1 Timothy


2. Qualifications for church leaders, 3:1b-13

ii] Deacons


Paul continues to deal with organisational matters in the church, or as Barrett calls it, "the ordering of Christian life." In the passage before us, Paul outlines the qualities that should be evident in the life of the church officer known as "the deacon", presumably a form of assistant minister. The qualities of a deacon indicate an assisting, serving role. Only church members of the highest moral standing can undertake this role.


i] Context: See 2:1-7.


ii] Background: See 1:1-11.


iii] Structure: The qualifications of "a deacon":

Ministry status - a deacon, v8:

Qualifications / Character traits:

Personal qualities, v8-9.

Regarding selection:

tested and appointed, v10.

Qualifications for female deacons:

Personal qualities, v11.

Qualification specific to a married deacon, v12:

A person able to manage their own family.

Conclusion - a word of encouragement, v13:

The value / benefit / reward of a deacons ministry:

a good reputation / standing within the Christian community;

building a deeper confidence in their relationship with God.


iv] Interpretation:

The list of qualities (rather than duties) required for deacons is similar to those for overseers / bishops, and also for presbyters in Titus 1:6-9. The word diakonoV is rarely used in the NT in a technical sense, as here, and so we are unsure of the actual function of this person in the NT church. The word simply means "servant / one who serves / one who ministers / one who cares", so there is little to indicate that this person performs anything more than an assisting role to the overseer in matters such as financial support, social care, .... ie., the deacon exercises "a variety of specific activities that are linked primarily by their practical character", Johnson, cf., Rom.16:1, Phil.1:1. The Acts 6 reference to deacons is most likely not technical. It is clear that these ministering functionaries are soon given a specific role in the early church, cf., Ignatius, The Didache, Polycarp.

The reference to gunaikaV, "women", in v11 has caused some difficulty. Although often translated "their wives", ESV ("their" is not in the Gk. and if Paul intended "their wives", it is more than likely that he would have used either a possessive pronoun, or an article), the word diakonoV, "deacon", has no feminine form, and so, to refer to a female deacon it is necessary to use a word like gunh,"woman" (a word that can also refer to "a wife"). There are references to woman exercising a practical ministry in the NT (eg., Phoebe, Priscilla) and therefore it seems likely that "deacon" encompasses both males and females, with Paul, at this point, identifying some specific qualities that should be evident in a female deacon. The matter is anything but resolved. "Deaconesses", NEB margin, "Women in this office", REB.


v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:8

The office of Deacon, v8-13: i] General qualities, v8-10. The next office, for which Paul provides a list of qualities, although without a description of the office itself, is that of, deacon, minister, or servant. Paul uses this word to describe members of his ministry team, but in the end, we are unsure of the function of this New Testament office. Today, we use the term to describe an assistant minister, or lay minister. The list of qualities is as follows: Respectable; ; Temperate; Content; A person who continues to hold firmly to the gospel ("deep truths") and expresses this reliance in godly living ("a clear conscience").

diakonouV (oV) "deacons" - Accusative subject of an assumed verb to-be. Again, Paul does not describe the office itself, but rather lists qualifications for the office. So, as with "overseer", we are left with little knowledge of this first century church order. Whereas an "overseer" seems to function as a teaching elder exercising both oversight and instruction, the function of a "deacon" is less clear. A teaching role is not mentioned, but they must "keep hold" of Biblical truth and be "tested", which requirement would surely apply to an overseer as well. It would be nice if the appointment of "the seven" for "the service of the word" in Acts 6 recorded the foundation of the office, or even Paul's use of "servant / minister" to describe members of his missionary team, but in the end, we will never know. "Helpers", Johnson.

wJsautwV adv. "likewise / in the same way" - in the same way, in like manner, similarly. Comparative adverb; "Deacons in the same way must be", Cassirer.

"are to be" - At this point we have an ellipsis where a similar construction to v2 is assumed, namely the verb dei, "it is necessary", followed by the infinitive of the verb to-be einai, introducing a nominal infinitival phrase subject of the verb "is necessary"; "to be respectable ...... is necessary for deacons."

semnouV adj. "men worthy of respect" - respectable, serious, worthy. Predicate adjective. "Men" is assumed and so is dropped by TNIV; "Deacons in the same way must be dignified", Cassirer.

mh dilogouV adj. "sincere" - not two-faced, double-tonged. Accusative predicate adjective. This is the first of thee negative qualities to be avoided which probably explain what being "respectable" means.

prosecontaV (prosecw) pres. part. "[not] indulging" - [not] paying attention to, devoting oneself to, occupying oneself with. The participle here serves as a predicate adjective. Possibly "addicted", BAGD, so "not enslaved to much wine", Tit.2:3.

oinw/ (oV) dat. "in [much] wine" - in [much] wine. If addiction is intended the dative is instrumental, expressing means, "not be addicted by consuming too much wine", although technically a dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "paying attention to."

aiscrokerdeiV adj. "pursuing dishonest gain" - [not] greedy, fond of dishonest gain. Predicate adjective. Not greedy, content, not into ministry for financial gain.


Added to the qualification of "worthy of respect" is the responsibility of "holding the mystery of the faith."

econtaV (ecw) pres. part. "they must keep hold of" - having, keeping, preserving. The participle serves as another predicate adjective. The force of the present continuous, "keeping hold of", and the imperatival context, produces the injunction, "they must keep hold of / preserve."

to musthrion (on) "deep truths" - the mystery. Accusative direct object of the participle "having". The mystery is a truth hidden now revealed, namely "the gospel"; "the mystery of (which consists of) the gospel", Eph.6:19, "the revelation of Christ ...... the Christ who is proclaimed", Marshall, The NIV "deep truths" is an unfortunate stab in the dark, so better "the unique mystery of the faith", Junkins, or better still just "the gospel."

thV pistewV (iV ewV) "of the faith" - It is likely that the genitive is adjectival, of definition, epexegetic / appositional, "the mystery (gospel) that is faith", Johnson, such that "faith / the faith" is "the content of what is believed", Marshall, also Mounce, Towner. This seems more likely than "faithfulness" or "faith as an act of believing". The presence, or otherwise, of the article seems to be arbitrary in the Pastorals and so does not help with our understanding of the intended sense. So, the sense is "the revealed truth of (which consists of) the Christian faith (that which is believed)", Knight. The requirement that a deacon "keep hold of the deep truths of the faith" is possibly just a requirement that he/she be a Christian / a believer, but probably more specifically that they be "Christians of good conscience", Conzelmann.

en "with" - in, on, with. The preposition here is adverbial, expressing manner. The deacon must hold onto the gospel "with" a life lived out in accord with the ethical principles of the gospel.

suneidhsei (iV ewV) "conscience" - [a clean] conscience. Here a moral self-consciousness which accords with the deacon's profession of the faith.


As with a senior pastor, it is necessary to confirm that those who minister are morally beyond reproach.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional connective, indicating a step in the argument.

kai "-" - and. Possibly adjunctive, "also", referring back to the overseers, thus NEB, "no less than bishops ..." ie., as we would test an overseer's qualifications, so we should test the qualifications of a deacon.

ou|toi pro. "they" - these ones. Nominative subject of the verb "to test / approve."

dokimazesqwsan (dokimazw) pres. imp. pas. "must [first] be tested" - let them be tested, checked-out, evaluated [first]. Rather than "put on probation", the sense is more likely "they are first to be examined", NJB.

eita adv. "then" - then, next. Temporal; "next in time."

o[nteV (eimi) pres. part. "if there is" - being. The participle is adverbial, usually treated as conditional, as NIV.

anegklhtoi (oV) "nothing against them" - blameless. Predicate adjective. The purpose of the examination is to determine whether they are "beyond reproach", "blameless", probably in a moral sense. Paul may also be thinking of the required qualification set out in v9 - are they really in the faith, gospel focused, cf., 2Cor.13:5?

diakoneitwsan (diakonew) pres. imp. "let them serve as deacons" - let them serve. The present tense, being durative, may express the sense "let them continue to serve", although the use of a present tense may indicate a general instruction. Having proved worthy in their service to the brotherhood, let them continue to so serve; "they can carry out their service", Johnson.


ii] Qualities specific to a female deacon, v11. In a special note to women deacons, Paul underlines four particular qualities: respectable, not gossipers, self-controlled and dependable. See interpretation above.

wJsautwV adv. "in the same way" - likewise. An adverb that both compares, but also distinguishes from what has gone before. Since this adverb was used to introduce this unit, "likewise deacons", its use here further supports the view that Paul intends "Likewise deaconesses."

gunaikoV (h aikoV) "their wives / the women" - women deacons. Accusative subject of an assumed infinitive verb to-be. As noted above, the NIV takes a punt with "their wives". These "women" may be the wives of the deacons, or deacons in their own right.

"are to be" - See v8 for the assumed Gk. construction dei .... einai; "to be respectable is necessary for deaconesses."

semnaV adj. "women of respect" - respectable. Predicate adjective. Again we may have a notable quality which is then defined by the following qualifying adjectives.

mh diabolouV adj. "not malicious talkers" - not slanderers. Predicate adjective. When singular, the word is used as a substantive "the slanderer" = "the devil". Here in the plural, it is best taken as an adjective, probably meaning "malicious gossipers."

nhfaliouV adj. "temperate" - Predicate adjective. Possibly temperate in the intake of alcohol, but better with a figurative sense, "self-controlled."

pistaV adj. "trustworthy [in everything]" - faithful [in all things]. Predicate adjective. "Dependable".


iii] Qualities specific to a deacon who is a married man, v12-13. For the Gk. see v2 and v4 for similar instructions given to an overseer with respect to his marriage to one wife, and the management of his family.

diakonoi "a deacon" - deacons, ministers, servants. This verse reads as an afterthought, a kind of "Oh yes, and also, married deacons should be able to demonstrate marital fidelity and the good management of their children and household", just like the overseer. Those wanting to include "the woman" in the diaconate, have to accept that Paul's language here assumes that married "deacons" are male and so from a grammatical standpoint, it is not easy to argue that married women are included in the diaconate as it existed in the New Testament. This would fit with Paul's instruction that a wife not exercise authority over ("teach") her husband. Of course, it is possible to argue that this arrangement is nothing more than an expression of first century culture.


iv] Conclusion. Those who minister well will improve their standing and boldness in ministry. gar "-" - for. More explanatory than causal, establishing the "ground" of the instructions, so Marshall. Also possibly indicating the reason for the good service of "those who have served well", Knight, ie., reading forward, rather than back. The NIV understands this verse as expressing the consequence of the good service; they "gain ...." With this approach gar is taken as emphatic. The verse would then serve to summarise the instructions in v8-12, so Mounce.

oiJ ....... diakonhsanteV (diakonew) aor. part. "those who have served [well]" - the ones having served [good]. The participle serves as a substantive. Most likely referring to the deacons; "the deacons / ministers who serve in the right way."

peripoiountai (peripoiew) "gain" - purchase, acquire. "Win for themselves a high standing in the church", Barclay.

eJautoiV dat. pro. "-" - for themselves. Reflexive pronoun, "themselves", dative of indirect object / interest, advantage; "Gain for themselves an ......"

baqmon (oV) "an [excellent] standing" - a [good] standing, grade, rank (a hapax legomenon - once only use in NT). Accusative direct object of the verb "to acquire." Obviously, figurative of "good / improved standing." Possibly before God, but more likely before the Christian fellowship.

parrhsian (a) "assurance" - [and much] boldness, confidence. Accusative direct object of the verb "to acquire." Is this an assurance before God, or in line with "standing", is it a confidence before the Christian fellowship, or even the wider secular society? The sense of boldness, confidence, openness, .... before others seems best.

en pistei (iV ewV) "in their faith" - in faith. The preposition possibly takes a local sense, expressing sphere; the standing and assurance operates in the sphere of, or within the influence of, faith. It may also be causal, "because of their faith in", or even reference / respect, "with respect to faith." "Standing" may not be covered by the prepositional phrase "in their faith", but most likely is. "Faith", as indicated by the following adjectival limiter, is "their faith in Christ Jesus", not "the faith" as in "the Christian faith." So, "faith" in the sense of "confidence in God and assurance of salvation", with the following "in Christ Jesus" expressing "the sphere of this sense of confidence", Marshall.

th/ dat. "-" - the. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in Christ Jesus" into an attributive modifier of "faith"; possibly epexegetic, "in the faith that is in Christ Jesus", ESV. See "in faith" above.

en + dat. "in" - in [christ jesus]. Possibly expressing object, but more likely sphere; see "in faith" above.


1 Timothy Introduction



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