The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
March 3, 2013


1) 1 Timothy 3:8-13: The Deacons (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


1 Timothy 3:8-13
(The Deacons)

by Tom Edwards

In our study of 1 Timothy 3, Paul next speaks of the qualifications for a deacon: "Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain" (v. 8).  

"Deacons" comes from the Greek word "diakonos," which is primarily translated as "servant" in the New Testament; and in that sense can actually refer to any Christian who is a servant of the Lord, such as Epaphras, as well as Tychicus, whom Paul describes as being a "faithful SERVANT [diakonos] of Christ" (Col. 1:7; 4:7).  Jesus also used this word by saying, "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My SERVANT [diakonos] also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him" (Jn. 12:26).   Note in this passage that the Lord uses the term "anyone" twice.  For anyone can be a servant of God by obeying Jesus.  In this sense, Phoebe (who was a woman) is also referred to as being a "diakonos" in Romans 16:1, where Paul speaks highly of her, by saying, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a SERVANT of the church which is at Cenchrea."  The RSV renders this as "deaconess"; but, again, this just means "servant" in a general sense and not that Phoebe served in some official capacity.  The Darby version translates it as "minister," which would certainly be understood wrongly by those who think of a "minister" to be only a "preacher" -- instead of the general meaning of "servant," which is the most common rendering of "diakonos" in the new Testament.  So just as the Greek word for "elder" ("presbuteros") can refer to older men in general, as well as have a special meaning for those men who would shepherd the church of God, the Greek word for "deacon" also was used generally as "servant," which should be true of every Christian, as well as referring to that special office of deacons who served in the church, worked under the oversight of the elders, and had met certain qualifications, such as we shall now see:

For as Paul shows, deacons are to be "men of dignity."  From the Greek word "semnos," it means "venerable, that is, honorable" (James Strong).  It is also translated elsewhere in the NASB as "honorable" and "dignified."  The KJV renders it as "grave."  It is seen in other versions as "worthy of respect" (NIV, ALT), "serious in their behavior" (BBE), and "reverent" (EMTV).  Being a "man of dignity" corresponds with some of the terms Paul uses as qualifications for the elder.  That he is one who is to be "above reproach," "respectable," and "have a good reputation."  This same Greek word is also used to specifically instruct how the women are to be (1 Tim. 3:11) and the older men (Titus 2:2), and the type of things we should all be thinking on (Phil. 4:8).  From an overall view of the Scriptures, we can infer that every Christian should be a person of dignity.  

Paul also shows that deacons are not to be "double-tongued."  From the Greek word "dilogos," it means "equivocal, that is, telling a different story" (Strong).  As Thayer shows, the word means to say one thing to one person, but to say something different to another -- and with the intent to deceive.  The Greek word is pronounced "dil'-og-os"; but in its spelling, you can easily see the prefix "di" (for  "two" or "twice") before the root word "logos," which is translated in the New Testament as mainly "word" and then "words."  Though in the New Testament, "dilogos" is used only in  1 Timothy 5:8, other closely related terms are seen elsewhere in the gospel, such as in being a liar, guileful, and deceitful -- any of which can keep one out of heaven (cf. Rev. 21:27).  So it is not only required of the deacon to not be "double-tongued," but for every Christian as well.  

The deacon is not to be "addicted to much wine."  And it certainly would have taken much in those days to make one drunk, when it had been mixed with 3 or 4 parts water to 1 part wine, to begin with.  The phrase "addicted to much wine" is not indicating that it would be all right for the deacon to be addicted to a little wine -- as long as it is not "much."  Whether much or a little, the addiction in itself would be wrong. Compare this to 1 Corinthians 6:12: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."  Paul is not saying that he could lie, steal, and murder; and it would be lawful; rather, he has in mind only those things that are lawful to begin  with.  But just because it is lawful, that doesn't mean it will also be profitable or edifying. And we can also infer from this that even lawful things can become wrong if they take control of one's life.  For instance, fishing can be an enjoyable and innocent pastime; but for a person to become so addicted to it that he neglects his family and even quits the church so that he can spend more time fishing, that's one way a good thing can be turned into a bad thing.  

The deacon is also not to be "fond of sordid gain."  This phrase comes from just one Greek word, which Thayer defines as "eager for base gain, greedy for money."  The KJV renders it as "greedy of filthy lucre."  It is also translated in some other Bible versions as "greedy for dishonest gain" (ALT), "greedy of ill gain" (MKJV), "greatly desiring the wealth of this world" (BBE), and "greedy for money" (NKJV).  James Burton Coffman defines it as being "inordinately fond of making money."

We noted that one of the qualifications for the elder is that he must be "free from the love of money."  And that, too, is applicable for each of us: "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang" (1 Tim. 6:10).  Therefore, "Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have..." (Heb. 13:5).

After mentioning these negative things, which those who would be deacons cannot be guilty of, Paul then shows, in 1 Timothy 3:9, one of the things these men need to be doing: "but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience."  As we have seen, this "mystery of the faith" is the gospel that has been revealed; so it is now no longer a mystery, which Paul indicates in the following passage: "that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.  By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit..." (Eph. 3:3-10).  

But as Paul further shows, this mystery is not only to be read and learned, but also obeyed.  For one is to hold to it with a clear conscience, which should also be true for every Christian.  For example, it is what Paul strove to have: "In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men" (Acts 24:16).  We had also seen in 1 Timothy 1:5 that this was one of the purposes for God's commandments, that we might develop this proper conscience: "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."  Since we, who are Christians, have Jesus Christ as our great high priest, we need to do what the Hebrew writer exhorts, by saying, "let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22).  For the alien sinner (the one who has never become a Christian), a good conscience begins at baptism, according to 1 Peter 3:21: "And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

So not only the deacon, but every Christian must also have that good conscience.  And notice what happens when that conscience is violated: "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).  Here, the term "faith" is referring to one's conscience or personal conviction -- rather than the faith of the gospel.  Violating one's conscience is a sin -- even when what a person thinks to be wrong is not wrong in God's sight.  For the violator is willfully doing that which he believes to be wrong.  

In 1 Timothy 3:10, Paul shows the need of a trial period before one could start serving as a deacon: "These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach."  The "also" in this passage indicates that not only the deacons, but also the elders  had to first go through a testing period.  Of course, that is also implied in the fact that the elder was not to be a novice; but one who had been a Christian for some time; and, therefore, had substantial time to prove himself by setting forth the proper example.  The KJV renders "tested" as "proved."  Thayer defines the Greek word as "To test, examine, scrutinize; to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy."  On what basis would these men be tested? Would it not be on the basis of these qualifications that Paul lists concerning the deacons?  If a man has been tested and shows that he meets these requirements, then he has passed the test and met the approval.  In view of this, David Lipscomb writes that "Deacons must not be young converts or inexperienced men.  They must have had time for study and practice of God's word."

The need for these men to be "beyond reproach" would also be a way of saying that they had passed the test.  And, as we saw in the case of  the elders (in 1 Tim. 3:2) and even every Christian (Col. 1:22), we are all to live above reproach.  

Paul isn't finished yet in pointing out the qualifications for the deacons, but now he addresses the women in 1 Timothy 3:11, by saying, "Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things."

Who are these "women"?  I imagine there are four views people have had with this verse (though certainly not all right): 1) "These are women in general."  2) "These are the deacon's wives."  3) "These are the wives of the elders and the deacons."  And 4), "these are female deacons, serving in an official capacity." 

Commenting on these four views, would it not seem out of place for Paul to simply interject instruction for women in general, right here in the midst of his qualifications for a deacon?   If that is what he is doing, though, why didn't he also throw in some instructions for men in general?

But what about it being only the wives of the deacons?  Would it not seem unlikely that Paul would give instruction for the wives of the deacons, but not for the wives of the elders?  Could an elder's wife be undignified, a malicious gossip, not temperate, and not faithful in all things?  Would not these instructions also apply to her?

From the Scriptures, we can rule out that last view.  For women cannot serve as female deacons in an official capacity.  As Paul goes on to show, in 1 Timothy 3:12, deacons must be "husbands of one wife" -- thus, excluding women as serving officially as a deaconess.

So it would appear that Paul has the wives of the elders and deacons in mind when he gives this instruction in 1 Timothy 3:11.  Many Bible translations render "women" (1 Tim. 3:11) as "their wives" (KJV, NKJV, NIV, LITV, ISV, and others).

These wives were also to be "dignified," which had also been said of the deacons (1 Tim. 3:8), as well as the older men (Titus 2:2); and is one of the things we are to think on, as shown in Philippians 4:8, and translated there as "honorable."

They were also not to be "malicious gossips."  Interestingly, this phrase "malicious gossips" comes from just one Greek word ("diabolos"), which the NASB translates 3 times as "malicious gossips" -- but 34 times as the "devil."  Thayer shows the Greek word to mean "1) prone to slander, slanderous, accusing falsely  1a) a calumniator, false accuser, slanderer..."  That certainly reminds us of the devil.  For the Bible speaks of him as being "...the accuser of our brethren...who accuses them before our God day and night" (Rev. 12:10).   A good example of Satan's false accusations is seen in the case of Job, whom God knew to be the most righteous man in all the world (Job 1:6-11).   Thayer also shows that this word can be used figuratively, by pointing out that it is also "metaphorically applied to a man who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him."  And, from what we have seen, being a malicious gossip is one of the ways a person can act the part of the devil.  

We might have thought of 1 Timothy 3:11 as an interjection of how the wives of the elders and deacons should be and irrelevant to their husbands; but would that not also still be considered as part of the qualifications for the elder or deacon?   In other words, these men could be disqualified if their wives did not meet these requirements -- just as the elder could be disqualified if he did not have children who believed (Titus 1:6).

Paul then states in 1 Timothy 3:12, "Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households."  The NASB says "only one wife," but "only" is in italics; so not in the original.  This isn't merely a prohibition against polygamy; but, rather, the deacon must also be a married man, just as the elders also needed to be.  I noticed in more than 20 versions that only the NASB and one other version use the word "only" -- though the NIV implies it with "A deacon must be the husband of but one wife...."  

Deacons are also to be "good managers of their children and their own households."  The NKJV renders this as "ruling their children and their own houses well."  This is also similar to 1 Timothy 3:4, concerning the elder who is to manage or rule his house well, keeping his children under control or having them in subjection with all dignity.  

Paul then closes this section concerning the deacons, by saying, "For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 3:13).  The KJV renders part of this as "For they that have used the office of a deacon WELL PURCHASE to themselves a good degree...."  That certainly doesn't mean that the office of a deacon can be bought with money.  As we have seen, what it requires is the meeting of certain qualifications.  The term "purchase" comes from a Greek word that means "to get for one's self," as Thayer defines one of its meanings.  And we can also see how that one who serves as a deacon, meeting those qualifications, is also a man who can continue to develop toward one day becoming an elder, which, as seen in the beginning of this chapter, is also a "fine work" one would desire to do (1 Tim. 3:1). 


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be remembering the following people, and their families, in prayer:

* Tom Smitherman (Lee's father) who has been diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer; Bill Barfield (Linda Blevins' uncle) who is still at a rehab center; Pam MacDonald who has serious back trouble; Cheryl Crews who has chronic ailments; Shirley Young who suffers from fibromyalgia; Jean Calloway who has health problems; and Virginia Fontenot who has been under the weather.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

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