlike conduct is required of deacons.
7) He must be a man who has a wife who is worthy of respect (11)
- The women/wives of deacons (and overseers) are to be worthy of respect or dignified (same as the Greek word used in v8). The wives of deacons reflect on their husbands and if the wives are not respectable, this has a negative effect on the reputation of her husband.
- Also, many times the wife of a deacon is involved in serving with her husband, and if she is not trustworthy this will greatly hinder her husband’s ministry.
8) He must be a man who has a wife who is not a malicious talker, but temperate and trustworthy in everything (11)
- The women/wives of deacons (and overseers) must not be slanderous/malicious talkers (from this verb comes the noun for devil – the foremost slanderer) of others. NASB renders it, malicious gossips. This is again, a credibility issue. If the wife of the deacon is not trustworthy she hinders/harms his ministry, and therefore the spiritual well-being of the Church.
- The women/wives of deacons (and overseers) must be temperate (well-balanced/self-controlled – cf v2; Titus 2:2). It is essential for her to be self-controlled, because of how intertwined she is with the reputation of her husband.
- The women/wives of deacons (and overseers) must be trustworthy in everything (faithful, reliable). Again, a credibility issue. If she is unreliable she will hinder her husband’s work.
9) He must be a man who is the husband of but one wife (12)
- Deacons, like overseers, must be one-women men. The practical outworking of this is that a man who serves as a deacon must be/have been faithful to his wife, and he must not have been divorced. The reason for this is that a deacon and an overseer are offices that depend upon example and character. Faithfulness to one’s wife, without divorce, represents not perfection, but success. It provides a good example for the rest of the Church. This does not rule out those men who have remarried after their wives have died.
- This qualification does not refer to polygamy which was not practiced in the Roman world (which Paul is writing directions for a church in the Roman world, so it was not even a question that polygamy was ruled out). He is saying that a man should be faithful sexually and emotionally to his wife, and that he should not be divorced –> if a man has been unfaithful and been divorced he is not able to serve as a deacon. Though he can certainly serve in many other areas.
10) He must be a man who manages his children and household well (12)
- Deacons must be capable managers of their family. Paul’s reasoning for this is found in verses 4-5. The truth is that if a man cannot properly take care of his own family, how can he possibly help someone else?
* A man who has served well gains an excellent standing and great assurance in his faith in Christ Jesus (13)
- Though the position of deacon seems to be unattractive by worldly standards, to committed followers of Christ it looks quite different (cf. Jn 13:11-17; Mk 10:42-45). Those who fulfill their servant roles well gain: an excellent standing before fellow Christians who understand and appreciate the beauty of humble, selfless, Christlike service; and, great assurance (confidence, boldness) in their faith in Christ. Humble service that lacks worldly rewards, is a true test of one’s motives. When someone serves selflessly because of a Christlike spirit, this means that he has served well, which builds confidence in the sincerity of his own faith in Christ, and his sincere devotion to God (cf. Eph 3:12; Heb 10:19). He will also be rewarded greatly when he stands before Christ someday (Matt 25:21; Col 3:23-25).
- In this passage we have seen the list of qualifications that a man must meet to be able to serve as a deacon in the church. The standards are high because God desires to have those who are spiritually mature and those who are examples to be serving in the spiritual and physical caring ministry of the church. Deacons help to encourage people to be walking with God, and caring for them when needed. Deacons help the overseers/pastors to be able to have more time to effectively lead and train the members of the church to do ministry.
- It is absolutely essential that we do not compromise the biblical standards for deacons in our church. We must make sure that we are obeying God in everything, for one. Secondly, we must not compromise the quality of ministry that happens in Jesus’ church here. Deaconing is not a means to have power, nor is it an opportunity to politic. A deacon is a humble servant of Jesus Christ, who assists the overseers/pastors to be able to more effectively serve Christ in the church.
- If you are ever nominating a man for deacon, make sure that he meets the qualifications that were mentioned above. It is not a popularity contest, nor is it a choosing of who talks like they know the most, arrogance/pride would be a characteristic that would disqualify a man from serving. Pray and ask God to help you to know which man/men are His best, the meet the qualifications.