1 Timothy 3: 8-13
Last week Matt Stone introduced us to the qualifications of overseers or elders in the church, today we consider the qualifications of deacons. St Paul’s use of the word ‘likewise’ at the start of verse 8 ties the requirements of a deacon to those of an overseer. In the same way that an overseer must be above reproach so also a deacon must be ‘dignified’. They should not be ‘doubled-tongued’ which means that they must not be gossips but more than that it means that they must say what they mean and be consistent in what they say (they must not say one thing to one group of people and something different to another). This is, of course, a huge challenge to us all, as all too often we want to speak in a way that pleases people.
One of the tasks of a deacon would be to distribute alms to the poor so it is understandable that a deacon must not be ‘greedy for dishonest gain’. It is also clear that if a deacon is to be dignified and careful in his speech then he must also be restrained and not addicted to alcohol.
Just a few weeks ago Paul Robinson wrote about the strong link between faith and conscience, true belief and right practice. Clearly the lack of consistency between faith and practice in the Ephesian Church concerned St Paul so he makes it a requirement that all deacons ‘hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience’ (3:9). To ensure all of this a deacon must be tested and when they have been proved blameless they may serve.
Coming from a minister’s family verses 11 and 12 are real challenge to me. It is clear though, that a deacon does not minister in isolation from his family and consequently the behaviour of a wife or child has an impact upon his service. It is also clear that the behaviour of a deacon’s family reflects back on the way a deacon has raised his family. Still this is a very challenging for those in relationships and raising families.
Finally St Paul, in verse 13, gives us this encouraging promise that those who serve well as deacons will gain both ‘a good standing’ and also ‘great confidence in the faith’. Oswald Chambers, who wrote the devotional classic My Utmost For His Highest, described the relationship between revelation and obedience powerfully, when he wrote:
‘All God’s revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. Immediately you obey, a flash of light comes. Let God’s truth work in you by soaking in it, not by worrying into it. The only way you can get to know is to stop trying to find out and by being born again. Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up… The tiniest fragment of obedience, and heaven opens and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away. God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already. Beware of becoming “wise and prudent.”’
Let us therefore serve diligently that we may understand more the mystery of the faith and grow in the knowledge of God to His glory.