1 Timothy 3:8-10
Qualifications for Deacons
“Deacon” is the second office our Lord has instituted for the good order of his Church. It differs from the office of bishop in that it is not a “teaching” office. This, of course, does not mean that deacons can’t teach, but only that teaching is especially the pastor’s task. The primary task of the deacon is service to the church, serving being the primary meaning of the Greek word for deacon (literally, “waiting on tables,” Acts 6:2). In the early Church, this primarily concerned meeting the basic needs of widows and orphans and the poor. This was often seen to in the dispensing of provisions to these people upon the end of the communion service.
Like the office of bishop, not just anyone can be a deacon. A man must be tested and meet certain qualifications. The deacon must be “dignified.” The sense is that one must be noble and highly esteemed and respected, giving himself to spiritual matters and not the cheap and tawdry (Mounce, WBC, 198-99). He must not be “double-tongued,” which carries with it the idea of repeating matters, not keeping secrets, and telling one person one thing and another something else. As our Lord said, a believer’s yes should be yes and his no a no (Matthew 5:37). Like the overseer, the deacon too must guard himself against wine and gain. Money and alcohol are not evil in themselves but according to their use, our sinful natures being such that we are always perverting the good gifts God provides for us.
Paul adds, “They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” He wrote at the beginning of this letter, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” A clear and good conscience springs only from a life lived in obedience to the gospel. If a man is living in secret sin, his ministry will be hampered while his faith is impeded. It is a clear conscience to which Paul appeals to Timothy when he urges, indeed begs, him “to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:14). For this reason, such men must first be tested, and Timothy must be deliberate in setting apart men to such divine service (5:22).
A clear conscience. How necessary this is for any Christian to serve. Willful sin holds us back. The Holy Spirit will not give us relief until such sin is confessed and given over to the only One who can conquer Satan’s strongholds within us. Otherwise we limp throughout life.