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1 Timothy 3:1-13 Notes


A. Qualifications for an Overseer.  

1. (1 Tim. 3:1) Introduction the good work of spiritual leadership.  

1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer [elder, bishop], it is a fine work he desires to do.  

aIt is a trustworthy statement: Paul has just written that women are not to hold positions of spiritual or doctrinal authority over congregations, but he did not want to leave the impression that just anyman is qualified. No man is qualified to be a spiritual leader in the church just because of his gender.

b. if any man aspires to the office of overseer: The office Paul described is that of bishop. Our religious culture has given us a particular idea of what a bishopis; but the word bishop in New Testament Greek [episkopos] literally means "over" (epi) "watcher" (skopos) - an overseer.

    ▪ These were men with leadership and authority in the church. "The state has its monarch, the Church has its overseer; one should govern according to the laws of the land, the other according to the word of God" (Clarke).

    ▪ In Acts 20:17, we learn there were several bishops - that is, overseers - in one church in one city. Undoubtedly, these were men who had oversight over the many house-churches that met throughout the city.

    ▪ Based on what bishop means, a bishop is someone with oversight in the church, a leader. Such a person may also sometimes be called an elder (presbuteros) or a pastor (poimen, which means "shepherd"), as in Acts 20:17 and 20:28.

   ▪ "On the question as to the terms presbyter and episcopus, it is sufficient here to state my own conclusion, that they represent slightly different aspects of the same office, pastoral and official; aspects which came naturally into prominence in the Jewish and Greek societies respectively which gave birth to the names." (White)

    ▪ Of this passage, White adds: "Having given elementary directions concerning the scope of public prayer, and the ministers thereof, St. Paul now takes up the matter of Church organization." Yet this organization of the church is greatly limited. There is no advice or guidance on structure or exactly how the offices of bishop or deacon or anything else relate to each other. In the New Testament design, there seems to be some flexibility on structure and an emphasis rather on the character of leaders.

c. it is a fine work he desires to do:  The idea isn't, "Good for you, you want to have a place of spiritual leadership," even though that can be a godly desire. The idea is more like this: "This is a good, noble, honorable work. Timothy, you need to look for good, noble, honorable men."

    ▪ "For it is no light matter to represent God's Son in such a great task as erecting and extending God's kingdom, in caring for the salvation of souls whom the Lord Himself has deigned to purchase with His own blood, and ruling the Church which is God's inheritance." (Calvin)

dHe desires to do good: Spiritual leadership in the church isn't all about titles and honor and glory; it's about work. Jesus said: If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all(Mark 9:35).

    ▪ "A good work, But a hard work. The ministry is not an idle man's occupation, but a sore labour." (Trapp)

    ▪  "What is the use of a lazy minister? He is no good either to the world, to the Church, or to himself. He is a dishonor to the noblest profession that can be bestowed upon the sons of men." (Spurgeon)

2. (1 Tim. 3:2a) Qualifications for Overseers.  

2a An overseer, then, must be

athen, must be: God has specific qualifications for leaders in the church. Leaders are not to be chosen at random, nor just because they volunteer, nor because they aspire to the position, nor even because they are "natural leaders." Instead they should be chosen primarily on how they match the qualifications listed here. The qualifications for leadership have nothing to do with giftedness. God doesn't say, "Go out and get the most gifted men." God may easily and instantly create gifts in a man, because gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11).  For example, going to seminary doesn't make one qualified for spiritual leadership. Being a good talker doesn't make one qualified for spiritual leadership. Natural or spiritual gifts in themselves do not qualify one for spiritual leadership. What one gives in money or volunteer time does not qualify them for spiritual leadership. What qualifies a man for spiritual leadership is godly character - and godly character established according to these clear criteria.

However, this is not a rigid list which demands perfection in all areas; they are both goals to reach for and general criteria for selection. When looking for church leaders, one should look at this list and ask:

  • Does the man in question desire all these things with his whole heart?
  • Does that desire show itself in his life?
  • Are there others available who better fulfill the requirements of this list?

As well, these qualifications are valuable for every person, and not only those who aspire to leadership. They are clear indicators of godly character and spiritual maturity and they can give a true measure of a man.

3. (1 Tim. 3:2b-7) A list of qualifications for leaders in the church.  

2b above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

a. Above reproach: This word literally means, "Nothing to take hold upon." There must be nothing in his life that others can take hold of and attack the church.

    ▪ "The word is a metaphor, taken from the case of an expert and skilful pugilist, who so defends every part of his body that it is impossible for his antagonist to give one hit." (Clarke)

    ▪ This is a broad term for a man who lives a righteous life that can be seen as righteous. No one can stand up and rightfully accuse the man of grievous sin.

    ▪ In 1 Tim. 3:10, in speaking about deacons, Paul used the phrase being found blameless. This implies being blameless is demonstrated by a track record of behavior.

b. Husband of one wife: The idea here is of "A one-woman man." It is not that a leader mustbe married (if so, then both Jesus and Paul could not be spiritual leaders in our churches). Nor is the idea that leader could never remarry if his wife had passed away or was Biblically divorced. The idea is that is love and affection and heart is given to one woman, and that being his lawful and wedded wife.

    ▪ This means that the Biblical leader is not a playboy, an adulterer, a flirt, and does not show romantic or sexual interest in other women, including the depictions or images of women in pornography.

c. Temperate: The idea is of someone who is not given to extremes. They are reliable and trustworthy, and you don't have to worry about wide swings of vision, mood, or action.

d. Soberminded: This describes the person who is able to think clearly and with clarity. They are not constantly joking but know how to deal with serious subjects in a serious way.

    ▪ "This does not man he has no sense of humor, or that he is always solemn and somber. Rather it suggests that he knows the value of things and does not cheapen the ministry or the Gospel message by foolish behavior." (Wiersbe)

eOf good behavior: The idea is "orderly." It is the same word translated modestin 1 Tim. 2:9. "Orderly, perhaps dignifiedin the best sense of the term" (White).

fHospitable: They are willing and able to open up their home to both friends and strangers.

gAble to teach: This means they are skilled enough in the Bible to teach, either in a public or one-on-one setting.

h. Not given to wine: The idea is of not being addicted to wine or intoxicating drink. This verse, in itself, does not prohibitgodly leadership from drinking alcoholic beverages, but it clearly discourages it.

i. Not violent [pugnacious]: This is a man who is not given to violence either publicly nor privately; a man who can let God fight his cause.

j. Free from the love of money: The King James Versions puts it far more memorably: not greedy of filthy lucre.

    ▪ "I repeat that the man who will not bear poverty patiently and willingly will inevitably become the victim of mean and sordid covetousness." (Calvin)

k. Gentle: The kind of man who takes Jesus as his example, not the latest action hero.

l. Not quarrelsome: The kind of person who is not always fighting over something or other.

m. Not covetous: This is a more encompassing thought than merely greedy for money. The covetousman is never satisfied with anything, always demanding something more or different. A man who is constantly dissatisfied is not fit for leadership among God's people.

n. Who rules his own house well: The godly leader demonstrates his leadership ability first in his own home; Paul recognized that it is in the home where our Christianity is first demonstrated.

    ▪ It is true that a child may rebel from even a good home; but is the rebellion because of the parents or in spite of their job as parents? This is the question that must be asked.

oNot a novice: New converts should not be given leadership too quickly. The leader should be well past the novicestage in their spiritual development.

    ▪ Novice literally means "newly planted." When someone first comes to Jesus, it isn't good to put them into a place of leadership until they have been allowed to grow long enough to put down some deep roots.

    ▪ "Novices are not only bold and impetuous, but are puffed up with foolish self-confidence, as though they could fly beyond the clouds" (Calvin). Promoting a novice too quickly gives occasion to the great sin - pride, in imitation of the Devil himself.

p. A good testimony: These characteristics must be evident to all, even unbelievers to see. The potential leader must be a good Christian outsidethe walls of the church.

B. Qualifications for deacons.  

1. (1 Tim 3:8a) Deacons, the practical servants of the church.  

8a Deacons likewise must be...


a. Deacons likewise: An example of the appointment of deacons is in Acts 6:1-6, where the apostles saw the need for those to distribute the daily assistance to the widows among the church yet did not have the time to distribute the aid themselves. They chose men to act essentially as deacons in that church.

b. Must be: Their qualifications are much the same as those for "overseers"; practical service (especially when recognized by an office) is leadership also.

    ▪ It is a mistake to see one office as more prestigious than the other, though overseers have more responsibility before God.  Each is more a matter of calling than status.

2. (1 Tim. 3:8b-12) Qualifications for deacons.  

8b men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.

a. Men of dignity: Showing proper respect towards both God and man.

b. Not double-tongued: A man who speaks the truth the first time, with no intent to deceive.

c. Holding to the mystery of the faith: Those who can adhere to proper doctrine, out of sincere conviction.

d. First be tested: A man demonstrateshis fitness for office in the church by his conduct. Deacons and overseers are more recognized than appointed.

e. Women..likewise: It is difficult to know if Paul here referred here to female deacons (such as Phoebe, in Romans 16:1), or the wives of male deacons. The original wording will permit either possibility.

    ▪ If he is speaking mainly of a male deacon's wife, it is appropriate because a man's leadership in the home can be evaluated, in part, by his wife's conduct. Is she dignified, not [one of the] gossipers, temperate, and faithful in all things?

    ▪ Not malicious gossips: "Literally, not devils. This may be properly enough translated slanderers, backbiters, tale-bearers, for all these are of their father, the devil, and his lusts they will do" (Clarke).

 3. (1 Tim. 3:13) A promise for deacons.  

13 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.

a. For those who have served well as deacons: God remembers their faithful service, even in tasks which some would consider menial. There is little doubt that you will see more deaconswith a great reward than bishops or pastors.

b. The faith which is in Christ Jesus: All the work of servant-leaders in God's family is pointed towards building among God's people the faith which is in Christ Jesus.



3:1 "It is a trustworthy statement" This idiom can act as both a concluding statement and an opening statement (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8). This is the second of five "trustworthy" statements in the Pastoral Letters. They function syntactically like Jesus' use of an introductory "amen" or "amen, amen" (translated "truly, truly" or "verily, verily"), drawing special attention to the statement.

▣ "if any man" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "aspires. . .desires" These are two strong Greek terms: (1) "reaches for" (cf. 6:10; Heb. 11:16) and (2) "sets his heart on" (cf. Matt. 13:17; Luke 15:16). This tells me that our modern emphasis on the necessity of an OT type call from God to the ministry may be too limiting. A desire to be in church leadership is sufficient. The desires of believers' hearts are from the Lord (cf. Ps. 37:4).


NASB"the office of overseer":  This is the term episkopos, and it is usually translated in English "bishop" or "overseer." It seems to be synonymous with the other two NT terms for the office of leadership in a local church. The terms "pastor," "overseer," and "elder" all refer to the same office (cf. 5:17; Acts 20:17,28; Titus 1:5,7; I Pet. 5:1-2). The NT church had only two offices: pastor and deacon (cf. Phil. 1:1). It seems that "elder" had a Jewish background, while "overseer" had Greek city-state background.


3:2 "above reproach" This is the key qualification of the entire context for leadership in a local church. The phrase implies no handle for criticism, both in the believing community (vv. 2-6) and in the non-believing community (v. 7). This same theme of no reproach is repeated in verses 7,10; 5:7; and 6:14. There are no perfect leaders, but there are godly, respectable, acceptable believers. See note at Titus 1:6.


NASB the husband of one wife":  This phrase has caused much discussion. It was obviously an issue for the church at Ephesus in the first century (cf. 3:1,12; 5:7; and in Crete, Titus 1:6). Here are the basic interpretive theories.

  1. it refers to polygamy
  2. it refers to a remarriage after divorce
  3. it refers to the second marriage after the first wife's death
  4. it refers to a man faithful and attentive to his wife.

This obviously refers to family relationships, and any problem in the area of family relationships disqualifies one from leadership in a local church. Number 1 was not a problem in the Roman Empire, but was a potential problem in Judaism (though rare in the first century); #2 was a great problem in the Roman Empire, and also a problem in Judaism (Hillel vs. Shammai); #3 was a major concern of the Early church, especially Tertullian, and is still an issue in Baptist circles in Europe. However, 1 Tim. 5:14 is a parallel passage where younger widows can remarry with no reproach (cf. Rom. 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7).

There is one more option, that the requirement refers to marriage versus singleness. The false teachers had forbidden marriage (cf. 4:3). This may be a direct refutation of their tendency toward celibacy and asceticism. This is not to assert that an unmarried person cannot be a church leader, but that singleness cannot be a requirement. I think this is the best option and also that it answers the other interpretive problems relating to (1) "not addicted to much wine" and (2) the issue of women in 2:8-15. These must be interpreted in light of the false teachers.

If the issue is a strong, godly family, then divorce is not the only critical issue. Even in the OT divorce was sometimes the appropriate option: (1) YHWH divorces unfaithful Israel and (2) priests were commanded to divorce unfaithful wives (see "Old Testament Perspective on Divorce and Remarriage" in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Vol. 40 #4, Dec. 1997). All humans experience disruption in their family life in some areas. My major concern with taking this qualification strictly literally is the lack of consistency in taking all the others in this context literally as well. If divorce disqualifies, then so do (a) not addicted to wine (cf. "not. . .addicted to much wine" of v. 8, which is not necessarily a commandment to total abstinence) and (b) "keep his children under control" of v. 4, which would eliminate many modern pastors and deacons.

Truthfully, I do not know many Christian leaders who could consistently fulfill all of these requirements throughout their lives. So before we become too critical of the flaws of leadership remember that these qualifications are God's will for all His children. I am not advocating lowering the standards, but not using them in a legalistic, judgmental sense. The church needs godly, socially acceptable leadership. However all we have to choose from is saved sinners! Modern churches must seek out leaders who have proven themselves faithful over time, not perfect leaders.

One more point, if this list is taken too literally, then Jesus (because He was single) and Paul (because he was possibly divorced) could not have been church leaders. Makes one think, doesn't it?

▣ "temperate" This is literally "be sober." Because alcohol abuse is mentioned specifically in v. 3, this probably refers to the metaphorical use of this term meaning "be sensible" (cf. v. 11; Titus 2:2).


NASB"prudent":  This term sōphrōn meant "balanced" in the Greek philosophers. It was a very famous Greek term that denoted avoidance of the extremes (i.e., thereby advocation "the golden mean"). It was used of someone of sound mind (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:2,5). Related terms are also found in 1 Tim. 2:9,15; 2 Tim. 1:7; Titus 2:4,6,9,12,15.  The basic root (BAGD, p. 802) found in several forms in the Pastorals.

  1. verb, sōphroneō - "sensible," Titus 2:6
  2. verb, sōphronizō - "encourage" (i.e., bring to one's senses), Titus 2:4
  3. noun, sōphronismos - "disciple" (i.e., self-controlled), 2 Tim. 1:7
  4. noun, sōphrosunē - "discreetly," 1 Tim. 2:9,15
  5. adverb, sōphronōs - "sensibly" (i.e., moderately), Titus 2:12
  6. adjective, sōphrōn - "sensible," "prudent," "thoughtful," 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:2,5

NASB "respectable":  This is a form of the Greek term kosmikos. It is used in Titus in two different senses: (1) negatively of avoiding worldly lusts (2:12) and (2) positively of proper order (2:10). In I Timothy the context implies proper order or decorum. That which is proper, respected, and expected by the local society. Therefore, it is an aspect of v. 7a, "must have a good reputation with those outside the church."

▣ "hospitable" The inns of Paul's days were notorious houses of prostitution. Therefore, Christians, and especially Christian leadership, had to have their homes open for itinerant missionaries and for the needy of the community (cf. 1 Tim. 5:10; Titus 1:8; Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2; I Pet. 4:9; II John 5; and III John).

▣ "able to teach" Leaders are to be able teachers (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24). It is interesting that "teaching" is listed as a separate gift in I Cor. 12:28, but linked to the gift of pastor in Eph. 4:11. Apparently there were teachers, but also all pastors had to be able to function in this area, too. In a sense all of the gifted persons in Ephesians 4 are proclaimers of the gospel, but in different senses and with different emphases.

Some biblical scholars interpret this qualification as a reference to well-trained or educated people, or possibly those who are "teachable"!  Finally, this ability to teach may be related to the false teachers who thought they were teachers of the Law (cf. 1:7) but were self-deceived.


3:3 NASB"not addicted to wine":  It seems to be an allusion from the Septuagint to Pro. 23:29-35. It must be reemphasized that the Bible rails against drunkenness, but does not teach total abstinence (cf. 3:8; 5:23; Titus 1:7; 2:3). Total abstinence comes from an individual commitment of believers to the Lord Jesus based on the limiting of their personal freedoms because of the culture in which they minister (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13 and I Corinthians 8-10). For a good article see Hard Sayings of the Bible by Kaiser, Davids, Bruce, and Branch, pp. 673-674.



▣ "pugnacious" This is literally "not a striker" (cf. Titus 1:7). This may be related to the abuse of alcohol as it affects all interpersonal relationships (i.e., the family, the house church, the false teachers).

▣ "gentle" This refers to a loving reasonableness, which is prepared to yield to others (cf. Eph. 5:21). It describes a kind, gentle person (cf. Titus 3:2; James 3:17; I Pet. 2:18).

▣ "peaceable" This is the Greek term for a fight, a battle, a conflict, but with the alpha privative, which negates the meaning. Therefore, it means one who does not fight or stir up controversy (cf. Titus 3:2). It is easy to see how the false teachers are the literary foils to chapter 3 (and all the Pastoral Letters).


NASB "free from the love of money":  This is a compound word from the term for "silver" and the term for "brotherly love" with the alpha privative which equals "not a lover of money" (cf. 6:6-10; Titus 1:7; Heb. 13:5; I Pet. 5:2). This was another characteristic of false teachers. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH at 6:8.


3:4-5 "he must be one who manages his own household well":  Leadership can be seen at home. Any kind of difficulty between husband and wife or children or grandparents or in-laws was a basis for disqualifica-tion in this early church setting. "No handle for criticism" is the main concern. How one rules his home will show one's tendencies in leading the church (cf. v. 5, which is a parenthetical question expecting a "no" answer). Oh, my, this would disqualify many modern ministers if taken literally and to the letter. The many positive as well as negative characteristics mentioned in vv. 2-3 are revealed in the home environment. "Check the home first" is good advice for personnel committees!


3:5 "if":  This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "church"


3:6 "and not a new convert":  This is left out in Titus. 1 Timothy was written to Ephesus, which was an established church, while Titus was written to Crete, which was a new work. They were all new converts. The literal root term used here means "young plant." However, the exact time factor is uncertain.

▣ "so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil" Pride is a major problem for angels and humans (cf. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:4). The verb (aorist passive participle) means "become smoke-blinded." The genitive "of the devil" can refer to

  1. the judgment caused by the devil (cf. v. 7)
  2. the same type of judgment the devil received (cf. NKJV, TEV, NJB)

Paul mentions the spiritual enemy of mankind several times in 1 Timothy (but not in 2 Timothy or Titus):

  1. devil (diabolos, 3:6,7)
  2. Satan (Santanas, 1:20; 5:20)
  3. the demonic (daimonion, 4:1)

The biblical worldview that mankind has a spiritual opponent (cf. Eph. 2:2; 6:10-19) is revealed in both the OT and NT.


3:7 "he must have a good reputation with those outside":  Leadership must be viewed as honest and genuine by the unbelieving community which the church is trying to bring to faith in Christ (5:14; 6:1; Titus 2:5,6,10; I Cor. 10:32; Col. 4:5; I Thess. 4:12).

▣ "so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" Paul was concerned about spiritual warfare (cf. 6:9-10; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:14; 6:10-19). Godliness is an armor, but selfishness is an open door for evil to exploit!




3:8 "Deacons":  Deacons are not mentioned at all in 2 Timothy and Titus. The office and function of a deacon is not defined in the NT. Many assume that Acts 6 is a beginning of this particular task-oriented office, but this seems unlikely. Here they are mentioned, along with pastors, as the two functions/offices in the local church (cf. Phil. 1:1). The term "deacon" means "to raise dust," which is metaphorical for menial service. It became the general word of "ministry" in the NT (cf. 1:12; 4:6; II Tim. 1:18; 4:5,11). Deacons are servants, not managers!

▣ "likewise" The qualifications of church leaders are extended to a new group, as they are to "women" in v. 11.

▣ "must be men of dignity" See note at 2:2.

▣ "not double-tongued" This means saying different things to different groups to be accepted under false pretenses. This is a form of lying and falsehood.


NASB "not. . .addicted to much wine":  This is a compound of pros and echō, which means "to have in addition" or "to hold to." In this context maybe "to give oneself up to" (Harold K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 349). This phrase, like v. 3, does not refer to total abstinence, but to abuse. In some cultures, even in our day, Christians have no problem with this statement. In America alcohol abuse led to the temperance movement which overstated the biblical passages. If we, for whatever reason, intentionally overstate the biblical position, we become the standard, not the Bible. It is as problematic to add to the Bible (even with the purest motives and for sincere causes) as it is to take away from the Bible. Is the Bible the only source for faith and practice? If so, it must judge all cultures! See Special Topic at 3:3.

▣ "or fond of sordid gain" This refers to the business honesty of these bi-vocational church leaders. If money is priority (cf. 6:9-10) then Jesus cannot be! False teachers are often characterized in the NT as greedy and sexually exploitive. Remember, this entire context reflects the abuses of the heretics.


3:9 "but holding to the mystery of the faith":  This mystery seems to refer to both Jew and Greek being included in the family of God (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13; Col. 1:26,27). The term "faith" has the definite article, which means it refers to the body of Christian doctrine.

▣ "with a clear conscience" The term "conscience" seems to imply that these leaders' walk and talk coincide with the truths of the gospel. See fuller note at 1:5.


3:10 "These men must also first be tested":  This is a present passive imperative. This is the Greek term dokimazō, which is used with the connotation of "to test with a view toward approval" (cf. Rom. 2:18; 12:2; 14:22; I Cor. 3:13; 16:3; II Cor. 8:22; I Thess. 2:4). It is contrasted with peirazō, which connotes "to test with a view toward destruction" (cf. I Cor. 2:5; 10:9,13; Gal. 6:1; Phil. 1:10; I Thess. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:9). See Special Topic: Greek Words for Testing and Their Connotations at 6:9.

▣ "then let them serve as deacons" This is a Present active imperative.

▣ "if" This is another first class conditional sentence like v. 5.

▣ "they are beyond reproach" See note at 3:2.


3:11 "Women must likewise be dignified": This does not refer to deacons' wives (cf. KJV and NIV), but to women in servant roles in the house churches. The Greek syntax distinguishes another group of church servants (i.e. "likewise" of v. 8). Deaconesses are mentioned in Rom. 16:1 (cf. Charles B. Williams' translation) and possibly Phil. 4:3. The qualifications for these female servants are similar to those for the male leaders. They were meant to be deacon-helpers in situations where a male deacon would simply be inappropriate (caring for sick women, helping prepare women before and after baptism, regular visits to older women, etc). From the writings of the Early church fathers we know that the office of deaconess developed very quickly and was used throughout the early centuries. The problem in our day is that we have made deacons an executive board which, because of other passages in Timothy, seem to rule out women. However, deacons are meant to be servants and, therefore, women have an appropriate role. Possibly the deaconesses were synonymous with the "widows' roll" (cf. 5:9ff), which were widows over sixty with no family who the early church hired for ministry


NASB "who is a servant [deaconess] of the church":   This is the term diakonos. It is an accusative singular feminine form. It is the Greek term for minister/servant. It is used (1) of Christ in 15:8; Mark 10:45; (2) of Paul in Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23,25; and (3) of deacons in Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:11.

There is evidence in both the NT and early post-biblical church writings for the office of deaconess. Another example of women in local church ministry in the NT is "the widows' roll" of the Pastorals (cf. 1 Tim. 3:11; 5:3-16).  All believers are called, gifted, full-time ministers (cf. Eph. 4:12). Some are called to leadership ministry roles. Our traditions must give way to Scripture! These early deacons and deaconesses were servants, not executive boards.  M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, vol. 2, pp. 752 and 1196, says that the Apostolical Constitutions, dating from the late second or early third century, makes a distinction between the duties and ordination of female church helpers.

  1. deaconesses
  2. widows (cf. 1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9-10)
  3. virgins (cf. Acts 21:9 and possibly I Cor. 7:34)

These duties involved

  1. caring for the sick 4. teaching new believers
  2. caring for those physically persecuted 5. assisting in baptism of women
  3. visiting those in prison for the faith 6. some overseeing of female church members

            ▣ "not malicious gossips" This is a perfect example of the problems caused by the false teachers (cf. 5:13-15; II Tim. 3:1-7). It is possible that this refers to conversations about the false teachers' teachings. The term translated "gossip" was often used of the devil (cf. John 6:70). It literally meant "slander" (NKJV, NRSV, NIV, cf. 1 Tim. 3:11; 2 Tim. 3:3; Titus 2:3), not gossip (NASB, TEV, NJB).

▣ "temperate" See note at 3:3.

▣ "faithful in all things" This again may be pointing toward the false teachers' use of women in the house churches. These leaders/servants must be faithful in the faith (no article in v. 13 also) and in their lifestyle choices.


3:12 This is why some translations call them "deacon's wives." However, I think that deacon helpers, or deaconesses, may be more culturally appropriate. Women servants (i.e., "widows") are specifically mentioned in 5:9-10. Verse 12 is very similar to the qualifications of the overseer or bishop (i.e. pastor) in vv. 2-5.