Join us as we study through 1 Timothy verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
Inductive Bible Study on 1 Timothy 3:8-16
- What is a deacon?
- What is the difference between a deacon and an elder?
- What kinds of things are deacons responsible for?
- What do you notice about the similarities of the qualifications of the two groups?
- Are there any differences in qualifications?
- What does it mean to be a “man of dignity?”
- What is an example of being double-tongued?
- Why do you think Paul mentions addiction to wine in both lists?
- What is the “mystery of the faith?” (verse 9)
- How would you go about testing a deacon? Why is this testing phase important?
- In verse 11 are these women deacons or wives of deacons or something else?
- According to this passage would you say women should be deacons?
- What does it look like when a man is a “good manager” of his family?
- What happens to deacons who serve faithfully?
- What does verse 16 mean?
Acts 6:1-6 – Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch
Philippians 1:1 – Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.
1 Peter 4:10 – As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Acts 20:35 – In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Matthew 20:28 – Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 23:11 – The greatest among you shall be your servant.
1. Deacons – Deacons form the second position established in the New Testament church. In church history there are all types of titles and positions: Pope, Patriarchs, Major Archbishops, Cardinals, Metropolitans, and many more. And yet the Bible never says a word about any of these titles. It mentions only elders (also called overseers/shepherds) and deacons. The elders are responsible for the spiritual oversight of the flock and the deacons are responsible for helping serve the physical needs of the flock (Acts 6:1-6).
Many things could fall under the purview of deacons including: facilities, finances, events and activities, member care, visitation, rent, upkeep, and much more. It is important to note that being a deacon is not a lesser role. Neither is it less important. Both aspects of service are very important and also may often overlap. The high standards for a man to qualify as a deacon make it clear that this position is extremely important in the church and must be filled by mature, godly people.
The qualifications are in many ways quite similar to those listed in the first part of this chapter for elders. Some of them are exactly the same such as not being addicted to wine or being faithful to one’s wife, or managing one’s household well.
2. Church’s should follow the structure that God had designed for the church – There are many different authority structures in a church. Congregational rule, one head pastor leadership, committees, etc. The Biblical model is elders and deacons who meet these qualifications being recognized and serving together on a team. Just as with overseers, deacons are supposed to be plural.
3. Men of dignity – A dignified man is a person who acts in a respectable way. He brings honor to the church and to Jesus’ name. He is not rash. Neither is he loud, crude, aggressive, or overbearing. He is gentle, thoughtful, and kind.
4. Not double-tongued – A deacon should not be manipulative. Jesus spoke about “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” This is not a political position. In a church there might be many opportunities for a deacon to be double-tongued. He may be tempted to tell one thing to one group and another thing to another group. Sometimes this could be in order to curry favor. But other times it could just be to say what the people want to hear. Another way to describe this quality is that deacons should speak the hard truth. It is not their job to say what people want to hear, but say what needs to be said.
5. Or fond of sordid gain – Generally deacons serve on a volunteer basis. So there is not likely to be much financial benefit to them for serving. However, they do often manage the church finances, collect offering, and help disperse money to the sick and needy. Therefore the church should be careful in selecting men of upright character. There are opportunities for stealing so church’s must be careful. At the same time transparent standards should be enacted to discourage any shady activity and also to protect deacons from any potential false accusations.
6. Holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience – Deacons must be believers! Unfortunately, deacons are not always chosen for their spiritual character. Sometimes they are chosen because of their tenure. Other times they are chosen because of their economic status or their influence in society. When the spiritual qualities are ignored in favor of supposedly more pragmatic concerns the entire body will suffer. Deacons must hold to the mystery of the faith. They must believe in the gospel. They must have orthodox doctrine.
7. These men – It would appear from the qualifications here that a deacon should be male. Verse 11 is often translated “wives.” However, deacons are servants. In some occasions, when a lady would not have authority over a man in the church (1 Timothy 2:12), it may be acceptable for a woman to be a deaconess.
8. They must be tested first – A church should not be in a hurry to appoint deacons (or elders). The candidates should be observed for a good period of time. Over the course of time their faithfulness, commitment, and character will reveal itself. In the parable of the seeds, Jesus told about the different soils. In one of these the seeds sprung up quickly, but withered away. It represented people who respond excitedly to the gospel, but end up falling away because they have no root. Time can help this problem be avoided.
9. Verse 11 – This verse lists out some high standards for women. It could be this describes qualities that a deaconess should have, but more likely refers to the qualities a deacon’s wife should have. The second view is more likely since verse 12 continues with the list of qualities for a deacon (one of them even being “husband of one wife.”) If Paul was discussing another whole group of people (namely women deaconesses), he probably would not have inserted it directly into the middle of a list for deacons.
10. Verse 12 – Jesus said in Luke 16:10, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” Managing one’s household is of course not a little thing, but it is “littler” than managing a church. If a man is faithful in managing his own household well, it is a good sign that he will also be a good shepherd of a church. On the other hand, if his kids are out of control brats, then he should not be entrusted with taking care of spiritual kids.
You can get a lot of insight into a person in how he treats his family. Is he harsh with his wife? Does he show her love and respect? Is he patient with his children? Does he yell at them loudly in public? Does he spoil them? Does he allow them to do wrong without any consequences? Do his children like him or are they afraid of him?
Some ministers have neglected their families for the sake of serving the church. They are too busy doing ministry to minister to their own families. This passage is clear that this is wrong. The family is first.
What about a man whose grown up children are prodigals? When kids are living with their parents, their behavior to some extent is the parents’ responsibility. As a teacher I sometimes see young children of 3-5 years of age who routinely hit, scratch, push, or bite other children. Their parents are responsible for this. Wise parents will deal with their children so that this doesn’t happen as a habit (all children are sinners and even the best parents cannot prevent it happening sometimes.)
But it is entirely possible that a parent can pray for, teach, model for, and do everything else in their power to raise up their child to know God and when the child grows up he may still reject God and rebel against Him. A man is not unqualified as an elder purely because a grown up child is not walking with God. He is unqualified if his children in his home are generally rebellious or out of control.
13. Those who serve well as deacons obtain a high standing – Serving God faithfully is its own reward. God will lift up and bless those who serve Him in this capacity. Note that not all people who serve God diligently have a high standing in their church or community. Some throughout history have been thrown in prison (John Bunyan, William Tyndale, etc.) Therefore this “high standing” likely refers to God’s view, rather than men’s. We should also be careful that we don’t serve in order to obtain the respect of men (Acts 5:29.)
14. Verses 14-15 – Paul reiterates his theme starting in chapter 2, namely “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God.” He has discussed prayer, worship, roles of women, authority, elders, deacons, and leaders’ families. And he will continue with more aspects of church life in the coming chapters.
15. Verse 16 – This verse likely comes from an early Christian song. It clearly teaches several important doctrines about the person of Jesus. What do you learn about Jesus in this verse?
Application: How can you apply what you have learned in this passage? How could your church apply the principles in this passage? Knowing that the standards given to deacons are standards that each believer should strive for, which one do you think it is important for you to work on? Is there something specific you can in the coming week to improve in one of these areas?
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