Read 1 Timothy 3:1-16
1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
11In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
12A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
14Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory. (NIV)
In this part of 1 Timothy, Paul lays out the type of person who should lead the congregations. In the New Testament, the writers used two different words that most theologians believed were speaking to the same role in the church. One is used here. It is translated “overseer” or “bishop.” It is the Greek word, “episkopon.” In the Methodist Church, we get the word “episcopal” which often refers to the office of the bishop. The other word is “presbuteros” which is translated, “elder.” The term presbytery comes from this which means a body of elders or ministers. It is also the term in some denominations for the home the pastor lives in.
But most theologians have come to believe that episkopon and presbuteros were essentially the same kind of leader in the church. Over time, one type might have had additional duties overseeing a group of churches, but that would come later than Paul’s writings.
It is interesting that this terminology of elders is a carryover from the Jewish tradition. The Jews had deacons. Each synagogue had its groups of elders who were the leaders of each community. They position is traced back to Moses when he appointed the 70 to help him with administration of the people in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. In many churches and nondenominal churches, they refer to the people who make decisions in the church as the elders. These are elected by the church to oversee the church’s work.
In verse 8, Paul lifts us a second kind of position in the church, a “diakónous” which we translate, “deacon.” The deacon was a person who dealt with the practical service of the church. This was seen in the apostles appointing the seven to help with the distribution of the food to the widows. It was also a carryover of the structure of the Jewish faith. The Jews had deacons whose role was to oversee the charity word of the synagogue. The Jews did not believe individuals should help individual. If a person needed help, it should come through the synagogue. Deacons oversaw this practical work.
And so, Paul is laying out to Timothy, instructions as he says in verse 14, for what kind of individual should serve in the various capacities of the new congregations being formed. It is interesting that Paul does not use the termed “called to be” but uses in verse 1 the term “oregomai” which is typically translated, “desires” which the NIV translated here, “sets one’s heart on,”
I think that in serving the church, we should desire to find our place in the church. We should not wait to be asked, but to seek. The church suffers today because people are waiting to be asked instead of desiring to serve. It is a fine line of distinction between the two as one can desire to serve, but will not act on the desire until one is asked. But we must be proactive in serving the church. The items given by Paul are to help the church decide when someone says they want to serve if they are ready.
Paul closes this section (verse 16) with what many believe was part of an early hymn used in the church and was thus familiar to people. Hymns can be a way of praising God when we don’t quite have the words. Paul wanted to end this section with a reminder of why we do what we do and this hymn came to mind.
So where is your desire to serve the church? Do you know your Spiritual Gifts God has given you to serve? Do you desire to serve?
Blessings and Peace