Online Bible Commentary
Deacons Must be Men
1 Timothy 3:8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)
The letter of 1 Timothy is part of what is known as the Pastoral Epistles. The other two Pastoral Epistles are 2 Timothy and Titus.
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter about AD 63 to Timothy who was ministering at the church in Ephesus. It is believed that this was Paul’s first, of four, letters using a new scribe (an amanuensis), Luke (2 Timothy 4:11).
It is believed by this writer that Paul wrote this letter from Philippi, in Macedonia (1 Timothy1:3). Other possible places of writing are Spain or Hierapolis.
This letter is a personal letter from one minister to another. Ministers typically relate differently to other ministers than they would to others. Therefore, this letter is different than Paul’s previous letters to churches.
It is also different in that Luke’s style of writing is more classical Greek than that of previous amanuensis’. Luke had more and more influence on Paul’s writings, especially his last two, 2 Timothy and Hebrews.
During the time of his last two letters Paul was living in squalid conditions at Mamertine Prison in Rome. We believe that he needed to rely more heavily on Luke because of Paul’s terrible living conditions at the time.
At the time of this writing, Timothy was trying to resolve some problems in the church at Ephesus. The problems consisted of false teaching running rampant, in Ephesus especially. This letter was sent to restore worship order in the churches, specifically addressing the problems of which Paul had heard.
In the previous passage Paul established qualifications for overseers (leaders, pastors), and now he establishes qualifications for deacons, those who serve in the church.
The word “deacon” means servant, one who officially serves the church. In this context, Paul is writing of the office of deacon, not a role.
Paul begins this passage by writing “Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money” (v. 8). They are to be respectable, truthful, and sincere. They are not ones to drink alcohol to excess, and not to be lovers of money.
In the culture of that day, these descriptions would fit the men, more so than the women. For example, the men were the ones who worked outside the home, and who should not pursue dishonest gain.
These requirements are also requirements for overseers (pastors and elders), as detailed in the previous passage. This interpretation is supported by the use of the word “Likewise” to begin this passage.
Paul continues by writing “holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience” (v. 9). The word “mystery” is the translation of the Greek word “mysterion”, meaning mystery or secret.
Mysterion is a favorite word of Paul’s for the gospel, in that it was a mystery or secret until revealed by the Holy Spirit through prophets, apostles, and disciples. The literal translation of the Greek in verse nine is “having the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.”
Next, Paul writes “But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless (v. 10). Verse ten calls for deacons to be “tested”.
They are to be entrusted with small responsibilities, gradually earning larger roles as they show themselves to be faithful. They are to be found “blameless”, above reproach.
Paul continues by writing “Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things” (v. 11). The wives of deacons are to be respectful, not involved in slander, of good temper, and trustworthy.
Paul writes “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife” (v. 12a). A deacon must be the husband of but one wife, just as a pastor. This means that they must be men, and have only one wife if they are married.
There are roles for women in the church. They can be teachers of women, or children. They can also serve in many other roles in the church.
Phoebe was described by Paul as fulfilling the role of a “servant in the church” (deacon) (Ro, 16:1). He wrote this about seven years prior to his establishing the specific qualifications for the office of deacon in this letter.
It is obvious, seven years later, that he did not mean to portray Phoebe as having some official position in the church. There is no word in the Greek language for “deaconess”.
This verse ends with “ruling their children and their own houses well” (v. 12b). So, a deacon must manage those living in his household, under his roof, just as a pastor. They are not responsible for the behavior of their children once they are no longer living under their roof.
In conclusion of this passage, Paul writes “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (v. 13). Paul gives us the reward for those who serve well, as deacons. They gain good standing in the church, and more importantly with the Lord.
So, it is very clear to anyone that reads this chapter of the Bible, seeking the truth, that Paul intended pastors, elders, and deacons, to be men. Although church leaders must be men, they also must be men who know and teach the Bible with a clear conscience.
They are seeking to glorify God, and not themselves or some social agenda. Their only agenda is God’s agenda.
This Biblical teaching would rule out women pastors, elders, or deacons. It would also rule out men who do not have a clear conscience, such as those who are involved in a sinful lifestyle, such as homosexuality or transgenderism.
Churches who employ such leaders are not Bible teaching churches. In fact they are involved in false teaching, which is what Paul was seeking to combat in this letter.