1 Timothy 3

In Acts 20:17-38, Paul gives some final instructions to the Ephesian leadership. In the passage he uses elder, overseer, and pastor (shepherd) to describe the leadership, seeming to indicate that all three words refer to the same office. Here Paul reveals that God is more concerned about character than a job description, and shares the qualities that elders should have.

Deacons (servants) are a separate office in the church. They should also have good character, but the list of qualities is different. Should the character qualifications be interchangeable, or are they different for a reason? Perhaps there should be some overlap, but it’s probably significant that an elder should be “an able teacher” while a deacon doesn’t have to be. And why would wives of deacons be mentioned but not the wives of pastors? One possibility is that the word should be translated as women, not wives, which would allow for deaconesses as well as deacons. This could be another argument for the exclusion of women from the office of elder/pastor/overseer.

Paul reminds Timothy (and us!) that he is giving this guidance so that everything will be done properly and in order, because the church reflects the living God and is the “support and bulwark of the truth!” And that truth is the proclamation of Jesus Christ, who: “was revealed in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

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