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 Vol. 4, No. 7 

July, 2002

~ Page 17 ~

What Is a Deacon?

By Kriss Cecil-Krihfield

Image The word diakonos is translated "minister" 20 times and "servant" 7 times in the New Testament. It is translated "deacon" 3 times, in Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 12. In the passages where it is translated "deacon" [e.g., KJV, ASV, NKJV but not RSV], it is speaking of the specific office in the church, not simply a servant. It is the purpose of this lesson to examine the passage of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 with respect to the qualifications of a deacon.

Restrictions (v. 8-9)

A deacon must be grave -- he must be honorable and dignified. This word also implies that a deacon is worthy of the same honor and reverence that he exemplifies.

He must not be double-tongued. This may be stating that to be a deacon, one must not be a gossip. More accurately, though, it disallows one who speaks one thing to one person and yet speaks the opposite to another person.

He is not to be given to much wine. This statement does not allow for any consumption of alcohol, as some would say. Ecclesiastes 7:17a says, "Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish." This does not allow one to be a little wicked. The word here given is the Greek word prosecho, otherwise translated to give attention to something. It would be more accurate to say that the candidate for the office of deacon should not ever be attentive or desirous of wine.

The text then continues by saying a deacon must not be greedy of filthy lucre. We know that to be greedy, one diverts his attention from God to material gain or wealth. Hebrews 13:5 says, "be content with such things as ye have." Filthy lucre would be better understood today as dirty money. To be a deacon, one must not desire wealth so much that he throws morals out the door to get it.

He must hold the mystery of the faith in good conscience. This means he must possess the knowledge that God has revealed to us to a degree that satisfies his conscience. It also implies that he must live a life that is in accordance with the faith to the point where his conscience justifies his actions.

Selection (v. 10)

The Word then goes on to say that he must be "proved" or tested. This word denotes an examination for approval. Some feel this allows for a type of tenure in the office. Some feel it warrants a congregational interrogation of the candidate. Many feel (as does this author) that this implies that the congregation should be attentive of its members who are already working for the Lord, so that candidates can be decided upon when the need arises as in Acts 6:3, "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business."

After this testing, he must be found blameless. This implies that the man, after the "testing" has been found without any reproach. This does not mean that he is without sin, per se, just that he meets the requirements for this particular office. This also does not give the congregation the right to publicly rebuke him for traits that are not sinful.

Once he has been found without reproach, we are commanded to let him use the office of a deacon. Once found blameless, there should be no reason to hinder his service to the church. In restricting him, we wound the church. Conversely, if he is found with blame, he should not be put into the office. This also would cause harm to the church.

His Companion (v. 11)

The wife of a deacon must be grave also. The wives of deacons must be reverent, dignified and worthy of honor and reverence. (An interesting note is that only the character of a deacon's wife is mentioned and not the elder's wife.)

They are not to be slanderers. It is interesting that the word translated "slanderers" is also related to Satan. More accurately, she is not to falsely accuse. The wives of deacons must not be constantly undoing the deacon's work by maliciously gossiping.

They are to be "sober." This word is also noted as being circumspect. This can mean abstaining from alcohol, but more clearly means clear-mindedness.

They are also to be faithful in all things. The deacon's wife is not only to be faithful (convicted + obedience) in Christ, she is also to be faithful to her husband, her family and her children in all things. This is also rendered "absolutely trustworthy" by one translator.

Home Administration (v. 12)

The deacon must be the husband of one wife. This prohibits a man participating in bigamy or polygamy from becoming a deacon. This also places an implied restriction on a man who has divorced without scriptural basis.

He must rule his children and his own house well. The connotation of the word "rule" in the Greek seems to imply that the man not only presides over his house but also is an example standing before his house. It is interesting to note that there is no mention here that a deacon's children must be believers as an elder's children must. This may be evidence implying that a man does not have to be as old as he would to be an elder, since the deacon's children may have time to grow.

Exhortation of a Deacon (v13)

A good deacon will be in good standing if he "serves well as a deacon." This seems to state that if the deacon performs his duties well, he will be on a "better standing." Is this a better standing in the church? Is it a better standing in his community? Is it a better standing in the eyes of God? Why can it not be all these?

The good deacon will also gain great boldness. If a deacon performs his job well and succeeds in serving others to his highest capacity, he will slowly gain more confidence in his ability to further the spread of the Gospel and the edification of the saints. This great boldness is useless unless it is in the faith of Christ Jesus.

In this lesson, we have examined the Restriction of Deacons, the Selection of Deacons, the Companion of a Deacon, the Home Administration of Deacons and the Exhortation of Deacons. We as Christians should desire to serve one another, to minister to one another, to the fullest degree possible. If we love one another as we should, we will meet much of these criteria without strain.

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