The apostle next proceeds to direct Timothy respecting the character and appointment of another class of office-bearers.
I. THE ORDER OF DEACONS.
1. Their origin. We find the first trace of the order about two years after the Ascension (Acts 6:1-4). It owed its origin to a necessity that arose from the extension of the Church. Seven deacons were appointed as almoners. They are not so called, but their name is traceable in the two terms which indicate the sphere of their office, "serving tables" and "ministry" (διακονία διακονεῖν τραπέζαις).
2. Their sphere of duty. It is expressly distinguished from "the ministry of the Word" and "prayer" (ver. 4), and was therefore, as the "serving of tables" signifies, an office for the care of the poor and strangers who might be connected with the Church. The deaconship was, therefore, a purely secular office.
3. Historic notices of deacons. The earliest notices of the order are apparently in Romans 12:7, "Or ministry (deaconship), let us wait on our ministering" (deaconship); in 1 Corinthians 12:28," helps" (ἀντιλήψεις); and at a later time in 1 Peter 4:11, "If any man minister" (διακονεῖ). We read in Philippians 1:1 of "the bishops and deacons," and in Romans 16:1 of Phoebe as "a deaconess" of the Church at Cenchrea.
II. THE QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS.
1. "Grave." Of a serious demeanor, befitting the position of responsibility held by them.
2. "Not double-tongued." Not saying one thing to one person and another to another, under the pressure, perhaps, of applications for assistance; or, not promising aid which is afterwards withheld. Misunderstandings would necessarily arise from any kind of prevarication.
3. "Not addicted to much wine." The deacons must not be given to pleasures of the table, which render people unfit for disagreeable duty, and tempt to the consumption of the wealth committed to their keeping.
4. "Not lovers of base gain." There might otherwise arise a Judas among the deacons to embezzle the Church funds.
5. "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."
(1) The mystery is what faith is conversant with - a thing once secret, but now revealed by Christ's gospel; called variously "the mystery of God," "the mystery of Christ," "the mystery of his will," "the mystery of godliness," and "the mystery of the gospel," which is the great subject of gospel-preaching. It was the mystery of redemption through the blood of Christ.
(2) The mystery of faith was not to be speculatively, but practically, held and maintained. "In a pure conscience." The deacons were to be sincerely attached to the truth, and to realize its practical power in their life and experience.
(3) They are to "hold the mystery," not to preach it. There is no intimation that the deacons, as such, were preachers, though two of them (Stephen and Philip) are afterwards found acting as evangelists.
III. THE METHOD OF THEIR APPOINTMENT. "And these also let them first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they are without blame."
1. The election of the seven deacons was left in the hands of the Christian people themselves. (Acts 6:3.)
2. There is no formal method prescribed for testing their qualifications. Their fitness could be easily judged of without any regular investigation. The moral element, however, was to be supreme in such appointments; for they were not chosen unless they were "without blame."
3. Their formal appointment to service. Let them serve in the various branches of their office as deacons. - T.C.
Likewise must the deacons be grave. I.
DEACONS SHOULD BE OF NOBLE CHARACTER (ver. 8).
1. They were to be grave — i.e., of serious deportment — not sharing in the follies and gaieties of pleasure loving cities like Ephesus, but revered as men living in a higher and purer atmosphere.
2. Not double-tongued, saying one thing to this man and another to that, and thus giving rise to misunderstandings and differences. Gossip is sometimes as harmful as slander.
3. Not given to much wine. Such temper ance should be a characteristic of any true Christian, and is absolutely essential to one who would lead and represent the Church.
4. Not greedy of filthy lucre, or "base gain."
II. DEACONS SHOULD RE STRONG IN THE FAITH (ver. 9). "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."
III. DEACONS SHOULD BE TRUSTED BY THE CHURCH (ver. 10). "Let these also first be proved," for their qualifications ought to be evidenced and recognized, in order that they may have the confidence of their brethren.
IV. DEACONS MAY LOOK FOR THE RECOMPENSE OF REWARD (ver. 13). The phrase "purchase to themselves a good degree," or, as in Revised version, "gain to themselves a good standing," includes the idea of obtaining high reputation amongst the brethren; and that is not without its value. But it implies, also, advance in faith, in courage, and in wisdom, as the result of active and faithful service. And this is the preparation for, and the pledge of the honour which will be given in, the last great day — honour which will vary among the saints according to the measure of their capacity and fidelity.
During the civil war in America, three Northern officers were appointed on a commission with three Southern officers, after the battle of Prairie Grove, to negotiate an exchange of prisoners. While the commission was sitting, an aged farmer strayed into the room, thinking it was the provost's office. His eyes were dim, but he quickly noticed the uniforms, and supposing himself in the presence of the Northern staff, began protesting his loyalty to the Union. One of the officers facetiously advised him to be cautious, and, pointing to the Southern officers, told him to look at them. The old man put on his spectacles, and recognizing the uniform, explained that his heart was with the South in the great struggle, and that his only son was a soldier in the Southern army. Gazing around the room, he recognized the Northern uniforms also, and was bewildered. At last he leaned both hands on the table, and surveying the entire party, he said, "Well, gentlemen, this is a little mixed; but you just go on and fight it out among yourselves. I can live under any government."
Some time ago two travellers went to Africa. Coming to a lake, one sought to find whither the current tended by throwing a float on its surface; and slowly, but surely, it floated eastward. "The current is eastward," said the traveller, satisfied with his discovery. Some time afterwards another traveller stood by the same lake, asking" himself the same question, "Whither does the current tend?" He, too, cast a float upon the surface of the water, which at once floated westward. "The current is towards the west," he said; and, following out his discovery, he gained its out-let, and so traced it to where it emptied itself into the Atlantic Ocean. Let us see to it that our life is not uncertain, like this lake, at one time seeming to be going heavenward, and at another seeming to be going with the world. But rather may we, who bear the name of Jesus, let our lives run like a quiet and steady stream, and, as we go, leave a bright record of our lives behind us.
Holding the mystery of the faith
I can drink of the clear cold spring, and be refreshed, though I may not hope to pierce the awful foundation of granite from whence it comes rushing up. I can take of the grain of the tawny sheaves, or of the laden vine, though I cannot tell how the unconscious root and fibres select, elect — never mistaking — out of a common soil that which shall produce their specific fruit. I can rejoice in the shining sun, and fan my cheek with the breathing wind, though I am ignorant as an infant of the great palace of light, and "know not when the wind cometh, nor whither it goeth." Even so; I stoop my parched lips to the "living water," and I rise revived; and I know not man nor woman who ever sought to do so and was hindered. I am content with that.
Now there is a prevailing error to which we are exposed in the present day, of NOT SUFFICIENTLY RECOGNIZING IN REVEALED TRUTH MYSTERIES WHICH LIE BEYOND THE REACH OF HUMAN COMPREHENSION. By far the greater portion of the doctrines which compose the scheme of Christianity are mysteries which pass man's understanding. Such, for example, is the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. Here, however, let me observe that although a mystery, it is a mystery of faith. It is not a revelation of which the mystery affords any excuse for unbelief. It is a mystery, I confess, upon God's part, of incomprehensible wisdom, power, and love; but yet it is a mystery upon which we may rely with the fullest assurance. It is the more important to observe this, because there are many minds before which the mysteries of Divine truth present themselves as an apology for unbelief. The facts of Christianity, and the doctrines which flow out of them, are amply attested. There is a marvellous self-evidencing property in the Gospel. Crowded though it be with mysteries, it is so constructed as to bespeak its suitableness to the moral necessities of the fallen. We appeal, then, not only to the evidence upon which the truth of the gospel rests, as contained in God's Word, but also to the results which have attended its proclamation, in corroboration of its claim, mystery though it be, to implicit faith. It is this mystery which has conferred upon mankind ten thousand blessings for time, the pledges and foretokens of yet richer blessings in eternity.
II. But here the practical question arises, WHAT IS IT TO "HOLD THE MYSTERY OF THE FAITH IN A PURE CONSCIENCE"; or, in other words, to what course of action are we summoned by the direction which the apostle here gives? Now, a pure conscience is "a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man." It is a conscience enlightened by the Holy Ghost, and free from accusation, whether on the ground of duty omitted or of precept infringed. To hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, is therefore to be so under the influence of revealed truth as to be thereby impelled to practise all that God has enjoined, and to avoid whatsoever God has forbidden. Now, for nothing is the Bible more remarkable than for the practical nature of all its disclosures. There is not a doctrine of revealed truth which is not both designed and adapted to influence the daily life and conversation; and never can the truth be held in a pure conscience but where the creed which is professed is exemplified in the conduct. Take, for example, any of the elementary truths of revelation, and you may discern at once their practical character. There is the revealed truth of the omnipresence of God, a truth which no man can hold the mystery of the faith and yet deny. According to this doctrine, we believe that God is everywhere and at all times present. Never can we escape from His observation — never elude His watchful inspection. This is a part of the mystery of the faith. And so with regard to every component part of the mystery of the faith. To hold it in a pure conscience is to allow every Christian doctrine to have its legitimate influence over the entire walk and conversation. This, then, it is to "hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience." It is to make every revealed doctrine a fresh motive for striving after moral perfection. Alas! there may be a "holding the mystery of the faith," but not "in a pure conscience." There may be familiarity with Christian truth, orthodoxy of creed, clearness in the enunciation of the Gospel mysteries, zeal in the maintenance of the truth, and skill in contending against error, where, nevertheless, we look in vain for a correspondence between the profession of the lip and the language of the daily life. The mystery of the faith is held; it is expounded, professed, defended, and yet it is not held in a pure conscience. Its influence is counteracted by a life not regulated by the principles confessed.
TopicsClear, Conscience, Deep, Faith, Free, Heart, Hold, Holding, Keeping, Mystery, Pure, Secret, Sin, Truths
Outline1. How bishops, deacons, and their wives should be qualified;14. and to what end Paul wrote to Timothy of these things.15. Of the church, and the blessed truth therein taught and professed.
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Timothy 3:9
1462 truth, in NT
5009 conscience, nature of
8028 faith, body of beliefs
8162 spiritual vitality
1 Timothy 3:1-9
7734 leaders, spiritual
1 Timothy 3:1-12
7026 church, leadership
1 Timothy 3:1-13
1 Timothy 3:2-10
1 Timothy 3:2-11
8471 respect, for human beings
1 Timothy 3:2-13
7944 ministry, qualifications
1 Timothy 3:8-9
1 Timothy 3:8-10
1 Timothy 3:8-13
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John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
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The Lord of Glory.
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The Christian Church
Scriptures references: 1 Corinthians 3:11; 3:6-9; Colossians 1:18; Acts 2:47; Ephesians 5:23-27; Matthew 16:16,18; 18:17; Acts 5:11,12; 13:1,2; 14:23; 16:5; 1 Corinthians 11:18-34; 12:28-31; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:14; 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 12:22,23; Revelation 1:4,11,20; 2:7,11; 22:16; 22:12-15,17. THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH What is the Christian Church?--One of the best definitions is as follows: "The church consists of all who acknowledge the Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, the blessed Saviour …
Henry T. Sell—Studies in the Life of the Christian
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