By Steve Moseley
“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” (1 Tim. 3:11-12). A wife and children are prerequisites for appointment to the office of deacon. The need for this requirement was explained under the qualifications of bishops in verse 5, “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?”
We have an example of part of the work of deacons in Acts 6. Some believe that those appointed in Acts 6:1-7 were not true deacons. Their conclusion is based on the assumption that the office of deacon had not yet been established. Others assume that the office of deacon did exist but there were no deacons assigned with the duties of caring for the Grecian widows. They conclude that the seven men appointed in Acts 6 represented the first deacons assigned to care for the foreigners (McClintock & Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, and Ecclesiastical Literature, p. 705). One does not have to make any assumptions about the work these men were given. They ministered by making sure that the needs of the Grecian widows were not neglected. Who could be better suited for such service than men who had proven their ability by providing well for their own families?
Marriage is a divine institution, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Husbands and wives are to become one (Matt. 19:6). There is no closer relationship that can exist between a man and a woman. The experiences of one will have an effect on the other, because to a degree all experiences are joint experiences. They share one another’s joys, sorrows and responsibilities. A man can not take on the major task of serving as a deacon without the support and encouragement of his wife. Therefore, we should not be surprised to find some qualifications for the wife and family listed among those of the man who might serve as a deacon.
The Qualifications of the Deacon’s Wife
First, she must be a Christian. This is understood from the statement, “faithful in all things.” Would God give qualification for service in his kingdom to someone not in his kingdom? How could he expect an unbeliever to accept and maintain them? He would not! By the very fact that he has stated qualifications that must be met by the deacon’s wife, we must conclude that she must first be a child of God. She could not understand her husband’s sacrifice and service, if she were not a faithful Christian. How else could she be expected to encourage him; contribute the sympathy; and make the sacrifices that will be required of her? God has not called to “special service” those who have never answered the gospel call to service!
The mates that people choose say something about their Christian maturity. What does it say about a Christian who takes as his lifelong companion one who is not a Christian? At best it demonstrates poor judgment and at worst that he is not “grave,” but lack genuineness in his faith. It says that he doesn’t fully understand the relationship of a man and a wife and perhaps not even the relationship of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:22-33).
Second, she must be “grave” (1 Tim. 3:11). This is the same positive qualification that deacons must possess (1 Tim. 3:8). She has a, sense of conduct worthy of respect and honor. It’s seen in a character that is noble and dignified. The genuineness and stability of her faith generates this respect.
Third, she must not be “slanderous. ” This is from the Greek word diabolos. This verse (1 Tim. 3:11) is the only place it is translated “slanderer” in the KJV. It is translated ” false accuser” twice and “devil” thirty-five times. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, “. . . is used as a noun, translated ‘slanderers’ in 1 Tim. 3:11, where the reference is to those who are given to finding fault with the demeanour and conduct of others, and spreading their innuendos and criticisms in the church.” A deacon’s wife should not be a ” she-devil, ” one who goes about making false accusations.
Most congregations have enough real problems and shortcomings to keep the elders and deacons busy. A deacon doesn’t need added discouragement from his wife. Such a “she-devil” is like Job’s wife who encouraged him to “curse God, and die” (Job 2:9). The real problems of the church she blows out of proportion. If there aren’t enough problems she’ll fabricate some. This type wife would soon drain the zeal and energy of a good man.
Fourth, she must be “sober. ” To limit the meaning to simply the abstinence from alcohol would be a mistake. In Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich’s Greek-English Lexicon (2nd ed.), it defines naphalos as, “. . temperate in the use of alcoholic beverages, sober, clear-headed, self-controlled.” It describes a person with a well balanced life. She abstains from those things that would be harmful and uses the things that are good in moderation. She is not extravagant or excessive in dress or speech. Her life shows common sense and she practices self-restraint with the strength that comes from a clear mind.
The Qualifications of Deacons’ Children
The Scriptures tell us that elders are to have “children in subjection with all gravity” (1 Tim. 3:4) and “having faithful children not accused or riot or unruly” (Tit. 1:6). Yet of the deacons we are told only that they should be men, “ruling their children and their own houses well.” This is a positive command directed toward the deacons and not toward their children. Unlike the children of elders there are no qualifications for the deacon’s children. Because of this a young man with very small children might qualify as a deacon. However, as his children grow, a deacon may have to use his physical strength and will have to use his spiritual strength to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). In so doing he will continue to prove himself one who rules his house well.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 22, pp. 681, 687
November 16, 1989