May 12, 2013

WHAT IS A DEACON? sermon notes


This is important because of 1 Timothy 3:14–15

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

  1. be dignified
  2. not be double-tongued
  3. not be addicted to much wine
  4. not be greedy for dishonest gain (all from v8)
  5. hold the mystery of the faith w/a clear conscience (skip this one -v9- for now)
  6.  be tested first (begins w/v10)
  7. be proved blameless (after this one from v10; skip v11 for now, go to v12)
  8. be the husband of one wife (begins v12)
  9. manage children/household well (ends w v12, now  go to v11 on women)

ESV: their wives likewise must (NIV is similar) –OR-
HCSB: Wives, too (also check the footnotes!) –OR-
NASB: women must likewise be (NRSV is similar)
examples from early church history: Apostolic Constitutions, letter of Pliny the Younger, etc.
emphasis is on the service not so much the title and either way these are women serving in ministry
Why couldn’t it mean the deacons wives and the women who assist the deacons and female deacons?
Especially when Romans 16:1-2 seems to indicate Phoebe may have been a deacon?

Romans 16:1–2
(ESV) I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
(NIV, NLT and NRSV have deacon. ESV, NASB, and others have servant. Diakonos is the root word)
THE WOMEN [DEACONS] MUST (all from v.11):
  1. be dignified
  2. not be slanderers
  3. be sober-minded
  4. be faithful in all things

          DEACONS MUST: hold the mystery of the faith w/a clear conscience
  1. he was manifested in the flesh
  2. vindicated by the Spirit
  3. seen by angels
  4. proclaimed among the nations
  5. believed on in the world
  6. taken up in glory

Those who serve well as deacons gain:
          a good standing for themselves and
          great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus

See Acts 6:1–7
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

          Matthew 20:26–28
          Mark 10:43–45
          Luke 22:26–27
          John 13:15–17
          Philippians 2:1-11


  1. Anonymous8:38 PM

    Question: the New Testament language about bishops and deacons being a "husband of one wife" raises the question for me as to how common polygamy was among New Testament people (e.g., Levirate marriage, etc.). It seems that it was common enough to mention, so was it "common" at all?

    Also, is it possible that "husband of one wife" is New Testament Greek idiom for "married" (i.e., husband of *a* wife ---- different use of an indefinite article)? I don't read Greek, so I just wondered.


  2. Good question.

    There are debates about how common or uncommon polygamy was or was not. There seem to have been some differences between Jewish and Roman practice here.

    As far as the phrase 'husband of one wife', all I know is that the underlying Greek text is μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες - this literally means 'one woman man'. The question is how do we interpret the phrase 'one woman man'. Here is what Grudem says about it in his Systematic:

    "The qualification “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) has been understood in different ways. Some people have thought that it excludes from the office of elder men who have been divorced and have then married someone else, since they have then been the husband of two wives. But this does not seem to be a correct understanding of these verses. A better interpretation is that Paul was prohibiting a polygamist (a man who presently has more than one wife) from being an elder. Several reasons support this view:

    (1) All the other qualifications listed by Paul refer to a man’s present status not his entire past life. For example, 1 Timothy 3:1–7 does not mean “one who has never been violent,” but “one who is not now violent, but gentle.” It does not mean “one who has never been a lover of money,” but “one who is not now a lover of money.” It does not mean “one who has been above reproach for his whole life,” but “one who is now above reproach.” If we made these qualifications apply to one’s entire past life, then we would exclude from office almost everyone who became a Christian as an adult, for it is doubtful that any non-Christian could meet these qualifications.

    (2) Paul could have said “having been married only once” if he had wanted to, but he did not.

    (3) We should not prevent remarried widowers from being elders, but that would be necessary if we take the phrase to mean “having been married only once.” The qualifications for elders are all based on a man’s moral and spiritual character, and there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that a man who remarried after his wife had died has lower moral or spiritual qualifications.21

    (4) Polygamy was possible in the first century. Although it was not common, polygamy was practiced, especially among the Jews. The Jewish historian Josephus says, “For it is an ancestral custom of ours to have several wives at the same time.” Rabbinic legislation also regulated inheritance customs and other aspects of polygamy.23

    Therefore it is best to understand “the husband of one wife” to prohibit a polygamist from holding the office of elder. The verses say nothing about divorce and remarriage with respect to qualifications for church office."

    Hope that helps a bit!

    PS - here are some other posts about this topic which may help:


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