The meaning of “deacon” is someone who is a servant, an attendant, a waiter, or a minister.
Deacons and bishops served the church in a leadership capacity.
Paul did not provide a job description for either deacons or bishops. Instead, he listed character traits that were important for their role.
“Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money;
“They must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
“And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons” (1 Timothy 3.8-10).
Deacons must be serious. Another translation is “honorable.” This resembles the all-encompassing phrase, “above reproach” (verse 2).
Double-tongued people tell different stories to different people, depending on the situation.
Qualified deacons follow Jesus’ counsel, “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5.37).
Paul wrote to Timothy and told him to drink wine for a stomach ailment (1 Timothy 5.23). Some wine was permitted to God’s servants, but not too much.
Greed was an issue in the first-century church among ministers, just as it is in 2021.
John Wesley understood the danger of greed and the blessing of giving. Through preaching and the publication of his works, he was one of England’s wealthiest persons.
His annual income was 1400 pounds, but he chose to live on 30 while giving the balance to those in need.
What Wesley said about money is worth considering in our age of greed.
“Despite its potential for misuse, money in itself is something good. There is no end to the good it can do:
“In the hands of (God’s) children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head.
“By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain.
“It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame: yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!”
Another characteristic of deacons as servants is that they are to accurately teach the word of God with a clear conscience.
All Christians are servants of God, whether we have the title of bishop or deacon or not. May we exemplify these characteristics everywhere we go.
Ben Witherington alerts readers of 1 Timothy to how the word “likewise” connects Paul’s arguments. He believes that the next verse logically follows instructions to women deacons.
“Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3.11).
This sentence fits the theme of instruction for servants in the church. Remember, a job description is not given, but instead, character traits are emphasized.
It appears that Phoebe served as a deacon. She was included in Paul’s final words to the Romans: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae” (Romans 16.1).
“Serious” and “faithful” resemble instructions for church leaders. As men and women serve Jesus with these characteristics they will receive the respect of the community.
The Greek word for a slanderer or a false accuser is “diabolos.” If the word looks like “devil” to you, you’re right.
Satan means “accuser.” When we slander or accuse someone, we are joining forces with the accuser.
That trait must be avoided by all servants of the Lord.
Paul’s final word about God’s servants/deacons is that they should gain the respect of the world.
“Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well;
“For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3.12-13).
While this message singles out defined leaders in the church, we do well to apply it to every follower of Jesus.
God doesn’t have an A-Team and a B-Team. All of us should aspire to live a Jesus-kind-of-life to honor our Savior and to attract the world to him.
Rudy Ross and I talk about this passage today on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.
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