Character counts! In our reading today Paul outlines the character required of a deacon serving in the body. Many of the characteristics overlap or are the same for the overseer. In short, Godly minded and faith lived out men of God.
My bible helps points out that the one main difference in deacons and overseers is the ability to teach. Deacons are apparently not called on to be teachers. They are church servants, or servants of the body. Overseers are also servants of the body but also the one who instructs the people in doctrine and faith.
I like Paul’s instructions to let them “be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless” (verse 10). As I stated earlier, character counts. A person wishing to serve the church as a deacon should be one whose character speaks loud and clear for a life lived for Him.
The character of their family is also of concern to the church and their appointment. Many bodies have deacons who serve as a couple. Therefore the character of the wife is equally as important.
The faith and character of the head of the household has to overflow into his family. “Dysfunctional” and disrespectful children don’t appear out of thin air. They are, at least partially, the product of the home environment. If the father and mother follow Jesus’ examples and teachings, it will be seen in the children’s attitudes and behavior. No, this is not a guarantee of children becoming believers, but it will leave a lasting impression on their lives. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). You should be able to identify the “proper training” aspect in deacon’s children. Not beating them into submission but tender hearts seeking the Father’s will.
Paul promises rewards for those serving as deacons. The first “reward” is good standing for themselves. This is a personal and earthly reward that reflects back on the church and the deacon’s entire family.
The greater “reward” is the “great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (verse 13). This reward has eternal value. This represents a deepening relationship with Jesus. That in itself is worth working towards. And it is a work in progress. We are saved by grace, not by works. BUT our works and walk with Him are an outgrowth of His gift of salvation.
I need to make a confession here. The requirement for overseers to be “above reproach” and for deacons to be “dignified” is a hard qualification to me. No one is without sin, even those in authority. Maybe Paul’s intent if for them to step down if/when their lives no longer meet these standards. Is Paul proposing a limited term of service by this inclusion? Or is he reminding us of our need to learn to forgive and ask for forgiveness; reconciliation for the fallen? I know from personal experience that a “fallen leader” never really returns to the pre-fall position or standing. People may forgive but they seldom truly forget. I have exhibited this attitude too, much to my own shame.
Father God, thank You for putting people in place to minister to the needs of Your body. Thank You for establishing “minimum qualifications” for those positions. I have never served in either of the positions discussed by Paul but I have been a servant within my local body. Thank You for those opportunities! I cherished those times.
Lord Jesus, help me truly forgive AND forget the sins of others that they have repented of. I know Satan remembers them well enough for all of us combined. He certainly remembers all of mine! Help me forgive as You do, holding nothing back.
Even though I am not a deacon, help my life reflect those same characteristics Paul called for. Let my life be pleasing unto You. I want to be an example of living out my faith and not just one of Your power to forgive. Yes, You have forgiven me. But You have also changed and grown me over our walk together. I bear the proof of my failings in the designs You created from those scars. I treasure those designs but pray not to have any more scars that need camouflaging. Help me shine Your love through my everyday life, more than just when I’m talking about You; in every aspect of my walk.