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Overseers and Deacons August 11, 2013

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Timothy 3.

Summary: Paul begins by making the following statement: any believer who has a godly desire to be a minister aspires to an excellent – yet difficult – office. Since the office of a minister is honorable, a minister should:

  • not be tainted with any disgrace that might detract from his authority
  • not engage in polygamy
  • exercise moderation and self-restraint
  • behave decently and honestly
  • support and encourage other church members
  • know how to apply God’s Word so that people listening will benefit
  • not drink excessively
  • not give out threats and act in a warlike way
  • not be covetous
  • bear injuries peacefully
  • avoid arguments and quarrels
  • be able to rule his own family so that his children behave modestly and respectfully
  • not be appointed to his office as soon as he professes Christ – in that case he would fall through his pride into the same condemnation as the devil
  • behave honorably and innocently among unbelievers – in that case he would not harden his heart and abandon himself to every kind of wickedness.

Paul then states that those believers who have been given the work of caring for the poor should:

  • not be double-tongued
  • embrace the wisdom that God has revealed to men through the Gospel
  • be men of experience, so that they – over a considerable period of time – would be found to be free of any notorious fault.

Paul also states that the wives of both ministers and deacons should assist their husbands in their work; thus, their behavior must be better than that of others.

Paul then states that a deacon should be content with his wife and should rule over his children and household with holy discipline. Indeed, deacons who faithfully carry out their ministry deserve to be honored, and they can serve Christ with greater boldness.

Now Paul notes that he expects to visit Timothy – and his opponents – soon, yet he is writing this letter – replete with instructions – in case he is delayed. These instructions should be heeded by pastors, who God has placed in charge of His house; indeed, His truth is spread and preserved through the ministry of His house. Paul concludes by preventing God’s truth from being demeaned through human ingratitude; His truth is the revelation of His Son, who:

  • was manifested in the flesh
  • was witnessed to be God by divine power
  • attracted angels – as they found Him to be new and excellent
  • won over to obey the faith those who apparently would never submit – the Gentiles
  • was raised up to the Father’s right hand.

Thoughts: In this passage, Paul presents a set of guidelines for elders. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 4:

Paul does not insist that a bishop should have no experience in ordinary life, but he says that he should be an experienced family man…In verse 5 Paul explains this by saying that a man who is unable to rule his own family is not a suitable person to govern God’s church…The person who wins the apostle’s approval here is not the one who is clever in domestic matters but the one who has learned to rule his family with positive discipline.

Now my church ostensibly has a rather liberal interpretation of Paul’s guidelines regarding elders, as one of our elders is currently single – though it should be noted that the other elders are married with grown children, and the single elder is getting married later this year. One must wonder how Calvin would react to my church’s interpretation of this passage; would he view us as a group of heretics? I am curious as to how my church arrived at its current interpretation of these guidelines for elders. Perhaps some of these guidelines are more important than others (for example, an elder can be single, but he cannot get drunk)?

In this passage, Paul also presents a set of guidelines for deacons. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 12:

Having mentioned wives, Paul sets out what is required of deacons, just as he had done for bishops. Each should be content with his wife, should set an example of chaste and honorable family life, and should rule over his children and household with holy discipline.

Again, my church ostensibly has a rather liberal interpretation of Paul’s guidelines regarding deacons, as one of our deacons is actually female – though it should be noted that the other deacons are married males. Again, would Calvin view us as a group of heretics based on our interpretation of this passage? I am quite certain that most, if not all, of our church members would assert that the husband is the head of the household; how do we reconcile that assertion with our interpretation of this passage? Again, perhaps some of these guidelines are more essential than others (for example, a deacon can be female, but she cannot be covetous)?

In verse 16, we see that Paul gives praise to Jesus Christ, since the preservation and proclamation of His revelation has been entrusted to the church. This burst of praise is not unique to Paul’s epistles; similar passages include Romans 11:33-36 and 2 Corinthians 9:15. Clearly Paul was so consumed by the Holy Spirit that he could not help praising God whenever the opportunity arose. Bringing glory to God was the sole aim of his life after He called him to be an apostle, and this is prominently displayed at certain points in his letters. As believers, we should pray that God would continue to work in us so that we would be compelled to praise Him at (apparently) random moments on a daily basis; we will praise Him more often as the Holy Spirit continues His work of filling us.

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