1 Tim 3:8-13 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. (9) They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. (10) And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. (11) Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. (12) Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. (13) For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
In recent postings we have been looking at the qualifications for overseers that Paul includes in 1 Tim 3:1-7. Having now completed that list we find in the following verses that he applies these to deacons – and adds three more! These are:
First Paul teaches that deacons ‘must be dignified’. It is frequently incumbent upon an administrator to be in the public eye, whether making announcements at a church meeting or imparting vision and faith for some particular activity. If people are to respond to his exhortation he should be seen as someone who commands respect and is known to be able to act in a dignified way. That does not mean that he can never have some fun – indeed humour can be a powerful way of helping impart knowledge. Nevertheless, he must be known as someone whose life could be investigated and whose behaviour is exemplary, whether in the public eye or not. Also, when interacting with the world, which is common in administration – for example, if there is a need to hire premises, put out press releases and so on – there must be an appropriate sobriety and ability to communicate in a non-religious way.
Paul’s second additional qualification is that a deacon should not be double-tongued (1 Tim3:8). I am sure we have all experienced conversations where we have thought ‘I wonder what he is really saying?’ ‘Does he have a hidden agenda?’ There can be few things that undermine the integrity of a leader more than this feeling of uncertainty which engenders a lack of trust in the hearer. If such people are double-tongued, there is always the suspicion of a double meaning in what is being said and the attendant insecurity that an unexpected scenario will develop on the basis of the speaker feeling he has already discussed it. Transparency is vital. In computer jargon WYSIWYG – ‘what you see is what you get’! This must be the case if we are to enjoy the confidence of the people.
‘..hold the mystery of the faith..’
Finally in this formidable list perhaps the most important characteristic is addressed; ‘They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience’ (1 Tim 3:9). It is tempting to think that only the acknowledged ‘spiritual’ leaders of the church have a spiritual influence on the people. However, an administrator frequently needs to exercise and impart faith and this must come from a secure foundation of his own grasp of doctrine and personal walk with God. Where this is lacking there will be a vulnerable point of access for the enemy into the heart of the leadership of the church.
What about Women?
In 1 Tim 3:11 women are suddenly introduced into the discussion. But the translation is ambiguous. The Greek word gun? may be ‘women’ or ‘wives’. Because of the context (Paul does not finish addressing the subject of deacons until the end of verse 13) this appears to apply to women as deacons, not just to the wives of deacons. Indeed, in Rom 16:1 Paul himself refers to ‘your sister Phoebe’ as a deacon, so it seems that it was normal for women to be deacons in the early church.
So, can a woman be an Administrator? I would say unequivocally ‘Yes’. It seems that women may, and indeed do, serve in administration – there is neither government nor the requirement for teaching apostolic doctrine in the role to prevent them. Obviously there are situations in which there will need to be appropriate wisdom in practice e.g. it would not be good for a woman to travel alone with a man in some cultures as this would be misinterpreted. Indeed, this is an issue that needs wise handling in any culture.
The only additional condition that Paul puts on women refers to not being slanderers, but that too should be applied to both sexes. So, the qualifications and behaviours that Paul writes about must be applied appropriately to both men and women.
Let me summarise the list to bring emphasis to its importance:
• above reproach
• husband of one wife
• self control
• able to teach
• not a drunkard
• not violent but gentle
• not quarrelsome
• not a lover of money
• manage his own household well
• not a recent convert
• having a good reputation
• not double-tongued
• holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience
• not slanderers
How did Stephen, one of the seven, measure up to this standard? Although we cannot find direct reference to all these characteristics there are indicators to suggest that he would have scored highly. He was described in Acts 6:3 as being ‘of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom’. In verse 5 he is credited with being ‘full of faith and the Holy Spirit’. In Verse 8 he is described as ‘full of grace and power’. Then in his defence statement in Acts 7 he is clearly not double tongued – his message was devastatingly clear – yet he combined gentleness of speech with forcefulness of argument and appropriate confrontation.
From the above it has, I trust, been clearly shown that the gift of administration is no task-only functional activity. There is a high level of responsibility associated with the gift and this is to be out-worked to the benefit of the people. And, as Paul teaches in 1 Tim 3:13 there are real benefits and rewards for those who serve in this way.
Be a blessing and be blessed!