Read 1 Timothy 3
Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons
1 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Reasons for Paul’s Instructions
14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.
In reading 1 Timothy, there is a temptation for some to skim over chapter 3. Even worse is the temptation to strictly read this passage as instructions for others or as an excuse to judge others without first examining the log in one’s own eye. One might use reasonings such as, “I’m not in ministry” or “this wasn’t written for me” to justify this behavior, but this is an incorrect reading of the text. 1 Timothy is still God’s Word, and the Lord has something to teach each Christian from each page of Scripture.
All Christians are in ministry whether they are a minister by vocation or not. We even see this in the word choice Paul makes here with “deacon.” The Greek word for deacon, “diakonous”, literally means “servant.” While there is an office of the “deacon” here, this applies to all of those who serve in the Lord’s house, the family of God. These lists are not simply for those in vocational ministry but also for those who do ministry with their entire lives!
That being said, this isn’t something we can attain through sheer effort. In fact, if you try and go at this through effort alone, you will fail, guaranteed. However, Paul places a key detail in the middle of the list for deacons:
“They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” (1 Tim. 3:9)
The Greek word that is translated here, “deep truths,” is the word “mysterion” which is where we get the word “mystery.” In fact, this is the exact same word that is later translated to “mystery” when Paul talks about the mystery of godliness.
The point being, at the core of all of these qualifications, those doing ministry must have their eyes fixed on Jesus and their minds fixed on the mystery that was revealed in God coming to Earth in flesh as the person of Jesus Christ, dying for us, rising again on the third day, and taking His rightful place at the right hand of the Father in heaven. When one fixes his or her heart on this truth, this “mysterion,” one will start to, by the power of God the Spirit, show these qualifications.
God is not looking for those already qualified, but rather for those He wills to qualify by the renewal of their entire being.
- How have you reflected on the revealed truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ recently? How can you reflect on it today?
- What does this truth mean for how you live your life? In what areas of your life can you allow God to minister to others through you?
- Share your reflections on this question with a trusted brother or sister in the faith. How can you help each other along in this process?
By the Way
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus explains to those listening the key to this practice of living a life of ministry:
“So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
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