Deacons - Part 2
1 Timothy 3:11 "Women must likewise be dignified": Their wives should share their interest in spiritual things, and especially those matters where a degree of soberness and serious resolve is needed. "not malicious gossips"-"women of discretion and self-control" (Phi). 1. The spouse of the deacon must also be trustworthy and able to control her tongue. Due to the work of her husband, she must not make a wrong or selfish use of the confidential information to which she has access. 2. The word "malicious" indicates that she cannot be a woman who is hyper-critical or one who is bent on finding fault with others "temperate": clear-headed, self-controlled, circumspect. And like her husband, neither can she be addicted to much wine. "faithful in all things": "trustworthy in every respect" (Arndt p. 664); "Women who can be trusted" (Phi). Faithful in keeping secrets, faithful in keeping appointments, faithful to her husband, her children, and faithful to God. I am impressed that God mentions that their wives must also have moral character. In the ancient world and even in modern times, the wives of successful men are often left in the background. In fact, the wives of some successful men in our modern history have been emotionally unstable, alcoholics, and so on. The kingdom of God is not organized like a corporation or congress (Matthew 20:24-27). God feels that the wife of an elder or deacon has a very valuable role. Her character can increase his effectiveness, or she can make him ineffective. In the book of Proverbs the husband of the worthy woman sits among the elders of the land (31:23), but it seems inferred that he might not be sitting there, if he had married a woman who lacked character.
1 Timothy 3:12 "Let deacons be husbands of only one wife": This would exclude the single man. Some view this as meaning that the deacon can’t be a polygamist, but polygamy is something that would have been ceased at conversion with any Christian (1 Corinthians 7:1-2; Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
"Is the Deacon still qualified after his wife dies?" (a) The like expression "the wife of one man" (1 Timothy 5:9) is used when it is clear that the "one man" is dead. And yet the word "widow" in the passage tells us that we must interpret "the wife of one man" as meaning "having been the wife of one man". In fact, in this passage she cannot have a living husband to qualify as a widow indeed. Thus it is the context that will determine whether the deacon’s wife must be presently living. All the other qualifications (dignity, not double-tongued..) are qualities that the deacon must currently demonstrate to remain qualified. The question is not, "did he at one time demonstrate this in his life", rather, the question is, "does he presently possess these attributes?" If we feel that the phrase "having been" can be added to "husbands of only one wife", then why can’t it be added to the rest of the qualifications? "Does this qualification exclude men who have been Scripturally married more than once?" Certain translators felt that it does, Goodspeed renders this verse "must be only once married". Others include "one wife’s husband" (Ber); "must have only one wife" (Wms). Arndt and Gingrich in their Greek-English Lexicon render this phrase, "the husband of only one wife or a husband married only once" (p. 231). I am told the expression means literally, "a one woman man". It is only fair to consider the arguments on the other side since we don’t want to unnecessary exclude any man from this office based on some human opinion. In the past I heard it argued that 1 Timothy 5:9 proves that the expression "wife of one man" or its reverse, "husband of one wife" allows for more than one marriage. The argument is as follows: "Paul wouldn’t have told younger widows to marry (1 Timothy 5:14) if that would have disqualified them from receiving support from the Church in their old age". The argument sounds good until we take the following factors into consideration: (a) The church can support any widow who is need, as well as any other Christian (Acts 2:45). (b) Paul gave advice to virgins that would have excluded them from the widow-indeed category (1 Corinthians 7:25-38). Therefore to argue that Paul would have never given instructions to women which would later exclude them from the widow indeed category is not true. Some have argued that if your mate dies and you marry again, or if they commit adultery and you put them away, you are still the husband of one wife. Some interpret the verse, "one wife at a time within the bounds of Scripture." In response I believe it is fair to note: (a) God is specific. God didn’t say "a married man" or a "husband". Rather He said a "one" woman man. (b) "at a time" isn’t found in the text. Therefore, I don’t believe that I could prove that the text could accommodate such a view. c) 1 Timothy 5:9 seems to make an even stronger case for the idea that the deacon can only be married once. First of all, women with a plurality of husbands were very rare indeed, so that can’t be the reason why the qualification was given. Secondly, even after the marriage is over, she is still called "the wife of one man". Before we move on let us also consider something else. The one woman man is a man who is dedicated to his wife. She is an extremely important person in his life. She is his one and only. He has a strong marriage, he doesn’t have eyes that wander (Matthew 5:28).
1 Timothy 3:12 "good managers": Means literally, to stand before, to lead, attend to (indicating care and diligence) (Vine p. 307). Being at the head of, presiding over. "fitly ruling" (Con); "fitly, appropriately, in the right way" (Arndt p. 401). Points to Note: 1. He is the spiritual leader of his home (Genesis 18:19; Joshua 24:15). This is a man who is truly implementing the instructions found in Ephesians 6:4 "And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord". 2. He rules well, "admirable managers of their children and of their own homes" (Ber); "presiding well over their children and their own houses" (ABUV). On the one hand he isn’t a permissive and careless father, on the other hand neither is he cruel or unreasonable. He has learned how to guide his household without yelling or constantly threatening. He doesn’t preside by force or intimidation.
1 Timothy 3:12 "of their children’": As far as I know most would concede that a deacon can be qualified having only one child. The reason for this is that "deacons" (plural) are to have "children" (plural). The distributive usage allows for the singular (See Ephesians 6:4). The father of one child has as much obligation in raising that child in the admonition of the Lord as the father with more than one child.
In contrast to the qualifications of elders, nothing is said about the deacon’s children being Christians. The statement "good managers" would infer that the children are in subjection to their father and are well-behaved. Since the deacon is a man who has first been "tested" (3:10), it seems logical that his children, although they might not be old enough to become Christians, they still have to be old enough for people to see they are well-behaved, and respect their father’s authority.
1 Timothy 3:12 "and their own households": This may mean whoever else might be in the family (servants, inlaws, and so on). The thought seems to be that everyone under his roof respects his position as head of the family. He is not the man who runs and hides from responsibility, and neither is he the type of man who insists that his wife handle all the problems with the children. This man is involved in the lives of his children and is a true manager of his household. In addition, I believe the above verses and this verse make it clear that the deacon’s wife is in subjection. The real power in the family isn’t his wife. This is not the type of man that would cause you to wonder, "If we appoint him, are we in reality appointing his wife or mother-in-law?
Acts 6:3 "good reputation": "Accredited, to be well-spoken of, approved" (Arndt p. 493). We sometimes forget that the reputation of a congregation in the community is inherently tied to the reputations of its members and especially its leadership. Does he live the Christian life, even before unbelievers? Does he act like a Christian, when Christians aren’t watching? Does he treat others with fairness?
Acts 6:3 "full of the Spirit": This doesn’t mean the ability to work miracles, for these men in Acts chapter 6 didn’t work miracles until the apostles laid their hands upon them (Acts 6:6,8; see also 8:17-18). He is a man who is being lead by the teachings which the Holy Spirit has revealed and who is demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in his life (Galatians 5:22-23).
Acts 6:3 "and of wisdom": "and of good practical sense" (Wms). "Wisdom" is often seen as the skill to use knowledge properly, and the skill to make the application. It’s not enough to be filled with zeal or enthusiasm (Romans 10:1-2). At times congregations are tempted to appoint anyone who demonstrates zeal or eagerness, but the deacon is a man who must have some experience as a Christian. He must be able to discern between good and evil and handle the Scriptures properly (Hebrews 5:14). The deacon must also have some good sense. He can’t be gullible. Serious responsibilities will be entrusted to this man, along with valuable resources.
Deacons are often used to carry out the various physical needs in the congregation, such as the seven men did in Acts chapter 6. Building upkeep, maintaining orderly worship services, the care for the sick, widows, and those in need, are often assigned to deacons, and yet deacons have more much to offer than even these valuable services. Some of the men appointed in Acts 6 went on to become very successful proclaimers of the gospel (Acts 7:1ff; 8:5ff; 21:8). There is a definite reason that God labeled such men "deacons". The word "deacon" comes from "diakonos", which is probably the most fundamental word in the New Testament for service. The deacon is a man whose life is dedicated to serving. He is willing to do whatever is necessary to further the cause of Christ, spread the gospel, save souls, teach new converts, ground people in the faith, help people in their relationship with God, assist the elders, and so on. He is a servant. In fact, Jesus summed up His mission and purpose here with the same word, "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…" (Matthew 20:28).
1 Timothy 3:13 "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 perform well have as a consequence greater confidence in their relationship with God. They will develop greater confidence in their faith. Being a deacon isn’t designed to improve your handyman skills, but rather to create a Christian man who is even more convinced in reference to what he believes. In a sense, this was true concerning two men that were appointed in Acts 6. Both Stephen and Philip served tables, and yet both of them ended up very bold in their presentation of the faith and completely persuaded that they were on the right track (Acts 6:10). There have always been those who have shyed away from the responsibility of the office, but notice God’s attitude. The responsibility isn’t to be dreaded. Rather, tremendous rewards, personal and spiritual growth await the man who will answer the call.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/503-644-9017