I Timothy 3 Part 3

New King James Version 8. Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money,

The Resultant Version 8. The servants in the same way must be dignified, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not a lover of money,

God has apparently completed His instructions regarding the choosing of over-watchers, and so He now goes on to describe qualifications for deacons. This word, though we probably recognize it from its frequent use in English, is really a transliteration of a Greek word diakonos. It is therefore not really an English word, and has never been translated. It seems to come from an ancient root that had to do with running errands. The word speaks of a servant, and so a “deacon” is one who serves.

Many today make “deacons” to be a church office. There is a “deacon board” that functions within the auspices of a church. However, this word really refers to ones who have a place of service, and so a deacon does not need to be an office at all. Anyone who finds a place of service could be called a deacon. Therefore, these criteria have much more to do with how every believer should be than they do with only how a certain, elite class should be.

This is not to deny that there probably were those in Ephesus who were officially designated as servants. These might be similar to those “young men” in Acts 5 who carried the bodies of Ananias and Sapphira out of the temple when they died there and defiled the temple grounds. There were servants in the Jewish synagogues out of which many of the early, Jewish believers had come, and these servants Paul refers to may have had a similar office. Yet as I said, we do not need to solidify this into an office. Anyone who finds a place of service to God could be called a “deacon,” whether he or she has been appointed to any official position or not.

Yet those who serve God should display a certain character. The first Paul lists is reverent. The Greek word is semnos, and seems to have to do with being reverent or having the proper attitude and aspect for worship. It can also have to do with being honorable, venerable, and grave. Certainly one who takes up the task of serving God should be a person with a worshipful attitude, and one who is going to serve honorably in whatever capacity he serves. Nothing less would be worthy of a servant of the Lord.

Next is a negative criterion: that the servant must not be double-tongued. The word is logos with dis or “twice” added on to the front. One who expresses himself twice could be one who repeats himself, but this is hardly something God would bother to forbid. The other possible idea is of one who says one thing in one situation and another in another situation, in other words, one who is inconsistent and insincere, fitting his words to what he thinks will benefit him most in any given situation, rather than conforming them to what is right. One who is thus double-tongued is an excellent example of a hypocrite, and such a person is not a worthy servant of the Lord in any capacity.

Our next criterion is also a negative one. A servant must not be given to much wine. The word prosecho in context can actually refer to addiction, so it seems likely that the addict, or at least one who acts like an addict in the way he consumes alcohol, is the one who is forbidden here. A drunk or drug addict is not a worthy servant of the Lord. When we consider the lengths an addict will go to in order to get his next drink or his next fix, we can quickly see that associating such a person with the service of the Lord is an undesirable thing indeed.

The next criterion is our third negative one. The servant must not be greedy for money. The word in Greek is aischrokerdes, and is the same word as was used in verse 3 for over-watchers. We said there it had to do with being greedy for dishonest gain. The over-watchers were not to be greedy of money, and the servants are not to be this way either. If he is, then he might be likely to compromise his service to God in order to dishonestly gain for himself. Such a person is not a worthy servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

New King James Version 9. holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

The Resultant Version 9. Holding the secret of the faith in an undefiled conscience.

Next, these deacons or servants must hold the secret of the faith with a pure conscience. The word “mystery” here is the Greek word musterion, and has been transliterated rather than translated into the word “mystery.” This means that the word has just been changed in alphabet from the Greek musterion to our English alphabet musterion, and then the “u” has been changed to a more typical English “y,” and the “ion” Greek ending has been changed to the English ending “y.” Thus “musterion” has been changed into “mystery,” yet it is really just the same word. Our English word “mystery” has to do with something mysterious or unknown, something that needs to be “solved.” The idea of the Greek word, however, is of a secret, not a mystery. Moreover, if we would follow out all the occurrences of this word, I believe that we would find that it is used of things that were formerly kept secret by God, but which He has now revealed. Once we get to know them, they are secrets no longer, but since they were secrets in the past, they are called this when God reveals them.

Now the question arises as to what secret kept in the past but now revealed are these servants to hold with a pure conscience? Since this is the secret “of the faith,” it could be that this refers to the gospel itself. The gospel of Jesus Christ, Who He was and what He did and how salvation was accomplished through Him, is something that was not revealed anywhere in the Old Testament or in any revelation of God until it began to be announced through His apostles in the Acts period. As such, this was a secret newly revealed whenever an apostle set it forth to anyone. It had been a new revelation to Timothy when he first heard it from Paul, certainly. Timothy was now in Ephesus, and it had been a new revelation to those there when they had heard it from Paul as well. The gospel had now been written down in the book of John, so it would be a newly revealed secret no longer. Yet it may be that this book had not yet reached Timothy in Ephesus, and so Paul is still speaking of the gospel as a secret when he writes to Timothy here.

Yet we would also note that the dispensation of grace has started as Paul writes these words, and the way to have faith in this dispensation is something quite new. People today must believe without seeing any evidence or signs to convince them of the truth. This is an entirely new way to make people believe, for in the past God often offered evidence and signs to people when He had a message for them to believe. In the Acts period, certainly, no one was expected to believe the message of Christ without an apostle with signs following to confirm the truth of what was spoken. Yet now faith must be without any such signs or evidences. God now works in secret, and those who believe must believe in the God Who works in secret. This could be what Paul refers to as the “secret of the faith.”

Whatever Paul means, whether it is the gospel itself or the secret fact that faith today must be exercised without seeing, God wants those who are servants to hold the secret of the faith in a pure conscience. The Resultant Version makes this an “undefiled” conscience. The point is, his conscience is clear regarding the gospel. He truly and sincerely believes it, and he is not ashamed of holding it or reluctant to admit that this is his stand. Indeed, it is good for all of us to hold the secret of the faith in an undefiled conscience, knowing that we have done everything we can for the truth and nothing against it. Once again, though this is ideal conduct for one who serves, it is ultimately ideal conduct for all who believe. We all should pay attention to these criteria, for they are the way we should be as well!

New King James Version 10. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.

The Resultant Version 10. Those who serve must also first be proved, then let them be serving in this manner, after being found blameless.

If those who wish to be deacons or servants meet all the criteria listed above, the Lord suggests next that they first be tested. The word has to do with examination. They must be tested and examined before they will be allowed to serve. If they pass the test, then that will be soon enough for them to take up this service.

Now this raises the obvious question of what exactly the service was for which they were being examined. What is the manner of service Timothy was looking to fill? We can have no definite answer to this today, since the kind of service in mind is not revealed. It is clear that Paul knew what kind of service, and that he believed Timothy knew it as well.  We can only say that if it was service for God, as it doubtless was, then it was service worth doing. However, Paul emphasizes once again that he should only be allowed to serve in this manner upon being found blameless.

The Greek word for “blameless” is anegkletos, which has to do with being unreproveable or unaccusable. Only such a person should be allowed to take up this official service on behalf of the Lord. For a blameworthy person to take on this task would cast aspersions on the Lord, and so Timothy should not allow this.

That said, we are not going to say that everyone who serves God in any capacity must be blameless in everything. We all have sinned in some manner, and so are worthy of some level of blame. Yet there is a good principle here: that we need to be careful not to drag our Lord through the mud of our own bad reputations. If we are manifestly blameworthy, then we should not be eager to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ in the eyes of those around us. We should strive for a blameless life, so that when people learn that we belong to Him, we will decorate rather than defile the name of our Lord. This is something that is important for every believer to consider.

New King James Version 11. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.

The Resultant Version 11. Even so their wives must be dignified, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

Now this speaks of women, or “their wives,” yet there is no word for “their” in the Greek. Since the word gunaikas can mean women or wives, this could mean the wives of the servants, or this could simply mean the women servants, if such there were. Indeed, we have no reason to believe there could not have been women servants, though as long as we have no definite information on what a “deacon” was and what his tasks were it is hard to say. Yet this need not necessarily be about the wife of a deacon, but it could be about women who were deacons.

Whichever is meant, these women must likewise be reverent. The word “likewise” is the same word used in verse 8, adding the criteria for deacons to the criteria for over-watchers. Now, we add the criteria for wives or women deacons as well. The word “reverent” is the Greek word semnos, the same word used in verse 8. There, we said it was to have the proper attitude for worship, to be honorable and reverent and grave. These women need to have the same honorable character and aspect as the men if they are to be official servants of the Lord.

Then, they must not be slanderers. In Greek this is me diabolous, “me” meaning “not” in Greek. The word diabolos is perhaps familiar to us as being the word “devil.” These women are literally to not be devils, or we might say, “Not devilish.” To know what this means, we must realize that the “Devil” is literally the “Slanderer,” and it is in Satan’s character as a slanderer that he is called by this name. When human beings are slanderers, they too are devils, whatever their relationship might be to that greatest of all slanderers. So what Paul wants of these women is that they not be slanderers. We are probably aware that women are often associated with gossip, and gossip is often nothing but unfair slander against those whom it is spoken about. The devilish character of such slander is how it can destroy the reputation of a Godly and undeserving person, even as Satan worked to destroy God’s reputation in the eyes of Adam and Eve. Since God Himself was the victim of such slander, it is not good for His people to be the spreaders of such. These women, then, must not be devils, and must not spread slander in gossip if they are to be servants of our Lord.

Next, these women must be temperate. The Greek word is nephalios, the same word we had in verse 2 of over-watchers. We said there that the idea is of being sober, calm, or circumspect, and can also have to do with abstaining completely from wine, or at least from its immoderate use. The idea of sober or calm would fit in with reverent or honorable. The idea of abstaining from wine, either in its overuse or altogether, is also an important principle, and is in line with what we read of over-watchers in verse 3 and of the male deacons in verse 8. A drunken woman is not going to make a good servant of the Lord, but will only tend to bring shame on His name.

Finally, these women should be faithful in all things. “Faithful” is the same word as in verse 1 for a “faithful saying.” It is the word pistos, meaning either faithful or believing, depending on the context. Certainly a servant of our God must believe Him in everything. This was the fault of our first mother Eve: that she did not believe God, and her daughters should not repeat her mistake. Yet here it probably has the idea of “faithful,” meaning she is trustworthy in all things. Certainly the last thing anyone would want is an untrustworthy servant, and God surely deserves no less than that His servants, whether men or women, be trustworthy.

New King James Version 12. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

The Resultant Version 12. Let the servants be the husbands of one wife, controlling their children and their own houses well.

Now we return again to the criteria for servants, indicating that what was said in verse 11 was a subcategory of the deacons, not a new category beginning. Either this was talking about the wives of servants, or perhaps more likely about women who are servants themselves. Now, the focus goes back to men who are servants.

These servants are to be the husbands of one wife. Again polygamy is not acceptable for service to Jesus Christ. Yet again, the Greek actually reads that they are to be “one woman men.” If we took this in its strictest sense, it would be that there is only one woman, living anyway, with whom these men have ever been sexual partners. This is a criterion that, in our society anyway, is becoming increasingly difficult to find those who meet it, yet we cannot help but admit that this is the standard we should all strive to live up to. This is what God would desire of His servants: that they have no sexual skeletons in their closets, but that they have used this power God has given to us in the way He intended.

Next, the Lord would have these servants be ones who rule their children and their own houses well. “Ruling” is the same Greek word proistemi that we had back in verses 4 and 5. Again, the idea is not so much of ruling as it is of controlling, guiding, or piloting. It also can speak of giving proper attention to, caring for, or acting as a protector for his household. This word occurs only eight times in Scripture, and four of them are in I Timothy, so this becomes a somewhat characteristic word of the book. Indeed, the choice of those who are to control, guide, and pilot believers is a most important thing, and a bad choice can have major consequences, as we see so often in the world around us.

Again, as we said back in the criteria for over-watchers, it is clear that these servants had some sort of responsibility among the believers, as proven skills of leadership are one of the criteria the Lord has Timothy look for. What their duties were we do not know, but whatever they were, they involved the same kind of skills a man would use in controlling his children and his own house well. This is not only important for the family, but it is also important for believers over whom these servants would have a position, that those who serve them might have proven skill in guiding others through successfully guiding their own households.

New King James Version 13. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

The Resultant Version 13. For they that serve well purchase to themselves a good rank and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

The words in the New King James here, “those who have served…as deacons” are all a translation of the single Greek word diakoneo, which is the verb form of diakonos. The traditional English word “deacons” has no verb form, as we do not speak of “deacons who deac.” Yet if we were to speaking of “servants” and “serving,” these words clearly go together. We have been talking about servants, and now we are speaking of those among these who serve well.

They who serve well purchase to themselves a good rank. To “purchase” here is peripoieo, and means they gain it for themselves through their faithful service. The word for “standing” or “rank” is the Greek bathmos, and occurs only here. It refers to a “step” or a rank. This no doubt speaks of the rewards for faithful service that God promises to all who serve Him well and faithfully. Paul discusses the idea of a reward with Timothy elsewhere in his letters to him.

They who serve well also purchase to themselves great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. The word “boldness” here is parresia, and can indicate confidence or boldness, or it can also mean frankness or unreservedness in speech. Really boldness in the faith implies that we speak frankly about the things we believe. If we are reserved about our faith and reluctant to share it, then we cannot say that we are bold in the faith. Yet how does serving well factor into this? Perhaps because one who serves poorly might well be reluctant to admit to their faith, knowing that their actions will hardly work to promote what they believe. Yet a good servant of God who meets all the criteria listed in the previous verses can speak of his faith boldly, knowing that his own conduct will back up the things he believes with the Godly actions he has performed. May all of us have just such boldness as this.

New King James Version 14. These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly;

The Resultant Version 14. These things I write to you, hoping to come to you with speed;

Paul has written these instructions to Timothy as if he is going to have to do all these things and choose these leaders himself. Yet Paul hopes to follow up this letter with a personal visit. Moreover, he hopes this visit will take place shortly, or that he is hoping to come to him speedily.

It is interesting that Paul says this, since, as we have noted before, this book was written after the completion of Acts, and Timothy is at Ephesus. It was to the elders of Ephesus that Paul made his statement in Acts 20:25.

25. “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.”

In light of this statement, it is interesting that Paul hopes to come to Timothy. This tells us some of the uncertainty that Paul now faced in the dispensation of grace, answering very well to the uncertainty that we all must face every day. In the Acts period God may have been mapping out Paul’s actions for him in many respects, but now Paul was not certain of the plan. Nevertheless, the prophecy he made in Acts 20:25 did come to pass, for when we come to II Timothy it is clear that Paul did not make a visit to Timothy in Ephesus, and that Timothy himself was leaving Ephesus, his ministry there having resulted in failure. Thus Paul never went to Ephesus because the Ephesians no longer wanted him there. Paul thought he might be able to go there when he wrote this, but that never took place, and his words in Acts 20 were proved true, as God’s words always will be.