1 Timothy 3:8-9
The word for deacon is diakonos. The word means servant or servant of a king. This word used to be used for those who served tables. When the word was brought into Christianity, it took on a meaning that was more specific to the church. Deacons served under the leadership of the elders. They took care of some of the work of leadership so the pastor and/or elders could lead in spiritual matters. The bible doesn't detail specific duties assigned to the deacon. Those duties have been assigned by churches and traditions. The deacon might be the one who makes sure that you get your hand shook at the door in the morning or that their are towels in the bathroom, the heats on, etc. They might listen to a complaint or coordinate of group to help someone move.
The deacon is a position of leadership so they must be reverent, showing the proper respect for God and the things of God. The word 'likewise' ties to them to the same category as the pastors and elders, suggesting they must also be above reproach. They shouldn't be controlled by their tongue or habits or greed. The life of a deacon should be characterized by a love for Jesus Christ. Paul said they should hold to the mystery of faith. This mystery is the revelation of Jesus Christ that used to be concealed but was now revealed. These individuals were to hold to that with pure conscience. This is their first love.
At times we may struggle to understand this because the things of Christ are no longer new and exciting to us. Have we lost sight of the mystery of faith? It's been picked apart, attacked, written about, talked about and so on, for so many centuries. In a purely academic understanding of just facts and history and knowledge, there is very little mystery of the faith left. But the mystery of faith was never about the things of this world. The mystery of the faith is the work that God has done and continues to do in the hearts of redeemed sinful men in a fallen world by the redemption of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. That is a profound and endless mystery.
Paul wants those who are deacons to not lose sight of the awesome mystery of God. They should be excited about it. They should live expectant lives, knowing that God is working His will in any and every life that is yielded to Him. Life in Christ is a great adventure. The deacons couldn't forget that.
1 Timothy 3:10-13
Timothy wasn't to appoint deacons. You didn't look around, pick someone and say, "you're a deacon'. When someone became a deacon, Timothy was to recognize them. The individual becomes a deacon because they have the heart of a servant, not because someone gave them a title. The elder or pastor sees someone who is serving and qualified and then puts them to work in the church. When you give someone the title of deacon it doesn't mean anything to him because he was doing those things anyway, that's the heart God gave them.
The qualifications look very much the same as that of the overseer, elder. It was to start with being blameless. Again, we see the idea of self-control, order, reverence that reflects the things the Lord. The deacon's spouse was to live consistent with them and the Lord. A deacon can't meet the qualifications and serve in the church if their spouse is irreverent and slanderous. There should be a consistency of faith and temperance in their marriage. The man who is qualified as a deacon will have a wife that is equally qualified.
Now if you read all the commentaries, you'll find they are split. The word translated to wives here in verse 11 could also be translated to women. Since this sentence starts with "likewise" some believe this is speaking about women deacons or the deaconess. Of course, we know there were deaconess in the New Testament. Phoebe is one that is mentioned by name.
The deacon is a one women man also. His children and home are sound and reflect the same godliness that shows up in the man and his wife. This is the picture of a godly home and this family reflects the God they serve. Once again, many would argue that this "husband of one wife" is talking about never being divorced or previously married. It's the exact same phrase used in the qualification of the pastor or overseer. So, this deacon must be a 'one woman man' devoted to his wife. If the deacon has been divorced, or widowed, it's should be old news. Not something that is even known by many and it just isn't a factor.
Those are the qualifications for being a deacon. And since we know there were deaconesses in the early church, I think it is safe to apply the same qualifications to them. But, being a deacon is not for everyone. Everyone qualified is not a deacon. In fact, it's safe to say being a deacon isn't for the squeamish. Being a servant is hard work, there is no glamour or glory in it. There are no perfect people in church, we are all a bunch of sinners saved by grace. We all have baggage, ugly scars, habits and nuances about us that will annoy others. And the deacons and overseers will see this in people. Those in the church say they walk by faith but many times we don't look that way. We all want to be anchored in the things of the Lord but when life knocks us around we find our anchor has pulled free and we drifting a bit. We are at times unloving, inconsistent, selfish, prideful, impatient and rude. And the leadership of the church sees these things among the people and even among themselves. The Pastor, elders, deacons and overseers see these things but they don't judge. They love and serve and point people to Jesus Christ. They cry with the brokenhearted, then pray with them and encourage them. They stand with those who have fallen down, then they help them up. They give to those who have needs. They are driven by love, but it's not a love they even understand, it's not that they are special. The love they operate under is a love that was born in them by Jesus.