Read 1 Timothy 3:1-13
Paul had selected young Timothy for multiplication. He spent time with him in mentoring. Ultimately, Paul was able to send him out on his own in ministry. Timothy had gone to Philippi (Phil. 2) and to Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2, 3), and, as Paul wrote this letter, Tim was in Ephesus.
In this important city, God had established a church. There were loose ends to tie up there. Timothy was to ensure that the teaching in the church was sound. He was to help the church to learn godly conduct. And so, from the priority of prayer to the landmark characteristics of men and women, Paul reminded Timothy of how the church should relate to one another and to government.
But what about church leaders and servants of Christ? What about elders and deacons? First of all, we need to take time to define these offices.
Elders– A study of parallel passages help us to see that the words “elders,” “overseers,” and “pastor/shepherds” seem to be used synonymously (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Tim. 3:1-8, Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-5). Elders are those who oversee, manage, teach, protect, and care for a local church. At Grace Church, they would be what we call pastors, directors, and overseers . . . but they would also encompass many of our ABF leaders. Some are paid, others volunteer. These are people who care for the spiritual needs of others.
Deacons– Most theologians find a parallel between the deacons mentioned here and the seven men selected in Acts 6 to take food to the widows who were being overlooked. These are people who care for the temporal and material needs of others. Although we don’t have people at Grace Church bearing the title “deacon,” it certainly encompasses those who serve as custodians, count money, or serve in countless other capacities.
Having given definitions, let’s close with two quick take-homes.
- The qualifications are relevant for all of us! With rare exception, the virtues indicated here should characterize every follower of Christ. How do you measure up?
- By at least a loose definition, every believer is a deacon/deaconess! God wants every one of us to serve the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10, 4:11-16; 1 Cor. 12). In what way will you serve / are you serving?