Qualifications of Deacons

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. 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. (1 Timothy 3:8-13)

Today we begin looking at the qualifications of deacons. There are two offices defined in the Scripture for the church – one is that of an overseer/elder/pastor and the other is that of a deacon. Both have important places in the life and function of the church and both have distinct qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy.

I want to repeat what I said while studying the qualification of elders, and that is that these qualifications are consistent with many other places in the Bible regarding how every Christian should live. So we can look at these qualifications as relevant for all of us who are children of God and who belong by faith to Christ.

Deacons hold a very special place in the church. They are like the ultimate servants in the church. And in most cases they are behind the scenes servants that may go relatively unnoticed as they busily do their work. Without them, nothing would go as smoothly around here as it does. These guys, these men serve all of you and serve me weekly as they serve Christ. You may wonder, how do they serve me?

Well, let me mention a few ways. Just recently, we have added these new screens and projectors to our sanctuary which are used during our worship in singing. They have been and will be used as teaching tools to show videos, they will be used in other teaching settings. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but our stage was expanded recently so that as people come up here and move around it is more safe and spacious, cords are better put away to prevent tripping on them. Our foyer has been expanded recently to accommodate more people during fellowship times. An awning has been added, primarily to make our entry way safer in the winter when there is snow or ice on the ground. All of these things are coordinated and done by the deacons and others they may recruit to help them. The deacons keep up with how many people are here each week, they are constantly evaluating our space needs and planning ahead for the future.

But these men are not just building maintenance and construction guys, they also handle all the money that comes in as offerings, and prepare the budget. They are primarily responsible for benevolence needs within our body and sometimes even those outside the body. They meet with those in need and make decisions regarding how we can help financially and in other ways. They are involved in missions and how we give to those spreading the gospel around the world. I am thankful for them, and for the time and effort and prayer that they put into the many decisions and projects with which they are involved.

Right now we have four active deacons, and they are Tom Abell, Jeff Christoffel, Blake Shook, and Dean Ping. We do have others that meet with them consistently and are deacon candidates, some of whom will most likely be ordained in the future. If you haven’t, you should thank these men for the hard work, for their service for our Lord here at GBFC. By the way, for the most part, the deacon meetings are open for all men who attend here. There are times when confidential matters are discussed and that will be only among the deacons, but for the most part, all men are welcome to attend and even be involved in discussion. It so happens that today there is a deacon meeting, so you could go if you’d like after our fellowship meal and see what goes on there!

As you can see, deacons carry great responsibility. And so with dealing with some very sensitive issues and ministering in people’s lives it is good that we have qualifications outlined for us in the Bible. These qualifications are important and I want us to go through them together.

Before I do though I want to read from Acts 6. In the beginning of Acts 6 we see a point where the new church is growing, and with that growth there were challenges for the elders who were leading. They simply did not have time to do all that needed to be done to keep things running smoothly. So they reached out to some men to help out with some practical things that needed to be done. This was the beginning of deacons in the church. Here is what we see…

1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 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.” (Acts 6:1-4)

It was not that they just wanted anyone to do these tasks that needed to be done, but they needed men of good repute, full of wisdom. These men would be openly serving Christ in the church, they would be special representatives of Christ in His church, they would need to make decisions that would effect a lot of people in Christ’s name, and so they needed to be believers who would be of good reputation and who would be wise in the tasks given to them. I believe we have that here at GBFC. Our deacons are not only serious about serving but are serious about serving in the name of Christ and in wisdom.

So what are the qualifications for deacons? I’m going to go through the qualifications briefly and skip verse 11 and come back to verse 11 at the end. And as I go through these I will give some questions with each one that could be asked of deacon candidates, and that we ask of deacon candidates here.

Reverent (men of dignity) – Worthy of respect and serious minded, not treating serious things lightly. Greek word is “semnos” which means “honorable, reputable, grave, serious and stately.” The same Greek word is found in Titus 2:2 which says that older men “are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love in perseverance.” A man whose moral and spiritual character evokes esteem from others. Questions include: Would others see you as one who can be serious? Do others come to you with serious matters as one who is to be trusted and would give sensible biblical advice? Does this happen often? Are you striving to be one whom others can respect and emulate as a mature Christian? Is your goal in life to please, honor, and bring glory to God?

Not double-tongued – Not one who says one thing to one person and something else to another, not a gossip. He is consistent and righteous in what he says. This word prohibits any kind of manipulative, insincere, or deceitful speech. Emphasizes integrity of speech, sincerity, and truthfulness.

17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:17-20)

Are you committed to truth even if you may suffer personal harm? Do you consistently hold in confidence what others privately communicate to you? Is your speech consistent at work, home, church, and elsewhere?

Not addicted to much wine – Rather they are noted for clear thinking and self-control. Drunkenness is clearly a sin and prohibited. Do you drink to the point of drunkenness? Do you drink publicly or in places where weaker brothers may be offended?

Not greedy for money – Or not fond of gain. As men who in some cases will handle the money of the church, it is important that they are not or do not appear to be ruled by a desire for gain.

9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

A pervasive desire for financial gain corrupts a man. Many false leaders can be recognized by their desire for gain through the church. Deacons must even avoid the appearance of such greediness. Some questions to ask include: Do you spend time chasing after riches? Jumping from one get rich scheme to another? Do you believe that your personal finances are in order? Do you get involved in any gambling or gambling-type activities? Do you give consistently to the church, other ministries, and individuals in need? Are you laying up treasures in heaven?

Hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience – He must have convictions based on the knowledge of true biblical doctrine. His clear conscience implies that he lives out his convictions. He must hold to the faith and apply the truth to his life. So we would ask, are you striving to live out your true biblical convictions? Is the Bible just a Sunday morning concern or is all of life about living it out? Are there particular areas in your life where you are knowingly walking in opposition to your biblical convictions with no plan to change? Would those close to you describe you as one who is growing and changing in your Christian walk? Are you willing to live by your biblical convictions even if your wife or others disagree?

Tested – He must be proved faithful in serving the Lord, and in living consistently within the qualifications of Scripture. Are you willing to be watched for a time and questioned by members of the church?

Blameless, above reproach – Morally pure and above reproach, a calling
that is above doubt or question, free from any serious charge that would call their calling into question – Christ-like conduct. Willingly putting ourselves in a position where others are more likely to watch and inspect our lives, perhaps with a more critical eye than before. This provides for an excellent opportunity to lead by example. Some questions to ask: Is there anything in your life currently that if found out would most likely disqualify you from being a deacon? Are you willing to be watched closely by the church and examined with a critical eye?

Husband of one wife – Also implies moral purity, devoted to his wife, a one woman man, not a flirt. Are you committed to purity within your marriage? Are you committed to abstain from all forms of pornography? Would others view you as one who flirts with other women or would others be concerned with you being excessively friendly toward other women?

Leads his family well – Must demonstrate management ability in his home which is the proving ground for leadership. Are you consistently leading your children in the Scriptures and prayer? How and when? Are you consistently leading your wife in the Scriptures and prayer? How and when? Are you consistently praying with and for your family? Would your wife say that you are her primary spiritual counselor? Are you actively striving to love your wife as Christ loves the church? How? Are there significant concerns with your current leadership in your home that may disqualify you from being a deacon?

Now, I want to back up to verse 11. Verse 11 is interesting and has been the cause of some dispute among churches. It says, “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”

The controversy comes in because the word here translated “wives” in the ESV and some other translations is really a word for women. It could just say women rather than wives. If it says women then what Paul may be talking about here is female deacons rather than the wives of deacons. The decision on whether to translate the word as wives or simply as women has to do with the context more than anything else.

I will say too that this is not one of those cases where it is just some really liberal or fringe groups that would say this is women and Paul is advocating women as deacons. Many scholars that I respect take this view, and many scholars that I respect take the view that it is deacon’s wives in view here.

Though it is not a hill I would die on, I do believe that the better view here is that Paul is talking about deacon’s wives rather than talking about female deacons. You may not agree and that is okay, we could have a good conversation about it I’m sure!

You will notice that the list is much smaller for the wives, I think because they are not the actual deacons but are supportive, like support staff for their husbands. They are not the main servants in this role but do provide an important amount of support for them. And in that role as a deacon’s wife there are important qualifications that they are to posses. Three things are mentioned. They are to be dignified. This is like their husbands, dignified. Worthy of respect and serious minded. Also, not slanderers. Not gossips or malicious talkers. They must be free from many of the besetting sins of the tongue. As deacon’s wives the women must be able to control their speech, not those who go and tell everything they know. Look, ministry is that way in general. One who cannot keep things confidential will not have much of a ministry. Who will confide to one who cannot control their tongue? It ruins ministry and sometimes ruins lives to speak unnecessarily or carelessly with other people. She is to be sober minded. This means self-controlled, clear headed, temperate in the use of alcohol. Faithful in all things means trustworthy, faithful, and dependable. As those who will support their husbands they must be trusted.

It cannot be emphasized enough the importance of a wife’s role in the ministry of her husband – that goes for deacons and elders. To be like-minded in ministry for a husband and wife is hugely important. I’ve heard men say, “I am going into ministry, but my wife does not think I should or my wife is not for it.” Or, “I’m going into missions but my wife is against it.” Wow. Not a good situation in my view. They really need to come together on that, pray through it, seek counsel, wait upon the Lord. Get together on those future plans. Ministry is difficult enough to also not be together as husband and wife on such a decision. The wife’s role is very important and her help will be much needed.

Paul concludes with these encouraging, very encouraging words for deacons or those who would like to serve as deacons.

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. (1 Timothy 3:13)

Two rewards mentioned here for deacons who serve well. Fist they obtain a good standing. Standing here means elevated, an elevated standing. It is not about sinful pride, because deacons don’t seek that, yet they are worthy of it in Christ. Those who serve in humility are exalted by God. James 4:10 speaks of this: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” Faithful deacons will be respected by those they serve. And secondly, they will have great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. This is interesting, an interesting statement. It seems to mean that those who serve well, serve Christ well, will become more confident in their faith. This is really true. Christian ministry, whether as a deacon or in some other capacity, takes great trust in God. If we are honest with ourselves then we know, clearly know, that we cannot serve without the strength of Christ. So the minister is aware of God working in him to accomplish anything good at all. And this awareness of God’s work in your life or in my life, what does that do for us? It elevates our confidence in whom? In ourselves? Of course not. In the one who is making it all happen! Our faith in Christ gets a boost! We are more aware of Christ at work and more confident of what He can continue to do in us in the future. It is a great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus!

God appoints deacons to serve in special ways in His church. And He appoints those who meet the qualifications outlined here. We are blessed to have men such as these. And I pray the Lord will raise up more for this local body of which we are all apart!

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. 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. (1 Timothy 3:8-13)