Deacon Qualifications from 1 Timothy

As churches multiplied, the need for a more specific list of deacon qualifications developed. So, in a letter to Timothy that provided instructions for proper church protocol, Paul provided such a list (1 Tim 3:8-13). This list continues to serve as a standard set of essential testimony qualifications for deacons today, enabling congregations to recognize qualified men in an objective manner. These qualifications do not replace the initial qualities given to the church at Jerusalem, but they elucidate and expand them instead.

A Man

Men certainly qualify to hold this office (Acts 6:31 Tim 3:8-9). However, some propose that women may also do so, and not without warrant. For instance, Paul names a lady, Phoebe, as a “a servant of the church at Cenchrea” (Rom 16:1). Furthermore, the word that our English translations render as the “wives” of deacons may easily be translated as “women in general” (1 Tim 3:11). On this basis, some churches appoint both men and women as deacons.

Nevertheless, it seems more probable that the office of deacon may be occupied only by men, since they are required to be the “husbands of one wife” and “ruling their children and household affairs well” (1 Tim 3:12). Moreover, if Paul intended to distinguish female deacons, he could have used the word for a deacon, diakonos, accompanied by a feminine article, tas, which would translate as “female deacons.” But Paul used the generic word for women and wives instead, gynaikos. So as with pastors, deacons must also be men. Furthermore, if a deacon is married, his wife must meet biblical qualifications.

Reverent

This qualification suggests that a prospective deacon must be a serious-minded man who approaches life and ministry in a dignified, purposeful way. He should be neither frivolous nor aloof, but earnest and winsome in his interaction with others. His lifestyle should be worthy of respect and emulation. His worship should be wholehearted and sincere.

Not Double-tongued

Deacons interact with people throughout a church and community, in homes and elsewhere. In doing so, they intercept many sentiments and perspectives. Therefore, it is imperative that they do not say one thing to one person and another thing to someone else. They must be counted on to relay accurate information between parties and to sincerely express their own perspective. A “single-tongued” deacon strengthens the unity of a church, while a double-tongued deacon spreads discord and division.

Not Given to Much Wine

Deacons must be men who give no attention to intoxicating beverages. This principle applies to other mind-altering substances as well. Deacons must be disciplined men who think clearly and rationally. In fact, Paul depicts being influenced by intoxicating drink as the direct opposite of being filled with the Spirit, a crucial quality for deacons (Eph 5:18). Ultimately, this commitment to abstinence guards both a man’s public reputation and his ability to make sound decisions on behalf of the church (Eph 5:17).

Not Greedy for Money

Deacons handle the financial affairs of a church firsthand by receiving, allocating, and disbursing the funds and will be tempted to use their office for personal advantage. This requires the absence of any personal conflicts of interest regarding financial gain. No prospective deacon should manifest a tendency, desire, or need to improve his own financial standing or meet his own financial needs through his position as a deacon. Evidences of such a conflict include: 1) excessive debt, 2) wasteful spending, 3) extravagant living, 4) workaholism, 5) financial dependency, 6) unemployment due to laziness, 7) gambling and playing the lottery, 7) tax evasion, and 8) questionable business practices. Prospective deacons should be faithful, content, and impartial stewards in the financial realm.

Committed to a Pure Conscience

Paul teaches that deacons should “hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience” (1 Tim 3:9). Mystery means a secret that has been revealed. The faith refers to the content of the Christian faith, especially the truth about Jesus Christ revealed in the gospel (1 Tim 3:16). So, a prospective deacon must be a man who applies the truth of the gospel consistently and conscientiously to all aspects of his life, morally and otherwise. To do this, he allows the gospel to train every aspect of his conscience so that the choices he makes in daily life correspond to the kind of genuine, godliness revealed in Christ (1 Tim 1:5194:22 Tim 1:3Titus 1:15). Deacons must be men who cherish the gospel and reject worldliness, believing that the gospel is both a hallowed message and a holy calling. They do not separate their lives into separate compartments, secular and sacred. They believe that all of life is sacred and must be governed by the gospel. Their lifestyle matches their beliefs.

Proven

A church should not appoint a new convert to the office of a deacon, nor should they appoint a man with whom they are not familiar. We learn the importance of this by noticing the word first. Paul said that prospective deacons must “first be tested.” So, before a church appoints a man as deacon, they must test him first, verifying his character. To rush forward and disregard this stipulation will lead to unfortunate results. Too often, such a man will either hurt the church that appointed him or become hurt himself. Over time, churches should train and mentor men to fulfill deacon qualifications. When the need for new deacons arises, they should select from among those men who have proven themselves to be reliable over time in an unofficial capacity.

Good Family Relationships

This qualification encompasses the domestic reputation of a prospective deacon, as a husband and a father. Though this does not require a deacon to be married or to have children, this domestic experience certainly gives a man an advantage of increased perspective, experience, and maturity. That being said, it is also true that unmarried men are more available to do the work of the Lord in an undistracted way (1 Cor 7:32).

Regarding marriage, a prospective deacon must be “a one-woman man.” This requirement prohibits both polygamy and divorce, along with any other marital infidelity of record. Though divorce does not disqualify a Christian from faithful, fruitful service in the church, it provides onlookers with a public, permanent target for accusation. For this reason, at the very least, deacons should be free of this accusation. They should also be free from a reputation of immorality.

The nature of a deacon’s ministry requires that his wife also exhibit certain qualities of a godly woman and helpmate. Like her husband, she must be reverent and serious-minded about life and ministry. She should be free from any tendency towards gossip, insulting language, false accusations, and hurtful speech. Furthermore, she should conduct her life in a balanced way that demonstrates clear thinking, emotional stability, self-control, and freedom from intoxicants like alcohol. Altogether, she should be reliable and trustworthy in every way.

In addition to his marriage, a prospective deacon should demonstrate competency as a father, if he has children living under his care at home. He should guide his family in such a way that his children respect his leadership and follow his instructions. This qualification is especially important because the home provides the truest test of a man’s character.

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