1 Timothy 3 (NIV)
Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.
Only the Holy Spirit of God can make a man an elder. This is clear in Acts 20:28 — Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. The Holy Spirit lays a burden on a man’s heart to take up this important work and also equips him for it.
–William MacDonald (and all following notes)
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.
One does not lead by lording it over others, but by providing a good example. Qualifications include personal character, the witness of the home, teaching aptitude, and a measure of experience. These are God’s standards for any who would exercise spiritual leadership in the local church.
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.
In the New Testament, it is generally understood that a deacon is one who cares for the temporal affairs of the local church, whereas bishops (overseers) care for its spiritual life.
11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
There were women deacons in the early church:
Romans 16:1-2 (NIV)
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.
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 . . .
The theme of the book of 1 Timothy is set forth quite clearly in verses 14 and 15. Paul states here quite simply that there is a standard of behavior for the church of God and that he is writing to Timothy to enable him to know it.
It is not enough to say to a child who is misbehaving, “Behave yourself!” if the child does not know what is expected in the way of good behavior. He must be told first what good behavior is. 1 Timothy does this for the child of God in relation to the church of God.
. . . 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.
The last verse tells us that the previously unknown truth concerning who Jesus is and what he does is now known, and it is marvelous and wonderful! The lines which summarize Jesus’ life sound almost like a fragment of a hymn, and remind me of one of my favorite hymns: “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation,” sung HERE by the Harvard University Choir. Text: Latin, trans. John Mason Neale; Music: Henry Purcell.
1. Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
chosen of the Lord and precious,
binding all the church in one;
holy Zion’s help forever,
and her confidence alone.
2. All that dedicated city,
dearly loved of God on high,
in exultant jubilation
pours perpetual melody;
God the One in Three adoring
in glad hymns eternally.
3. To this temple, where we call thee,
come, O Lord of hosts, today:
with thy wonted loving-kindness
hear thy people as they pray;
and thy fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.
4. Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee to gain,
what they gain from thee forever
with the blessed to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.
5. Laud and honor to the Father,
laud and honor to the Son,
laud and honor to the Spirit,
ever Three and ever One,
One in might, and One in glory,
while unending ages run.