Deacons – Servants (Part 3)

Qualifications For A Deacon

The Word of God is very clear concerning the qualifications and requirements for a deacon. In this section I will cover the list of qualifications that Paul gave for deacons in I Timothy chapter three.  In covering these qualifications, I will give the reader several translations to compare.

Before an individual is set apart for the work of a deacon, it is important that, there be a time of proving. I Timothy 3:10 says “But let these also first be proved,” referring to deacons. The word “proved” is the Greek word dokimazo. which means, “to try, prove, discern, distinguish, approve.”  It has the notion of proving a thing whether it be worthy to be received or not.” The Weymouth translation renders it “probation.” This is clearly what Paul had in mind. Putting someone in a position before they are ready can be harmful to both the flock and the individual.

The Word is silent as to how long this proving or probation time should be. However, wisdom and experience teach that perhaps is should be at least six months to a year after they meet the qualifications.  Not six months to a year to meet the qualifications, but a proving time afterward to see if they are genuine. This time-frame will vary, but not greatly.  It may take longer than a year with those who have moral  and  character  deficiencies  in  their background, though it shouldn’t be less than six months, even with the best of candidates.

The deacon qualifications of I Timothy 3:8-13 fall into three categories:

  1. Character
  2. Domestic
  3. Spiritual

There are also deacon qualifications listed in Acts chapter six which will be incorporated into these three categories. Some of the qualifications are the exact same ones for elders.

I. Character Qualifications

1. A deacon is not to be double-tongued (I Tim. 3:8). A deacon, at times, will be privy to personal information concerning members; he cannot be given to gossip. Being double-tongued means to say one thing to someone, and something different to someone else. A deacon must have his tongue under control (James 3:1-8). Other translations render this word as follows: “not shifty and double talkers but sincere in what they say”- Amplified Bible; “not false in word” – N.T. in Basic English; “straightforward men” – N. T. American Translation.

2. A deacon is not to be given to wine (I Tim. 3:8). This would include any form of intoxication.  Wine was a common drink in Bible days; some was fermented, some unfermented. The fermented was less than 2% alcohol, it would have taken lots of it to get drunk. However, an elder was still not to be given to it. The literal translation says “not tarrying at or staying near wine.”

3. A deacon is not to be greedy for money (I Tim. 3:8). Money should never be the motivation for life’s decisions. The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil (I Tim.6:10). The Greek word for “greedy for money” (aischkrokerde) means “not desirous of base gain; not using wrong methods to raise money to increase one’s own income.”

4. A deacon is to be blameless (I Tim. 3:10). A deacon’s life is to be above reproach in all areas of life. A deacon is to be a godly example to the flock.  The Greek word for “blameless” (anegkletos) means “to be unaccused.” Other translations include: “if no objection is raised against them ” – Twentieth Century N.T.; “if they are found irreproachable “- Conybeare; “if there is no. fault to be found with them” – N.T. American Translation; “if they  are  of unblemished character” – Weymouth

5. A deacon is to be proven (I Tim. 3:10). The Greek word means “to be tested, examined and scrutinized to see whether a thing is genuine or not.  It has the notion of proving a thing whether it be worthy to be received or not.” The Weymouth translation renders it “probation.” No deacon should be installed without a time of proving, regardless of educational or business background, and finances are of no consideration!

6. A deacon is to be of a good reputation (Acts 6:3). A deacon must have an excellent testimony and reputation with unbelievers and believers alike in the community. This includes areas of financial obligations; business   dealings, community relations, legal matters,  taxes, etc.. In secular employment, it is important for a deacon to have the respect of his co-workers; he should not be slothful or critical of supervisors. A deacon is an example outside of the church as well as within. A deacon should also have a good report among the brethren. He should not have a history of leaving churches over differences with the leadership. If this occurs it should be an exception, not a pattern.

Next, we will look at domestic and spiritual qualification.

The Apostle Paul, part 5 of 5

The Writings of an Apostle

Paul wrote a total of thirteen epistles, fourteen if you count Hebrews (no author named). These epistles were later canonized as being divinely inspired as Holy Scripture.  Paul wrote to the newly founded churches across Greece and Asia Minor, as well as Rome.  There were many issues in the early Church that needed addressed.  As an apostle, Paul wrote as a spiritual father, caring for his children.

Winds of doctrine were blowing through these churches.  False teachers were on the prowl, seeking to devour these new converts. Paul’s writings were passed from church to church as a compass to keep them on the right track.

Today, we are blessed to have the writings of the greatest apostle to ever live. The Pauline revelation is the heart of the New Testament.  He brought the deep truths of God out in an understandable way.  Paul was a master of the Greek language.  He could have written in classical Greek, but instead chose Koine Greek, the language of the people. Though easy to understand, Paul’s writings were weighty and hard to discern without the Holy Spirit’s help. Listen to Peter’s words concerning Paul’s writings:

2 Peter 3:15-16
And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

Though apostles today cannot write divinely inspired Scripture, it is still vital for an apostle to weld the power of the pen.  His teachings and testimony should be recorded for the continuing blessing of generations to come.

The Hardships of an Apostle

The book of 2 Corinthians offers us a unique peer into the personal life and hardships of the apostle Paul. It was extremely difficult for the apostle to the Gentiles.  But God was always faithful to deliver him in times of trouble. Let him who thinks apostleship is an easy road, one to be desired, consider the following from just one of Paul’s epistles, 2 Corinthians:

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. (2 Corinthians 1:8)

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:5-6)

For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. (2 Corinthians 7:5)

Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;  in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;  in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—  besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.  (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (2 Corinthians 12:7)

Paul’s hardships served only to make him greater.  Some say that he had to suffer because he had no faith. This is ridiculous thinking. Paul did not operate in the “cadillac faith” that some modern prosperity preachers teach.  Paul was a living example of faith in everything he did.  Paul was the greatest apostle of all because he made himself the least. The following passage portrays the heart of Paul throughout his life, ministry, and death as a martyr:

Phillipians 3:7-14
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle Paul, part 3

The Revelation Years

Galations 1:11-18
But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.  For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.  And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.

For three years Paul did not confer with flesh and blood regarding his experience.  On the backside of the desert, Paul received revelation knowledge from the Lord Jesus Himself.  This occurred partially through visitations of the exalted Lord, and partially through the person of the Holy Spirit. God was unfolding to Paul the message of the New Covenant.  Hidden and tucked away in the pages of the Old Testament were the glorious truths of the New.  Like no other apostle, Paul was able to extract these weighty revelations from the Law and the Prophets.

Revelation knowledge is a prerequisite to apostleship. Without it, one only has book knowledge , which is incapable of destroying the yokes of bondage.  Paul had such powerful revelation that at times he would refer to the gospel as “my gospel.”

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. (Romans 2:16)

Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel… (Romans 16:25)

Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel. (2 Timothy 2:8)

When Paul went up to Jerusalem, fourteen years after his conversion, he was confident in the revelation God had given him. His apostleship had covered four years and his first missionary journey (Acts chapters 13 and 14). Paul wrote, that there was nothing that the apostles at Jerusalem could add to his revelation:

Galations 2:6
But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.

Separation To Apostleship

Acts 13:1-4
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Paul received his separation to apostleship some ten years after his conversion (AD 45). Up to this point he had been functioning in the office of prophet and teacher.  The call to apostleship was always there but the time for separation to that call hadn’t arrived. It is almost certain that Paul had revelation of this calling, but he did not take the office upon himself without divine order. Part of divine order is confirmation from the Body.

This is likened unto David in the Old Testament. David was anointed King by the prophet Samuel (I Sam. 16), yet Saul still stood in the office of King. David had opportunity to kill Saul and usurp the throne, but he would not take the throne without divine order. In fact, it was many years before David was made King over Israel. Those years were full of suffering and misunderstanding. But through it all God made that little shepherd boy into a King.  After Saul’s death, the private anointing that took place so many years prior was made public by the confirmation of the people: And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah (II Sam. 2:4a).

When was David King?  Was it at God’s anointing or the people’s anointing? The first may be seen as calling, the latter separation.  Did God one day decide to make Paul an apostle, or was he predestined from his mother’s womb?  Paul answers that question in his epistle to the Galations:

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father… But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace… (Galations 1:1, 15).

The calling to apostleship most likely was revealed to Paul in the early years when he was in Arabia receiving revelation from Jesus for the space of three years (Gal.  1:16-18). However, as with David, that call needed time for development and confirmation. When the Holy Ghost spoke at Antioch it was in the presence of all the church leadership. Upon receiving this message, the church at Antioch confirmed Paul and Barnabas’ apostolic calling and laid hands upon them: and when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away (Acts 13:3). Thus, apostolic calling requires confirmation from church leadership, even more so than any other ministry.  If one has received the call, he must humble himself under God’s mighty hand until the due season of confirmation and separation (see I Pet. 5:6).

Next we will look at Paul’s missionary journeys.

The Apostle Paul, part 1

Paul, before his conversion, witnessing the stoning of Stephen

This is a series that looks into the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul.  Today, we will examine “Paul the Persecutor.”

Paul of Tarsus was a pattern-setter for all times. His ministry impacted the entire world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This former Christian- persecuting-Pharisee turned apostle turned the world upside down.  His apostleship was unequaled, even by the twelve.  Having wrote over half of the New Testament, his ministry is still alive today as believers everywhere study his writings, which were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

To understand Paul’s ministry and apostleship it is necessary to understand Paul the man.  To do this, Paul’s background and religious history must be examined. Therefore, this section will be devoted to Paul’s personal history prior to his conversion.  This will be of great value in understanding how God, in His sovereignty, used Paul’s history to shape his future as an apostle.

Paul the Persecutor

Paul, whose Jewish name was Saul, was of pure Jewish descent, of the tribe of Benjamin.  He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews as he stated in Philippians chapter three:

Philippians 3:5-6
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Paul was a Pharisee, as was his father (Acts 23:6). Pharisees were separatists, which is the meaning of the word “Pharisee.”  Their origin came about during the period of time between the Old Testament and the New Testament, commonly referred to as the “silent years.”  The silence is in reference to Scripture. During this period two religious parties developed from the ranks of the priests and scribes.  The Sadducean party arose from the order of priests and the Pharisees from the scribes.  While the Sadducees were concerned primarily with social position, the Pharisees dedicated themselves to legalistic views. Ceremonial law was the passion of every Pharisee. It was under this influence that Paul was brought up.

Jesus denounced the hypocritical practices of the Pharisees in His ministry.  Their religion was an outward show, but inside, their hearts were far from God.  When questioned by the Pharisees about not keeping the tradition of the elders, Jesus responded with complete denunciation (Mark 7:6-9, 13).  Jesus preached a sermon against Phariseeism in Matthew chapter 23. Below is a list of names that our Lord referred to them as, in just one sermon!

  • Hypocrites (w. 13, 14, 15, etc.)
  • Child of Hell (v. 15)
  • Blind Guides (v. 16)
  • Fools (v. 17)
  • Whited Sepulchres (v. 27)
  • Serpents (v. 33)
  • Vipers (v. 33)

Remember, these were the religious leaders of the day. Pharisees were very proud of their outward observance of the law, but Jesus could see straight through their feigned piety. Though Jesus denounced the Pharisees as a sect, this is not to say that every Pharisee intentionally rejected God.  Surely there were some who were sincerely trying to serve God, however sincerely wrong they were.  It is of this category that Paul fit into.

Being raised in Tarsus of Cilicia, Paul went to Jerusalem at the age of about 13 to further his studies. There he studied at the feet of Gamaliel, a distinguished and prominent teacher of the law (Acts 22:3). From his youth, Paul was zealous with the things of God.  His spiritual blindness prevented him from seeing the reality of his true spiritual state. He sought to please God with an outward observance of God’s law.

Paul’s introduction to New Testament readers is in connection with Stephen’s stoning in Acts 7:58: And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. At this time Paul was probably about thirty years of age.  Paul supervised the first martyr of the Christian Church.  Jesus warned the disciples that there would be those who persecuted them as doing service to God:

John 16:2-3
They shall. put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever kills you will think that he does God service.  And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

Because they have not known the Father, nor me: this was Paul’s predicament. He was advancing up the religious ladder by persecuting the thing that most threatened the existence of their elite religious sect: Christianity.  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison (Acts 8:3).  After his conversion, Paul made these statements in regards to his persecution of the Church:

Acts 22:4
And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.

Acts 26.9-11
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.  And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

Tomorrow, we will look at Paul’s conversion and the impact it had on the early church.

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