LivingTruth.cc — The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

God’s Design for Deacons – 1 Timothy 3:8-12

Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Kevin A. Pierpont
10/5/03

8  Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money,

9  holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

10  But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.

11  Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.

12  Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

Last week we examined the office of pastor. Today we arrive at the Biblical guidelines for deacons. It will be helpful for us to look at Acts for a little background on what was probably the first appointment of deacons to the church. Acts 6:1-6

6:1  Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

2  Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.

3  “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;

4  “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

5  And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,

6  whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

We see from this passage that men were appointed to serve in the church.  They were assigned to care for the physical needs of the church so that the apostles would not have to neglect prayer and the teaching of the Word. The Greek word from which our word deacon is derived means a servant, attendant or minister. One idea that stands out when examining the qualifications of deacons and their role in the church is the word servant. Whether we have officially been set apart as deacons in the church or not, we should all be marked by a servant’s heart.

Lorne Sanny said this about servanthood…

A businessman I know once asked his Bible study group, “How can you tell if you have a servant attitude?” “By the way you react when you are treated like one,” was the reply.

It’s not easy to find an attitude like that. But for a disciple, servanthood is one of the keys to growing in Christ-likeness. Describing His own ministry, Jesus said: “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). When we give Jesus Christ His rightful place as Lord of our lives, His Lordship will be expressed in the way we serve others. Therefore, one of the best ways we can demonstrate our love for God is by showing love for our fellow man. We demonstrate love for others by helping them, by sharing their problems, and by doing what we can for them. II Corinthians 4:5 says, “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Another way of displaying servanthood is in evangelism. In I Corinthians 9:19, Paul says, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all….” Why does he say that? “…that I might win the more, “he continues. Paul knew that he would win more friends by being a servant. Although he was free from all men, he voluntarily decided to serve those he wanted to influence for Jesus Christ. Take a look at Acts 27:14-28:10. Paul was under arrest, traveling under Roman guard. The passage describes the day when the veteran missionary was shipwrecked on the island of Malta—a very cold day.

There in Acts 28:3, the Holy Spirit takes care to say that “Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks….” The Apostle Paul went out and gathered firewood. He did his part. He wasn’t going to wait for the others to do it. Servanthood then, is an attitude. It is also the mark of a leader. Think of Jesus Christ in Philippians 2:6,7 “…so, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.”

Why should we serve? For Jesus’ sake. Pick up a bundle of sticks…for Jesus’ sake. Look on the things of others…for Jesus’ sake. Be liberal with your time and ideas…for Jesus’ sake. Serve one another…for Jesus’ sake.1

A deacon is to be a servant. But is he the only one who should be doing the work of a servant? The answer is No. We are all called to serve. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you are a servant and should have the heart of a servant as you minister to one another and seek to minister to those in your community.

Here’s the list that describes the type of person that qualifies to be a deacon found in our text of 1 Timothy 3:8-12. A deacon must be:

reverent

not double tongued

not given to much wine

not greedy for money

hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience

he must be found blameless

their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things

a deacon must be a husband of one wife

he must manage his children and household well

The first quality that should characterize the life of a deacon in verse 8 is that he be reverent.

“Paul says that the deacons, like the overseers, are to be men “worthy of respect.” There is no one word in the English language that conveys exactly the word used in the Greek which combines the thoughts both of gravity and dignity,” the idea includes “both seriousness of purpose and self-respect in conduct.”2

When considering a man for the office of deacon, we must first of all ask, “is he worthy of respect? Will he be dignified and take this responsibility seriously when it comes to serving in the church?”

The next qualification in verse 8 is that he not be double-tongued. He must be one who is sincere. In the Greek it has the idea of saying something twice, with the suggestion of saying one thing to one person and something else to another.3 Basically he should not be saying one thing or living one way some of the time and living another way the rest of the time.

He should be a man who not only says he believes in living by God’s Word but will follow through and live according to God’s instruction. He must be striving to keep his life consistently in tune with God’s Word.

He should be a man whose word is the same no matter whom he is speaking to. Have you ever been around a person who will say one thing to one person and something totally different to another? This type of person is a man-pleaser and certainly doesn’t qualify as one who is sincere. A sincere person will speak truthfully and not change his speech just to suit the audience. A sincere person will speak the truth in order to please the Lord. You’ll be able to count on his word and know that he means what he says.

Next in verse 8 we see that a deacon should not be one given to much wine. One who serves as a deacon should not be one who is controlled by alcohol. He should be an individual controlled by the Holy Spirit, not one under the influence of alcohol or any other substance. We do not have to look too hard at the world around us to see the devastation that alcohol brings to the lives of many people. We certainly want to choose men to serve as deacons who will have a good testimony in this area.

Proverbs 31:4, 5 speaks of the destructive nature alcohol has on the mind and the decision making process,

4  It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink;

5  Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.

The final qualification given in verse 8 is that a deacon must not be greedy for money. The NIV says he is not pursuing dishonest gain. The office of deacon requires a man of integrity who is honest in financial dealings. He should not be a money grabber. We cannot entrust the spiritual concerns of the church, which include financial concerns to a man lacking in integrity in this area.

The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee commented on this by saying,

“I have discovered in my experience in the ministry that most of the churches I know are run by men of high integrity, but it is that small minority of dishonest men who are muddying the waters and causing difficulty. If there is one thing a church ought to be able to present to the world it is the fact that it is honest and holds a place of high integrity in financial matters.”

That is true isn’t it? We need to be sure we have integrity in this area and one way in which we will ensure this is by appointing those to the office of deacon who demonstrate integrity in the area of finances.

Look at verse 9 for the next quality a deacon should poses…

9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

Hampton Keathley explains the verse this way:

“The mystery of the faith” refers to the body of Christian doctrine to which we hold (believe and live by) through faith. “With a clear conscience” means he seeks to honestly live by the truths of Scripture. He keeps short accounts with God.4

This is a key area isn’t it? A deacon must be a man who is seeking to live according to Biblical standards. Not a man who says he believes one thing but lives his life in contradiction to the Word of God. I am not saying he is a sinless man – but one who when he sins will confess his sin and forsake it so he can serve with a clear conscience.

Verse 10 says he must first be tested… being found blameless. The NASB says then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. This speaks to the idea that he must be without reasonable grounds for accusation.5 It takes some time to test a man. Time to observe him and to see that he is worthy of a position of leadership. As we observe the lives of those who would be potential deacons is their behavior above reproach?

It’s easy for us to feel pressured to put someone in a role of leadership in the church prematurely when there are so few to serve. We must take care in this area and not put a man in such a position until he has shown himself faithful. We may find it discouraging when it’s difficult to find someone to serve in a leadership role but if we are patient and trust the Lord to provide I believe He will bless in the midst of difficulties.

Next we see in verse 11 that qualifications are given for the wife of a deacon. There are four listed. A deacons wife should be reverent or dignified (NASB). It means she should be worthy of respect (NIV). She should be dealing honorably in all she does. 

She must also not be a slanderer. The NASB presents the idea that she will not be a malicious gossip. Many churches and individuals have suffered because of loose tongues. It is the responsibility of those in leadership in the church to model the Biblical approach to dealing with difficulties and difficult people. Matthew 18:15 is the Biblical model for dealing with problems in the church.

15  Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

Almost all problems begin with one person. The proper method for dealing with a person who sins against you is to go to that person to show him his fault. It is not to come with a harsh attitude but with a humble attitude. You are not to go to one who has sinned against you with the goal of cutting him down but with a heart for restoration. You are not to go to break fellowship but to mend the fellowship that is broken by sin. This is hard to do but you must go to the individual in all humility seeking to help them see their sin for what it is, seeking to restore the fellowship between you.

In controlling her tongue a deacon’s wife has a tremendous opportunity for ministry through her Godly example. This is each believer’s responsibility but should be especially true of those in leadership.

She is also to be temperate. This is the same idea found in verse 2 for the pastor. The idea here is that the deacon’s wife should be one who is clear headed in all situations. The ministry of the deacon’s wife requires that she be thoughtful and clear headed. She should not be flighty and unstable but one who is a woman of the Word, controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Faithful in all things speaks to the idea that she should be trustworthy in everything and one who is committed to the ministry of the church. She should be faithful in every way she serves.

In verse 12 we return to the qualities that should be true of deacons. Deacons are to be the husbands of one wife. Again as we mentioned last week in regard to the office of pastor, a deacon is to be a “one-woman man.” He will be marked by faithfulness and devotion to his wife. He will not be one who let’s his eyes linger on a woman not his wife.

Finally we see in verse 12 that deacons must rule their children and their own homes well. Again as was noted in the qualifications for pastors, a deacon must have his own house in order. A man who doesn’t seek to train his children properly and lead his home spiritually cannot be expected to deal wisely in the weighty matters of the ministry that will be required of him in the church.

Our study has mostly been directed to the qualifications for deacons. Certainly when we are choosing men to serve in this capacity we need to see how well they line up with the standards God has given us. But we would also do well to bear in mind that these qualities ought to be found in the lives of all believers. Consider the following comment from the Radio Bible Class booklet, Who Qualifies to be a Church Leader?,

“How do these qualifications apply to everyone? The qualifications for church leaders are, for the most part, characteristics of a person who is taking his faith in Christ seriously, growing in his knowledge of God, and maturing in his Christian life. Therefore, this study should help us examine our lives to see if we are becoming Christlike in word and action. Even though we may not hold the office of elder or deacon, we should be maturing and be able to be an example to others. Like the apostle Paul, we too should be able to say, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). ” (Who Qualifies to be a Church Leader? written by Dan Vander Lugt and Kurt De Haan.)

Are these qualities evident in our lives? We have considered the qualifications of deacons today. We noted that the word deacon literally means “servant”. But how are each of us doing today. God calls each believer to serve. How are you fulfilling your God given role as His servant in the church today?

Deacons are placed in the church to be servants but they are not the only ones who are called to serve. We should all display a servant’s heart in the body of Christ.

It has been good to review the qualifications for Godly leaders in the church. We need to be careful in choosing leaders whose lives line up with the Word of God. This has also been a helpful reminder that we should be using God’s Word not the ideals of men to measure the fitness of one for ministry.

We should all be seeking these qualities in our lives and we need not allow the deacons to be the only servants in the church. There is room for all of us to serve and for all of us to demonstrate a servant’s heart as we reach out to minister to one another and the community around us.

Are you seeking to be a faithful servant where the Lord has placed you? Are you open to the Lord leading you into new opportunities of service in the church?


1 Lorne Sanny, Daily Walk, April 1982

2 Expositors Bible Commentary, p. 55

3 Expositor’s Bible Commentary p. 55

4 J. Hampton Keathley III

5 Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 Timothy, pg. 42