Deacon Qualifications Pt.1

1 Timothy 3:8-10

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 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.

Based off of the list of special qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3,. deacons hold a special office in the church similar yet distinct to the elders. As mentioned previously, deacons share much of the same qualifications as the elders, except for primarily the ability to teach. This implies similarity in godliness, spiritual maturity, and position of honor in the church, yet differences in function and gifting. Paul says that deacons must “be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.” (1 Tim. 3:10) This certainly means that the office is set apart from the rest of the church and is not open to all members of the church equally. Particular qualifications must be held and must be obvious even after a period of testing. These qualifications, therefore, must characterize the individual when times are good and when times are bad over a considerable period of time. This chapter will briefly summarize each qualification with the aim of testing potential deacons.

Dignified

The New International Version translates “dignified” as “worthy of respect”. Dignity is an all-encompassing word which includes within it all that God deems to be righteous living. It is a quality of character that is identifiable by others as worthy of praise and imitation. The deacon office must be filled, therefore, by those who live a life of such respectable character that others in the congregation notice their dignity and have no reservations following their example. New believers should observe and imitate the life of a deacon without fear of being misled. Pastors should be able to discern whether the individual is worthy of respect among the church members at large, their families, and even their places of work.

Not Double-Tongued

Deacons have before them the great priority of maintaining unity in the congregation. They often serve as liaisons between the elders and the members regarding particular ministries and potential disunity. Such a responsibility requires a great deal of authenticity and honesty. Deacons, therefore, cannot be people pleasers nor can they be hypocritical, untrustworthy, or divisive in speech. The word of a deacon should be trustworthy. His tongue should be one that is a controlled tool for peace and building up. As James writes, “The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire.” (James 3:5). There is no room for a fire starting tongue in the honorable office of deacon.

Not Addicted to Much Wine

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (Prov. 20:1) Drunkenness is forbidden for all Christians. (Eph. 5:18; Rom. 13:13) It is only sensible that anyone holding the public office of deacon should not be addicted to alcohol. This is not a total prohibition from all alcohol, but it is a strong warning against over-indulgence, drunkenness, and addiction. The work of a deacon requires clear thinking and an awareness of the Spirit’s leading. The abuse of any substance that would distract or detour the deacon from his responsibilities or perhaps put his dignity in jeopardy should be avoided at all cost.

Not Greedy for Dishonest Gain

Deacons are often charged with the care of church resources, money, and the care of those in need. This stewardship of valuables can turn even the most content of hearts to desire selfish gain. Deacons can be greedy for recognition or accolade for a job well done. Seeking the glory of self will make a ministry for the glory of God impossible. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (Jn. 5:44) Deacons, like any of us, are always in danger of becoming greedy for power and authority. They can become greedy for financial gain and for more  compensation for their service. Greed is a monster that lies within the heart of sinful mankind and the office of deacon is a context where that monster could be fed.

The office of deacon is reserved for those who are proven to be selflessly committed to the service of others. They should be marked by both generosity and supernatural contentment in the Lord. If an individual is flamboyant in his or her purchases, stingy with their resources, or eager to gain recognition by others they should not be considered for the position of deacon. “You cannot serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Mt. 6:24) The constant prayer of the deacon should resemble the prayer of A.W. Tozer,

Be thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream. Rise , O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor.”[1]

Holds the Mystery of the Faith

Right believing affects right living. Christianity is a knowledge based religion. We believe that God has made himself known in creation, in the Scriptures, in his Son, and through the guidance of his Spirit. We believe that God desires to be known as he has revealed himself. In the same letter that we find this qualification of holding the mystery of faith for deacons, we have this command to Timothy, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine you have followed.” (1 Tim. 4:6) Paul would later write, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) Deacons will never be able to meet the other character qualifications without first and foremost holding firmly the mystery of the faith. Without holding to right doctrine, a deacon will never live out the implications of right doctrine.

Deacons must, therefore, understand and be fully convinced by the core doctrines of the faith and of their church. They should be able to articulate the gospel clearly. They should immerse themselves in the Scriptures daily and live accordingly. They must not be easily shaken by any wind of doctrine, rather grounded in the glorious truths they have beheld in the Scriptures.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does it mean to be dignified?
  2. How might a pastor practically discern whether a potential deacon is worthy of respect?
  3. Why is it so important for the deacon to be considered dignified among the congregation?
  4. What does it mean to be double-tongued, and in what ways might a double-tongued deacon destroy the ministry of a church?
  5. Why does Paul specifically prohibit addiction to alcohol for deacons?
  6. What forms of dishonest gain will a deacon be susceptible to?
  7. What are some warning signs that someone is greedy for dishonest gain?
  8. Why is it so important that  a deacon hold firmly to the mystery of the faith?
  9. List and discuss primary doctrines that every deacon should agree upon.
  10. What are some secondary or tertiary doctrines that deacons could respectfully disagree upon and still serve in the same church?

[1] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, (Camp Hill, PA: Wing Spread Publishers, 2006), 102.

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