1Timothy 3:1-15 — Elders and Deacons

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1Tim 3:1-15

v 15 (Dt 4:5-8)  Paul was concerned that he might not see Timothy soon, but wanted to be sure that he received these instructions on how each and every person should conduct themselves in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

This is the key verse in this first letter of Paul to Timothy. In the Torah, YHVH God also spoke through Moses to the God’s chosen people of Israel regarding how they were to conduct themselves as His people, in contrast (mostly) to the pagan people all around them. God has given His truth to His people, which sanctifies us unto Him, and which separates us from those who do not know, or who do not follow, the truth. By believing and obeying the Word of God with faith and love, we demonstrate that we now belong to Yeshua/Jesus, and no longer do what seems right in our own eyes.

Let us guard our hearts:  a king in Israel was himself subject to God’s Law.  He could not justly use the Law against others without himself being subject to the same Law, whether as citizen or as king.  An elder in the congregation can not use the teachings of the NT to control the flock of Jesus without subjecting himself to the same teachings.  A husband can not use the Word of God as a sword against his wife without allowing that same Word of God be a sword of the Holy Spirit in his own life as well.  An old person can not use the truth of God against the bad behavior of young people without also applying that same truth to himself as it speaks also to older people.

We learn from the Old and the New Testaments that the office of elder/overseer in the church is comparable to the function of the priests in Israel under the Law of Moses, and that of deacons to the Levites, who assisted the priests in serving God in His Temple, and serving the people.  Both offices of elders and deacons are holy unto the Lord.

When we look at the qualifications and responsibilities for elders and for deacons in the New Testament, we see that the character and personality traits of each are very similar, yet there are some differences. (Ex 18:21-22; Acts 6:1-41Tim 3:1-13Tit 1:5-9Lev 8 – 1010:1-3Num 1:47-538:1924-2616:8-10Dt 33:9-10Lk 14:25-331Chr 23:27-32)

All who are in God’s family through new birth by the Holy Spirit are priests – both men and women; not a Levitical priesthood, but a priesthood in Messiah after the order of Melchizedek.  Yet, in God’s order in His house, we do believe that the Word of God places men in positions of authority, such as elder and pastor.  This corresponds to God’s order in the home, where the man is spiritually the head.

Even as the whole tribe of Levi was set apart unto YHVH as priests and representative of the whole family of Jacob/Israel, so their inheritance was not land or territory, but YHVH Himself.  So in Christ, we who believe in Him through the gospel are all called out as priests, holy to God, and represent all the people groups and nations from which we come.  Yeshua is our inheritance and all that is His.  Judgment is not therefore tribal or political, but impartial acording to the spirit and commandments of God.

It is the privilege and the responsibility of the elders, yes, but also of all believers, since all in Messiah are a kingdom of priests – to serve God in holy fear, responsibly, in giving of oneself, in self-control.  The Father is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and truth.  It is not for us to serve Him as it seems okay to us, but as He has commanded and instructed us in ways that are acceptable to Him.

Whether we teach from the pulpit or in a classroom of children or among teens or soldiers or students; whether we translate, handle finances, sing, or play musical instruments, do sound or powerpoint, help in the kitchen or in cleaning the property – all this work of ministry is holy service to God and is to be treated as such, in our thoughts and intentions of our hearts, in our words, and by our deeds.  Love God, love the brethren, love the church.

Elders and deacons are to love God the Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Elders and deacons are to love the people whom they serve on behalf of Yeshua and under His supreme authority, for He is Head of the Church, His Body, His Bride.  This requires being filled with the Holy Spirit to help us do what we might not want to do, or be able to do in ourselves.  He wants us to serve with Him in our service for Him.

It is the responsibility of elders to bring believers to maturity for serving God in what calling and gifting He has given.  We must become more and more like Him:  this is godliness; this is sanctification – the process of being conformed to the image and likeness of the Son of God.  These are qualities for every believer, and they are the standard set by the Lord for those who hold official positions of service and of spiritual authority.  We want to help you to know the Lord personally for your own life, and how that fits into His plan and purpose for the ages, as well as in the context of the local congregation.  We want you to learn to ask good questions, seeking understanding and wisdom more than just for argument and being ‘right’.

We are not here, for example, to tell you whether you should or should not vaccinate against Covid-19.  We are here to help you make an informed decision based on what is known and not known, and based upon your faith and God’s will – and your freedom to choose unto the Lord – taking responsibility for your choice.  Last week we learned concerning Paul’s instructions to local congregations/churches regarding women – and her calling in life from God, both within and without the “church service”.  You may not agree with all that was taught; there are others who will teach and practice otherwise; but the Word of God abides, and is written, inspired by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul, for us living at the end of the age, not just for when it was written.  Do we want to keep the Word of God, or be ashamed of it, in a wicked and adulterous generation?  We do our best, in the fear of God, to be faithful to His word and to the Spirit, trusting in His grace and mercy to help us out.  A question for all of us:  are we seeking to satisfy ourselves – find fulfillment – in our own will and ambition, or do we want to find our fulfillment in believing and obeying the Lord, and the doctrines of the apostles?

v 1  It is a good thing to desire to be an overseer, an elder, in a local church congregation.  But is does not guarantee that you will become one.  This desire is both internal and external:  it is something that we know is a good honorable thing to aspire to be; and it is something that we demonstrate by our conduct so that we will be “noticed” in a positive way.  We must humble ourselves, and with patience, if it is God’s will, He will lift us up.  If we are faithful in the little things, He will give us more and bigger things.  He who wants to lead, must show that he can humbly and faithfully serve.

It is not about having authority – even though authority comes with certain positions of service — but of serving the saints who are part of the community and household of God.  It is caring for, loving, the whole congregation, and not just a segment of it – whether of age, or of giftings, or of language, or color.  Ideally, there are enough mature men and women within a congregation to take care of the different parts of it, but it is a joint work, a cooperative work, to build up the believers and serve the particular household of faith – as well as beyond it to the larger Body of Messiah and God’s purposes wherever we may live or temporarily reside.  It is the authority of a husband and a father (v 4-5), who loves his family, that is spoken of in the qualifications given by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul to the young man Timothy.

If someone wants to be an overseer/elder/bishop in order to have more authority, he is more likely to spiritually abuse the believers with too much control, rather than love them with respect for their own growth in their relationship with Jesus – in fact, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit also.

These qualifications put a high standard before us all:  God wants mature sons and daughters who care about His work and His purposes and the santification of His name.  None of the three current elders, and of the two current deacons pass the test of this high standard.  It is the standard for priests and kings in the Kingdom of God.  Even if I should never be either a deacon or an elder or a pastor, I should want to be qualified morally, socially, psychologically, as these attributes describe.  We can not lower or ignore the requirements which God has established for “officially” serving Him in the churches.

v 6  Paul writes that an elder/overseer should not be a novice:  not a new believer, nor an inexperienced person in life.  To be a father, to have gained life experience and maturing in the things of God, gaining wisdom… these are elements important to being an overseer in the church of God (and every believer is a house of God in him/herself, indwelt by the Holy Spirit).  A grown person may have much experience and success “in the world” before being born-again, but this does not by itself qualify him to receive official ministry of influence over others in God’s Kingdom.  Pride is a dangerous thing, and this is what condemns the devil.  We want to safe-guard against that in the churches, and protect one another.

v 7  It is important for those who serve the Lord to have a good reputation outside the church.  A good name gives a favorable impression of the congregation we belong to, and it commends the truth of Yeshua/Jesus to those who think well of us.  If we have a poor reputation outside, the devil will use this against us, and bring reproach to the name of the Lord, and to our congregation.

v 8  Likewise, deacons … .          Likewise, meaning that just as the qualifications for elders, so similarly for deacons (servant ministers).  Both positions are unto the Lord, and those in them represent Him in our service.

v 9  Holding the “mystery of the faith” with a clean conscience.  What is the mystery of the faith?:  That mystery is surely the knowledge of Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God – and the revelation of the triune God – the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit:  YHVH our God is one. Yeshua/Jesus is YHVH, the Name above all names!  This mystery of the faith also includes the complete equality of Jews and Gentiles for all believers in Messiah/Christ.

v 15  To serve God in His household, we must have a clear conscience about this, with no doubts, in order to be faithful to Him who has called us, and revealed His truth and this mystery to us.  The church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth.

Yeshua’s Inheritance Congregation is looking for those who would be suitable candidates to be deacons and elders. It is a good work in the sight of God. Who will pray and say to the Lord, “Here am I; use me.”? Who will demonstrate their suitability by taking an active interest in the work of God in the context of this local congregation/church, conducting himself in a manner that demonstrates your seriousness of purpose to serve in God’s house?

This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, April 17, 2021, and reposted with permission.