I am continuing to write in regard to Paul’s instructions to Timothy. These were the instructions of a spiritual father to His spiritual son. It was a letter of apostolic authority to the authority of a local church in regard to the responsibilities of leadership in the community of God. Last week I presented that an overseeing leader in the community of God was, and is, to be an example of the character of the family of God. In the family of God there are leaders who are apt to teach, they are apt to set direction for the community of God in the direction that God is leading them and in the character that God is creating in their midst. There are other kinds of leaders in the church as well. Some leaders are not apt to teach, but they are graced and gifted to facilitate the things implemented by the overseeing leaders. They have a grace to keep in motion what has been put in motion by the overseeing leaders of the community. These types of leaders are referred to in the Scripture as deacons. The word deacon is a transliterated word from the Greek language that simply means to serve. God has put a grace upon some leaders to activate the spirit of serving in the community of God. They are elders by character, but deacons by gifting. They don’t merely do the practical things of ministry; they lead to see to it that members of the community do all of the practical things in the family of God. This includes practical duties like laying hands on the sick, ministering deliverance to those who are bound, feeding the poor, teaching children, or tending to any of the practical everyday needs of community life. Paul gave instructions to Timothy that he was to expect the same character requirements for those who would be appointed into the responsibility of deacons as facilitating leaders as was also expected of the overseeing leaders.
The character requirements for elders, both bishops and deacons, are not given as a measuring tool to see who fails the test. They were instructions given by Paul to a church leader concerning the criteria to look for in seeking to recognize those God was appointing to those areas of responsibility. The overseeing elders and deacons were to be examples of faith and a godly lifestyle in their own households so they could serve in the same type of responsibility in the household of God – the church.
The leaders were to conduct themselves as examples to those they lead.
1 Timothy 3:8-13 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Again, failure in the past is not the measurement of those in these areas of responsibility. It is a testimony in the present that qualifies those who lead to be examples to others in the practical realities of life. The objective was not to seek out people who could obey the rules of character, but to look for those who had discovered the life-changing power of God’s grace in their lives. All people have faced challenges of failure in their lives and the community of God needs examples of people who know how to pass the tests of adversity in order to prevail with the testimonies of God’s grace in an everyday world. The community of God is one of grace and not law. It is one of victory; therefore it is also one of challenges, tests, failures, mercy, triumph, and glory. Leaders must be an example to the community of God in the everyday realities of family and life. The body of Christ is a community of heaven, not merely a ministry of works!
Paul was writing to Timothy in regard to a leaders responsibility in the church. Those responsibilities were a matter of relationship, not gift and function. Paul demonstrated that in his own letter to his spiritual son, Timothy.
1 Timothy 3:14-15 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
Paul’s charge to Timothy as a leader included an example of the way of Jesus in the flesh. Just as Jesus was manifest in the flesh, Christ must be manifest in the life of each leader to lead all to discover the testimony of Christ in them. Just as Jesus was empowered by the Spirit, witnessed by heavenly powers, revealed as truth to those who had not known truth, believed by those who had not known God’s glory, and received to God’s glory; A leader must live in the justice of the Spirit, know the power of the Spirit, reveal God to others by the testimony of the Spirit, experience the fruit of the work of the Spirit in the lives of others around them, and live for the full hope of the glory of the Spirit.
1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.
Leadership is a matter of being an example of the life and power of God’s Spirit in and to the community of God. It is not about seminary degrees, skills of ministry, preaching abilities, or detailed strategies of vision. It is about a testimony of something of heaven upon the earth. Leaders lead the community of God for the testimony of communion with God and one another as His family upon the earth.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson
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