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.
Qualifications Pt. 2
1 Timothy 3:8
As Paul was laying out his list of qualifications for deacons, he wanted what was best for the church. God no doubt had given to him the wisdom to know exactly the type of men that should lead the church. Without godly men, how would the church learn godliness? Without trustworthy men, how could the church move forward? Without men worthy of respect, why would the lost world give the church a second thought? They wouldn’t, so just as Paul laid out what it means for the pastor to be blameless, he now clarifies just how it is that the deacon would live out a life of reverence. First on his list was that the deacon must not be double-tongued. No, this isn’t some sci-fi reference to aliens or mutants. It simply means that deacons must never be guilty of telling people what they want to hear at the cost of the truth. It is never the right thing to do to tell one person one thing about a subject and something different to someone else. This one word covers a whole lot of ground from integrity to hypocrisy. Integrity is of the utmost importance for all Christians but especially so for Christian leaders. In an age where trust is hard to come by, it is even more important today. We must mean what we say and say what we mean all of the time. On the other extreme, hypocrisy is never pretty, and it must not be part of the character of the deacon. On a positive note, the word “double-tongued” reflects the concept of sincerity. The deacon must be sincere in his passion for the Lord and His church as he promotes and protects the peace and unity of the church. A deacon cannot do this if he isn’t able to control his speech.
Then, like the pastor, the deacon is not to be preoccupied with either alcohol or money. Paul says that he is not to be “given to much wine” or greedy. That means that he must always put the needs of the church ahead of his own desires. Like pastors, the deacons have great responsibilities and must never allow themselves to become incapacitated by the use of alcohol because he never knows when he will be needed. What could be worse than a benevolence need arise, but when the church member goes to the deacon, he is drunk? That is the essence of this dictate. As for money, the deacons were to operate the benevolence ministry of the church. If you remember what took place in the book of Acts, people were selling possessions and property and bringing the proceeds to the church to be distributed to those who had needs. Undoubtedly, this would place large sums of money at their fingertips. That is too much temptation for anyone who has a problem with greed. One commentator describes this prohibition as reminding the deacon that he must never use the office for financial gain. It would be very easy to “make deals” with people or to use their needs for personal advantage and that must never happen.
You see, this verse is all about personal integrity and outstanding character. Whether the deacons in your church are true servants or serve as directors, they are to be men worthy of respect.
Qualifications Pt. 1
1 Timothy 3:8
Sometimes we make the mistake of differentiating between the offices of pastor and deacon by talking about those who lead the church (pastors) and those who serve the church (deacons). I say we do this mistakenly because both are to be servants and both are to be leaders. In truth, they should readily surrender to the reality that those called by God to be in these positions are to be servant leaders. Pastors serve the flock by utilizing their God-given gifts every day. Deacons become leaders by virtue of their servanthood. If Jesus came to serve and not be served, how much more, then, should the men called to minister to the flock be servants? I tell my deacons all the time that when they serve the people of the church, the people will put them into leadership positions. That means that both pastors and deacons should be and will be held to a higher level of accountability.
In many ways the qualifications for deacons are similar to that of pastors. Paul told pastors at the beginning that they are to be blameless, and then describes what that means in the verses that follow. He included the qualification for deacons, too. Both groups of men must live lives of personal integrity so that no one can charge them with any misconduct. They must have the respect of those inside and outside the church.
Notice how Paul started this list: “Likewise the deacons must be reverent….” In other words, just like pastors, deacons must have this character trait, too. Being reverent. We tend to think of this word as meaning miserable. It’s kind of like the man who was walking down the street when he was stopped by a passerby who asked him, “Are you a pastor?” To which the man replied, “No, but I have been sick lately.” I can’t get my mind around how people think that godliness means walking around with your hands folded in front of you with a serious look on your face. The most godly man of all times was accused of being a party-animal (glutton and winebibber), and children loved Him. You don’t get that reaction if someone is serious all of the time. Neither are pastors and deacons required to be serious all of the time. The word does mean that they are serious-minded men who know how to behave when serious issues confront the church. The word does mean that they must be men whose character merits respect. The word does mean that they are to be men of dignity and purpose. But it doesn’t mean serious all the time. It doesn’t mean boring. Like the song says, “Pastors just want to have fun!” Well, maybe the song doesn’t refer to pastors, and maybe pastors don’t JUST want to have fun. But I think you get my meaning!