In the previous article, “Qualifications of Deacons and Deaconesses (Part 1),” the first four qualifications listed by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:8 were presented: deacons and deaconesses are to be “grave” (carry themselves in such a way that they earn the respect of others); “not doubletongued,” “saying a thing to one person and giving a different view of it to another;”1 “not given to much wine” (best translated as “not addicted to wine,”2 i.e., advocating abstinence from fermented wine); and “not greedy of filthy lucre” (not accepting ill-gotten gain, bribes, or showing favor to individuals or groups in the church for personal gain).

This article will focus on the next two qualifications on Paul’s list in verses 9 and 10: “Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.”

According to W. E. Vine, the Greek word for mystery, μυστήριον, means “that which is known to the initiated. In the New Testament, it denotes not the mysterious [as with the English word] but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit.”3 This implies that deacons and deaconesses are to have such a connection with God that He will give them divine revelations about His Word as they spend quality time in prayer and study; therefore, they will be faithful in word and action.

One of Maurice Riley’s beatitudes for deacons states: “Blessed is the deacon who considers it not robbery to sacrifice time to study God’s Word. He too needs to be able to ‘rightly divide the Word of Truth.’ Attending [Sabbath] Church School or teaching a [Sabbath] School Class will not only sharpen his own spiritual knowledge but will enhance his role as a Bible-believing church leader. He should also better prepare himself for this ever-challenging role, by keeping abreast with other good spiritual informative literature.”4

Paul continued his list by stating, “Let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless” (1 Tim. 3:10). Evidently, prospective deacons were scrutinized by the church to see if they possessed godly characters, sound judgment, and had the potential to develop all of the qualifications required.

D. Edmond Hiebert observes: “In 1 Timothy 3:10, Paul mentioned the testing of persons for appointment to the office of deacon. The meaning is not that they should be given a trial appointment as deacon, but rather that the church should constantly be examining and testing the members of the congregation, so that whenever the need for selecting deacons arises, they will know what members are qualified for appointment.”5

By adding the phrase, “being found blameless,” Paul was not advocating perfectionism. He was simply indicating that deacons and deaconesses are to be justified or converted.

Serious thought and prayer must take place before putting a person in this office. Also, those who feel that they are being rushed into office before they are ready should decline. They may even request to be placed in a training capacity until they are confident that God is directing them to serve in this office.

Ellen G. White warned, “It would be well for all our ministers to give heed to these words and not to hurry men into office without due consideration and much prayer that God would designate by His Holy Spirit whom He will accept.”6 Although Ellen White directed her comment to the election of elders, the same principle is applicable when electing deacons and deaconesses.

1 W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (1952), s.v. “Doubletongued.”

2 Jay P. Green, Sr., gen. ed. and trans., The Interlinear Bible, 2nd ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986).

3 Vine, s.v. “Mystery.”

4 Maurice Riley, The Deaconess: Walking in the Newness of Life, 2nd ed. (Newark, NJ: Christian Associates Publications, 1993), 144-145.

5 D. Edmond Hiebert, “Behind the Word ‘Deacon’: A New Testament Study,” Bibliotheca Sacra 140 (April-June 1983): 154.

6 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1948), 617.

Vincent E. White, Sr., D.Min., is a retired pastor and author of The Twenty-First Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model; The Twenty-First Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model Workbook; and Problem Solvers and Soul Winners: A Handbook for Deacons and Deaconesses.