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No Female Deacons

No Female Deacons

No Female Deacons.

Proponents for female deacons use 1 Timothy 3:11 to argue for female deacons. Here is a brief exegesis of that passage arguing against this interpretation.

In verses 11 and 12, Paul describes the domestic qualifications for deacons: Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.

He begins with the qualifications of the deacon’s wife. The word translated women in the NASV may also be translated “wives.” This term has been understood in three ways: wives of deacons, a sub-class of female diaconal assistants, or deaconesses (female deacons).

           Grammatically any one of the three is permissible. As noted the term may be translated “wife” or “woman.” Moreover, this verse is related to verses 2 and 8 by the term likewise. As elders and deacons must possess certain qualifications, the women must as well. Therefore, Paul is designating a third class. Hence, grammatically he could be referring to any of the three interpretations.

With respect to the sub-class of formally designated female assistants, there is no biblical evidence for such a formal structure. We have shown the relationship of the three offices in the Old Testament to the three offices of minister, elder and deacon in the New Testament. We will see in chapter 5 that there was a class of widows designated to be on the list, but their qualifications are given there. The concept of a fourth office is foreign to anything in the Scripture. With respect to the other two options, there are clear arguments in the text that compel us to interpret this term as wives.

There are certain things in the text that suggest that Paul is not talking about women deacons. First, note that although the reference to women is grammatically separated by “likewise”, the verse is sandwiched within Paul’s discussion of deacons. If Paul were going to establish that women should serve as deacons, would it not make better sense place the reference after verse 12 and then refer to both in verse 13. Or he could have repeated the phrase from verse 10 with respect to women, “Let the women who serve as deacons be reverent.” In other words, he easily could have written in a way that would have made clear that he was talking about female deacons.

Second, if he were discussing the qualifications for a female deacon, he would have given a more comprehensive list of qualifications, while in fact a number of deacon qualifications are omitted. He repeats three required of male deacons, dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate. He requires male deacons to possess all three of these qualifications and the elders are also to be dignified and temperate—not gossips would be implied in above reproach. Notice, however, that he omits some very important qualifications for deacons. It is not adequate to say he assumes them, when he does not assume for deacons what he says is required for elders. At least six elder qualifications are repeated for deacons: respectable, husband of one wife, temperate, free from the love of money, mange house and children well. But the list in verse 11 omits important qualifications for deacons: not greedy, moral purity, doctrinal integrity, domestic qualifications, and the need for testing. It is very significant that he does not discuss the matter of greed, which is particularly important with respect to the work of the deacon. Note, as well, the missing reference with respect to family life. Now you might say that that is not important because the woman does not lead the household, but in the other place where the Apostle Paul gives qualifications for a woman in the church who was to be placed on the list, he gives domestic qualifications. “Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man” (5:11). Even as an elder and a deacon must be a one-woman man, the widow must have been a one-man woman. This omission would be quite strange if he were speaking of female deacons. Moreover, there are no provisions for testing or proving of the gift of service. Both the office of elder and deacon require maturity and testing, as does the widow placed on the list (5:10), surely a female deacon would need to be tested. Furthermore, there is no requirement for doctrinal maturity.

Of course there are the broader theological arguments that we must never forget, because Scripture interprets Scripture. The New Testament offices parallel the Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king. In the Old Testament, a woman was never placed in any of those offices and in the New Testament there is no example of a woman in any of those offices.

Some will object with Paul’s reference to Phoebe in Romans 16:1, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.” The proponents of female deacons assert that we have here an example of a female deacon. The word translated “servant” is the word translated “deacon” in verse 8. The term, however, is often used to mean servant (Matt. 20:26; 22:13; Gal. 2:17; 2 Cor. 6:4; 11:23; 1 Tim. 4:6). We can illustrate that a word may be both a reference to a New Testament office and be used in a broader way as well from the word “apostle.” The word ‘apostle’ has a technical meaning, absolutely necessary to our theology of Scripture, referring to the twelve apostles and the Apostle Paul (Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 1:1). But it is also used more broadly to refer to those sent out by the church on some special mission. Most often the term is then translated “messengers” (2 Cor. 8:23; Phil 2:25). When Paul says that Phoebe was a servant of the church, he means that she faithfully served the saints in Cenchrea. For this reason, the church in Rome ought to minister to her needs.

                        Another argument against women being in the office of deacon is the matter of authority. Paul teaches in chapter 2 that a woman is not to exercise authority in the church. It stretches the imagination to say that the person who makes decisions about the property of the church and handles church funds–determining who gets aid or interest free loans; and recommending the budget to the elders– does not exercise authority in the church.

                        Having shown that Paul is not referring to a class of women who assisted the deacons or to female deacons, we conclude that Paul is writing about the qualifications of the wives of deacons. There is, however, one argument offered against this interpretation. That is that Paul fairly consistently uses the definite article (the) with the word woman when he is writing of wives. There is, though, a good reason why Paul does not use the definite article here. Remember that the term likewise places the word women in a list with bishops and deacons. Paul does use the definite article with either bishops or deacons. Therefore, since the term women is part of the list he omits the definite article.

                        Therefore, I conclude that women are not authorized to serve as deacons.


No Female Deacons

The Lion Roars

I was asked by one of my students at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary to reflect on the current situation with COVID-19 (novel Coronavirus).

First, we assert with Scripture that all that is occurring with this virus around the world and in our own country is part of God’s sovereign good purpose. God has foreordained all that comes to pass, and He executes His decrees by His providence (Daniel 4:34-35; Psalm 135:6). By asserting God’s universal decree, we do not rule out second causes, but confess the first cause is God’s good pleasure. This work of God embraces every illness and death; also, all the disruptions in society and in the economy. Moreover, Christ as mediatorial king is directing all things for the sake of His church (Eph. 1:22,23). The reality of God’s sovereign control over the novel Coronavirus and its spread has direct bearing on our thought, speech, and behavior in response to it.

Second, because the pandemic is according to God’s holy will, we must ask ourselves, “What is He doing?” Amos demonstrates the relation of cause and effect by a series of rhetorical questions about cause and effect: “Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment? Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Does a young lion growl from his den unless he has captured something? Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it? Does a trap spring up from the earth when it captures nothing at all? If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people tremble?” Then he applies the relationship to the works of God in 3:3-8: “If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it? Surely Adonai the LORD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to his servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? Adonai the LORD has spoken! Who can but prophe

God is roaring and He has revealed things in His word on which we should think and speak.

First, God is acting through this “natural calamity” with all its repercussions to proclaim His holy judgment. God, indeed, is longsuffering and slow to anger, but throughout history He acts periodically in temporal judgments. It is safe to say that nothing of such worldwide import has occurred since World War II. God is judging the nations for their idolatry and corruption. But let’s come closer to home. Is not God judging the United States? Approximately 140,000 abortions have been performed in this calendar year alone (since January 1, 2020). We have perverted the holy relationship of marriage with sexual promiscuity, adultery, pornography, and sodomy. Amongst our many idols are sports and materialism.

Is the Lion roaring? Most assuredly He is.

Second, God is chastening and training His people. Christians are not exempt from the sufferings of this virus. Peter teaches that judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). For us, however, it is not a judgment of punishment, but of chastening, “My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves HE reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11, 12). This chastening is both corporate and individual; it might be for specific sins or more generally correcting and refining. Individually, we are to examine our lives to ascertain if God is correcting us for particular sins. If we discern specific attitudes or actions that relate specifically the consequences of the virus, repent and seek God’s grace. If we discover no specific relationships, seek God’s sanctifying grace through the things we suffer.

Corporately, God is refining His church. As Christians, we have repeatedly and rebelliously profaned God’s Holy Day with work and recreation (which God connects with idolatry, Ezek. 20:13-16); because of the virus, many are prohibited from working or playing every day of the week.

Increasingly, the church has substituted entertainment for holy Worship.  God has closed the doors of our churches. God’s people have grown satisfied with having one service on His day; God has removed all services. We have taken lightly the privileges of corporate worship; we are unable to worship corporately.

What then is to be our response? I offer six suggestions below.

First, do not look self-righteously on those who suffer.  Begin with yourself; repent (Luke 13:1-5). Repent of your sins, the sins of the church, and the sins of our country.

Second, seek God’s sanctifying grace in your life. Don’t waste your affliction. Pray that God will work in your life through this trial. Remember, He has promised that all of this is working for your good (Rom. 8:28).

Third, plead with God that in wrath He would remember mercy. Pray that He would withdraw the hand of judgment and show grace. Pray that many would come to saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through this pandemic. Pray for opportunities to speak to your neighbors about the holiness and grace of God. Pray for the live-streaming of services.  Many people that would not go to church services are hearing the gospel.

Fourth, pray for those people throughout the world that are seriously ill. Pray that God would spare their lives. Pray for those who do not have basic necessities for daily life. Pray that there will not be a worldwide economic recession.

Fifth, do not be anxious. God will take care of you (Matt. 6:25-44; Phil. 4:4-7). Rest in the loving care of your sovereign savior. Thank God for all He is doing. As you pray, keep in mind the definition of prayer in Westminster Shorter Catechism 98: “What is prayer? Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.”

Sixth, through our time in self-isolation and quarantine, we can develop great empathy for our brothers and sisters around the world who have not been allowed to meet on the Lord’s Day for corporate worship because of persecution. What we have taken for granted, they have not enjoyed. Remember them and pray for them.