On the First Epistle to Timothy

Chapter 3:8-13.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 341 - October 1884


Chapter 3:8-13

It is generally assumed that "deacons" or "ministers" (as some prefer to translate, in order to guard from confounding them with the lower or earlier grade of clergy, so familiar in modern times) answer to " the seven" (Acts vi. xxi.) who served tables in the daily ministration at Jerusalem. It is true that "the seven" are not so styled; and that elsewhere there is no thought of " seven " deacons. It is also true that in Jerusalem at the first prevailed a state of having all things common wholly peculiar to that place and time, which created the necessity for the apostles to appoint the same, both to allay murmuring of others, and to allow themselves leisure for continuing stedfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word. Admitting however all due to the early Jerusalem form and order, I agree with others that substantially the same office is in view. "The seven" served as deacons in the circumstances proper to that day; as others served elsewhere in a more ordinary way. In Jerusalem at least they were chosen by the disciples, and the apostles laid their hands on them with prayer.

"Deacons likewise [must be] grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of base gain, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also be first proved, then let them serve as deacons, being blameless. Women likewise [must be] grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let deacons be husbands of one wife, conducting their children and their houses well; for these who have served well as deacons gain for themselves a good degree, and great boldness in faith that is in Christ Jesus." '

Manifestly the requirements for the deacons are not so high as those for bishops or overseers, though there be somewhat in common. Their duties are of a lower character. Gravity was sought as well as the absence of deceit. These would naturally be required even in the commonest intercourse of life; and failure in them would bring contempt upon their office. For if every christian is called to walk after Christ, surely not less is a deacon to reflect His light even in the commonest things he has to do. Again, he must not be given to much wine, nor be greedy of base gain: either would be ruinous to the due fulfilment of his functions end to the confidence which he ought to inspire in others. Far fuller we have seen to be the demand for the bishop who must be without reproach, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach; which are not said of the deacon save so far as gravity may approach. In this they do strongly meet, that as the bishop was not to be long (or quarrelsome) over wine, so the deacon was to be "not given to much wine." And as the deacon was not to be greedy of base gain, so the bishop wag to be no lover of money. There is no question of aptness to teach for the deacon as for the bishop, but even deacons must hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. So indeed is it binding on every saint; but if laxity were allowed in office-bearers, what could more stumble the world, grieve the saints, and dishonour the Lord?

It may be worth while to remark that mystery, as it never means what is unintelligible, so it is never applied to an institution or sacrament. " Stewards of the mysteries of God" means those called and responsible for bringing out the special truths of christianity. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are never so described; and the term cannot be with propriety predicted of them as rites but only at most of the truths represented by them. Deacons, however, are not called "stewards" of the mysteries of God, though they must hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, that is, the distinctive truth of christianity. Of course the Old Testament abides of divine authority for every conscience and of exceeding value for every christian. But we have further revelation in the New Testament, and that of truth wholly unknown to saints before Christ. The mystery of the faith expresses the truth which had never been revealed before, the general system of that which is commonly called Christianity beyond what was known of old, though of course confirming it in the most interesting manner and in the highest degree. That truth deals with the conscience in the closest way and purges it. But it is also possible that high truth might be held with habitually low practice. This could not be in a deacon as it is unworthy of any christian. He was called to held the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. Others might not be able to judge directly of the state of his conscience, but an irregular walk is the clearest proof that a man's conscience cannot be pure. Where that was evident, it was permitted yea bound, to judge this.

Even here there was no be care in the gradual introduction of them to their duties, "and let these else first be proved, then let them serve as deacons, being blameless." Proving them first might bring out their unfitness for the work, for there are many saints even, who cannot bear a little brief authority, and that which outwardly raises such soon exposes to moral degradation. To walk blamelessly in the least of such new duties was no small testimony of their fitness to serve in all.

Women in the nearest relationship with them are not forgotten. They in like manner "must be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things." The duties of their husbands would give them opportunities of knowing much of a delicate nature; they were therefore to be both grave and not evil-speakers, .sober or temperate, faithful in all things. None but such could help their husbands aright; those who were otherwise would not only hinder but lead to constant difficulty and scandal.

Nor Was it only that the bishop must be husband of one Wife, deacons must be the same. Polygamy was thus being dealt a death-wound. Νo matter what might be the qualities and competency of a christian, he could not even be a deacon if he had, like many it those days, more than one wife. This was strictly ruled for all who held office in the assembly, whatever might be the forbearance of grace whilst the powers that be tolerated things otherwise.

Further, like the bishops, deacons must rule their children and their houses well. It was not allowable in those that sewed even in outward things that disorder should reign among their children or in their households. The assembly of God is set in this world till the Lord come to manifest His will and please Him.

But deacons, like the seven, were not tied only to that service which they were appointed to fulfil; for those who have served well as deacons gain for themselves a good degree and great boldness in faith which is in Christ Jesus. So we see in both Stephen and Philip who were of the seven: the one being greatly honoured o God as a teacher of the truth; the other being largely used to spread the gospel where it had never yet penetrated. This was to gain for themselves a good standing, and no one who reads the Holy Spirit's account of their testimony and its effects can doubt their great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.