Monday, April 05, 2004

1 Timothy -- Passing the Baton (9)

Paul moves from the qualifications of elders to that of deacons:

Deacons likewise must be 

  • men of dignity, 
  • not double-tongued, 
  • or addicted to much wine 
  • or fond of sordid gain, 
  • but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 

These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 

Women must likewise be 

  • dignified, 
  • not malicious gossips, but temperate, 
  • faithful in all things. 

Deacons must be 

  • husbands of only one wife, and 
  • good managers of their children and their own households. 

For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:8-13)

Deacons are those who work to meet the physical needs of  the body. They were first introduced in Acts 6 when the apostles saw a need for some to oversee the distribution of the food to the widows. 

Given the distinction between elders and deacons, it should not surprise us that:

  1. There is more latitude in character. For example, the elder is not to be addicted to wine, but the deacon is not to be addicted to much wine. They do not have to be above approach. They do not have to have a good reputation outside the church community.
  2. There is no requirement that a deacon be able to teach. 
  3. That women can be deacons.
  4. That new believers can be deacons.

The structure of Paul's deacon section makes the conclusion that women may be deacons somewhat in question, but only a little. He mentions women in the middle of the section. If he had placed it at the end or the beginning, one could make a firmer argument for exclusion. Placing it in the middle implies inclusiveness. Also, the only thing that perhaps would give pause to women deacons is that Paul talks about women and then says "Deacons must be husbands of one wife. etc." This is easily reconciled. In the first case, if "one wife" refers primarily to polygamy, few women would aspire to be the wife of multiple husbands. In the second case, Paul assumes that it is the husband who is the manager of the home and not the wife. This is consistent with his other teachings; especially 1 Corinthians 11. 

The model that I have for the church and its people are that:

  1. All believers will be given a "manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:7) Each and every believer has a gift and a purpose to perform for the body and its commission to make disciples of all nations. Some of these gifts may take time to develop and mature, but we must all pursue them.
  2. There are some service tasks in body that require coordination or they are of a regular basis. These have need for people in recognized positions of authority in order to get the work done. This is a deacon role and may be filled by men and women. We must exercise some thought and care concerning Paul's admonition about giving a woman authority over a man. There is probably some wiggle room, depending on whether Paul meant elder authority specifically or whether he meant general authority.
  3. The spiritual and vision leadership in the church is the position granted to elders. These should be men of high character and who are able to teach.

For those that would like to make much of the baby boomer's grand experiment in gender issues, I urge an evaluation of the outcomes.

  • Are our families in better shape?
  • When we talk of God the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son, do the roles modeled in the Church give clear definition of these theological terms. What struck me about the Biblical Gynecology papers is that those in the church who hold an egalitarian view of men and women remove the authority the Father has over the Son.
  • Do the roles modeled in the church provide proper illustrations of other theological principles. God as a father and a husband. Israel and the Church as wives. Jesus has the head of the church as the husband is the head of the wife. We can not keep the comfort of these illustrations if we abandon the representative examples in our homes.

There may not be much that we can do to change society at the moment, but if the church will teach and promote Biblical authority roles within it, then the church will show a health in relationships and joy among its members that will cause many outside to notice and come in. If we do not, then we will experience the same disintegration among us that we have seen in the world. Paul concludes this section of 1 Timothy with a similar sentiment:

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15)

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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