1 Timothy 3:13-16
We reminded ourselves that Christ is the ultimate Servant/Deacon—“I am among you as one that serves,” then took up a towel and started washing the disciples’ feet. Earlier in his ministry he had said, “The Son of man came not to be ministered (deaconed) unto, but to minister (to deacon).”
What makes serving hard for us is the cost. For the Son of God it was being humbled to become a slave of a human being and to go through the suffering of death for our sin. Jesus said that if you’re going to follow Him, you have to deny yourself and take up your cross. Serving demands you give yourself to others in Christ’s name. And when you shoulder the official responsibility of doing so, you serve under the community pressure of greater scrutiny on you and greater expectations of you.
Not uncommon to hear of those who serve the church in official capacities to respond to the hurts and the sacrifice with disillusionment, cynicism, moral failure, even suicide.
So why should anyone buck the natural self-centeredness of the human heart and of our current age and make the personal sacrifice to serve in this way? If we give our all, will it be worth the cost?
Peter essentially asked Jesus this same question when many were deserting the Savior: “Behold, we have left all to follow You. What shall we have therefore?”
Our text this morning, 1 Timothy 3:13-16, helps us see what a high calling being a deacon is and why serving is worth the cost.
I. The Deacon’s Reward (13)
Well—beautifully, in a fitting way, appropriately
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Water is especially sweet to the one dying of thirst. The hungrier we are, the better food tastes. The more weary, the more delightful lying down to sleep. So when there are genuine needs in the body of Christ, it is sweet and satisfying when a capable deacon steps up to meet them. But the gain is not merely for the one helped, but for the one helping. That is the point of this verse.
“Gain a good standing for themselves” A foundation, step, base; personal stability and solid reputation. The search for significance is part of being human—we want our lives to count for something, we want to matter to somebody, to feel we have not lived in vain.
“Also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” Word used of the apostles when filled with the Holy Spirit. Freedom to speak with assurance, boldness before God and/or men; those that give themselves to such active ministry strengthen their confidence, assurance, boldness in the Christian faith
Opposite of fear, uncertainty, halting speech—faith on fire (MLJ described preaching as “logic on fire.”) Example: Stephen and Philip, 2 of the first 7 deacons in Jerusalem
What are you looking to for stability, significance, reward?
What holds you back from full commitment to serving Christ and His people?
II. The Church’s Benefit (14-15)
Household of God—God’s family heritage, codes of conduct, affectionate unity
Church of the living God—divinely vitalized activity, not just religious practices and ceremonial trappings; “life of God in the soul of man” causes each member of the body to powerfully function according to gifting and placement in the body; Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered church. Pillar and buttress of the truth—relationship to the world is to hold the gospel of Christ high and to support/defend it against all attack, deviation, or deterioration. Church is to be “a place of warmth and belonging, . . . a place alive with the presence of God, . . . a place of proclamation and instruction.” ~John Kitchen
Such an important connected body of people ought to be well-cared for. God as designed all members to be caring for, building up one another in love, with pastors and deacons taking that role officially to make sure every kind of need is met.
So how do you view the church? How are you serving to the benefit of the body?
Church—In what ways can we commit ourselves to a healthier church life?
III. The Gospel’s Advance (16)
So what is that faith, that truth? Paul uses a third description: the mystery of godliness.
Mystery—once hidden, now revealed
Godliness—reverent, God-centered, worshipful living (1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Peter 1:3).
The divine power of God Himself makes godliness possible. Comes only through the experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ. Calls us to his own glory and excellence. Through his priceless, very great promises we share in His own divine nature.
In other words, God has revealed what once was hidden, that true godliness comes only through close relationship with a Person, Jesus Christ.
And that is exactly what the following descriptions point to—Christ.
Essence of the gospel—apart from Christ you cannot be saved or sanctified, apart from Christ in you, you have no hope of glory.
If you’re not talking about Jesus, you’re not talking about the gospel, and you’re offering no hope of living in a godly way.
The church is in the earth to hold high this great truth. But a church suffering from unattended needs can’t do so. The hurting, harmed, and neglected among them make the gospel seem a hollow mockery.
Deacons help the church advance the gospel by helping see to it that the church is in good health, properly taking care of their brothers and sisters in Christ, serving one another in love.
He was manifested in the flesh,
Incarnation—in the flesh
A real human body—hands that healed the sick and fed the crowds, dusty feet that walked throughout Galilee and Judea, a body suffering fatigue, temptations, abuse from others
Face slapped and beaten black and blue, dripping with spittle, back ripped and torn from flogging, brow pierced and bleeding from thorns, hands and feet driven through with Roman spikes, side pierced with a spear, blood and water flowing down his mangled body, corpse taken down, wrapped, and laid in tomb, and a body risen from three days of death.
He sympathizes with our weaknesses because he himself has borne them. He proved his compassion and power by responding to human need—healings, resurrections.
In fact, his work on the cross is so far reaching that it will one day utterly remove the curse of sin so that these sufferings become ancient history. Death will be swallowed up in life, with sin, sickness and suffering gone forever. People that live like Jesus—godly people—respond to human need in the same way.
Vindicated by the Spirit,
The Spirit of God was operative in the virgin birth so that Jesus was holy, though born to a mother who needed a Savior from her own sin. The Spirit of God anointed Jesus for His ministry at His baptism and propelled Him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The Spirit empowered His miracles (Attributing his miracles to the power of the devil was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.) The Spirit raised Him from the dead. The Spirit makes His words effective in the hearts of sinful human beings, convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; giving spiritual life, convincing them of the truth of the gospel, sealing and sanctifying believers, joining them to the body of Christ.
Seen by angels,
Both heaven and earth attest to Who Jesus is and what He did. Announced His birth to Mary, to Joseph, to the shepherds. Ministered to Him at the end of the 40 days fasting and temptation in the wilderness. Ministered to Him in Gethsemane. Rolled the stone away from the tomb to reveal that He had risen, and told the women who had come
At His ascension told His disciples He would come again. Angels are messengers, so some interpret the words here to refer to the eyewitnesses who were the first to tell the world about Jesus. Both the angelic spirits and human beings were eyewitnesses of his majesty and ministry.
Proclaimed among the nations,
Heralded the news—not a new creed or code, but a Person. We preach Christ! The Messiah came not merely for the Jews, but for all ethnicities, as the prophets had foretold from the beginning. In Him all the families of the earth would be blessed. From Pentecost to this hour there has not been a day that Jesus has not been preached to someone somewhere. The church has been tasked with this mission on earth.
Believed on in the world,
The message was rejected by many, but also received by many all over the world. Even during His earthly ministry people from Tyre, Sidon, and other predominately Gentile regions put their faith in Him. To this day people are still putting their faith in Jesus as Savior. The ingathering begun on Pentecost has not stopped. God is still calling out a people for His own from every nation, kindred, and tongue.
Taken up in glory.
Fitting climax to this ancient gospel hymn—from the humiliation of the incarnation to His ascension into glory. He has ascended to the right hand of God the Father, superior to the angels, waiting till His enemies become His footstool. He rules an everlasting kingdom that will come to full expression at the consummation of the age (Philippians 2:11). Those who are children of God through their faith connection with Him will also reach the glorification stage of immortal sinlessness, inhabitants of a new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells and where sin, suffering, death, and sorrow are no more (Romans 8:30). That is why “we know all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28; Colossians 1:27).
There is no good news apart from Jesus! What stands in the way of your close relationship with Jesus Christ? How can we demonstrate our commitment to advancing the gospel—our conviction that Jesus Christ IS the good news?
In Acts 6:7, we see the appointing qualified deacons answered the unmet needs that were tearing apart the healthy life of the church; with those needs addressed, the spirit-filled church rolled on with its gospel mission.