Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: June 11, 2021
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Hello and welcome back to HBS y’all.
This week we turn our attention to the only other church official Paul mentioned in his communication to pastor Timothy and that is the office of “the deacons.”
Qualifications For The Deacons
“Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
“The deacon,” (diakonos), is the servant (helper) of the local Church. He served under the bishop/elder/pastor (overseer) and was in charge of the church’s external affairs. What does that mean? I’m glad you asked. To answer that question I point the Bible student to the book of Acts 6. This is where you’ll find information re: the appointment of deacons in that ekklesia or assembly. You see, administrative affairs were taking up too much of the twelve apostle’s time. This had an adverse effect upon their prayer life and their ministry to the nation of Israel or to the “Jew only” (Acts 11:19; Romans 15:8; Galatians 2:6-10). Thus, seven men were chosen, “men of good report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,” to take charge of the everyday practical matters (Acts 6:3-6). The result was that: “…the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Undoubtedly, then, this is the reason why deacons were given an important role in the local assemblies under the Apostle Paul.
Having outlined the qualifications for “the office of a bishop,” Paul now proceeds to do “Likewise” for the deacons saying, “they must be:”
“Grave” – there’s a word that is seldom used today, but Paul’s saying the man who fills this position must be “serious-minded” recognizing the importance of their part, or role in the church and the ministry of Christ.
“not double-tongued” – this word is only used here in the N.T. so we have to define it by its usage in Psalm 12:2-3: “They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: With flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, And the tongue that speaketh proud things:” When a man with “a double heart” speaks he does so with a double tongue, which the psalmist described as flattery. “Flattering” is thinking one thing and saying another, usually to get something of worth from someone. So then, this means the deacons are not to be careless or irresponsible in their talk, i.e., saying one thing to one person or group and something quite different to another. The implication, then, as I see it, seems to be that of a hypocrite or liar.
“not given to much wine” – here we go again…, as with the elder/pastor (1 Timothy 3:3), drunkenness is not fitting for a deacon. Note, again, that Paul does not condemn all alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol was permitted and sometimes encouraged in Paul’s day most likely due to the contaminated water supply. That being said drunkenness is clearly not okay (Galatians 5:21). I also point out that Paul rebuked members of the church at Corinth not to keep fellowship with a member who was a drunkard (1 Corinthians 5:11). But Paul was prepared to accept as brothers and sisters those who drink and those who do not drink. He also spoke favorably of using “a little wine” for medicinal purposes (1 Timothy 5:23). Clearly, drunkenness is one of Satan’s snares. The O.T. offers examples of godly men who became drunk and suffered negative consequences, such as, Noah and Samson. Therefore, a candidate for the office of deacon must not be addicted to much wine (3:8).
The principle governing Paul’s attitude on this subject appears at the conclusion of a section in 1 Corinthians where he addressed differing attitudes toward eating, drinking, and marriage: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:” (1 Corinthians 10:23-33).
“not greedy of filthy lucre;” – again, “lucre” means “gain” and any lucrative enterprise is a “gainful” one (3:3), so Paul’s words of caution to the bishop/elder/pastor applies equally to the deacons. That’s because they are as susceptible to ill-gotten (filthy) gains as their counterparts, i.e., the overseers in the Church. How dangerous it would be, then, to appoint as a deacon, one who is not known to be scrupulously honest where the handling of money is concerned. History shows us wherever there’s a pile of money unscrupulous people are trying to get their greedy hands into it.
One biblical example that stands out and that’s the apostle Judas. Now before the negative comments come pouring in, I know Judas was an apostle and not a “deacon,” but the principle is the same; Judas was a “thief” and as such could not be trusted with money. Please turn to John chapter 12 at verse 1: “Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” Clearly, Judas was not only a “thief” he was “double-tongued.”
“Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (See also 1 Timothy 1:19-20) – although the handling of material things such as money is not clearly referenced, just implied, here we have something they are told to do. Without a doubt this is the most important qualification of them all. “The faith” is, of course, “the one faith” of Ephesians 4:5, that great body of Truth (Church Doctrine) committed to and proclaimed by Paul. This body of Truth, as we now know, was a “mystery,” i.e., a secret, until the glorified and risen Lord Jesus Christ revealed it to Paul (Romans 16:25-26; Galatians 1:11; Ephesians 3:1-3). It’s assumed that the bishop/elder/pastor would “hold” God’s Truths out of sincere conviction, but this should also be the case with the deacons, even though their ministry differed from that of the overseer. By that I mean to say a deacon is not necessarily a Bible teacher, but would it not be a poor testimony to those within the Church and those without, to hold an office in the assembly while ill-informed about the divine message re: “the mystery” that it is supposed to be proclaiming?
Thus, the deacon, as well as the bishop, should “Hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.” He should not only have a clear understanding of the great doctrine of the “one Body,” with its “one baptism,” i.e., he should not merely subscribe to them, but whole heartedly believe them, stand for them, and live them.
“And let those also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless – those men being considered for “the office of a deacon” must “first be proved.” Then, “let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.”
This instruction is unique to “the office of a deacon.” Paul's did not require the bishops to undergo a test. Yet, his qualifications for deacons clearly require it. Quite likely, those considered for the position of a bishop were already serving or had served as a "deacon." Beyond this, the most likely reason for this difference is simply that of one’s reputation or character being deliberately put under the spotlight, as it were.
Here I remind the group in circa 50 AD Paul suggested to Barnabas that they revisit the churches planted during Paul’s first missionary journey. Barnabas wanted John Mark, his nephew (Colossians 4:10), to accompany them on Paul’s second missionary journey, but Paul recalled that John Mark quit on them before their work was done. This speaks of a less than stellar reputation. So Paul and Barnabas had an argument and decided to go their separate ways (Acts 13:1-5, 13, 15:36-41). Paul and Silas “went through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches.” One of the places they revisited was the local assembly in Lystra. This is where an unruly mob seized Paul, stoned him, dragged him outside the city, and left him for dead during his initial visit (Acts 13:19). But it was in Lystra where Timothy had been led to Christ by Paul’s gospel (1 Timothy 1:2), and it was here where the elders in the assembly gave Paul a “favorable report” re: Timothy’s reputation, so Paul invited him “to go forth with him” (Acts 16:1-5). This, then, had been Timothy’s period (time) of “testing.”
This "testing" then refers to a temporary time period during which potential deacons were given some leadership before being officially selected. This is affirmed by the second part of the verse tying service to “proof” based on this “testing.” Those who served well during the “testing period” might be formally approved as a “deacon.”
“being found blameless” – first let’s understand this does not mean being found sinless. This is a general statement re: the individual’s character. It merely means being found above reproach.
“Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.”
Based on Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 7:87 he wasn’t married but for those married men being considered for the office of a “deacon,” this qualification applies. I think it’s interesting that where the qualifications for deacons are concerned their “wives” are brought into the picture whereas in the case of the elder/pastor it is not. I personally don’t think this is strange because a friend of mine was a deacon in a church I once attended. He was married and his wife worked together with him in administering to the everyday practical matters or concerns of that assembly. The more hands you have working the lighter the load philosophy applies here. But when his wife stepped into the role of helper/servant, she placed herself under the spotlight or the scrutiny of others. So, Paul’s saying the deacon’s wife must be “grave” or serious-minded, “not slanderers (false accusers – 2 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 2:3), sober (level-headed), faithful in all things” (faithful to their husbands, to their families, to the Church, to the Saviour).
Let’s compare Scripture with Scripture starting with Titus 2:3: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;” and then, Romans 16:1-2, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer (gives aid or assistance to in time of need) of many, and of myself also.”
I point out for emphasis Paul at no time suggested or approved an office for deaconess. As in Romans 16:1, the “wives” of deacons ministered especially to the women and children in the assembly, instructing them and giving wise counsel, helping the sick, and so on. She did not teach Scripture to men (1 Timothy 2:9-15; 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15).
As with bishops/elders/pastors, this verse does not imply that a “deacon” must be married. I point this out, again, merely because many church denominations errantly add it to Paul’s qualifications. It makes sense, then, that men who hold the office of a deacon need a spouse who practices godliness “in all things.” Should this not be the case the deacon’s ministry as well as his spouse might suffer “shipwreck.”
“Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife (at a time), ruling (Greek #3616 = oikodespoteo, pronounced: oy-kod-es-pot-eh’- o; meaning, to guide or manage) their children and their houses well.”
“The husbands of one wife” is dispensationally different than when spiritual leaders were husbands of more than one in time past. In the O.T. men often had more than one wife and a concubine on the side.
A man’s “house” in those days included servants as well as his “children,” so today if a deacon has employees he must rule them well. If a man can’t teach employees how to serve him by motivating them by gracious treatment, how can he teach God’s people to be motivated to serve Him by being motivated by His matchless grace?
“For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
“Purchase” means to gain, thus one who serves well as a “deacon” gains for himself the respect of others, i.e., those he comes into contact with; “and therefore can exercise “great boldness in the faith.”
“Boldness” just comes with the territory if you’re teacher of God’s Word, rightly divided. If you don’t think you are bold enough to be a teacher, it’s probably because you haven’t done enough teaching, practice makes perfect...
By “the faith” Paul means to say the things of “Christ Jesus;” which is “in Christ Jesus.” That is, those things centered in Christ for Paul himself proclaimed,
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (1 Corinthians 1:17).
“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:9-11).
© Copyright 2011/GJ Heitzman’s Ministry/All Rights Reserved