What is a Deacon?

1 Timothy 3:8-13

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, andgood managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

As I approached the passage about deacons, I expected to see Paul explaining the difference between deacons and elders.  There might be a little bit to pull out of the wording, which depends upon the translation you are studying, however, I thought maybe the original text might shed some more light on it.  For deacon, the original word used is diakonos, which refers to a high level servant.  It seems like this word is used to describe the “right hand man” of the king.  They are leaders and respected, yet they serve the purpose of a higher office.  In the case of the church, they serve the high office of Jesus Christ.  All leaders of the church become deacons first, then overseers or elders (or bishops).  This is because Christian leadership follows the example of Christ, who was the ultimate servant leader.

Now, we see a similar list of qualities here as with being an elder, yet without as much emphasis on being “beyond reproach”.  This is because, I believe, it is an “office” that is lower than the office of overseer.  Where the elder position is like that of a board of trustees, a deacon is more of a mid level manager (if we look at it through the lens of a corporation).  The deacons are the backbone of the church organization that lead and put in the majority of the work.

Paul also continues his description of women in the midst of all this.  I find it interesting that women are likewise to be held to a certain standard in their actions.  I find it interesting that the King James Version translates this as “their wives” yet the original text gune is said to refer to any woman: wife, single lady, divorced, or widowed.  This is yet another example of how we read the bible through our culture and how it dictates our application of it.  What I’m saying here may offend some earlier generations who grew up in a male dominated society.  Of course, we have the reference I made earlier to Phoebe, a woman deacon who Paul promoted as a mature sister in the faith who was to be respected and revered as a leader and example.

I mentioned in my last post that these are things we should all strive to achieve as Christians. It isn’t about perfection or earning our own righteousness; it is about being ambassadors for Christ, whether we are a leader in our church or not, we get to be leaders for the world.  We are like candles that have been lit by the “big candle” and are now being carried forth to share the flame with others.  I’d like to present to you a charge that we all follow verse 13 and take it to heart.  This isn’t so that we may boast in our own “goodness,” but to keep in mind the importance of constantly working to develop our relationship with God so that people don’t recognize us as a Christian because of the cross around our neck or the sticker on our car, but because of how we live.

Are you living in a way that gives you favor and high standing?  Do you have great confidence in the faith that is Christ Jesus?  What about your life today can you change to better reflect the glory of our God?


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