Title: The Two Offices of the Church: Deacons are like Elders, mostly
Text: 1 Timothy 3.8-13
Deacons: A different group of people.
I want to talk to you today about the greatest need at Tarpley Baptist Church, Tarpley, TX. I’m talking desperation, here. This is a great day to take notes, and if you’re taking notes write this down: for the ministry and mission of Tarpley, right now, our greatest need is for deacons. I say this because we have Trustees who are functioning and we have a pastor (that you love and are excited about having serve here!). So, we need deacons.
Now I wonder, if some of you might be asking at this point: “Really Fred? That’s our greatest need?” Yeah, it probably is. Ministry opportunities are currently uncovered and not happening because we just don’t have the men and women in place to keep up with the need. Others are overtaxed in their load.
And it really shouldn’t be that way. We have enough people to cover our needs. Why is it then, that ministry goes undone and uncovered if we have enough people?
- My guess is that people just don’t know.
- Maybe there is a stigma attached to the word deacon – like, someone feels they’re too young; they’re too old.
We as a body need to remedy this. So, today I’m going to talk to you about deacons and ministry in the church as outlined in our text; and, just what we as a church need to be doing about it.
Our text is 1 Tim 3.8-13. It covers the 2nd office of the church (the other being elder). I would like to present my message this morning in two simple parts with one moment in between where we’ll chase a rabbit (an excursus is a digression within a text).
- Their Character (8-10)
- Their Competence (12-13)
- Excursus: Women in ministry (11). And we’ll talk about this when we get to verse 11.
So let’s take a moment and look at our biggest need right now. We need men and women to step up and fill in missing gaps in ministry.
Some of you might be asking yourself if you’re deacon material. That’s a great question. Let’s talk about that. 1st, Paul tells us of…
I. Their Upstanding Character
Exp.: It’s really a very short list; basically, a review of what’s already been said; rd v8a; 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified.
In the Gk there are three words; there is no verb here in the Gk, but it is supplied by the reader because the reader has it from above (cf.v2); must be, needs to be, it is necessary; Honorable, dignified. It’s not any different than the elders, with the exception of being able to teach. You might even sum it up by saying: these guys are elder-like. They have an upstanding character. That’s what the ‘likewise’ is for; it means in a similar manner or in like manner. To clarify, deacons aren’t to be…; rd 8b not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.
- Not double-tongued could mean one of two things, and I think both apply.
- 1st, not to say one thing and do another.
- 2nd, not to say one thing to one person and something else to another.
- Not addicted to much wine. This coincides with the elders. There isn’t anything wrong with a glass of wine, it’s when there is no self-control and wine takes control.
- Not greedy for dishonest gain. I love the KJV: not greedy of filthy lucre. Again, there is control over passion and pursuits when it comes to money.
To say one thing and do another isn’t honorable. To say something to someone and something else to someone else is not honorable or dignified. Getting drunk is not dignified. Being selfish and greedy and doing what you do in the pursuit of money isn’t honorable or dignified.
A simple way to see this is to see them living out what they believe. rd v 9-10; 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. I note two parts to this:
- An informed faith: deacons are not required to teach like elders are, but they do hold to the mystery of the faith. Mystery simply means that at one time it was hidden, but now it has been revealed. That’s the gospel. Many didn’t see it coming the way it did, but now they see. Now they know. Many still don’t see it. To them, it is still a mystery. But to those of us whom Christ has been revealed – it is faith. And these men, these deacons, not only hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience, but they’ve been tested in that faith.
- An incessant faith: it remains through all of the tough times. Many problems in life and in the church have come and gone, but they remain. They are a constant – like a lighthouse in the bay – their light continues to shine and guide others in spite of what storms rage around them.
Transition: these guys have been tested and tried and have come out on the other side blameless. Now, rd v 11 with me; – 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.
II. Aside: Women who serve
Exp.: I want to be careful, but very clear. I mentioned last week that there are basically 4 words used in the NT for the office of overseer. You see it in the English translation in 6 possible words: elders, pastors (shepherds), overseers (bishops), leaders. For deacons, there is just one: διάκονος (noun) διακονία (verb). Where there is only one word in Greek, it is sometimes translated with different English words: servant or minister (noun); service or ministry (verb). In the text, Rod read for us this morning, Acts 6.4. This word is translated ministry. That one isn’t so confusing. But what about Romans 16.1. Where Paul writes: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae. NASB, CSB, NIV, ESV, all translate it “servant”. Young’s translates it “minister”. The NRSV, NLT, translate it, “deacon”. The confusion comes when this word is translated for you with meaning (perhaps a meaning not intended by the author). For us, we don’t know for sure what Paul intended. Was Paul telling us that she was a deacon or a deaconess at the church in Cenchreae? We don’t know for sure. And, our problem comes when we take our understanding and beliefs and translate this through that lens.
In our text, the Gk reads literally: women likewise dignified. Grammatically, I want you to note:
- There is no pronoun their in the Gk. NASB gets this correct in the literal sense: Women must likewise be. The ESV, NIV, CSB, each put in a pronoun and translate it Their wives. Some scholars do this because they argue that it is That means that previously, it was supplied and so you would supply it here, too. The argument made by those who hold to this would say: that the woman in chapter two is Eve and she is the wife of Adam and so, here it is the wife.
- The verb is to be supplied. So, women likewise must be dignified. This is the same exact wording as v 8, only in the feminine form. What does this mean? Well, it isn’t clear.
4 possible solutions:
- Women are deacons, too. There are other texts that refer to women who ‘served’ as deacons (i.e.: Romans 16.1)
- Women who are not deacons, but rather deaconesses and a different group altogether.
- Women are married to the deacons and a part of their ministry. Now there is a 4th option and it is very close and similar to #3…
- Women who are servants and assistants to the deacons in their ministry.
Of these 4 possible solutions: I don’t think it is #1. #2 – I like # 2, but really need to explain why I like it. I think one of the last two of these are a real possibility.
- Women are deacons, too. I don’t think that is Paul’s presentation. Strike it.
- Women who are not deacons, but rather deaconesses and a different group altogether. Possible, but I don’t think this is Paul’s presentation either. You would have an argument with the usage of ‘likewise’ but, Paul returns to the deacons in the next verse. So that probably isn’t the case. He isn’t leaving this issue of being deacons. I guess the reason I don’t like it is that it just doesn’t stand on its own. So strike it too.
- Women are married to the deacons and a part of their ministry. Highly possible; but I doubt this one. Many women who are married to deacons willingly volunteer their time and help their husbands. But not all do. If that is the case, then should a man not be a deacon if his wife doesn’t help him? Then it would need to be a requirement to become a deacon. Now there is a 4th option and it is very close and similar to #3…
- Women are servants and assistants to the deacons in their ministry. Highly possible; Women who serve; We find one such lady listed in Romans 16.1-2; Phoebe; “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.” I think the term ‘Likewise’ gives them a classification, like their different from the men, but still an important and vital part of the church’s ministry;
So, this is how I understand this teaching and how I plan to lead the church at Tarpley: The deacon body consists of men appointed to this task by the church. There are women and men who serve under the responsibility of the deacons and administrate certain ministries.
Question: Why is it that Baptists are against women deacons? My theory is that a typical Baptist church has its deacons serving in elder-type positions and making elder-type decisions. These deacons give oversight and rule. To be brutally honest, many Baptist churches function on their traditions and ignore the Scriptures. They go back to chapter two and see that a woman shouldn’t have authority over a man, therefore, a woman shouldn’t be a deacon. But, Scripture is very clear that Deacons are simply servants. They were created to serve in Acts 6.1-8. Their job was to ‘wait on tables’.
The job of the deacons is to put on an apron and serve. In John 12.2 – Martha served; Luke 17.7-10 – unworthy servant; Luke 22.26-27; 24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
That’s the job of a deacon: to serve. Mark Dever: “Deacons should not act as a separate power bloc or second house of the legislature through which bills need to be passed. If the elders say, ‘Let’s drive to Pittsburgh,’ it’s not up to the deacons to come back and say, ‘No, let’s drive to Philadelphia instead.’ They can legitimately come back and say, ‘Our engine won’t get us to Pittsburgh. Perhaps we should reconsider.’ That’s very helpful. But in general, their job is to support the destination set by the elders.”
When you consider that deacons have no power, except as servants of the body… can women serve like that, too? The answer is yes. And they should…
Finally, Let’s get back to the passage…
III. Their Outstanding Competence
Exp.: rd v 12; 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.
Their competence is seen in the way they manage their families:
- Wife: same as the elder; a man of one woman; he is elder like in his faithfulness to his wife.
- Children: again, just like last week: this doesn’t mean that his children are perfect.
Their family is a priority. As I think about this in my life, I’m reminded of something Mark Dever once said: the church can get another pastor, but my children cannot get another father. My wife cannot simply get another husband. And so it is with the deacon: his family is his priority.
The life of a deacon displays a servant’s heart. Being a servant means managing: managing funds, schedules, supplies, etc. There is a lot to administer and care for when someone serves. – I think this means you recognize these men because they’re serving already. They have a servant’s heart and that just comes out in what they do.
We are in need of people to serve. Let me rephrase that: we have a desperate need for people to serve.
So, here is my challenge to you:
- Church, will you pray for the men in our congregation and ask God to show you men who should be serving as deacons?
- Men, will you seriously pray about saying yes to serve if you’re asked? That’s a big thing for the church to say to you: I see Christ in you, I see your leadership capabilities and we’d be so blessed to have you serve. Will you serve?
- Women, will you step up and help these men accomplish their duties. Will you be willing to say I’m here and will help in whatever capacity the Lord might want to use me?
- Will you go visit the shut-ins?
- Will you help care for the Widows?
*not just on your own, but under the care and guidance of the deacon body?
Some of you (men and women alike) are like: I can do that on my own? I don’t have to be a deacon to do that? No, you don’t have to be a deacon to serve. But can I offer a couple of pointers here?
- 1st, organization. The ministry needs to be organized. I’m reminded of the book of Judges where each person did what was right in his own eyes. And, it led to chaos, and rebellion and sin, etc. We’re grateful for when people cover areas of ministry where there is a need. But, can I encourage you to work with the deacons on this – help them keep things organized.
- 2nd, accountability. There is accountability when you surrender your personal passions to the leadership of the collective whole. That takes great humility and is most Christ-like. Submitting to the leadership of the deacons can keep you accountable to accomplish what you feel God has led you to do.
- 3rd, testimony. It is a great testimony against the lie of Satan when you submit to the leadership of the church. The lie of Satan says that authority can never be trusted because it is always tyrannical and oppressive. But there are wonderful, godly men who need your help. And that help starts by submitting to that leadership. And, it is also a testimony to the world when we function as a body the way God designed us to function.
God created two offices in this body: elders and deacons; pastors and ministers; overseers and servants. For the elders, He has given the responsibility to spiritual matters. To the deacons, he has given the responsibility of the physical, temporal matters. What a great testimony we would be if we functioned as we were designed to function.
I’m so grateful for the godly men who have served faithfully as deacons. They’ve blessed me. Jim Casey, Dave Posey, Harris Tingle, Malcolm Dickinson, James Powell, Bob Ditmer, Johnny Miller, Clint Carneal. I wonder who is here today that I’ll mention 20-30 years from now in this group of men.
Let’s bow our heads for just a moment.