In Acts 6 we saw some of the qualifications of an Administrator relating both to character and spiritual standing. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 deals with similar issues in a more systematic way and, because it is so important not to appoint people who lack these Biblical criteria, I want to spend a little more time considering what Paul wrote to Timothy
(1) The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (2) Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (3) not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (4) He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, (5) for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (6) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. (7) Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (8) 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.
The passage is divided into two distinct parts, verses 1-7 and 8-13. The first section refers to elders or overseers, the second to deacons. This second section is introduced with the term ‘likewise’ which either suggests the standards are even higher for deacons or that the list that follows refers back to the elders as well. Certainly there is some repetition e.g. ‘husband of one wife’ (1 Tim 3:2, 12). Either way, in order to understand what is required of deacons we must seek first to reflect on what Paul requires of overseers. Let us consider each characteristic in turn, starting with verse 2.
This suggests that the leader has a good reputation i.e. he has demonstrated good character in previous situations. Reputation seems to be a very important Biblical criterion. We have already referred to the matter of reputation when considering the appointment of the seven in Acts 6:3, but this reference also includes the fact that there can be no foundation for an accusation about the person’s character. There is further reference in 1Ti 3:7 ‘..well thought of by outsiders…’ and in 1Ti 3:10 ‘…let them also be tested first.’
How important it is that there is total integrity and no unresolved issues or character flaws in a leader’s life. The enemy will undoubtedly find any chinks in a person’s armour and undermine his ministry if such a vulnerability exists. For myself, both Terry Virgo and I lead a totally ‘open book’ with each other and have covenanted together that we will each speak to the other if we see anything in one another’s lives that could give the slightest hint of sin or impropriety.
The matter of vulnerability is an important one. The fact that a person has been saved does not mean that overnight he has been made perfect and it is important to know if there are areas of vulnerability to avoid. As the Lord’s Prayer includes, ‘lead us not into temptation’.
A sad illustration
I remember being involved in a situation many years ago in which a particular church’s finance officer was someone who had been convicted of fraud in his pre-salvation days. The elders were convinced that with the passing years he had not only repented but had also matured in the area of handling finance. Because he was very able in accurately accounting and recording finance they appointed him to this particular role. Sadly, it became clear that the vulnerability was still there when he had succeeded in paying for his daughter’s wedding out of church funds. Just as it is unwise to offer an alcoholic drink to a saved alcoholic so it was unwise to entrust a former fraudster with caring for the church’s finances.
We always want to believe the best – but let us also be wise and alert to areas where Satan can throw a few fiery darts. Had this individual had an open and transparent relationship with a trusted friend shipwreck could have been avoided. There was, incidentally, also a serious breakdown in ‘good practice’ concerning the financial management – 2-signature cheques being pre-signed by one party to make processing easier – which made the temptation easier to yield to.
So, those who hold responsible positions in the church must be ‘above reproach’ and it is vital that each has a close friend with whom he or she can be totally transparent.