A Commentary by John Stott
1 Timothy 3:8-13. 2) The deacons.
Paul now reverts to the deacons. Whether or not verse 11 refers to their wives, *a deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well* (12), just like the candidate for the presbyterate (verses 2, 4 and 5). Then *those who have served well* in the diaconate (*diakonesantes*) will gain two things. The first is *an excellent standing. Bathmos (standing)* can denote a step, stair, grade or rank. It might mean here that to serve well in the diaconate is a step to the prebyterate, but concepts of ecclesiastical ‘preferment’ or ‘promotion’ are surely an anachronism. In this case the ‘standing’ will be spiritual, either a position of honour in the esteem of God and the church, or even ‘a “step” in the soul’s journey heavenward’ (BAGD). The second thing which faithful deacons gain is *great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus (13).
Assurance* is *parresia*, which is freedom of speech or boldness before God or human beings. Faithful service will increase their Christian confidence.
Looking back, it is clear that the qualifications for the prebyterate and the diaconate are very similar. There is core of Christian qualities, which all Christian leaders should exhibit. Putting the two lists together, we note that there are five main areas to be investigated. In regard to himself the candidate must be self-controlled and mature, including the areas of drink, money, temper and tongue; in regard to his family, both faithful to his wife and able to discipline his children; in regard to his relationships, hospitable and gentle; in regard to outsiders, highly esteemed; and in regard to the faith, strong in his hold on its truth and gifted in teaching it.
The whole first half of this chapter is a good example of the balance of Scripture. For there is material here both to encourage the right people to offer for the pastoral ministry and to discourage the wrong ones from doing so. The discouragement is that the required standards are high and the task is arduous. The responsibility of caring for ‘God’s church’ (5) is calculated to daunt the best and the most gifted Christians. But the corresponding encouragement is that the pastorate is a noble task, a beautiful undertaking, a laudable ambition (1). It involves giving oneself to the service of others. Besides, the words *episkopos* and *diakonos* are both applied to the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. Peter called him ‘the Shepherd and Overseer (*episkopos*) of your souls’ (1 Pet.2:25), and he applied to himself the verb *diakonein*. Could there be any greater honour than to follow in his footsteps and share in some of his *episkope* and *diakonia* which he is willing to delegate to us?
Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 3:14-16. 3) The Church.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.