The Bible gives us a number of specific qualities a man must model to serve as a deacon. Let’s look at 12 of these qualities:

1. Of good reputation. The idea here is simply that deacons should have a good name in the community, both inside and outside the church. This is the same qualification Paul would later give to elders in 1 Timothy 3:7: “He must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” A deacon’s character is known and thought well of by all. When someone asks, “Hey, what do you think about Philip?” (Acts 6:5), the response would be, “He is a good man: stable, honest, sincere, and trustworthy.”

2. Full of the Spirit. A deacon is to be “full of the Spirit.” This phrase simply means that he is a man in whom God is working. By this man’s faith in Jesus, the Spirit has come to dwell in him and change him into a man of God. In Ephesians 5:18-20, Paul describes one who is “filled with the Spirit.”

3. Full of wisdom. A deacon is wise, not because he is a wise man naturally but because God has filled him with wisdom. He has gleaned wisdom from the Word of God— learned it, applied it, practiced it. This quality goes beyond the character of the man and begins to address his ability. He is able to accomplish the assigned task. He has the wisdom to deal with problems and will not have to come back to the apostles with questions about everything. The apostles wanted deacons who would have the wisdom to accomplish their assignments. This is what they meant at the end of verse 3 when they said, “whom we may put in charge of this task.”

The good news is that these seven men—Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas— were faithful in their task, which enabled the apostles to keep their priorities of prayer and the Word. Verse 7 reads, “And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). Had the deacons not been “full of wisdom,” and able to be “put in charge of this task,” the apostles would not have been able to keep their priorities. Eternity alone will reveal how many deacons in the church were faithful in their task, allowing pastors to focus on their priorities so that God could bless the church mightily. Without the faithful servants in the church, God’s Word fails to spread. How many times has the ministry of the Word been stifled because there weren’t enough deacons to bear the load?

Now let’s turn our attention to some other qualities of deacons. Read 1 Timothy 3. In this letter, Paul was teaching Timothy, a young pastor, how to conduct himself in the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15). The qualifications for the leaders in the church are listed in the first 13 verses of chapter 3. In the first seven verses, Paul writes about overseers (pastors, elders, shepherds), but in verse 8, he begins writing about deacons.

4. Dignified (1 Tim. 3:8). A deacon must be dignified. Being dignified means to be somber and serious-minded. A deacon is level-headed and understands that spiritual conflicts are happening all around him. His life is under control, and he is worthy of respect. He never laughs at dirty jokes. He never makes light of a serious situation. He recognizes that the church is not simply a matter of life and death; the church is a matter of eternal life or eternal death. It takes serious men to lead the church in these matters.

5. Not double-tongued (1 Tim. 3:8). The Greek word here is literally “two-worded.” It describes someone who says one thing to one person and another thing to another person. A deacon’s tongue speaks one thing: truth.

A leader in God’s church needs to lead with truth, not with deception and lies. So, a deacon’s speech is important. In the next quality, we will see that his drink is also important.

6. Not indulging in much wine (1 Tim. 3:8). Indulging in much unfermented wine could lead to excess and eventually to fermented wine and alcohol. Some may argue, “Well the old wine yes, but not the new wine,” but Paul is not sanctioning to drink modern “wine” which is an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is a dangerous beverage. It is addictive. It is deceptive (Prov. 23:31, 32). It has destroyed many lives. Alcohol inhibits sound judgment (Prov. 31:4, 5). Alcohol is a huge temptation in the world today. But this warning applies not just to alcohol; it also applies to other addictions: food, drugs, the news, internet, hobbies, sports, novels, movies, etc. Deacons are to be examples, remaining free from selfindulgence, overindulgence, excess, and addictions.

7. Not fond of sordid gain (1 Tim. 3:8). A person who is “fond of sordid gain” is willing to get ahead through shameful means. This person cuts corners, plays the lottery, takes advantage of others, and is dishonest. Deacons need to be blameless in their desire for improper gain. This is an important quality for deacons, especially those who deal with the financial matters of the church. When the apostles delegated the serving of tables, there were financial resources involved (food, money, resources). The seven deacons could easily have stolen some of the food for themselves. But, the church has no place for greedy, self-centered leaders who will bend the rules for their benefit.

8. Hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Tim. 3:9). Holding to the mystery of the faith is a synonym for believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. It means understanding the mystery of Christ that has been revealed. But the key to this phrase is “with a clear conscience.” The conscience is the part of us that tells us when we are doing wrong. Conscience is to the soul what pain is to the body. Pain alerts our body to problems. Our conscience tells our soul that we are in danger. When we ignore pain, greater injury can develop. When we ignore our conscience, our soul is in danger.

A deacon believes in the gospel and knows of nothing that would incriminate him of any wrong. His conscience is clear. The deacon must affirm with Paul, who told Felix, “In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16).

9. Beyond reproach (1 Tim. 3:10). This means that a deacon is blameless, like Daniel. When jealous leaders sought to trap Daniel in wrongdoing, they could “find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him” (Dan. 6:4). A deacon is like Noah: a “righteous” and “blameless” man (Gen. 6:9). He is like Job: “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1). This does not mean that a deacon is perfect; it simply means that accusations made against him are foolish. He has established himself as an upright and honest man against whom no accusations can be made.

10. A one-woman man (1 Tim. 3:12). There is much discussion about this quality. Most translations render this qualification as “a husband of one wife,” as if to imply that the man cannot be a polygamist. Some say that this phrase disqualifies a man who has been divorced (regardless of the circumstances surrounding the divorce). Some say that this phrase disqualifies a man who is not married. Some say that this phrase disqualifies a man who remarries after his first wife dies.

I believe that Paul is speaking about something far deeper than one’s marriage history. I believe this means that a deacon will have a singular devotion to his wife. People will know of his love for his wife because he speaks highly of her. People will see that his affection for his wife has no rivals. Literally, the Greek says that he is a “one-woman man.” He does not flirt with other women. He does not have lust after other women. He is sexually pure in his mind as well as in his body. This disqualifies those who struggle with pornography, who are in the habit of seeing the wrong movies, and/ or who have inappropriate relationships with women.

11. Good managers of their children (1 Tim. 3:12). This qualification points to a deacon’s life at home. When a man is a husband and father, he is the head of the house, and there are certain responsibilities that come with this role. He brings up his children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). He leads his family in spiritual matters. He reads the Bible with his children and teaches them how to interpret it. He encourages his children to memorize the Bible. He prays with his family. In other words, he conducts family worship in his home. He has the responsibility to make sure that it happens.

12. Good managers of their own households (1 Tim. 3:12). The affairs of a deacon’s house are in order. He oversees the financial matters of his household. His checkbook is balanced. His bills are paid on time. His home is clean and neat. His yard is not a mess. He is not wasting his resources.

These are 12 characteristics of a deacon. But, that is not all; I skipped a little word in verse 8. The word is “likewise.” This is referring to the overseers (referred to in verses 1-7). A deacon is to be like an overseer—not exactly alike, but similar. The qualifications for a deacon are similar to that of an overseer. A deacon must be like an elder in his character.

There are great rewards to serving as a deacon: “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3:13). An official servant of the church who does his work well will put a smile on God’s face. God will bless this man with two things: a high standing and great confidence in the faith. The path to greatness in the Christian life is a path of self-sacrifice and service to others. “Humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matt. 20:26, 27). This is not the world’s way, but it is God’s way. God’s path to life is down. God loves those who humbly look to the cross of Christ. It is when we are weak in ourselves that we are strong in Christ. You get right with God not by being great but by realizing that Jesus is great on your behalf.

God delights in those who are humble and who serve others sacrificially. He will exalt these people at the proper time with a high standing (John 12:26). God will also grant to these people a confidence in Christ that many can only wish for. Confidence in Christ Jesus comes when you know that you are in the center of His will, and His will is that you see your unworthiness and trust His worthiness instead.

General Conference Ministerial Association