Focal Passages: 1 Timothy 3:8-13; 4:6-16
The word “deacon” means “servant.” In Acts 8 we have testimony to the life of a servant. His name was Philip. On the one hand he was a deacon based upon his selection by the leaders of the early church. On the other hand his life as a deacon was authenticated by a lifestyle of service and obedience to God. We are introduced to Philip as an evangelist in Samaria, deep in enemy territory. The Samaritans, however, appreciated the time and testimony Philip gave them, and great miracles occurred. The “official” preachers, Peter and John, would show up later and verify Philip’s service and ministry. Then God did an unusual thing with Philip. He sent the deacon out into the desert and told him to wait. Wait on what God would do next.
Philip was obedient and God sent an African man to him who was hungry for the Truth. This royal official would experience salvation, would be baptized by immersion, and would go home to Ethiopia with great joy in his heart. In the meantime, Philip would be whisked away by God to his next assignment. By all appearances, Philip was as faithful to God at home as he was on the mission field. His daughters were also recognized as women of great faith and teachers of God’s truth.
The standard for church leadership is high. The bar for godly living is virtually the same for the deacon as it is for the pastor. Timothy was exhorted to “train” himself in godliness.
When we watch professional athletes in their prime, their bodies are chiseled and honed for excellence. Too many of them, however, quit their training before middle age and look pudgy in their later years. The spiritual plan advocated by Paul doesn’t quit. It looks ahead to the life that is to come (4:8b) and sets a high bar or standard in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (4:12). As part of the church leader’s personal discipline, he should hunger for Bible study, preaching and teaching.