For an introduction to this series, click here.
October 17, 2007
Most of this chapter deals with the qualifications for a pastor (bishop) and a deacon. Any study of this chapter should note that Paul dealt with the role of women at the end of the previous chapter. This chapter is an expansion of that discussion and a more specific application of those principles.
"The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil." (3:1-7)
This overseer is one of or possibly the primary leader of the local assembly. He is obviously male ("husband of one wife"). A lot of modern teachers say that Paul's teaching here is just reflecting the times, and that since our society's attitudes about the role of women is different, then it is OK for women to lead a church. But remember Paul's primary argument at the end of Chapter 2 was that Adam was created first. That fact has not been changed by our society.
Paul has a lot to say in this passage about a pastor being well-respected in the community. This is a point that too many pastors and churches overlook. A couple of years ago I was working late at the paper office in Piedmont, and a prominent pastor and business man came in to talk to my boss. After he was through talking, I came in his office and my boss said, "It's a shame to say this about a pastor, but I can't sell him any advertising. He doesn't pay his bills." What a terrible testimony.
"Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus." (3:8-13, ESV)
As you have probably read or heard me state before, I think many modern churches have totally missed the original purpose of a deacon. Yes, the root word for "deacon" is "servant" They are to serve the church and serve the pastor. But I think if you look at Stephen and Philip and the other original deacons, they did more than just sit around the church. They were active spiritual leaders. I think (and this is just my opinion) that the original intent of a deacon is more like we think of as an assistant pastor. This person takes part of the pastor's load but is also responsible for the spiritual well-being of the church. A lot of churches I have seen, the deacon board kind of acts as a board of directors. There is no one model of church government dictated by the New Testament, but most of the churches I know that have the "board of directors" model claim to be following the Bible literally and denounce others who have different views, so they set themselves up as easy targets.