A Noble Task

“Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.”

1 Timothy 3:1

Any noble task in life will come with high standards and great expectations. In fact one of the noblest of aspirations is the desire to be a leader in God’s church! This comes with strict standards: “Now the overseer must be above reproach, husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may be become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.  He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. Deacons likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.  They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 3:2-13

What is an “Overseer” or “Deacon”?

Throughout the Bible we see the words used almost interchangeably. Of course, there are other “titles” given for the same “role”. For instance in Acts 20:28

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” The word Shepherd is used here interchangeably, as also in 1 Peter 5:2.

In the scriptures above the Greek word for “Overseer” is “episkopē”. According to the Strong’s Greek Lexicon, episkopē can be defined as:

  1. investigation, inspection, visitation
    1. that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character, of men, in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sad
    2. oversight
      1. overseership, office, charge, the office of an elder
      2. the overseer or presiding officers of a Christian church

The word is only mentioned 4 times in the Bible; Luke 19:44, Act 1:20, 1 Ti 3:1, 1 Pe 2:12. Two times it is talking about visitation of judgment of God, one is describing the role of Judas Iscariot, and the other is describing this role in the church.  Just like God will inspect the people when he brings his judgments, so “Overseer’s” are to be “Inspectors” of God’s church. They are called to be like “shepherds” that “watch over the sheep,” that watch over the people, the disciples.

The Greek word for “Deacon” is “diakonos”. “Diakonos” can be defined as: one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister

  1. the servant of a king
  2. a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use
  3. a waiter, one who serves food and drink

This word is mentioned 30 times in 28 different verses in the Greek concordance: Mt 20:26, Mt 22:13, Mt 23:11, Mar 9:35, Mar 10:43, Jhn 2:5, Jhn 2:9, Jhn 12:26, Rom 13:4, Rom 15:8, Rom 16:1, 1 Cor 3:5, 2 Cor 3:6, 2 Cor 6:4, 2 Cor 11:15, 2 Cor 11:23, Gal 2:17, Eph 3:7, Eph 6:21, Phl 1:1, Col 1:7, Col 1:23, Col 1:25, Col 4:7, 1 Th 3:2, 1 Ti 3:8, 1 Ti 3:12, 1 Ti 4:6.

Here we can see clearly that a deacon is a “leader” by being a great “servant”! As Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 23:11 “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” We understand that in Jesus’s church the “leaders” are in fact the biggest servants… those who desire to be leaders, desire a noble task!

How do you become one?

Like any “title” you must be given it. In Acts 6 we find the first “deacons” appointed by the apostles. However in Titus 1:5 we find Paul admonishes Titus to “appoint elders in every town, as I directed you”. Not very often would your boss give you a raise before you have done the work deserving of a raise. Too often people want a title before they start living out the role. To become a Deacon in Jesus’s church one must first be living out the role of a great servant to then be considered to be a deacon.

What does it mean “manage” his family well?

The Greek word “proïstēmi” or (“manage”) can be defined: to set or place before

  1. to set over
  2. to be over, to superintend, preside over
  3. to be a protector or guardian
    1. to give aid
  4. to care for, give attention to
    1. profess honest occupations

“Proïstēmi” Is mentioned 8 times in 8 verses: Rom 12:8, 1 Th 5:12, 1 Ti 3:4, 1 Ti 3:5, 1 Ti 3:12, 1 Ti 5:17, Tit 3:8, Tit 3:14.  It is one thing to “Rule over something,” and another to “Guard over something”. We know Samuel in the Old Testament was a great “Overseer,” yet his children “did not walk in his ways” 1 Sam 8:1-5. Does this mean he is not capable of “managing” his family well? It’s interesting that the scriptures would ask us this next question: “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” Implied here is, to “manage” one’s family is to “care” for God’s church.

The word “care” is “epimeleomai” which is defined as “to take care of a person or thing“

Yet it is only mentioned 3 times in the scriptures. Here and also in Luke 10:34-35. The account in Luke 10 is of the “good Samaritan” who was willing to take “care” of the man beaten and robbed. The man bound up his wounds, poured oil and on him, gave him a ride, and paid for his accommodations at the Inn. Then, when he had to continue on his journey (go to work, etc), he made sure he would still be looked after by another individual. This would be the same definition for “proïstēmi” that you are to be a protector or guardian, to give aid, to care for, or give attention to. In context, I believe the scriptures are making a great point to help us understand that leaders are to take care of their people, even at their own expense.

What happens if they stop doing this?

 Once a servant, doesn’t mean you’re always a servant. We are not talking about a capability, but we are talking about the heart. What if a Deacon or Overseer loses this “servant” heart, or what if they get proud or involved in other sins? Well 1 Timothy 5:17-20 helps us understand what to do! The elders who direct the affairs (“proïstēmi”) of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching… Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality and to do nothing out of favoritism.”

The call is to repent and do the things you did at first. The capability might not be the same, but the commitment of the heart should be. I believe this concept is best described by Peter in his old age as he scribes 1 Peter 5:2-4.Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

What an amazing calling we have from our God, and truly he has “turned upside down” the world’s concept of leadership. To be a great leader you must become a great follower, and a great servant, and then you must be appointed by man. We know that it is God who has called us to the roles and he has given us strength to fulfill them. If we desire these special roles, we must be willing to deny ourselves and pour ourselves out to “live a life worthy of the calling we have received” (Ephesians 4:1). No one said it would be easy, but it is a noble task!


Coltin L Rohn