Last Friday we began looking at the leadership of the local church and the significance of the stewardship/household theme within the Pastorals Epistles. So today, we consider the role of deacons and women within the Covenant Community.
Deacons: Godly Men who are Servants in the Household of God
I understand that this is an area where Christians can have disagreement in fact here is a great blog on a different view written by Karl Heitman. I would not die on this hill, but I believe the office of deacon, like the office of elder, is also limited to men.
First Timothy 3:8-13 explicitly states the qualifications of deacons. Similar to the office of elders, “Deacons must be husbands of one wife” (3:12). Clearly, Paul refers to wives in 3:12 with the word gune which should determine Paul’s use of the same word in 3:11 and should be translated “Wives, too, must be worthy of respect, not slanderers, self-controlled, faithful in everything” (3:12). It goes without saving, women cannot be “husbands of one wife.” Acts 6 doesn’t explicitly state that those men were deacons but they have long been understood as a precursor to them. In Acts 6:3, Luke uses the word ἀνήρ and not ἄνθρωπος. The former is a gender-specific term whereas the latter is a generic term. The apostles specifically choose and intended only men to serve in the role of deacons.
Those who argue for women deaconesses use Romans 16:1. It is however an over simplification to always define the word merely as servant or to always define it as deacon. Rather the word diakonos should only be translated “deacon” when it is obvious from the context that the author is referring to the office of deacon, namely, Phil 1:1 and 1 Tim 3:8-13. The word diakonos typically means servant or deacon but there is no textual reason within Romans to translate it as deacon. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates the verse appropriately, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae.” Outside of an obvious reference to the office of deacon, the work should be translated servant. Point being, these deacons are the official servants within the household of God.
The household metaphor cannot be overlooked. Within the metaphor, the office of deacon is in a sense a lower office as deacons serve the Church and administratively allow elders to focus their primary role of managing (that is shepherding and instructing) the household of God.
The Vital Role of Women in the Church
Women have a vital role in the church. Within the household of God, women are to be marked by self-control. Self-control is an identifying mark of the pursuit of every woman within the church (1 Tim. 3:11). A woman’s self-control is manifested with faithfulness is everything, a life worthy of respect.
A woman’s teachability is seen in four ways: (1) her humility to learn (1 Tim 2:11); (2) her humility under authority (1 Tim 2:12); (3) her ability to teach (Tit 2:3); (4) her desire to be in discipleship (Tit 2:4). A godly woman is marked by her humility to learn (1 Tim 2:11). Humility to learn is primary as it flows out of the gospel itself as it “comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5). Humility to learn separates godly woman from those who “have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion” (1 Tim 1:6).
Furthermore, a vital role in the church is women teaching women. Paul commanded that women teach women in Titus 2:3. Paul states that older women were teach what was good. The godly older woman “has put her hope in God and continues night and day in her petitions and prayers” (1 Tim 5:5). A key role in the church is women’s discipleship and care of other women. Believing women were to care for the widow’s in their own family (1 Tim 5:16). Godly women are to actively “encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered” (Tit 2:4-5). Women are to actively see these relationships as mother-daughter relationships (cf. 1 Tim 5:2) in which there is care and love manifested. Women have a key role of service in the church (1 Tim 5:10; cf. 2:9-10).
Women are to express godliness (1 Tim 5:5; cf. 2:10) and purity. As elders are to be identified by purity so women are to be identified by purity. As elders are to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2) so women are to be “the wife of one husband” (1 Tim 5:9).
As an elder were to manage his own household (1 Tim 3:4) and to manage God’s household (1 Tim 3:15), so women also have a key stewardship role (1 Tim 5:14). Her management of her own household is defined as “she has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work” (1 Tim 5:10).
The Covenant Community is the household of God. The Covenant Community functions appropriately when it functions according to God’s household rules. God has established roles in His household for men and women. The Church functions as community as it is equipped by the elders and deacons that God has given. Are you under the authority of the managers of God’s household (Heb 13:16-19)? Do you actively submit to and pray for a group of godly men who have been give you so that you might be equipped for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12-13)?