Pastors and Deacons and Wives…Oh MY!

If you missed Bible Study on Wednesday night, never fear, you’re in the right place now! I’m sure you’re DYING to know all about it, so I am here to tell you everything you missed. We had some good, lively discussion about 1 Timothy 3. So grab yourself a Bible and a cup of whatever it is you put in your cup, sit back, relax and dig into God’s Word with us.

First things first…remember these things: Paul (radically converted missionary to the Gentiles) is writing this letter to Timothy (Paul’s “understudy”) after Paul left Timothy in Ephesus (pagan city full of false teachers and confused people). This letter contains lots of instructions about order in the church and all the things Paul wants Timothy to remember to tell the people. Christianity is a brand-spankin’-new concept to these people. Remember, Jesus had died on the cross and rose from the grave a mere 30-40 years prior…these are first-generation believers we’re reading about here.  They didn’t have the Bible we have today, just the first five books (that’s called The Law), which laid out all of the things they had to do and sacrifices they had to make to be good enough and please God enough for him to not rain down fire on their poor little heads. Paul and Timothy’s message of salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus (a man they had possibly heard of, but most had never met) seemed absolutely insane to them. On the other hand, most of them were used to following strange, unseen gods, so many jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly and concocted their own special little blend of “religion”. To say they were a mess is an understatement.

Jump right in to 1 Timothy 3:1. “Overseer” in the Greek (the original language of the New Testament)  is “episkopos”, which means “to watch over”. Remember the Old Testament story of Joseph and Potiphar? Potiphar was a very prominent and powerful man with a large household. He had a lot of confidence in Joseph and put him in charge of his household. He made hime the “overseer”. That’s the same word used here in 1 Timothy, only Paul is talking about “overseers” in the church. Today we call them pastors. In those days it wasn’t always a desirable thing to be a pastor. Christians were being persecuted and pastors were front and center in that. Some pastors were using the office for personal or financial gain. In other cases, false teachers gave the role of “pastor” a bad name. Paul wanted Timothy and the church to know that being a pastor was a noble task.

But because being a pastor immediately thrusts the man into the spotlight of society (then and now!), there were and are certain character qualities he must possess and certain behaviors he must display. He had to be blameless, above reproach, a one-woman-man (that’s the literal translation of “husband of one wife”!), sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. In short, the pastor should have one treasure: God himself. And that should be evident in every single area of his life. With the one exception of having the ability to teach, all of these character qualities are traits that every Christian should aspire to! But all the more so if you desire to be a pastor.

We like to put other qualifications on our pastors today. But it is not enough to be a good speaker, an efficient manager or have a charismatic personality. Verses five through seven give us the Pastor’s Test. He must manage his own family well. If he can’t exercise leadership at home, he sure can’t lead the family of God, can he? He must not be a recent convert. Spiritual maturity develops over time, so a recent convert is not mature in the faith. Satan could trap him with pride that way. He also must have a good reputation with outsiders. That means the unbelieving world should look at him with respect! Without a doubt, FBC Gonzales has a pastor that is handsome, charming, funny and sweet, (I could go on, but I will leave it there!) but more than that, we are blessed to have a pastor who meets all of the qualifications for a pastor listed in 1 Timothy 3.  How blessed are we?

And now for the deacons… The title of “deacon” is “diakonos” in the Greek, and it can be translated “servant” or “minister”.  Interestingly enough, the same word is used in Mark 9 when Jesus is talking to his disciples about who would be greater in the kingdom…He says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant (diakonos!) of all.” Deacons should be dignified, worthy of respect, not double-tongued, sincere, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain and they should hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. Know what that last one means? It means they should walk the talk. They should live out their faith in their actions. FBC Gonzales is blessed to have many deacons who do just that!

The test for the deacons, like the test for the pastor is not one that is written, but one of public scrutiny. A deacon is also a one-woman-man who must manage his household well. Deacons and pastors lay their lives out before God and everybody and try their best to live the way that 1 Timothy 3 says they should live. Bravo, men!

And then Paul addresses the wives. He tells us we should be worthy of respect, dignified, not malicious talkers, slanderers, sober-minded, temperate, faithful in all things and trustworthy. Whew! No pressure, right? But can you imagine a church with leaders and wives like the ones we’ve seen here in 1 Timothy? What a happy, united, God-honoring group of people to be a part of! One of our Bible-studiers who happens to be a deacon’s wife told us a little trick she tried for a while to help herself hold her tongue. She put a stretchy bracelet on one wrist in the morning when she woke up. Every time she caught herself talking maliciously, thinking negatively or being untrustworthy, she would move the bracelet to the other hand. She said she was amazed at first at how often that bracelet switched hands, but as time went on, she would look down and see that bracelet and remember to follow Christ. Sometimes we really just need a tangible reminder of how we are to live to bring honor to God.

Paul wanted to add a few more ideas about what the church is, how God sees the church, how we live as the church and how Christ relates to the church. In verses 14-15, Paul points out that the church is God’s household and that it is the church of the Living God (God’s not dead, right?), a pillar and foundation of the truth. And here’s a great quote for ya:

The purpose of Paul’s instructions on order, worship, and leadership was to make vivid the high calling of the Christian and the church—their remarkable way of living as individuals and as a group—to the glory of God.” 

Get it? Their purpose was SO not about THEM. It was all about the glory of God, the mission of God…getting the good news to everybody! 

Paul ended this section of his letter with a hymn that was probably well known in first century Christendom. Paul uses this hymn to call us to pay attention to the importance and calling of the church. He says that this is the great mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh, 
vindicated by the Spirit, 
seen by angels, 
proclaimed among the nations, 
believed on in the world, 

taken up in glory. 
Ah, Jesus.
So what are his precious promises here in the first three chapters of 1 Timothy? If we would refuse to conform ourselves to the patterns of this world but instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds, if we would take off the old self and put on the new self, if we would follow these instructions for order in the church that are not meant to squelch our spirits but are meant to glorify His Spirit and give us abundant life, then we would see the gospel spread, the church grow and our friends and neighbors and family and kids and old folks and all the generations come to JESUS.
That is the most precious promise of all.

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