Monday, June 27, 2011

Deacon Qualifications – 1 Tim 3:8-13

Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)
Likewise – for Me
I’m still looking at the qualifications of church leaders with the goal of being like them whether I serve in their capacity or not. These qualities should apply to all Christians, men or women. I can’t look at God’s Word, read the description of godly leaders and use the loophole that I’m not in their position to escape doing what God wants. James 1:22 But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. (NLT) If I read these qualifications and assume that I don’t have to live up to these standards, then I’m fooling myself.

In most churches, elders run the show and deacons do the work. I wondered how this came about until I looked up the Greek word for deacon (diakonos) and found that in twenty-seven other verses, the word is translated as either servant or minister in the KJV and servant in most other translations. Paul calls Jesus (Rom15:8), Apollos (1 Cor 3:4), himself and those working with him (2 Cor 6:4) a diakonos.
I thought it odd, at first, to think of Jesus as a deacon but He is the perfect definition of a deacon. He served completely to the point of dying on the cross to take away our sins. If I want to be a diakonos, then I need to have the same attitude and mind of Jesus. Jesus said that means being a servant or diakonos. Matt 23:11 The greatest among you will be your servant [diakonos]. (NIV)

Paul was an elder and an Apostle as well as a deacon. He set the pattern so that all elders are also deacons or servants.
All of us should be servants, however it appears from these passages that some servant jobs within the church are official positions and require a qualified person. That qualification includes all the qualification for being an elder and more.

Several of the qualities seem to be either elaborations or summaries of the elder’s qualities. Since I’ve already expounded on the elder’s qualities, I’ll only address those that aren’t mentioned for an elder.
Mystery of the Faith

Paul explained the biggest mystery of the faith to the Ephesians. Eph 3:4-6 When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (RSV) To be a servant of God, I must hold on to this, believe it, and live it. This means that every person I meet is a potential joint heir of salvation if not already a brother or sister in Jesus.
For a long time, salvation – knowing God – was through the Jewish sacrificial system and laws. Finally, salvation came to the rest of us by faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, almost every generation of believers has wandered from this truth in one way or another. Some have excluded people from the church because of their skin color, economic status, or other outward conditions. Some have included them in the church but segregated them. I wonder what their reaction is in heaven when they meet.

I don’t want to give the impression that the Church should accept everyone. Paul clearly said that I need to be discerning on moral grounds. In 1 Cor 5:9 he made the distinction that I should not associate with a person who claims to be a Christian and is immoral. If the person is immoral but doesn’t claim to be a Christian, then I can view them as a potential Christian.
Having a clear conscience in this area is vital for a deacon. How can I serve another person if think they can never be saved or that they are beneath my social or racial position? James 2:1 My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. (RSV) James made this point when he warned us against favoring the rich over the poor.

Fruit Inspectors
People who want to do whatever they want, sinful or not, do not like verses in the Bible that hold us accountable to each other. They quote Jesus. Matt 7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (NIV) They usually have no idea what this really means and they don’t know the next verse. Matt 7:2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV) Jesus’ warning was not to ever judge, but to let me know that if I declare that a person is sinning in some area, then it proves that I know right from wrong and will also be held accountable for my sins. For people who aren’t forgiven through the blood of Jesus, this is a dire warning because they will have no excuse when condemned to hell. However, for us sinners who have the blood of Jesus washing us, it is a different story. We have recognized the plank in our own eyes and turned to Jesus for forgiveness. We will not be condemned but are able to help others find the same forgiveness once they acknowledge their sin and need for Jesus to be their Savior. They will then be able to turn from that sin and escape condemnation.

Paul says that the deacons must be proved blameless when they are tested. This means that there must be a standard that they are judged against. The people that are doing the testing and judging must also be willing to be judged by the same standard. Paul has listed the qualities of leaders. Matt 7:20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. (NASB) It is up to us to recognize whether these qualities are being met by observing their behavior then making a judgment whether or not they measure up.

The elder’s wives were not mentioned, but it stands to reason that an elder’s wife must also meet the same qualifications of a deacon’s. Why would a man’s wife make any difference whether or not he could serve in either capacity? I think it is because a husband and wife are a team in ministry.
Consider the help that a godly wife is to a person who wants to serve the Lord. Prov 31:10-11 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. (NKJV) When a man becomes a deacon or an elder, he has added responsibilities that will test and try them both. However, a virtuous wife will be one he can trust to help bear the burden. Their ministry will flourish because of this.

On the other hand, if a wife doesn’t meet these qualification, especially the one who slanders other, she will cause all sorts of grief. Prov 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones. (NKJV) A husband should be able to share with his wife what is going on in the church. He shouldn’t have to keep it secret from her because she can’t keep a confidence. If she isn’t faithful in all things, he will have a very difficult time serving. An irreverent wife or one who isn’t temperate is just as bad. Prov 21:9 Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (NKJV)
Benefits of Leadership

Becoming a leader in the church has benefits. They aren’t power, prestige, or money. They are spiritual. If you follow the lives of Steven and Phillip, the first two deacons mentioned in Acts 6:5, you will see how they were used by God in mighty ways beyond the duties that they accepted.
Philem 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (NIV) As we share our faith by both word and deed, we grow. We learn by doing and we develop into the people that God wants us to be. Whether in the position of elder, deacon, or simply a servant of Jesus, we are blessed when we obey Him and serve others.

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