Devotional # 200. 8/1/16. 1 Timothy 3:1-13.
Intro. Today is special…we’re celebrating our 200th Devotional!! It’s been almost 4 years since we started and a fantastic experience! So last week we finished up 1 Timothy chapter 2 talking about men and women’s responsibilities in church (1 Timothy 2:6-15, Devotional #199). Paul will continue this train of thought in the very important section we’re covering today. We’re going to look at the requirements for leadership positions in the church.
First, we should ask why this matters to us now especially for a personal devotional. It matters because this is our God-given structure of the church, if someone isn’t doing this then they are disobeying God and we shouldn’t be taught by them. And, as if being focused on ourselves and what we get out of this section was the most important thing, we should focus on these leaders and pray for them.
Verses 1-7. Requirements for “Bishops”.
v. 1. We’re told that if a man wants to be a “bishop” it’s a good thing. Is this a bishop like in the Catholic Church? No, in the Greek it means “overseer” and sometimes is called an “elder” and sometimes a “pastor.” Why does Paul tells us it’s “a good work”? First, because it’s good to be used by God in the way He has gifted you. Second, because there are a lot of rules and self-control that can be a little difficult so we need to be reminded that it’s all worth it, and it’s a good thing.
v. 2. The first six things mentioned in this verse are self-explanatory but I think the next, “able to teach”, should be looked at. The office of an “elder” or “pastor” needs to be held by someone who has been gifted by God with being able to study the Bible and teach others. It doesn’t mean someone who can talk at people and it doesn’t mean they think they can teach. It means they can teach. The whole point is that others learn from that person because God has gifted them, it can’t be forced. This simply means that the teacher will receive positive feedback from those taught. It doesn’t mean the teacher will emotionally please everyone and it doesn’t mean the teacher won’t offend anyone. It means God’s word was illuminated by God, through this teacher. This can be applied in several ways, often churches have a main teaching pastor then some assistant pastors that teach Bible studies and counsel (another form of teaching). I used to go to a church that had six elders who rotated Sunday morning teaching responsibilities. It was a really cool way to hold everyone accountable without having one man get too much attention or responsibility.
v. 3. Of all of these important traits, for 2016, I’d like to focus on being “not greedy for money.” Unfortunately, over thousands of years (as well as now) the love of money has intrigued and dominated “overseers.” Many times they don’t start out this way but over time get “puffed up with pride” (v. 6) or become “covetous” (v. 3) or see how easy it is to take advantage of people or situations. We must be guarded against this. As a leader we must constantly be checking ourselves and as a congregation we need to be praying for the leaders.
vv. 4-5. These verses are a great reminder about what we talked about last week: God holds men accountable for their wives and children (1 Timothy 2:13, Devotional # 199). As I’ve been meditating on this verse this week I considered my wife’s role in my ministry. I could easily be disqualified from my responsibilities if she went off the deep end. On the positive side she’s always considerate to my needs of time and resources. She selflessly makes a way for me to study, or write or counsel. What a blessing a godly wife is!
v. 6. As we mentioned a minute ago, not being prideful is very important. Sometimes when people first become Christians they want to start teaching, but even if they have great intentions, they are still a “novice.” In the same way you don’t take ski lessons from a beginner and you don’t have a 10 year old teach driver’s ed, you wouldn’t have a new believer teach on the Bible. In fact, spiritual things are much more serious and important than anything else. When you’re a teacher you will be more strictly judged (James 3:1) and you have a weight of responsibility and hard decisions that can only come with time in the Word and experience.
v. 7. Verse 6 compared the “pride” we just talked about with Satan’s pride, which was his first mistake and sin. Pride takes credit for the things God has done. How can a Spirit-filled believer do that? And how does that look to those “outside” the church – the non-Christians? A difficult thing for me when I became a pastor was knowing the right amount of “self-consciousness” I should have. I had grown up not caring what others thought of me, and a certain amount of that must carry over, you can’t please everyone and as a Christian living out the faith you will get mocked. But I also had to develop an awareness of how I was presenting myself and the church to other Christians but also non-Christians. We truly have the hope of salvation but human pride and fighting and greed will deter people from beginning a relationship with Jesus.
Verses 8-13. Requirements for “Deacons”.
vv. 8-9. The word “deacon” means “servant” and so is characterized by someone who sees a need and fixes it. The best way to understand this is by reading Acts 6:1-6 where apostles were too busy for daily tasks so they delegated the tasks to others. Many of the qualifications of a deacon are the same or similar to that of bishops (one difference is that they don’t teach). What does “holding the mystery of the faith” mean? A deacon holds the mystery of faith because people will ask why you serve and you can articulate that it is the love of Christ.
v. 10. In the same way a bishop couldn’t be a “novice” (v. 6), a deacon must “first be tested” to prove that they can be trusted. When they have proven themselves then they can be given more responsibility.
vv. 11-12. The beginning of this verse is literally “likewise wives reverent…” Its debated whether this is referring to male deacon’s wives or to female deacon’s (deaconesses). I personally believe that women can fill the role of deacon, although I don’t think this is where that is proved*. It is proved in Romans 16:1 were Phoebe is called a deaconess.
v. 13. Paul has flipped his model from bishops where he started by saying it was a “good work” (v. 1), now he completes this section on deacons by talking about it being a good thing. Deacons were told how to begin (by being “tested” then, once they pass, allowing them to serve – v. 10) now we’re told what the benefits of being a good deacon is. A good deacon will have two things: 1. “a good standing” and 2. “great boldness in the faith.” A “good standing” means “a well-grounded hopeof salvation” (Source 1). And a “great boldness in the faith” is a faith only in “Christ Jesus.” So let’s look at what the Scripture give us. In places like Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 we’re taught to imitate Jesus. If Jesus’ life could be summarized by two words they would be “loving servitude.” A deacon displays that constantly, and it gives them a “boldness” to share Jesus with others – in word and in action. In Acts 6:1-8 Stephen waits tables and becomes a huge witness by being martyred. Stephen’s boldness was given by Jesus and trained into him by being a servant deacon.
Where is your gift? I would never try and apply “deacon-giftedness” to every Christian (or “bishop-giftedness” for that matter). But for those of you called to be deacons, yet you haven’t answered, I challenge you to submit to God’s calling and allow yourself to be “tested.” For those who are faithfully serving as deacons, stay steadfast in “good standing” and “great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (If you need ideas on how to be a deacon in 2016 read this).For those not called to be a deacon, you certainly have been given at least one spiritual gift from God, so use it! He will guide you, He will make you strong, remember He’ll never give you more than you can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). Trust Him!
*Deaconess– In my opinion, by the context, it makes the most sense that this refers to the requirements of a male deacon’s wife (like verse 12). However, MacArthur believes this refers to deaconesses because “the use of the word ‘likewise’ as an introduction (cf. v. 8) suggests a third group in addition to elders and deacons. Also, since Paul gave no requirements for elders’ wives, there is no reason to assume these would be qualifications for deacons’ wives” (Source 3). Although I agree with MacArthur’s first point (“likewise“), I disagree with his second point since the very next thing that Paul talks about is that a deacon is supposed to have “one wife” (v. 12) and just as he did for elders (v. 4) he continues to talk about what deacons families should be like. Beyond that, although it’s not as trustworthy as an inspired writer, the translators of the New King James agreed with me (“likewise, their wives must be reverent…”). For more read this.
Conclusion. I like what Guzik says about the differences between “bishops” and “deacons.” It would be easy to say that one is more important than the other but that’s incorrect. “It is a mistake to see one office as more prestigious than the other, though bishops have more responsibility before God. Each is more a matter of calling than status” (Source 2). As you consider the things we’ve read today prayerfully think about roles that desperately need to be filled in your church. Now you have a biblical basis for understanding how God calls servant-leaders.
Source 1: Fausset (of Jamieson, Fausset & Brown), https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Ti/1Ti_003.cfm?a=1122001
Source 2: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Ti/1Ti_3.cfm?a=1122001
Source 3: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1865.