1Timothy 3.8-16_qualified servants

June 6, 2010 Series: 1 Timothy

Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Timothy 3:13–3:13

1Timothy 3.8-16: Qualified Servants

June 6, 2010

Sam Ford


Service to God

Mark 10.42-45 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


Jesus is our examples of a spouse, a parent, a friend, a pastor-elder, and perhaps, most prominently, a deacon—one who serves.   Sadly, many churches have minimized or completely ignored the role of Deacon in fulfilling the mission of the church.  This is largely because service has been connected with functional duty AND disconnected from the gospel.  Of course, we can see how preaching on Sunday, or teaching a Bible study, or even leading worship “really” proclaims the gospel.  But we’re hard pressed to see how mundane services such as making coffee, running the website, setting up or tearing down chairs is in any way connected with the gospel. It is unfortunate that these kinds of tasks are viewed as lesser, when in fact, they are frequently the greater task, requiring the greater kinds servants, living out the gospel in a greater way. 


Servants in the Church

Deacons are only mentioned in two places in the New Testament, both in relation to elders, because the two groups of leaders work so closely together (Philippians 1.1; 1Timothy 3.8-13).  Many churches take their model for deacons from Acts 6 where the leaders of the church have to deal with needs not being met in the church.  Acts 6.3-4 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Sometimes this passage can limit our view of deacons because the Acts narrative is DESCRIPTIVE, not PRESCRIPTIVE.  It does not explicitly mention “deacons”, so we must be careful to use such verses as a model and not the only model.  It is clear, however, that when senior spiritual leadership is overburdened to the degree that they are unable to simultaneously get time for prayer, Bible study, and care of needy people, they are free to appoint pastoral assistants to help alleviate some of their burden—even if that burden is not the same one described in Acts 6. 


Deacons, then, are “official” servants who assist the elders in fulfilling their responsibility to care for church.  Deacons improve the character, success, efficiency, and effectiveness of all gospel work.  As one of the primary heralds of the mission, in word and deed, it is important that they have biblical qualifications for accountability. 



8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.


The word for Deacon

The Greek Word for Deacon (dee-ak'-on-os), and its related verbs, appear 100 times in the New Testament[i].  It is only translated as “deacon” here in 1Timothy 3 and Philippians 1.1.  Elsewhere, the term is translated as a variation of different English words including “cared for”,  “minister”, “servant”, “serve”, “service”, “prepare”, and “relief”. It is a word was used to describe “waiters as meals”, “a kings attendant”, even to refer to soldiers and policeman who enforce justice.  It is also used to describe being a servant of a servant of God (2Cor 6.4), a servant of Jesus (2Cor 11.23), a servant of the church (Col 1.24-25), even being a servant of Satan (2 Cor 11:15).   In a very real sense, everyone is a servant of someone AND the very life of a TRUE CHRISTIAN is the life of a deacon, a bond-servant to Jesus.  Deacons are, by definition, a pure example of how Jesus lived his own life.  Author George Stob writes, Everything that was done by the Son of Man who came, Jesus Christ, including humiliation, self-emptying, cross and death is summarized in eight letters: d i a k o n i a. The same single word also indicates the pattern of life for all who followed Jesus. Diakonia: they go into service. . . . They are other-directed . . . . They find themselves among those in need; it has become their natural milieu . . . . They discover that they are being drawn into Jesus’ diaconate and start participating in it. George Stob, Deacons and Evangelism


Because the Bible indicates there is a spiritual gift of “service” (Romans 12.6-8), it is tempting for us to assume that unless they have the “gift” of service, they are not meant to serve at all, or at least not in some official capacity.  If you are a Christian, you are meant to serve. The gift of serving is distinct from the office, and in this text Paul is talking about what has evolved into an official office of leadership the church called deacons or deaconesses.


V. 8-10 Qualifications of ALL Deacons 

AtDamascus Road, we believe that men and women can and should serve in the office of deacons.  Our view of eldership and deaconship is first established in the Old Testament.  Since the beginning, there has been a God-ordained distinction in roles.  Though they were not called deacons, women actively served at the house of God as far back as the Exodus.  In the New Testament, men and women described as deacons are serving in that capacity.  In this particular passage, verses 8-10 deals with qualifications for all deacons, male or female. Then, Paul makes a point in verse 11 to focus on qualifications unique to women (but good for all) AND verse 12, to focus on qualifications unique to men (but good for all)


  1. 1.      Dignified:  A man of dignity, a man revered and respected for being a solid biblical man.  
  2. 2.      Not Double-Tongued:  Not gossip, as much as a man of integrity.  He does not say one thing to one person and something else to another.  He does what he says and says what he does. 
  3. 3.      Not Addicted to Much Wine:  Not enslaved or addicted to anything.  
  4. 4.      Not Greedy:  Does not use their position for financial gain.  Not a Judas, as like him, a deacon may have access to money and resources to help serve those in need.   
  5. 5.      Faith and Clear Conscience:   He/she must not only believe the gospel, but they must live the gospel—it must permeate his life.  He must constantly interact with the gospel, gaining a deeper understanding as he gets older.  2Corinthians 1.12  12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 


Tested First

We do not believe that Paul has some sort of exam for deacons to take.  What is being “tested” is whether or not they are qualified.  We do have training and testing, much of which is a pastor leading potential deacons in some hard self-reflection.  This is a process that all Christians should regularly practice as this list is really a description of what a SERVANT looks like, office or not.


V. 11 Specific Qualifications for FEMALE Deacons

In verse 11, Paul takes moment to distinguish women.  There are a three ways to read this passage to determine who the women are he is talking about.  Either it is speaking of 1) wives of deacons 2) women who assist the deacons 3) women who are deacons.  Because "wives" can be translated "women" and it is acceptable to read the description as providing additional, or more specific, qualifications unique to women deacons.


  1. 1.      Dignified:  A woman of dignity, a woman revered and respected for being a solid biblical man
  2. 2.      Not Slanderers:  They must not be malicious gossips and destructive talkers; the word “slanderer” is often translated “devil” because of the evil that the tongue can generate.  
  3. 3.      Sober-minded:  They mus, of course, be sober in use of creation (alcohol, money, food, etc.), but perhaps more importantly for a woman, they must be sober in judgment—not governed by emotions. 
  4. 4.      Faithful in all things:  She must be trustworthy in all things she is charged to take care of.  Specifically, she must be faithful to her role FIRST as a women, bride, and mother before serving in the church.  This is demonstrated in fulfilling her duties as co-manager in the home.   


V. 12 Specific Qualifications for MALE Deacons

In verse 12, Paul again shifts his focus onto men and their unique qualifications as deacons.  What he says echoes what he has already said about elders, emphasizing what is most important:


  1. 1.      Husband of one wife:  One woman-man, faithful in their actions and thoughts regarding their brides.  The issue is not whether they are married or not, but how pure and godly their marriage is. 
  2. 2.      Managing Children and Households well: As with elders, they cannot manage even an aspect of the church if they are not able to manage their own children, money, possessions, time, or anything associated with maintaining a home—their first church.  



Even if we don’t fill an official capacity of a “deacon”, this is a fine list we should all aspire to as servants of Jesus.  Minus the ability to teach, the qualifications mirror what Paul has already said about the elders.  But even “qualified” leaders can lead and serve for the wrong reasons. Verse 13 says, 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.  The question for all who serve is WHY do you serve?


No Service

Of course, there are those who DO NOT SERVE, and I’ll talk to you first.  You do serve, just not others.  Most of us and serve ourselves—it comes quite naturally.  That is why Jesus can say, Love the Neighbor as yourself.  Our default mode is to be SELF-PLEASING, where we do only what is comfortable and personally rewarding, as opposed to anything that might require sacrifice or not guarantee us reward.  We place ourselves at the center of the universe, maintain an “I’m not responsible” mentality, and ignore genuine needs that we could help with. Refusing to serve (as an official deacon or not) to meet the needs of those who cannot give you anything, is a denial of the gospel, it is the very opposite of how Jesus lived.  Philippians 2.4-6 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. There are seasons where YOU SHOULD NOT serve.  Abandoning service to the people of God is an abandoning of the gospel, a gospel that has remade us to serve, that has wonderfully enslaved us in love to one another. 


Duty-driven Service  

For those who serve, and we have many here at Damascus Road, we must all regularly check our motivations for serving—asking ourselves, what do we hope to gain?  There is a real danger in deacons, or anyone for that matter, serving without a gospel-centered approach.  Often times, those who serve at the church can get into a PEOPLE PLEASING mentality.  They serve, but they do so out of duty, guilt, and obligation to the pastor or friends.  They want people to like them or not dislike them, so they serve.  When service to the church, to your family, to your God becomes DUTY…you’ve lost, and it takes only a little time for it to lead to weariness and bitterness.  Consider this obscure verse from:  Deuteronomy 28.47-48  47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you. 



Gospel-Driven Service

Our service, for all Christians, is supposed to be driven by the gospel which is not self-pleasing, or people-pleasing, but JESUS PLEASING.  Our motivation comes from a confidence in the work of Jesus, NOT in the approval of others or even in the benefits of our own work.  A deep belief in the cross keeps us from a duty-driven mentality that will wear us out.  This is not an abandonment of all DUTY, but a complete transformation of what it means to be a bond-slave to Jesus.   


We love, sacrifice, and serve others for the joy and glory of God—not to made much of—but to make much of him.  In essence, we live out our believe in the gospel every time we lead a Bible Study, host a small group, serve in a ministry, counsel a friend, print a bulletin, vacuum a carpet, write an article, set up a chair.  We do not serve because of how it will benefit us.  We serve, regardless of who shows up, who thanks, who abuses, who participates, or who even notices because we want to magnify what God has done for us–the gospel.


In the end, we serve not to be spiritual but because WE ARE SPIRITUAL; we are NEW creatures who live out the NEW life we have received from the Spirit. Instead of working to please pastors, or working to please friends, or working to please God, we work because God is already pleased with us in Jesus.  



14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:   He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.


The Church is

Paul ends his passage by reminding Timothy how IMPORTANT his letter is, how ESSENTIAL what he has written is.  He tells him that the purpose of the letter is to establish a guide for how Christians ought to behave as the churchThis is what the church is and does.  Then, he uses three different for descriptors for the gathering of God’s people: 


First, we are the Household of God (Oikos). Paul reminds Timothy that the members of the local church are a family and should function as such.  Thinking this way informs how we interact with one another, how we celebrate together, and even how we deal with conflict.  We don’t hope from family to family being served, we live in ONE family, and serve our brothers and sisters.


Second, we are the Church of the Living God (Ekklesia).  Timothy is leading the assembly of God’s people.  God’s assembly always lived and acted differently than the world.  As God’s assembly, there are ways for the leaders and the members to conduct themselves, there are things we must do as the assembly of God. God is a God of order, not chaos, and the Pastoral letters are guidebooks how we serve.    


Third, we are the Pillar/buttress of the truth.  Lastly, Timothy is given an architectural image of a building perhaps to be contrasted with the great temple of Diana in Ephesus which had 127 pillars.  The church is the building, not the foundation, and it is still growing.  Together, we serve by protecting the truth, keeping the gospel as the center of all things.    


CONCLUSION:  Making known the “mystery”

He ends by saying GREAT INDEED is our confession.  Ephesus had its idol of choice—the Goddess Diana, or in Roman, Artemis.  Paul probably remembers how during his first visit to Ephesus (Acts 19), a great riot was led by idol-making silversmiths.  Thousands of people gathered at the theater which healed upwards of 20,000 people.  And together they confessed, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians”. 


All kinds of gospel service

Together, we confess the mystery, that GREAT IS JESUS OF NAZARETH in everything.  This “Service” takes many forms.  Some people hold babies for the gospel, we greet at the door for the gospel, we serve children for the gospel, we make coffee for the gospel, we publish a web site for the gospel, we upload podcasts to for the gospel, we write in the Spectacle for the gospel, we host rock concerts, parent classes, and whatever else for the gospel, we clean the building for the gospel, all things either directly or indirectly, intending to point to Jesus.   ALL of our service is a response to the gospel, and all of our service is a proclamation of the gospel—even if we don’t preach words. And all of these things, done through deacons, some official, most not, together contributing to the gospel-centered mission of the church.  Are you serving and contributing to part of the mission of the church?  WHY are you serving?  And not IS, but HOW is your service proclaiming the gospel?


CONCLUSION:  Making known the “mystery”

1Peter 4.10-11 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.



[i] MacArthur, John The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1st Timothy, pg. 124