Glitzy Gifts of Godly Character?
Passage: 1 Timothy 3:11-13
This morning I want to finish the discussion we began five weeks ago of the qualifications of deacons. I’ve said a number of times that 1 Timothy 3 is important for all of us because the qualities that make a good deacon or pastor are the same qualities that make any Christian a good minister, and we need to make sure we are focused on the things that matter to God. That’s not always easy.
In my previous church I had the privilege of managing several summer interns. They were all young guys who were either in college or just finishing college, and they all had some outstanding gifts for pastoral ministry. Several of them had tremendous people skills, and a couple of them had a lot of potential as preachers. But seeing as they were single young men, they usually struggled with managing the details that are so important to church ministries running well. They were young dreamers who wanted to make an impact for eternity, but they struggled to have the same kind of motivation for the grunt work that goes on behind the scenes. As a result, one of the most significant lessons they had to learn was how to consistently do the little things well.
My title today is “Glitzy Gifts of Godly Character?” because we all tend to be enamored with glitz. We are drawn to people with glitzy abilities, and we want glitzy roles in ministry. And when it comes to living the Christian life, we do really well in the areas that are exciting or glitzy, but we don’t put nearly as much effort into the less exciting aspects.
Yet the qualifications in this chapter for pastors and deacons both focus on what we generally consider to be the less exciting side, mundane side of Christian living. This is because God cares much more about godly character than glitzy gifts.
And this is true for all of his servants, not just pastors and deacons. And so as we finish up this section today, I hope that we will learn more about the office of deacon but as well that we will leave with a better sense of what God desires for all of us and of how we can become more useful servants of Christ whether you ever carry a title like deacon or not.
Today, we want to focus on vv. 11–13, which clearly breaks down into three sections. First, let’s consider v. 11 and what it has to say about…
The Character of a Deacon’s Wife (v. 11):
Before we study the qualifications in this verse, we need to consider who Paul is talking about.
Who is Paul talking about?
This is because many people believe v. 11 is not talking about deacons’ wives but about women deacons, or deaconesses. This is because the word translated wives can also refer to women in general. As well, since likewise begins both vv. 8 and 11, they claim v. 11 must introduce an additional office. Finally, if Paul is talking about deacons’ wives, then why would he give qualifications for a deacon’s wife and not for a pastor’s wife? You may be wondering why Paul refers to them as women rather than with a title, if he intends to describe an office, but proponents of this view argue that at this point in time, there was no feminine form of the word deacon; therefore, the only way he could differentiate them from the male deacons is to simply call them women.
These are some very good arguments, so does that mean we will be electing deaconesses at our annual meeting next Sunday? We won’t be because there are some big holes in the arguments. First, v. 12 returns to discussing male deacons because it talks about them having wives. If v. 11 is transitioning to a new office and list of qualifications, then why not finish talking about male deacons first? Second, Paul does use a general word for women in v. 11, but v. 12 uses the same word and is clearly referring to wives, not women in general. We ought to assume it has the same meaning in two uses that are so close together. Third, “likewise” doesn’t have to indicate a transition to a new office; it could just indicate a transition to the deacon’s home life in vv. 11–12. He needs to have a certain kind of wife, especially if she is going to help him with member care, and v. 12 continues to discuss the deacon’s home. We could go on, and if you want to talk more about deaconesses sometime, I’d be glad to do so. But in the end, I just don’t see enough in v. 11 to establish a third office in the church, especially since there are no other clear references in the NT to deaconesses. Some claim that Romans 16:1 calls a woman named Phoebe a deaconess, but it could just as easily be saying that she is a servant of the church, since that is the basic meaning of the Greek word for deacon. So, we aren’t planning to add a third office at Life Point.
That being said, let’s talk about what is required of a deacon’s wife. As with most of the qualities in this chapter, God expects these things from all of us.
Verse 8 listed the same qualification for deacons. The term means dignity or respectability. They must have a consistent life that earns the respect of others. Paul also began his list of pastoral qualifications by saying that a pastor must have a good testimony. It ought to be very clear that church leaders must have a credible reputation to lead well.
It should be equally clear that God expects the same from all Christians. If people are going to take you seriously and give you the opportunity to influence them, they must respect you as an example of disciplined Christian living. If you don’t live a consistent Christian life and there are obvious areas of your life that contradict God’s Word, then why should people to listen when you try to speak truth into their lives? Or if you are a flighty person who can’t manage your own life, then why should anyone trust you with their soul or their kids’ souls?
Your testimony is especially important for parenting. Parents, if you want to raise godly children with strong character, then you better have strong character yourself because no one sees your faults more than your family. Kids are not stupid. They can see what really matters to you by how you spend your time, what you talk about, and how you are committed to the church. And they will most likely mimic your priorities through the habits they develop. If you want credibility to parent well, you must have a strong testimony. Are you setting a pattern for your kids, your AWANA table, or your unsaved neighbor that says, “God is my Lord and the greatest passion of my life”?
Of course we don’t want to minimize the divine side of spiritual impact. God is gracious to use broken vessels all of the time, and God is able to protect his children from the faults of their parents, their church leaders, and even their pastors. If you see faults in your life, don’t despair, but don’t ignore them either. Get to work by the grace of God to become a more effective servant.
Again this term has a parallel in v. 8, where Paul says that deacons must not be “double-tongued.” This is because the tongue has incredible power for good or evil. Slander is a nasty activity with deadly power. It includes any kind of malicious speech that tears down or destroys. Interestingly, the Greek term is diabolos, from which we get the word devil. Satan used slander against God to deceive Eve into committing the first human sin.
We can also do terrible damage with slander. Apparently, it was a problem among the Ephesian women (5:13). Paul saw the great danger of gossip, and that it tends to be especially prominent among people with lots of idle time. They have nothing better to do, so they spend their time prying into other people’s lives and spreading malicious speculation. Therefore, he says that deacons’ wives need to set an example of guarding their speech and making sure that everything they say is edifying.
But it’s not just bored women who need to be challenged about slander. If we aren’t careful, all of us can run our mouths in hurtful ways. I’d like to propose two simple filters that would do us all a lot of good. First, don’t say something about someone that you could not say to his face and in most instances that you have not said to his face. If you can’t say it to someone’s face it’s probably not based in facts or it is not constructive. If these things are not true, it probably doesn’t need to be said. Second, don’t say anything critical unless there is a constructive purpose for saying it. Sinners love to gripe, and griping loves company. But a griper is generally a coward, and while griping may feel good or make you fell important it accomplishes nothing good. Watch your speech carefully and guard against slander. And don’t tolerate it from others either. Slander is a name of the devil, it’s wicked, it’s cowardly, it destroys relationships, and it can fragment a church. We should have none of it.
Again, this word has already popped up in chapter 3. Verse 2 says that pastors must be temperate. The term describes someone with a clear mind and sound judgment. God says that a deacon’s wife can’t have a clouded mind that is dominated by something like alcohol or drugs. As well, her mind cannot be clouded by extreme emotions or impulses. She has to have an orderly mind and sound judgment. As I’ve said a number of times, all of us need to grow this kind of discipline.
Faithful in All Things:
This phrase is simply saying that she must be fully trustworthy in every area of life. A deacon’s wife must be dependable with her responsibilities in the home and the church. She must be the kind of person that when you ask her to do something, you know it will get done and that it will get done well. This was very important when deacons and their wives are working together to care for the congregation because widows and others who were financially dependent on the church need to have trustworthy people looking after them. The deacons had to be trustworthy with the church’s benevolence fund, and they couldn’t neglect someone who was dependent on the church for the basic necessities of life.
If you have ever supervised a church function or employees at work, you know that dependability is huge. It is a great blessing to work with people that don’t need someone to hold their hand to get a job done and that you know will always be present and on time. Faithfulness may not be the glitziest quality out there, but very few things are more important in any relationship, whether in the family, the church, or the marketplace.
And so in v. 11, Paul says that it’s not enough for a deacon to be a godly man; if he is married, his wife must complement him well. She must be an asset to his ministry, not a detraction. And so if you are married, do you add to your spouse’s ministry, or do you hurt his or her ministry? Do you and your spouse make a good team in supporting each other and serving others, or are you going in opposite directions? Work hard to enhance each other’s opportunity to serve.
If you are single, I would urge you to look at any potential spouse in light of future ministry. One of the greatest joys of your married life can be serving Christ in the church. Look for someone with the same heart who will be a great partner in ministry.
Verse 11 describes the character of a deacon’s wife. Verse 12 continues to focus on his family life.
The Requirements for a Deacon’s Home (v. 12):
First, he must be…
Devoted to His Wife:
Again, v. 2 listed this requirement for pastors. I noted in our discussion of v. 2 that this phrase is not merely intended to say that a pastor can only have one wife; rather, the point is that he must be devoted to his wife. He must love her and her alone. He cannot have wondering eyes that are drawn to every attractive woman, and he cannot have a divided heart. No his love and devotion for his wife must eliminate all competitors.
In our day, it is hard to talk too much about the importance of marital fidelity. Modern media constantly markets sexuality to us, and it places little value on marital faithfulness. We have to see through wickedness and emptiness of the temporal, lust-driven message that we are sent. If you are married, work hard to cultivate a deep love and appreciation for your spouse. Work hard to build a marriage that is strong and healthy.
If you are single, then build patterns in your life that will promote singular devotion someday when you are married because if you let your mind and your eyes wonder all over the map right now, those habits will not stop just because you get married. Saying “I do,” will not eradicate uncontrolled lust.
Finally, to the parents among us, are you raising your children to become devoted husbands and wives? Whether your kids are toddlers or young adults, do you have a plan to build into them a godly perspective of the opposite gender? Are you teaching them in age-appropriate ways the beauty of how God made us male and female and the beauty of marriage? They aren’t going to learn this from Disney or Nickelodeon, so they better be learning it from you.
A deacon must be devoted to his wife. That may not seem all that exciting; it’s certainly not glitzy or highly valued in our society. But it is of extreme importance to God, and it ought to be very valuable to us. Let’s be a church that values healthy marriages in our leaders and that pushes each other in the same direction.
A Good Manager of the Home:
Again, Paul also listed this requirement for pastors in v. 4. I said it then, and I’ll say it again that Paul is not saying pastors and deacons must be married and must have kids because Paul had neither. But since the family is the first institution God created, Paul assumed that most pastors, deacons, and Christians would have families. And so assuming that deacons are married and have kids, they must rule well over their children. The idea behind ruling in this verse is that he manages well. A deacon’s home must be orderly and structured. He must have clearly defined expectations for his children, and he must hold them to those standards.
In 2 Timothy 1, Paul commends Timothy’s mother and grandmother for teaching him the Scriptures; therefore, we can assume that biblical instruction is at the heart of this management of children. A godly father is not merely concerned to raise good citizens who have the character to go out and do well in the world. He wants to raise children who are born again, who know the glory of our God and love him supremely, and who are developing habits of holiness rooted in God’s commands and biblical discernment.
We aren’t just looking to raise robots who obey our commands and don’t embarrass us. We want to lead them to Christ and see them grow into godly men and women who live with a passionate commitment to their Savior.
This is so important that God says a man is disqualified from church leadership if he is not doing this no matter how talented or effective he is. And so it ought to be equally important to us. We ought to value it in our leaders, and we ought to make it a priority in our own lives. Like most of the Christian life, there’s not much glitz here. Parenting well is a daily discipline. It requires that you have a thoughtful plan and that you are practicing daily discernment about where your kids are at and what they need. Then it requires that you follow through with that plan even when you are busy or tired.
If you have kids in the home, where have your priorities become mixed up? Are you doing all you can to lead your kids to Christ? Are you enduring the daily discipline of parenting? If you don’t have kids in the home, then I would urge you to pray for those that do and then support them however you can. Take a young parent under your wing and give them support when they are tired or lost. Befriend their kids and reaffirm through your life what their parents are trying to teach them. I think we have a great culture of parenting at Life Point, and let’s see that continue and continue to grow.
And so vv. 11 –12 teach that deacon ministry must be undergirded by a strong home. His wife must complement his testimony, not distract from it. He must be devoted to her, and he must father his children well. The discussion of deacons then concludes in v. 13 by describing the fruits that will come from a deacon who meets these qualifications and performs his duties well.
I’d like to call v. 13…
The Favor of a Faithful Deacon (v. 13):
Paul gives two benefits that will come to the deacon that fulfills his service well. He will enjoy a good standing and great boldness. There is some debate about how to understand these phrases. In particular, is Paul thinking of these deacons’ standing before people or God?
I don’t have any doubt that the first phrase is thinking of the deacon’s testimony before people. It’s very clear throughout both lists that Paul is very concerned that church leaders have a strong testimony inside and outside the church because without it, they have no credibility to speak. It seems only natural that he would conclude this section by saying that the man who meets these qualifications and serves well, will have a strong testimony before the church and the world. People will respect him, and they will listen to him when he speaks.
This will allow him to have the second blessing…
Great Boldness in the Faith:
I believe that this blessing is primarily describing the faithful deacon’s ability to boldly speak of his faith to Christians and to share the gospel with unbelievers. This man lives the gospel, and everyone can see it. They can see that God is the Lord of his life, and they know it’s not just a show because it affects all of his life down to the nitty gritty details in these qualifications. He doesn’t give them any easy fruit to use in dismissing what he has to say. And so because of his strong testimony, he is able to boldly share the gospel and challenge Christians. He is able to have an effective and fruitful ministry of the faith that has transformed his life.
I wonder, does that matter to you or does it sound like a bit of a downer that his reward would be effective ministry? Do you hunger to serve others well and to make a spiritual impact on their lives to the extent that you would consider it a gracious reward from God to be able have an effective ministry?
Deacon means servant. But clearly deacon ministry is not insignificant in the eyes of God, like we so often think of service. No to serve Christ and his church is the highest privilege we could ever enjoy. Whether you are a deacon or a baby Christian who is new to Life Point, I hope that you will see today just how much of a privilege it is to serve Christ and assist in making disciples. I hope you will be motivated to serve and that you will work hard to develop the qualities in these lists that are so essential to effectively serving Christ. Let’s work hard to be ministers who are worthy of our master.
Now, maybe there is someone here who looks at these lists and thinks that if I just do these things, God will be pleased with me, I can do something meaningful with my life, and someday I will go to heaven. If that’s how you understand these lists, you have missed the foundation. The Bible does call us to a high moral standard but never for the purpose of earning a relationship with God and never as an end in itself. That’s why Jesus is so important to how we understand a passage like this because without Jesus this is just another impossible set of expectations that sinners will never meet. But Jesus is perfect, and he died for us so that we could receive his righteousness by faith. He paid the penalty for our sin so that we could be made right with God through him and not through our works. The Christian life is rooted in grace, not my goodness. And so please don’t view this list as a way to God; instead, come to Christ by faith. If you are saved, see this list as an opportunity by the grace of God to gladly serve the Savior whom you love.