Godly Leaders – Part 4: Deacons

Intro: Open your Bible to 1 Timothy 3. Our study of godly leaders continues this morning. The apostle Paul is providing the divine credentials for church leaders to young Timothy. Paul provides qualifications for both elders (also called overseers and pastors) and deacons.

What is a deacon? What are qualifications of a deacon? What is the work of a deacon?

  • Read 1 Tim 3:8-13Deacons 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. – ESV.

I. Defining the Designation – The word that is translated as deacon here is important for us to define.

A. Diakonos (dee-ak-on-os) – Strong defines this word as servant, minister, or attendant. It is a very common word, both as a noun and a verb (serve) in the NT. It is important to note that the word is used in both a general and specific sense. The context determines the intended meaning.

1. Used generally diakonos refers to a servant of both God and men. Mark 9:35 _ Jesus calls on his disciples to be a servant of all. Paul identifies himself and other Christians (Tychichus, Apollos), and even the god=appointed civil servant (Rom. 13:4minster of God to you for good) as servants, or ministers of God (Christ).

2. However, in 1 Timothy 3, Paul uses the term is a specific sense, to refer to a special servant, who meets certain qualifications, and is appointed to special work for the church – Thayer says the word refers to “the office assigned him by the church”. The term here undoubtedly refers to male deacons because the adjectives that are used (such as grave – semnous) in the verse are masculine.

a. Phil 1:1Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:This passage, as well as 1 Tim. 3, indicate that the overseer and the deacon are not the same person or work. It is in this sense that we will view the word “deacon” (dee-ak-on-os) today. A servant specifically appointed by the church.

3. I recently came across an interesting etymology of the word diakonos. It is a compound word. Some suggest the prefix dia (dee-a) means through, combined with the word konia, which means dust or flying dirt. Thus the literal meaning is going through the dirt, or kicking up dust. Others suggest that diakonos more accurately means to run or hasten. Thus, the connotation of the word for deacon means to kick up dust – to be busy doing. [Have ever looked across a country dirt field and knew there was a tractor in the field before you could see it- it was kicking up dust – there was evidence that work was being done. We need to look among us and find the men who are kicking up dust.

II. Describing the Man – What type of person is to be appointed to serve as a deacon? What we notice immediately from the list of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 is that the credentials for the deacon are very similar to the credentials of the elder. In fact, the some of the words are synonymous. This does not mean that a deacon is a junior elder, or that the work and role are the same. But would seem to indicate that both are spiritually qualified to do spiritual work. The distinctions stand out in the designations given: The elder is a more experienced man than the deacon. He is also given the responsibility to oversee, and to shepherd. The deacon is not an overseer or a shepherd (pastor). What are kind of man should be appointed? I think we could view the character of the deacon comprehensively as a zealous person. He is kicking up dust – He is eagerly serving in these three areas of his life:

A. He is zealous in his faith: He is seriously involved in being the type of spiritual person God desires.

• v. 8 -Dignified (grave, reverent). The word semnous means honorable of serious demeanor or dignified. deacon must be one who takes his spiritual life seriously. This does not mean he never laughs or enjoys life. But he is taken seriously by others and acts in such way as to have the respect of others.

• v. 8 -Not double-tongued (not hypocritical) The deacon does not say one thing to one person and something else to another. He does not put his finger to the wind before he speaks. The definition of the original term connotes deception. He does not attempt to deceive others with his words or life.

• v. 8 – Not addicted to much wine (given to much wine). The word prosexo means to give one’s mind to or occupy oneself with. Drunkenness and overindulgence were, and are still, indicative of a worldly or fleshly lifestyle. The deacon must be someone who has consciously chose to not go down that road – He has not given himself over to it. Christians who engage in the use of alcohol trade their good reputation and moral example of uprightness for a dabble in the things of the world. Later Paul says the deacon who is qualified and does his job, obtains for himself a good standing (v. 13). The use of alcohol works against this.

• v. 8 -not greedy for money (dishonest gain): The deacon is someone who can be trusted with money. He is not influenced by what money can buy. He cannot be bought. This does not happen accidentally. The one who is to be a deacon has intentionally molded his life on these qualities of the Spirit of God. He is genuinely spiritual, in control of his passions, and honest.

• v. 9- holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. We might notice that the specific qualification of being able to teach is not included with the deacons as it is with the elders. But the deacon must know the scriptures to a point of strong conviction (hold =means to keep, or grasp tightly). He is to grasp the mystery of the faith. The mystery of the faith is the objective message of God revealed, or the gospel message. The deacon must be one who is not wavering in his faith or unconvinced. In addition he is a man who lives by his convictions. He strives to not violate the conviction in his heart. He lives in good (pure) conscience, doing the best he can to serve God.

• v. 10 – But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. When should a man be appointed to serve as a deacon – only after he has proven himself – he has been tested. This does not demand perfection, or a time when every test has been given. We are all striving to improve and face tests along the way. But the deacon must be a man who has gained the respect of others and has developed a proven character as a Christian. He is not someone that others always wonder about – I wonder where he is; I wonder what he is doing; I wonder who he is with…

B. v. 12 – He is zealous for his family: As with the elder, the deacon is a family man. Although it does say his children must be believers, the text tells us that the deacon must be the husband of one wife and he must rule his children and house (family) well. This would not allow the unmarried man, or those without children to serve. In the first century it certainly prohibited the polygamist from being appointed. The emphasis of this qualification is on the established or proven ability of a man to lead his family (wife and children) spiritually. His family respects him and follow his lead. He shows them the way.

• v. 11 – Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. (NKJV) We notice that Paul addresses the women in v. 11. The original word in the text can mean either a wife, or a woman in general – there is no special word in the Greek for wife. Some translations take the liberty to translate this as “their wives” – meaning the wives of the deacons, or by extension the elders’ wives also. Others take the position that Paul is addressing a third office in the church – a female deacon, or deaconess. [Likewise, their wives (NKJV); Wives, too (HCSB); Women in like manner (ASV)] I am convinced that the context supports the view that Paul is including the character of the elders and deacon’s wives in the qualifications for the men who should be appointed. In Rom. 16:1 Paul calls Phoebe a servant (diakonos), and no doubt she served both Paul and the church zealously. The work and service of women among the early disciples is pronounced in the scriptures. But there is no further evidence that the NT church appointed women to a special office of a deacon. Certainly the wife of both the deacon and the elder are vital element of their work and character. A wife can qualify or disqualify a man in his work.

1. They are to be women who are reverent (same word as v. 8) or serious about their faith and spirituality;

2. not slanderers (malicious gossips)- The word here is diabolos (accuser) – word for Satan. One who delights in accusing others of wrongdoing.

3. temperate (sober) – with their passions under control. They do not overindulge.

4. faithful in all things – trustworthy; dependable.

C. Zealous for his service –The deacon is to be a man who will live up to his designation. He will be what we call him – a servant. He will be a person who is kicking up dust, and others can see it. In v. 13 Paul says… 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. The New Living Translation says it this way…Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.Deacons who do their job well obtain 2 things:

1. Respect from those they serve. Their service will not go unnoticed. They will be loved. Look around and see that even now. Even though we do not officially have deacons, we do have those who serve others (both men and women). Their service does not and should not go unnoticed.

2. They receive greater confidence in their faith. They are bolder to affirm what they believe. They are more confident to practice what they know. We are going to look more closely at Acts 6 – a case study on the appointment of deacons. 7 men appointed to a task. Two of those whom the church chose were Stephen and Philip. Where do we see them later?

a. In Acts 7 – Stephen is boldly rebuking the unbelieving Jews and putting his life on the line.

b. In Acts 8 (after Stephen is stoned to death) Philip is confidently preaching the gospel to those far from his home – following his faith. The goal and fruit of being a deacon is to grow and serve in other ways not done before.

Conclusion: Who do you serve? We might be tempted to say no one! But the reality is that we either serve ourselves, or we serve God. We either serve righteousness or we serve sinful passions.

  • Rom 6:16-18 – Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

The Christians at Rome were serving sin (slaves), but they obeyed from the heart (sincerely) that form of doctrine that was delivered to them by the apostle Paul. He told them about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. They died to sin, were buried in baptism, and rose again to a new life with Christ. At that moment they began serving righteousness.

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