Servant Leaders

1 Timothy 3:8-15

8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money,
9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.
10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.
11 Likewise, their wives
must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.
12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

  1. Introduction – Mark 10:35-45 ~ Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”

    36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

    37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

    38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

    39 They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized;

    40 “but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”

    41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.
    42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
    43 “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.
    44 “And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.
    45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” 

    1. It is an easily observable trait in humanity. We desire to be ‘over’ people. We seek to be in dominion. It’s actually a product of the fall of humanity described in Genesis 3. The effects of the fall are seen all around us all the time. Even after we become followers of Jesus we still battle this.
      1. This passage in Mark 10 is absolutely amazing. Matthew’s account of it gives us some slightly different details that make it even more astounding.
        1. Matthew 20:20-21 ~ Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.
          21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” 
      2. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified. There’s a crowd of followers with him, including his 12 apostles. In front of everyone, the mom of James and John comes and bows before Jesus with a request. James and John are clearly involved in all of this. They’re kind of like 1st century millennials, getting mom to go to the job interview with them. She’s a 1st century helicopter parent.

        James and John wanted a privileged position of authority in the Kingdom of God. They wanted to exercise dominion and be great. And I’m grateful that they engaged in this exchange with Jesus, because the teaching that came from it is so very helpful…

        1. Mark 10:42-43 NLT ~ So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.
          43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant
          1. In 1 Timothy 3:1 Paul said, “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” If someone want’s to be a leader, that’s good … but how does one become a leader and an overseeing elder in the church of God?  

          2. Point 1 — The church is led by servants who serve well. 

            1. Whoever desires to be first. Whoever desires to be a leader. They must first and foremost be a servant. And our example and leader in this is who?
              1. Mark 10:45 ~ “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” 
                1. This is the key verse of the gospel of Mark. A good memory verse if ever there was one. Jesus, the Son of Man did not come to be served. God incarnate (in human flesh) did not come to this world to be doted upon and exalted. He came to serve and not be served. He came to give (of) Himself willingly.
                  1. Philippians 2:6-7 ~ who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
                    7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant
                    , and coming in the likeness of men. 
              2. Jesus was and is the perfect example of the humble servant. And after humbly serving His disciples by washing their feet (in John 13) He said…
                1. John 13:15 ~ “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 
                  1. The church and kingdom of God are built upon and led by servants who serve well.
                  2. Therefore, after giving a list of qualifications of leaders Paul writes…
  2. 1 Timothy 3:8 ~ Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money,
    9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 
    1. The word deacon is the Greek word διŒ¨κονος (diakonos), it literally means minister or servant. It could be translated “waiter.”
      1. The two primary offices of leadership in the church are Elders (or bishops, the Greek words translated Elder and Bishop are used interchangeably in Titus 1) and Deacons.
        1. Elders are overseeing elders and Deacons are servants.
        2. Now Elders are also servants, and it would seem that overseeing elders/bishops are appointed from those that have been (good) Deacons.
    2. Likewise
      1. So just as there were qualifications for overseeing elders in the church, there are also qualifications for serving deacons.
    3. Deacons must be
      1. These qualifications are not recommendations or suggestions. They’re requirements.
        1. Now in saying that I want to acknowledge that no person is completely perfect in their qualification as an elder or deacon. But there are things that are expectations.

          1. Point 2 — Qualified servants have evident qualifications. 

            1. What kind of evident qualifications?
    4. Deacons (then) must be
      1. Reverent
        1. For a long time ministers have been referred to as “Reverend.” Occasionally I even receive mail that is addressed to “Reverend Miles.” The servant of the Lord should not hold this title merely for having been ordained to the ministry. Rather, by their honorable character and conduct should thus be identified as reverend and then ordained to the ministry.
        2. One is honored with the title because they live honorably. The servant of the Lord must, therefore, be reverent.
      2. Not double-tongued
        1. This is the only time this word is used in the New Testament, which means we cannot look elsewhere in the Scriptures to cross-reference and amplify our understanding of it’s meaning. But basically the servant of the Lord should be consistent.
          1. The deacon is not one who is guilty of saying one thing with one person, another with another.
            1. It has (sadly) surprised me over the years just how double-tongued some Christians (and even Christian leaders) can be.
              1. Illustration — In my experience such double-tongued-ness is often connected to gossip. I’ll be told, “I’m not sure you know this, but so and so has been saying such and such about you. So I, being the slightly confrontational person that I am, will go and ask the person, “I was told that you said such and such?” “OH, of course not. They must have heard me wrong.” Or, “No I didn’t say that. I said something entirely different.” 
              2. The deacon must be consistent
      3. Not given to much wine
        1. I spoke on this in my last message dealing with the qualifications of Elders.
        2. This is not a prohibition against all alcohol consumption, but the Bible does prohibit consumption by alcohol.
          1. If you cannot drink moderately, then you cannot drink. If you have been in the past (or even are right now) addicted to alcohol, then this is an area of sin for you, and will be a disqualifying issue as it relates to service to the Lord.
      4. Not greedy for money
        1. The work of the ministry is not a please for wealth seeking and treasure hunting. The servant of the Lord is a steward of God’s house and His goods. He or she is not a pilferer.
          1. This is an important topic, and one we’ll return to later in 1 Timothy 6, where we’ll see that one of the values of the Christian is contentment.
            1. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 ~ But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
              10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 
              1. Deacons are not lovers of money!
      5. Possessors of faith and a pure conscience
        1. Guzik — Those who can adhere to proper doctrine, out of sincere conviction. 
          1. Timothy was ordained to the task of establishing sound doctrine within the church at Ephesus, and those who would be servants within the church at Ephesus must therefore be those who can hold or adhere to such sound and proper doctrine with steady and strong conviction.
    5. How do we know that a deacon is qualified?
  3. 1 Timothy 3:10 ~ But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 

    1. Point 3 — Servants are appointed to serve after having been tested.

      1. Yes, anyone can serve the Lord, after having been proven, examined and tested.
        1. Why is such testing important?
          1. Jesus said…
            1. Matthew 7:15 ~ “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 
          2. Paul said…
            1. Acts 20:29 ~ “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 
        2. What exactly does such proving look like? What is or are the tests of a servant?
          1. Obviously we would hold that a servant of the Lord be a follower of the Lord.
          2. And the follower will be known by their fruit…
            1. Matthew 7:16-20 ~ “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
              17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
              18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
              19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
              20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them
          3. What fruit are we looking for?
            1. Galatians 5:22-23 ~ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
              23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 
        3. How do I determine a good deacon?
          1. There are six things that I look for in servants (some of these are synonymous)… Maturity, availability, dependability, reliability, responsibility, accountability.
            1. Notice that ability is nowhere on my list. Certainly we want people with abilities, but I’m convinced that every individual has been given abilities, talents and gifts from the Lord. What I really am desiring is some measure of these six things.
    2. Paul continues…
  4. 1 Timothy 3:11 ~ Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 
    1. Now this verse has been a challenge for translators and commentators, and I believe that the translation here (while not a bad translation) is not the best translation. Another English translation says…
      1. NIV ~ In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 
        1. I think that the NIV holds the better translation of verse 11.
          1. Notice that the beginning of the Section says, “Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double tongued.” Here we have an almost identical statement, “Likewise the women (deacons) must be reverent, not slanderers.”
          2. The word translated “wives” in the NKJV, ESV, NLT, etc. versions can also be translated “women”. Why is this important?
            1. This is important because I believe that Paul is addressing not the wives of deacons, but women who are also deacons.
              1. First, if Paul was addressing the wives of the deacons, why would he not have addressed the wives of the Elders perviously?
              2. Second, If it is ok for a woman to be a true follower (and servant) of Christ with an unbelieving husband, then it would follow that a husband can be a true follower (and servant) of Christ without a believing wife.
              3. Third, the language in verses 8 and 11 is similar, and seem to be directed at male deacons (verse 8) and then female deacons (verse 11). Therefore…

            2. Point 4 — Men and women serve as equals in the church of God. 

              1. So while the office of an overseeing elder is to be held only by men, the other roles of service within the church are totally open to deacons or deaconesses.
                1. That’s why we find this in Romans 16:1…
                  1. Romans 16:1 ~ I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 
                  2. Romans 16:1 NLT ~ I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. 
    2. With this as the likely interpretation, ladies who serve within the church must be…
      1. Reverent
        1. Just like their male counterparts.
        2. They must be honorable in their conduct.
          1. What does honorable conduct look like? One aspect would be that they are…
      2. Not slanderers
        1. The word slanderer is the Greek διŒ¨βολος(diabolos). It’s translated elsewhere as “Satan” and “false accuser.”
        2. The NASB translates it “not malicious gossips.”
          1. This is a stumbling block and snare for women. An area that the enemy takes advantage of. An attack that women servants must guard against.
          2. Believer’s Bible Commentary — They must not be slanderers, spending their time gossiping about others, passing on false and malicious reports designed to injure the reputation of others. 
      3. Temperate
        1. This is a woman not given to extremes. Ones that are not irritable. They don’t have wide swings of mood. They’re reliable and trustworthy.
      4. Faithful in all things
        1. A good deaconess is “dependable, loyal and worthy of confidence. They should be able to keep person confidences and family secrets” (Believer’s Bible Commentary).
  5. 1 Timothy 3:12 ~ Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 
    1. Returning to male deacons Paul calls them to the same home life as Elders.
      1. Male deacons are to be one women men, if they’re married.
      2. Male deacons are to rule and govern their homes with the same godly effort they would in the church.
        1. If you would serve Christ vigorously in the church, make sure you serve Christ with the same zeal in the home.
        2. Why?
  6. 1 Timothy 3:13 ~ For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. 
    1. NLT ~ Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus. 
    2. NIV ~ Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. 

    3. Point 5 — Servants who serve well are honored by God and His church. 

      1. Now this might seem incongruous at first, but in several places in the Scriptures God appeals to our desire for reward to compel our service.
        1. “Why should I serve as a deacon?” Because you will receive a reward.
          1. This is a difficult concept for many Christians because we have Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
            1. Matthew 6:1-2 ~ “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
              2 “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward
          2. But we can’t miss that in the very next sentence Jesus says…
            1. Matthew 6:3-4 ~ “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
              4 “that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly
          3. So Jesus both challenges our motives and then seeks to motivate us by appealing to our desire for reward.
            1. Here Paul does the same.
            2. Guzik — There is little doubt that you will see more deacons with a great reward than bishops or pastors. 
  7. 1 Timothy 3:14-15 ~ These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly;
    15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 
    1. Well then, this is how you ought to conduct yourself. The concluding application then is a simple question … are you serving well? Are you serving at all?
      1. If not, why not? God has called, equipped and will enable you to serve Him.