Thursday, November 02, 2023

2023.11.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Timothy 3:12–13

Read 1 Timothy 3:12–13

Questions from the Scripture text: What sex must a deacon be (1 Timothy 3:12)? How many women may he have or be committed to? Over what two entities must he stand over? In what manner (1 Timothy 3:13)? Where else would we expect the same performance? What two things does such performance purchase? In Whom is this standing and boldness in the faith? What does aiming for boldness imply that deacons should be seeking an opportunity to do (cf. Acts 6:8–10, Acts 8:5, Acts 8:26, Acts 8:40)?

What fruit may we expect the Lord to produce by the ministry of a faithful deacon? 1 Timothy 3:12–13 helps us think about the diaconate, as we prepare to certify, elect, ordain, and install deacons. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that faithful deacons advance well in the faith, and are very free with their faith, for attesting Jesus to others.

An ongoing proving1 Timothy 3:12. In 1 Timothy 3:10-11, we received the Lord’s instruction that part of the ordination and installation process for deacons is their being proven by testing—in part, that they prove themselves as overseeing an operation in which they likewise entrust with the sensitive part of the work only those who are of proven character themselves.

The Spirit had already instructed us about the character of deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8 and their doctrinal integrity in 1 Timothy 3:9. So why, after both the qualifications and the testing requirement, does he now return to what deacons must be in 1 Timothy 3:12? The answer (which we are helped to see by the future result in 1 Timothy 3:13) is that deacons are expected to continue to prove to be men of such character and doctrine in all of their relationships.

Like an overseer must be to be installed to his office, deacons must continually strive to be “husband of one wife” (more literally, “a one-woman man”). Like an overseer, deacons must “rule their children and their own houses well.” The “good ruling” in 1 Timothy 3:12 is tied by that adjective to the same one, which is used in the phrases “good deaconing” and “good standing” in 1 Timothy 3:13

In an age in which the covenantal view of the home has waned, we might forget the importance of a man’s ministry in his own home. The apostle has not. This congregationally-proven man must be a continually-proven man in his marriage, with his children, and in his daily affairs. A man must constantly be shepherding that household of Christ’s that has been assigned to him. His standing as a deacon can either greatly aid (à la 1 Timothy 3:13) this ministry in the home or greatly harm it.

What good will it do a deacon or his household if his ministry is generally accepted by others, but he is an unfaithful husband, an unskilled or evil father, or a tyrannical employer? These will not only suffer the usual harm of ungodliness in the seat of the authority who is over them, but the harm will be magnified because they can see the contrast between what he actually is and what the church thinks that he is proven to be.

Sadly, many congregations’ histories are littered with unbelieving, rebellious, lost, or bitter officers’ wives, children, and associates. What have such officers “proven” to be? The proof came not in the brief testing prior to their installation to office, but in the prolonged testing of the sad outcomes of their lives.

With ongoing fruit1 Timothy 3:13. For the deacon who “rules well his own household” (1 Timothy 3:12), his “deaconing well” (1 Timothy 3:13), leads to a “well-elevated faith” (verse 13). If he is a properly covenantally thinking man, one of his great hopes and prayers before God is that this calling that he has received to the diaconate will be blessed to the spiritual and eternal good of his wife. That it will be blessed to the spiritual and eternal good of his children. That it will be blessed to the spiritual and eternal good of every man, woman, or child that the Lord has providentially assigned to his daily affairs (his “household”). 

Deacons, then, oversee earthly ministry, but they are anything but “earthly minded.” Their deaconing well is designed by the Lord to elevate their faith. Part of this is that they come to be highly esteemed by others and have not just more opportunity but more effectiveness in the ministry of the gospel. Part of this is that they attain a “great boldness” (“freedom” or “confidence”) “in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 

As covenantal thought in our land has declined for the last 200 years, we have lost the sense that a man’s first mission field is always his own home. But the deacon knows better than that. Even with respect to material things, we’ll be hearing in a couple of chapters that the man who fails to take care of his own household “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 3:8). And how much more this would be the case if it is true with respect to spiritual things!

But praise be to God, His design for the diaconate is that they are an example in their own home, with an effective and fruitful ministry among wife, children, and associates. And in this care of their home, they join the elders in being a good example to the flock. In Ephesus, most of all, they should have known that every head of household is called to the Ephesians 5:22–6:9 ministry in their own home. An effective diaconate is designed by Christ both to enable and model this ministry.

What danger is there to a wife or children, when a man’s reputation in the ministry outpaces his ministry in the home? What benefit may there be to the family when the two match? What benefit may there be to the congregation?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your design of the family, and Your covenant faithfulness in the households of Your congregation. Forgive us, for we are weak and sinful, and we are not faithful like You are. How often, O Lord, we are not what we ought to be, and not even what we lead others to think that we are! And our families are so vulnerable, because they are the first ones to see it. Forgive us, O God! And grant unto us a life of repentance and humility and grace, such that we may have a consistent and effective ministry, even among those who know us best. In particular, we pray for our deacons, that they might deacon well in the congregation, and that they might rule well in their own home, so that they may advance well in the faith. Give them great freedom and confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

 ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or TPH128B “Blest the Man Who Fears Jehovah”

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