The apostle Paul concluded his list of qualifications of deacons and deaconesses in 1 Timothy 3:11-13, which states: “Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
The King James Version’s translation of verse 11 is problematic in two areas. First, the words “must their” do not appear in the Greek manuscript, which is why they are printed in italic in the KJV. In the absence of the word “their,” the word “wives” is not in the possessive case; therefore, they are not the wives of the deacons previously spoken of in verses 8-10. The second area is that the word “wives” can also be translated as “women.”1 Based upon these observations, a better translation that is consistent with the context would read, “Even so, the women, be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” The word “women” is now referring to the female counterparts of the deacons—the deaconesses. Paul’s instructions to the men deacons also applied to the women deaconesses. He told both to be grave, not double-tongued or slanderers, sober and not addicted to wine, and faithful. It is important that today’s deacons and deaconesses meet these qualifications.
The last qualification the apostle Paul gave is, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” This does not mean that deacons have to be married and have children. But, if they are married, they are to have only one wife at a time; and, if they have children, they are to train them to behave. Ed Glasscock suggests that Paul was probably more concerned about a man’s character than his marital status. He states,
“The translation ‘husband of one wife’ is not the best understanding of the Greek phrase . . . it should be translated ‘a man of one woman’ or ‘a one-woman man.’ This understanding emphasizes the character of the man rather than his marital status. Thus, even a single man or a man who has been married only once must demonstrate that he is not a ‘playboy’ or flirtatious, but that he is stable and mature in character toward his wife or other females. A man who demonstrates a character of loyalty and trustworthiness in such personal relationships is qualified in this area. He, being a one-woman type man, can be placed in this high position and trusted to deal in maturity and with discretion in a situation involving female members. This view shifts the emphasis away from an event that took place in a man’s life before his conversion and properly concentrates on the character and quality of his life at the time of his consideration for this high office.”2
The implication of this qualification for the deacons and deaconesses of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is that they are to set a godly example in their homes, be faithful to their spouse if they are married, not be flirtatious with the opposite sex, and train their children to be obedient.
Ellen G. White also stressed the importance of the family of church officers: “The family of the one suggested for office should be considered. Are they in subjection? Can the man rule his own house with honor? What character have his children? Will they do honor to the father’s influence? If he has no tact, wisdom, or power of godliness at home in managing his own family, it is safe to conclude that the same defects will be carried into the church, and the same unsanctified management will be seen there.”3
Although it was the hasty election of elders that prompted this admonition from Ellen White, it also applies to the election of deacons and deaconesses. It becomes less of a challenge for deacons and deaconesses to teach others to obey God’s Word and the standards of the church when they and their families are teaching by example.
1 Harold K. Moulton, ed., The Analytical Greek Lexicon, rev. ed., (1978), s.v. “γυναΐκας.”
2 Ed Glasscock, “‘The Husband of One Wife’ Requirement in 1 Timothy 3:2,” in Bibliotheca Sacra 140 (July-September 1983): 249.
3 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, 5:618.
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.