1 Timothy 3:8-10
8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
Paul now turns his attention to the deacons within each church. Most of us have deacons in our churches today and hopefully we are using Paul’s criteria to choose those people to fulfill this office. I would hope that deacons are not just thrown into office without consideration of their spiritual walk and their character. Not following these guidelines could prove to be a problem for our churches today just like it would have for the churches in Paul’s day.
The first characteristic listed is translated grave in the KJV. In other translations the words dignified or honorable are used. This is also the same Greek word used in Philippians 4:8 for honest. I find it fascinating that one word can carry so much meaning and be translated so many different ways, all with an emphasis on the character of the man. Dignified shows a man who conducts his life in such a manner that people respect him. He is composed and serious about life, not joking around all the time but showing a true concern for others. Honorable is used as a defining word for someone like a judge. This man is deemed worthy of honor and carries himself in such a way that shows he makes wise decisions. Honest shows us a man who does not mince words. What he says is what he believes. All of these characteristics should be found in a deacon.
A deacon should not be double-tongued. They should not be one who says one thing but means another, or that dodges the question and vacillates between both sides of the issue. He should not be someone who changes his mind from one day to the next. He should not be one who will say one thing to one person and something just the opposite to another person just to appease them. He must be stable in his speech and his decisions on all issues. This attribute comes up later when Paul says the man must be proved. He must show that he is not double minded and tossed about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). What he says is solid and serious.
A deacon should not be given to much wine and they should not be greedy of filthy lucre. These were both covered in my last post about bishops so I am not going to go into them again. I am glad Paul repeated these attributes though. It show us that this was a big problem with the people back in those days, as it can be today.
A deacon must hold the mysteries of the faith in pure conscience. I love the way Paul describes this particular attribute. This person needs a good understanding of the scriptures and he must live by them. This is what Paul means when he says the deacon holds the mysteries of the faith. They are always at his hand. He lives the life Christ has asked us to live. He shows that he is blessed by living out the qualities shown in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). He is salt and light to those around him (Matthew 5:13-16). He abides in Christ continually and bears much fruit (John 15:5). To him, these are not mysteries. They are a way of life. He is ready to give an answer for the hope that is within him (1 Peter 3:15). He is instant in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). He displays and distributes the fruit of the spirit continually (Galatians 5:22-23). There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he loves the Lord and serves Him with zeal.
He holds these truths in a pure conscience. He follows them daily, wrapping his life around them as they guide him on the path God lays out for him. He knows God has a plan for him (Jeremiah 29:11). He knows that he will be held accountable for every word he speaks (Matthew 12:36) so he speaks words that minister grace to the person who is hearing his words (Ephesians 4:29). He is quick to forgive others because he knows how much God forgave him (Matthew 6:14). He walks in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) so he will not fulfil the lust of the flesh. He is a cheerful giver of his time, money and even himself ( 2 Corinthians 9:7). He puts others before himself (Philippians 2:3-4) and ministers life to them. Because he lives the word, he can hold it in a pure conscience.
A deacon must be proved. He must be watched to see if he is doing the above things. There can be no blame placed on him. The community must think highly of him. The church members must think highly of him, not finding any fault within his walk with Christ. We know we are all sinners, but there must be a clean spirit about a man that wants to be a deacon. This is not a task for a novice, or for someone who has just joined the church. A deacon has to prove himself worthy of the office because this is a leadership role that is essential to the church. It is a role of service to others, so this person must be one who has shown he is willing to serve,
It is no light thing to be a deacon. I am sure many of my readers have been in this position at one time or another during their journey with Christ and they will attest to the fact that it carries a lot of responsibility. This brief description offers some insight into who Timothy should look for when asking men to be deacons in the various churches he was in charge of. Let us also search out such men to lead our own churches.