Qualifications Pt. 3
1 Timothy 3:9, 10
As men of integrity, one of the deacons’ most important tasks is “to hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.” What in the world does that mean? Do you, like me, sometimes wonder about the language Paul used? How in the world did he come up with these things? We have to remember that this was a Jewish man writing in Koine Greek that has been translated into modern day English. There are some words that easily crossover between the languages, but cultural issues and specific idioms do not always travel well. Such is Paul’s use of the word mystery which he used multiple times. When he used the word, he was referring to a truth that has been previously hidden but now is revealed. He used the concept to refer to Jesus coming to earth to take on the form of a man – a mystery that most people cannot comprehend even today but that was revealed to all of us in the gospels. He used it to refer to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of believers, the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the church, the gospel itself, lawlessness, and the rapture. All of these things just don’t make sense to the human mind; we cannot comprehend them outside of God opening our eyes to the truths.
With that in mind, we tackle Paul’s use in this verse, and to be honest, it is impossible to identify a specific item that he called a mystery. So perhaps he was referring to all of the mysteries. Think about it this way. Paul was giving to us the qualifications for men to serve as deacons, so everything he had to say focuses our minds on the deacons’ overall response to Jesus’ message of salvation and what it means to be a Christian – not just a deacon. However, it is absolutely imperative that the deacon has a proper grasp of biblical doctrines and their application. As we see in this list, the deacon is not required to have the ability to teach, so he doesn’t have to worry about standing in front of a class and expounding on these doctrines like the pastor does. But he must hold on to those doctrines with a pure conscience meaning that he doesn’t just understand the teachings – he lives them out. Yes, it is first about believing the teachings of the apostles but it is also about obeying every aspect of God’s Word. You see, this is a heart issue at the deepest level. It isn’t enough to know the truth of God’s Word in his head; the deacon must hold it in his heart. In essence, this verse speaks directly to the deacon’s personal relationship with Jesus.
Notice what Paul said in v. 10: “…let these also first be tested….” A better way of translating these words would be “evaluate the men who would serve as deacons before they become deacons and while they serve as deacons.” The verb tense indicates that the testing should be ongoing meaning that every deacon must be constantly evaluated in the areas of character and service by the church. Again, Paul was not specific, but it is likely that he was referring to the deacons’ beliefs and practices, both of which are important to the church. The testing may have been informal, but the deacon had to convince the church that his faith was genuine and that his life was blameless – again meaning that no charges of misconduct could be leveled at him. I wrote down a quote a long time ago from a man by the name of R.W. Ward. I don’t know where I read it, but this is what it said: “In one sense, all Christians are blameless through Christ; in another sense, all are unworthy to serve; but in the mercy of God, some men, though they feel their unworthiness, are adjudged fit by their fellow believers. God uses men before they are completely sanctified….” And I am glad He does.