The Qualifications of Deacons
1 Timothy 3:8, 9
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;…

The apostle next proceeds to direct Timothy respecting the character and appointment of another class of office-bearers.


1. Their origin. We find the first trace of the order about two years after the Ascension (Acts 6:1-4). It owed its origin to a necessity that arose from the extension of the Church. Seven deacons were appointed as almoners. They are not so called, but their name is traceable in the two terms which indicate the sphere of their office, "serving tables" and "ministry" (διακονία διακονεῖν τραπέζαις).

2. Their sphere of duty. It is expressly distinguished from "the ministry of the Word" and "prayer" (ver. 4), and was therefore, as the "serving of tables" signifies, an office for the care of the poor and strangers who might be connected with the Church. The deaconship was, therefore, a purely secular office.

3. Historic notices of deacons. The earliest notices of the order are apparently in Romans 12:7, "Or ministry (deaconship), let us wait on our ministering" (deaconship); in 1 Corinthians 12:28," helps" (ἀντιλήψεις); and at a later time in 1 Peter 4:11, "If any man minister" (διακονεῖ). We read in Philippians 1:1 of "the bishops and deacons," and in Romans 16:1 of Phoebe as "a deaconess" of the Church at Cenchrea.


1. "Grave." Of a serious demeanor, befitting the position of responsibility held by them.

2. "Not double-tongued." Not saying one thing to one person and another to another, under the pressure, perhaps, of applications for assistance; or, not promising aid which is afterwards withheld. Misunderstandings would necessarily arise from any kind of prevarication.

3. "Not addicted to much wine." The deacons must not be given to pleasures of the table, which render people unfit for disagreeable duty, and tempt to the consumption of the wealth committed to their keeping.

4. "Not lovers of base gain." There might otherwise arise a Judas among the deacons to embezzle the Church funds.

5. "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."

(1) The mystery is what faith is conversant with - a thing once secret, but now revealed by Christ's gospel; called variously "the mystery of God," "the mystery of Christ," "the mystery of his will," "the mystery of godliness," and "the mystery of the gospel," which is the great subject of gospel-preaching. It was the mystery of redemption through the blood of Christ.

(2) The mystery of faith was not to be speculatively, but practically, held and maintained. "In a pure conscience." The deacons were to be sincerely attached to the truth, and to realize its practical power in their life and experience.

(3) They are to "hold the mystery," not to preach it. There is no intimation that the deacons, as such, were preachers, though two of them (Stephen and Philip) are afterwards found acting as evangelists.

III. THE METHOD OF THEIR APPOINTMENT. "And these also let them first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they are without blame."

1. The election of the seven deacons was left in the hands of the Christian people themselves. (Acts 6:3.)

2. There is no formal method prescribed for testing their qualifications. Their fitness could be easily judged of without any regular investigation. The moral element, however, was to be supreme in such appointments; for they were not chosen unless they were "without blame."

3. Their formal appointment to service. Let them serve in the various branches of their office as deacons. - T.C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

WEB: Servants, in the same way, must be reverent, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for money;

The Mystery of the Faith
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