1 Timothy 3: Serving Well as Deacons
1 Timothy 3:8-13
What has gone before...
Paul warned Timothy to avoid appointing an inexperienced Christian to a position of leadership. The warning focused on comparing a newly sprouted plant to a newly converted believer, emphasizing their need for a deep, healthy foundation upon which to lead others.
1 Timothy 3:8-13 (ESV) "Deacons 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."
In this section Paul introduces a second level of leadership: the deacons of a church.
With the introduction of this office of leadership, distinct from that of "overseer", we are thrust into the world of "Church Government".
We've looked at "overseer", which means superintendent, one who "peers about", inspecting and watching out for the health of an organization. "Overseer" occurs in the New Testament only five times. "Deacon" means a servant, one who "runs" to serve others. This word occurs 30 times in the New Testament, most frequently translated in KJV as "minister".
"Deacon" was used to refer the the twelve apostles, Roman government leaders, Jesus Christ, a woman in the church, demons. Both Paul and Timothy were described as "Deacons".
Mark 9:35 (ESV) "He [Jesus] sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, - If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."
Romans 13:3-4 (ESV) "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good."
Romans 15:8 (ESV) "Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness."
Romans 16:1-2 (ESV) "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well."
2 Corinthians 11:14-15 (ESV) "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness."
Ephesians 3:7-8 (ESV) "Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."
At least six terms are used in the New Testament to refer to leaders in the church:
With all of these words from which to choose, Paul selected only two for his exhortation to Timothy and the church at Ephesus: "Overseer" and "Deacon". Look at the following chart and discuss how the two offices differ and how they are the same.
Overseer and Deacon: What's the difference?
- Above reproach
- Husband of one wife
- Able to teach
- Not a drunkard
- Not violent
- Not quarrelsome
- Not a lover of money
- Manages his own household well
- Keeping his children submissive
- Not a recent convert
- Well thought of by outsiders
- Not double-tongued
- Not addicted to too much wine
- Not addicted to dishonest gain
- Clear conscience
- Tested first
- Dignified wife
- Husband of one wife
- Manages children and households well
Four characteristics might be seen as unique for deacons since they use distinctly different words:
Feeding the Church of God
Only one specific function can be found for the office of overseer:
Acts 20:28 (ESV) "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."
Titus 1:9 (ESV) "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."
Titus 2:1 (ESV) "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine."