Grace Bible Church Adult School of Biblical Theology
Qualifications of Godly Deacons in the Local Church
Dennis Gundersen, Pastor 3/26/00 cf. 1 Timothy 3:8-16
As we have discovered the ordered 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. Encouragement and motivation of the flock flows from lives worthy to be followed, for Elders publicly mentor by example what all believers should be.
(1) And serving alongside Elders are godly Deacons, who are appointed to their honorable position through similar qualifications. They must be blameless in: their moral character, their spiritual maturity and in their family management.
Deacons Must Be Blameless in Moral Character
The term "likewise" (Greek,
) not only points back to a comparison with the qualification of Elders (vss. 1-7) but functions as a structural marker, dividing various people in the local church.
Even a casual reading of the qualifications for Deacons shows how similar the qualifications are to what's required of an Elder. Though the work of Elders and Deacons has major differences, yet the men in either must be quality men, for the work of Deacons is a spiritual work, even if much of it pertains to meeting physical needs! The very way in which a Deacon goes about his duties of tending to church members' personal needs must be with the understanding that all of life is spiritual, and that tending to the material needs of the body is spiritual work.
Deacons Must Be Men of Dignity
i.e., a noble character which calls for the respect of all. His godly life is so apparent, others are drawn to imitate him; they want their children to grow up like him. They are glad to be around him. He's admirable. What makes him that way? All the traits which follow.
Deacons Must Not Be Double-tongued
means just what it sounds like; you can't count on what a double-tongued man says, for he's liable to commit to anything. He'll tell one he'll do this and another that, one he believes this, another that. He tells one brother in the church he agrees with his ideas and then, in the company of someone else, he agrees with his ideas, which differ with those of the first. So what does he believe? I'm afraid a double-tongued man doesn't believe much and hasn't got a lot of principles, and so can't be relied upon for much except for that habit of trying to please everyone, which insures that he's not pleasing to God. A double-tongued person is playing politics!
Deacons Must Not Be
Addicted to Much Wine
i.e., doesn't imbibe lots of alcoholic drink. Notice, by the way, that Paul assumes that the man who wants much wine has a heart problem; he is addicted, his heart is attached. He loves the state that wine gets him into and that's why he drinks so much of it. We bear responsibility for such decisions, and there's no such thing as an innocent "alcoholic" who is victimized by his body chemistry so that he can't help it. Everyone is called to self-control.
Deacons Must Not Be Fond of Sordid Gain,
for if he shows himself to be in love with money, who could entrust him, as deacons usually are, with financial concerns of the flock? The phrase "sordid gain" (Greek,
) makes us wonder if it speaks of his being fond of making money in dishonest ways. But this phrase does not imply that. It means rather that a deacon must not be a man who is so fond of money, which is disgraceful to be fond of (not to earn, nor any reference to how he earns it).
Deacons Must be Blameless in Spiritual Maturity
Deacons Must Have a Clear Conscience.
What is "the mystery of the faith"? That's one of the NT's names for the Gospel. Why? Because the gospel was a message which had been hidden for so many ages, but now in these last days is revealed, since Christ has come. So deacons must be men who hold to the gospel with a clear conscience; they have a good grasp of the message of Christ (they are not ignorant of doctrine) and they hold to it in a way that shows that they understand the truth of the gospel, so they do not struggle with assurance, guilt, etc. Mature men who are at peace with their status in Christ - not men who wonder if they are saved.
Deacons Must Be Beyond Reproach,
i.e., they are tested over time as to their faithfulness and lack of blame. Similar to the Elder, Deacons must have a testimony of personal integrity in moral and family areas. He is resisting sin fighting the good fight, as an exemplary Christian. He is no public scandal nor a private shame in his own home, where he is known best. Among those who know him best, he is a testimony to the marvelous work the Lord Jesus Christ does in the lives of sinners, to transform a man into a living trophy of His glory.
Deacons Must Be Blameless in Family Management
Deacons Must Be Husbands of One Wife,
i.e., faithful to his wife and not married to more than one woman. A man who has a divided loyalty obviously disqualify themselves from being the model to follow.
Deacons Must Be Good Managers of their Children and Households.
If a man cannot
in the church if he does not lead his own household well (cf. 1 Tim. 3:4-5), then likewise, if a man is not
the members of his own household, how can we expect him to have a heart to serve the church? If he's a tyrant at home, why would you think he'd put the interests of others at church ahead of his own? If he pursues self-interest at home, he'll do it in church. A man appointed to be deacon must have an orderly household; his children must not be in obvious, unchecked rebellion, disregarding their father's will.
The Apostle reminds Timothy of the honor that comes with the sacrificial service of Deacons: "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."
Deacons who have served well, not just in name only but who carry out its duties admirably, obtain two benefits:
Obtain for Themselves a High Standing.
The office brings with it public esteem and honor, in the sense of a greater opportunity for impacting others through serving, as the Deacon is more visible to others.
They Obtain Great Confidence in the Faith.
Those who serve faithfully have much occasion to observe the faithfulness of Christ. Their certainty of the power of Christ to carry out all His promises is enhanced as they see their desires to do good brought to pass by the God of providence, working all things together for good to His people. So when they are able to relieve poverty, they see the grace of God equipping them with resources they did not know how or where to find; and even when they cannot relieve it, they see the Lord overruling all things for His own plan. It's a beautiful thing to be part of the Lord's work and see the Lord Himself work through our deeds, and mostly, over and above our deeds. It's part of the joy of every faithful servant of Christ.
Conclusion and Application
Like godly Elders, who after a time of testing prove to be blameless, so men to be considered to serve as Deacons, also must prove themselves blameless in their moral life, their spiritual maturity and their family management. Then they serve in the honored position of Deacon, to model faithful and sacrificial service in shepherding the flock, with Elders.
Comparing the two lists of qualifications, in what essential way do the Deacons differ from the Elders?
Why doesn't Paul explain the ministry functions of the Deacons? He seems to explain in other passages (cf. Titus 1:9; 1 Tim. 4:13-16; 5:17; 2 Tim. 3:15-4:4, etc.) the ministry of Elders. Why not explain the function of Deacons?
Special Note: It is of interest that specific duties of Deacons are not delineated in the NT, like those of Elders. The implication is that the office is one of flexible service where the needs arise, shepherding the flock with the Elders and caring for the physical needs. Deacons help the Elders in shepherding ministry and are not simply in charge of the building and grounds. It is an office of honor, demanding sacrificial service and testimony for Christ.
Discuss with your discipleship partner ways in which GBC can encourage men to pursue the office of Deacon.
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."
is males) in 2:1-8, Paul says "likewise" (Greek,
) in verse 9 to shift to addressing women, in vss. 9-15. Then he makes an obvious shift to listing the qualifications for leaders in the church and following his list about Elders, Paul uses
again to shift to addressing Deacons (vss. 8-13). Finally, he uses "likewise" (Greek,
) when he shifts to list several distinctive qualifications for Deaconesses (vs. 11) in the local church.
Remember that these are traits each Christian
to have; but to serve as a deacon, excelling in these is a
. We should all show these graces of dignity, self-control, healing tongues, not caustic ones, benevolence and not being greedy. Even the very title "deacon" is the word
, applicable to all members of the church, who are all called to serve one another in love.
Note: this is a second time Paul stops short of saying a church leader must abstain entirely from wine; but he must not abuse it. A man who loves a substance that makes him feel good will not love the Lord's people as we need a deacon to.
We wait for next lesson to expound verse 11, where the Apostle gives the qualifications for "their wives" (Greek,
; KJV, NKJV, and NIV) or "women" (NASV). If "their wives" is the translation, then it suggests the wives of Deacons; if "women" is the better translation, then it suggests women Deacons, i.e., Deaconesses.
This does not disqualify for life a man who has been divorced. That depends upon the circumstances of the divorce, and more, on the state of heart the man has demonstrated in a time since then, which has "tested" him. But if tested and found faithful, a godly man ought not be kept from the work of Deacon only because of his sins in his distant, pre-Christian past marriage, any more than a former drunkard or a former thief would be restrained from serving Christ to his full capacity now. The Lord who made a murderer and persecutor into a preacher from the Apostle Paul, can certainly make a divorcee into a choice servant.