1 Timothy 3:12

“Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.”

We are coming to the end of the list of standards that the potential deacon must meet if he is to be ordained, and we see yet again that the male who would be a church officer must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:12). Like the elder, the deacon must be a “one-woman man,” someone who is not a polygamist and who is faithful to his wife if he is married. Again, it is not that marriage itself is the standard for the diaconate but rather faithfulness and monogamy in the marital relationship. Single men are equally able to be ordained as deacons as long as they prove true to God’s command, which for them means chastity in singleness, anticipating the day in which they might be married.

Additionally, we meet again the requirement that a church officer must manage his children and household well (see also vv. 4–5). In a real sense, the home is the training ground for men who would minister to the Lord’s people, whether they serve as elders or deacons. This makes perfect sense because only a few verses later Paul reminds us that the church is the “household of God”
(v. 15). Any man who can control his home and lead his own family in godliness can do the same for our Father’s family.

Earlier, we noted that Scripture does not describe the duties of deacons precisely, but we do know that from the start, ministries of mercy have been the diaconate’s focus, in line with Acts 6:1–7. Justin Martyr, writing in the second century AD, says that the deacons served shut-ins through delivering the Lord’s Supper to them. Women also served the church by assisting other women in baptism and helping them when they were ill.

Ultimately, what matters for choosing deacons and elders alike is the kind of person to be ordained. Aside from the fact that elders (and possibly deacons) may only be men, the qualifications for each office are stringnet enough to disqualify the person of severe moral defect, and they are lenient enough that nearly any church member in good standing can be ordained. Godliness, not social status, education, wealth, or other such things, is what makes a man fit for office.

Coram Deo

We who belong to God’s household need to keep in mind that a person’s way of life identifies him as a potential church servant, not his charisma, social influence, or good looks. Our culture prizes these things, but we must esteem only those who live a life of repentance and proven character. As you help identify your congregation’s elders and deacons, make sure that the quality of godliness is your chief concern.

For Further Study