Grace Bible Church Adult School of Biblical Theology
The Distinctive Qualifications of
Dennis Gundersen, Pastor 4/2/00
cf. 1 Timothy 3:11
The local church of the living God will have godly men serving as qualified Elders, blameless in their moral character, in their family management, in their spiritual maturity and in their public reputation.
Serving alongside Elders are godly Deacons, who are appointed to their honorable position through similar qualifications in their moral character, their spiritual maturity and in their family management.
While developing the Deacon Qualification, the Apostle Paul gives a somewhat strange addition: "Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things." (cf. 1 Tim. 3:11) Before examining the distinctive qualifications we explore the question as to who the Apostle is talking about.
Who are These Women?
Obviously, this verse appears in the midst of a section of Scripture about officers in the church, i.e., Elders and Deacons (vss. 1-14) and particularly about Deacons (vss. 8-13). Some consider verse 11 a strange, apparent pause, where Paul has a word to the ladies (KJV "women"), after which he resumes his requirements for Deacons in vs. 12. The interpretive question is: Does it make sense that Paul would address Deacons in vv 8-10 and vv 12-13, but v 11 has nothing to do with Deacons, but women in general? It seems Paul brings up women here because he is speaking of what is required for a lady to be a Deacon.
Three views have been commended:
These are Women in the Church.
A minority view, without many advocates, says Paul is addressing a word to
of the church about their conduct. But why would Paul do that and not have a word for the
also? In every other place where the Apostle cites the duty of wives, he follows with the duties of husbands, parents, children, even servants and masters (other household persons). But this section of Scripture shows no characteristics of trying to cover all the roles of various persons. This whole letter is about the church and how the affairs of the church are to be managed; within that context, this is a chapter about who ought to be officers in the church.
These are the Wives of the Deacons.
Another view says Paul was addressing how Deacons' wives are to conduct themselves. Obviously, if this is correct then this probably would also include the wives of Elders. This view does face the fact that it's a section about Deacons, and honorably does not evade this factor, saying Paul is referring to the wives married to those officers. A central weakness of this view include: There is no possessive pronoun (English, "their") but merely "women."
These are Deaconesses or Women who are Deacons.
This interpretive option offers the best grammatical, contextual and historical support. First, when considering the passage syntax, the term "likewise" or "in like manner" (Greek,
) is used in 1 Tim. 2:9 and 3:8 to shift to a different group. This would eliminate the optional view that this refers to Deacon's wives. Also, if Deacon's wives were in view, there would by demand be a word of like qualifications for Elder's wives. The Greek language lacked our English equivalent Deaconess, using the masculine term
to refer to women Deacons.
Later in this very epistle, Paul refers to women who are "on the list,"
i.e., a list of women chosen and qualified to serve in ministries of good works. What sort of good works were these women to do? Visits to younger women to instruct them; visits to widows to comfort them; visits to older women to attend to their needs. It is obvious that many such ministries are far better handled by competent women than by men. Romans 16:1-2 is an interesting reference which gives credence to this idea, when Paul brings up a sister named Phoebe.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a
) of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
Phoebe is a woman but in the Greek, a masculine noun (English,
) refers to her. It is notable that when Paul urges the whole church to receive her and help her in whatever she requires to get her work done, it sounds like one with an appointed ministry an official duties in the church. When he adds, "for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well", his word for
is a term for one who offers protection. She had been involved in a pretty useful role for Paul.
What are the Distinctive Qualifications for a Deaconess?
The Deaconess Must be Dignified.
The same qualification (Greek,
) as he required of men who would be Deacons, i.e., one of highly respectable behavior. Not just respected, for some persons gain respect whether they deserve it or not, but this means a sister who is in fact respectable or one worthy of respect.
The Deaconess Must Not be a Gossip.
She must be "not a malicious gossip," a good way of saying to the ladies what he told male Deacons (vs. 8), to not be "double-tongued." Weak
often are tempted to be deceptive or at least not straightforward, succumbing to being man-pleasers, not telling you honestly what's on their mind but try to get their way by saying what they think you want to hear. But in weak
, the same flaw more often manifests itself in gossip, i.e., spreading inappropriate news and information about others. There is no adjective "malicious" (KJV, NKJV) in the Greek, but the translators added the word to capture the sense of
, from which we get our English term diabolical. This is gossip motivated by a personal vendetta, bitterness, seeking to do harm.
The Deaconess Must be Temperate.
Next, he says such ladies must be "temperate" - again, so very parallel to what he said to the men in v 8: that they must not be "double-tongued or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain" - those are ways men get out of control, and "temperate" is a good re-statement of that, since he's already said once that it was required. All of those are ways to be
, what he requires Deacons to not be. "Temperate" (Greek,
) is a word for serious mental and emotional self-control. Not a person who can't show a sense of humor, not "serious" or "grave" in that way, but one who is serious-minded about life and knows when to be serious.
The Deaconess Must be Faithful in All Things.
Summing up, Paul says the women in this position must be "faithful in all things."
sometimes means believing and sometimes simply faithful, loyal or genuine. Here is another of those instances in which obviously "faithful" carries the day, for we would not expect Paul to say a deacon must be a believer.
Obviously men who serve as Deacons must manifest the same characteristics but the Apostle Paul draws a special attention to these qualifications for women to serve in that office, as if to suggest that there would be a temptation to omit these when appointing Deaconesses. Women often have serving gifts and may be placed into this ministry without a church being careful to screen them as to these qualifications. Without them, they would detract from their own service but also confuse the local church, as they would lack authenticity of life and fail to be mentors to other women looking on. As other NT passages teach, those serving the Lord are to be models of faithfulness and not weak in obvious areas of godly character. e.g. Acts 6:1-5.
Conclusion and Application
In order to follow the Biblical pattern, GBC should select women Deacons who serve from lives of integrity in blameless character. Their ministry, like those of male Deacons, is to be one of service to the church and not one of ruling.
As the Elder and Deacon Board considers the appointment of Deaconesses, pray for them and recommend women who may serve in this honored office.
Serving in the local church demands purity of life for all of us. Are there any ways in which the qualifications for Elders (vss. 1-8), Deacons (vss. 9-14) and Deaconesses (vs. 11), are compromised in your life? Are you the example you should be for faithful service?
Elders and Deacons must shepherd others by the example of their life. If this is essential, then it is only reasonable that Satan's central attack on the local church would be to shrink the character of leaders. The devil's strategy is compromise the leadership so that the whole congregation will believe they can serve God, regardless of a lack of faithfulness of life. At that point the Gospel and Word of God becomes a ridicule of the world, who sees the local church as a group of hypocrites. Pray for the leadership at GBC to remain faithful and strengthen each aspect of their moral life, family life, spiritual life and public reputation!
Teachers for the GBC Adult School of Biblical Theology research various commentaries and sources to glean a precise understanding of the text. No one claims originality and we all welcome constructive criticism to help better understand the Scripture. Our quest is to "search to see if these things are so."
It is our opinion, that evangelical Christians do not interpret this verse aright out of reaction against feminism. We must not let "hot" issues of our times close our minds to clear thinking about what the Scriptures say.
Think of it this way: if we had requirements for being a Captain in the military, we would say, "A man who would be captain must be
", but if it was a position open to women (which it is), we would say, "Women also must be
" - we would not say "Captainesses must be". Why would we not say that? Because we don't speak about "captainesses". Or "Presidentesses". If a woman ever wins the office of President, she will be the "President". There is no special female term for it. That is how it is in Greek with the word "deacon".