1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'Deacons likewise must be serious, not double tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for gain; they must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons. The women likewise must be serious, no slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husband of one wife, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus' (3:8-13)

The New Testament uses the word 'minister' or 'deacon' many times. In the original language the two words are the same. However great a man's position may be in the work of Christ and His church, he is called to be a 'minister', to serve others. Our Lord Himself made this quite plain in His teaching, and by His own example: see Mark 10:42-45. The apostle Paul called himself a servant and sometimes even a 'slave' of Jesus Christ, and he often reminded others that this was their position.

a. Deacons

Probably the first deacons were the seven who were chosen in Acts chapter 6 to provide for the needs of a certain group of poor widows among the Christians in Jerusalem. Philippians 1:1 speaks of 'deacons' in the church at Philippi, and it seems that later every church had its deacons. They may have taught and preached as well - but they certainly cared for the poor and looked after the widows, using for this purpose money given by members of the congregation. Deacons did not have the wide responsibilities of the 'elders' or 'bishops', but they were still the special representatives of the church in the eyes of the world. Their Christian character and conduct were most important, and Paul applies many of the qualifications of bishops to the deacons as well. In the deacon's home - in his relationships with his wife and children - he had to be an example to others (verse 12). He had to be serious-minded. In the eyes of the world he had to be blameless (verse 10, and compare verse 2). He had, to be most careful where intoxicating liquor was concerned. Then he needed a special warning about his conversation. He was not to be 'double-tongued', saying one thing to one person and another thing to others, avoiding the truth sometimes in order to please men. He had to be a man of his word (compare Matthew 5:37; 2 Corinthians 1:17). Then Paul gives the deacon a strong warning about the handling of money. Perhaps this is because the deacon was more involved in the money matters of the church than the bishop. He faced special temptations. He must never be guilty of the desire to use the money of the church for his own purposes. Many have fallen in this way, often through lack of care in keeping account of the money that belongs to others or belongs to the church. The money is put to personal use and then not returned, Christ's minister must be on his guard: he must win the victory in his thoughts and desires, in discipline of action. 'Let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall' (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Verse 9 sums up the kind of man the deacon must be. He must hold firmly the truth of Christ ('the mystery' or revealed truth 'of the faith'). He must hold it 'with a clear conscience'. The faith must not only be in his mind, but it must day by day affect his life as he does what the truth of Christ teaches. Those who show forth their faith in their lives, says the apostle, 'who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus'. Some have taken this to mean that a good deacon gains promotion to higher office in the church. This is not the meaning. The Christian minister should not seek promotion. He should seek simply to earn respect for himself and for his Master, by bold preaching of the truth, by rebuke of error, and by his high standards of Christian conduct. This is the real meaning of verse 13.

b. Deaconesses

Verse 11 speaks about the duties of 'women'. Who are these 'women'? They might be the wives of deacons, but earlier on Paul does not refer to bishops' wives. More likely they are women who have a ministry in the church like that of the deacons - we would say 'deaconesses'. Perhaps Phoebe, mentioned in Romans 16: 1, was such a person. We know a good deal about the work of deaconesses in the church later. They were women who probably worked chiefly among the widows, among women-folk generally, and among children. They had to be serious-minded and their lives had to be disciplined ('temperate'). They had to be dependable, 'faithful in all things', faithful to their husbands and to their families, faithful in all their work and their responsibilities. They had to be aware of a special temptation, too - the misuse of the tongue. In the course of their work they were in the homes of many; they had to be most careful to keep themselves from gossip, which could easily lead them to become 'slanderers'. A love to talk about the affairs of others could easily lead them to tell less or more than the truth. Their duty was to be silent when it was right to be silent and when it was right to speak, to speak the truth and speak it in love.


Lord, make us true servants of Thine, and faithful in our service, faithful in word, faithful in action. May our love for Thee keep us from love of possessions, love of pleasure, love of the praise of men. So may we be bold, useful to Thee, and able to show forth the truth and the saving power of Thy Son Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Further Study. Consider other passages in the Bible that speak of the right and the wrong use of speech. E.g. see Exodus 29:16; 23:1; Proverbs 19:9; 24:28; Matthew 5:33-37; Ephesians 4:25, 29; Colossians 4:6; James 3:1-12 and 1 Peter 3:15.