1 Timothy 3:10-12 Fit To Serve – Part III

Last week during the Sunday School hour, most of us had an opportunity to hear a very impassioned and very biblical message on the Centrality of the home from Voddie Baucham. In many ways it was a direct application of what we have been learning already regarding the centrality of the home in determining the eligibility of both Elders and Deacons. Note for just a moment that I did not just say deaconesses – there is a reason for that exclusion.

Do yourself a favor and open either your own Bible or a pew Bible (page ###) to 1 Timothy 3:10-12. This portion comes in a specific context concerning the proper selection of both deacons and deaconesses. For the sake of Context, I would like to read together with you the first 13 verses of the chapter. {Read 1 Timothy 3:1-13}

If we continue to take our text in the order it is written the resolution of verse 10 will come before the end in verse 12. The resolution is recorded in the tenth verse and it is simply this: Test the deacons and then let them serve if they past the test. But then Paul quickly follows with two more statements which serve to emphasize two key issues.

The first issue in verse 11 we already investigated and came to the conclusion that Paul must be describing a blanket description of the requirements for women servants in the church whom I will call deaconesses. These are not merely general women in the congregation nor are they specifically the wives of the deacons. Deaconesses must be dignified, not malicious gossips, they must be temperate and faithful in all things. These four broad statements help to identify a woman who is fit to serve the church.

I asked you to observe that I did not mention the deaconesses when I said that the home is central in determining the eligibility of both elders and deacons to serve in the church. That is because the second major issue which Paul brings to us after the resolution is that of the Deacon's home life. In this context with the eleventh verse concerning deaconesses immediately preceding it we need to specifically focus in on the men who fulfill the post of servant ministry. In order for any man to be qualified to be a servant of the church of the Living God in an official capacity his home life must be exemplary.

That is why those who may fill the official servanthood roles of deacon or deaconess must be tested.

Tested then let them serve if blameless (v 10)

How are they to be tested? The context provides the content of what they are supposed to be tested on. Keep in mind that these lists serve as guidelines and the overall theme for them is that a deacon must be beyond reproach. This is very consistent with the Acts 6 selection of Deacons responsible to distributing bread. In that passage it was required that the men chosen to "wait on tables" be "…of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom…"

The context provides the content of what they are supposed to be tested on. 1 Timothy 5:22 gives an indication that time must be part of the process to ensure an adequate chance to appraise the officer's life. "From this we can conclude that the testing is to be a thoughtful and careful evaluation of a man's life by a congregation aware of these needed qualifications. "1 "He must be able to sustain the test of having the eyes of the whole church (plus the outsiders!) focused upon him."2

The very reason we are taking the time to investigate the third chapter of 1 Timothy is because we as a congregation need to be acutely aware of the requirements for church leadership even before we participate in the next election of church officers. Testing and observing is a necessary part of the selection process.

This is a far cry from the normal operating procedure sometimes heard in election comities in various churches, "Maybe if we make 'this person' an officer in the church he'll be more faithful." I can't help believing that God hears us say that and he just cringes. That is NOT acceptable. A candidate must be tested and tried and be found worthy of the task before taking the task on. And if you can't find someone qualified, you don't just shove a warm body in there, you find someone willing to be trained and discipled.

God took over a decade to train Joseph as a servant in Potiphar's house and in prison before he elevated him to leadership in Egypt. Moses needed forty years of humility training in the desert before he was ready to lead Israel to freedom.3 Jesus himself trained his disciples for three intensive years before they were able to become leaders of his Church.

Training and testing always precedes successful ministry. Most of the time that training ground is not the halls of higher learning but the hallways in your house. In order to be worthy to be a servant of God there must be holiness in your home.

Holiness at Home

In 2004 when David Long was being considered for the position of president of OMS, his daughter wrote a letter to the governing board. In that letter she wrote the most coveted thing that any father could hope for. I do not recall her making any assertions regarding her Father's skills as a leader though he obviously has those skills. Neither do I specifically remember any details regarding his intelligence and scholarship which are no doubt significant. What she said however caries more weight than mere education or skills. In her letter she simply asserted that her father was the real deal. The keynote of her writing was that who he was in the home was consistent with who he was outside of the home. Rightly so it was held up by the board as a key piece of evidence regarding the acceptability of Rev. Long to take the mantle of the presidency from Dr. J.B. Crouse, Jr.

Here as well as in 1 Timothy 3:2 & 4 we have the proving ground of the home established as the most accurate measure of the maturity required for taking up the position of servant in the church.

One woman kind of man

Back in verse 2 we learned that the phrase here means more than just a man who is not divorced or who is monogamous by practice. A husband of one wife is really a "one woman kind of man." As with overseers there it is mandatory here that a deacon be a one woman kind of man. If it helps, we could point to v11 and the charge for a deaconesses to be faithful in all things. "All things" would certainly include her marriage. But the focus here is upon a man who is faithful to his wife if married and who if not married still possesses the character of a man who can be faithful.

Being a one woman kind of man means more than only having one wife and not being divorced, it also means he doesn't commit adultery either in the real world or in his mind. A man who dabbles in soft porn or who leers at the Sports illustrated Swimsuit issue is just as unqualified to be a deacon as a man with twenty wives. Gentlemen let me challenge you again to guard your eyes! Don't let them watch that risque TV commercial or program. Don't pick up that magazine of scantily clad women. Get rid of that calendar in the garage which hides classic cars behind ½ naked women. They don't belong in the life of a man who claims to know God!

Tell your wife you love her. Show your wife you love her. And for you men who are not married, set your eyes, your heart and your mind upon the Lord and do not offer them to a woman who is not your wife or who is not likely to become your wife. For your wife is a sacred gift from the Lord and as a daughter of God she deserves both your purity and your pure devotion to her.

Good managers at home

Holiness at home also manifests itself in the way a servant of God will guard and guide his family. There is a dual focus in this verse. He must be a good manager of his children as well as a good manager of his household. The second is a very boad category covering everything in the home from the people to the finances. Given the responsibilities of deacons to care for the property and people of the church it seems most reasonable to require good management skills in both areas. The home is the proving ground for all officers in the church whether overseers and elders or deacons and deaconesses. Who you are at home is more than likely who you are in real life. A servant of God must be someone who influences his family consistently towards Christ and who does not misuse the material goods God has entrusted him with.

In the August 20th 2007 "Barna Report"4 an intriguing trend was noted. Participants were asked about what they would like to see change in the next 10 years in the United States. 60% of the respondents said that they felt that addressing the state of both marriage and families was absolutely necessary. That number is skewed firmly across the lines of evangelical faith. "Upgrading the state of marriage and families was deemed to be an absolutely necessary undertaking by 91% of evangelicals, but only 30% of those who do not take the Bible literally concurred. "

What that means is that a little more than half of all Americans are aware of the fact that the family is suffering in America. However it is the church of Jesus Christ which most clearly sees the need for families to improve. I would suggest to you that this is good news for the church. For seeing the need is most often the first step towards finding the fix. This is why Voddie Baucham, Tim Kimmel, James Dobson and other ministries with a family centered focus have found (or in many cases created) an audience hungry to learn more about creating a Christ centered home.

In America we have mastered the emotionally detached father. It is not only unbiblical it is destructive for dad to do nothing more than go back and forth to work and sit in front of the TV. For too long the caricature of dad as the silent or ignorant guy who does little more than sleep under the same roof has been perpetuated by Hollywood. I frankly don't care whether Hollywood is creating it's own "reality" or reflecting on what is seen, the current reality is that dads are not involved at home as the leaders of their households and that is the problem.

God's word is clear. It is required for a servant in the church to be actively involved in training and guiding his family in the faith of Jesus Christ.

While it is true that not everyone here is going to be asked to serve as a deacon; we are every one expected to grow in maturity conforming to these lists. God does not want everyone else to be less than what he expects of his servants. Holiness in the home is not something reserved only for the "spiritually elite." Holiness in the home is a measure of the maturity toward which we each one must be striving.

So in closing allow me to present this dual challenge.

First: Men whether you are married today or not, you need to be and to become a one woman kind of man. For the married among us it means men that you need to be wholly devoted to your own wife and in no way whatsoever can you permit even for a moment – another woman to capture your mind. For the younger men and the single men among us, gentlemen you must carefully guard your heart and your eyes in purity as we all must.

Second: We who are fathers must be intentionally involved in guiding our children and our homes. Being a good manager at home means raising your children in the fear and instruction of the Lord. It also means directing your household in such a way that honoring God in it is no mere accident but rather its purpose.

Let us give ourselves to this purpose.

1George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 170.

2William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 4, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles, Accompanying Biblical Text Is Author's Translation., New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 132.

3Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, "An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire 'BE' Series"–Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), 1 Ti 3:8.