The Orders of Christian Ministry
November 24th, 1968 @ 7:30 PM
1 Timothy 3:8-13
THE ORDERS OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Timothy 3:8-13
11-24-68 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And you are sharing one of the highest spiritual moments that we have ever known. Our church has over subscribed a budget beyond $2,175,000, and we are preparing tonight to add to the official family of the church that we might more nearly do God’s will in this city and for our world.
After the service, after the benediction tonight, we are going to ordain a young Japanese gentleman to the gospel ministry. He is going back to Japan as an evangelist, one of the most gifted young men I have ever known and one of the handsomest. He has made a great contribution to our church. He is still working here, and we are ordaining him tonight to the full gospel ministry.
And in the same ordination service we are setting aside for this special and dedicated work men to be deacons, and other men already ordained we are adding to our active board. And out of deference to the meaning of that, I am preaching tonight on The Orders of the Christian Ministry. They are two, and twice are they mentioned together in the Word of God.
In Philippians, the first chapter and the first verse: “Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and the deacons” [Philippians 1:1], a twofold ministry in a New Testament church. A bishop; he is called by three Greek names in this New Testament. He is called an episkopos, he is called a presbuteros, he is called a poimēn. The word episkopos literally means overseer and translated “bishop.” The word presbuteros means literally an older person, an elder, and it is translated “elder” in the Book. The word poimēn literally means shepherd, and it is translated “pastor” in the Book.
So your minister has a threefold designation, and all three words refer to the same officer. He is a bishop, an episkopos; he oversees the work. He is a presbuteros; he is an elder; that refers to the reverence in which he is held by his people. He is a shepherd; he is a poimēn, he is the pastor of the flock.
And the other ministry in the church is the deacon. The second place in the Bible where both of them are mentioned together is in the third chapter of 1 Timothy. Now all of us in our Bibles we are going to read it together. All of us in our Bibles turn to the third chapter of 1 Timothy. And we are going to read verses 8 through 13. First Timothy chapter 3, verses 8 through 13 [1 Timothy 3:8-13].
Now the chapter begins with the description of a man who is qualified to be a bishop; that is an elder; that is a pastor. And Paul begins, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a pastor, an elder or bishop, he desireth a good work” [1 Timothy 3:1]. Then he describes the qualifications of the pastor [1 Timothy 3:2-7]. Then in verse 8, “Likewise must the deacons” [1 Timothy 3:8]. Now we are going to read that part together, verses 8 through 13 in the third chapter of 1 Timothy, all of us together:
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
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.
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.
[1 Timothy 3:8-13]
And in the moment that remains I follow through here the qualifications that God hath written in His inspired Word for the man who occupies this holy and sacred office.
Likewise, as with the pastor, it isn’t just the pastor who is to be a man of God, but the layman, the deacon is also to be likewise a man of God. Grave, not double-tongued, he is not to be flippant, shallow, sterile, without meaning in his life, with no conviction and no dedication, not double-tongued. The Greek is literally “two-tongued” [1 Timothy 3:8]. He doesn’t say one thing then the next day he says the opposite thing. Not given to much wine [1 Timothy 3:8]. We are not to be drunkards. We are not to handle our alcoholic beverages at all.
Somebody asks me often, “Why is it that you Baptists feel that way about drinking liquor?” I say, “It is not because you have in God’s Word such interdictions against the use of alcohol. It’s not that at all. But the reason we do not is this. The example of a man in drinking is what Satan uses to destroy the lives of so many younger men coming up.”
When you see a drunk in the gutter, he has no influence on the life of a young fellow, a young executive, a young professional man. As that bum lies in his own vomit in the gutter, he is repulsive. He would be to anybody. No, it isn’t he. The man that leads that young fellow to destruction is the fine executive in the city who will have a cocktail party, or a gathering at the country club, or a meeting in the board room, and he drinks and he serves liquor to those around him and to everyone that picks up that fragile glass. Count them out, and one out of nine will become alcoholic, a problem drinker. It isn’t worth it.
To line up nine young executives, nine young professional men, nine boys anywhere and to set an example before them by which one out of the nine will ruin his life, lose his job, destroy his family, orphan his children, it’s not worth it. I don’t care how much pleasure a man might get out of drinking. It’s not worth the destruction of a young man’s life! That’s why we don’t drink. Now there are a thousand other reasons that I might give personally for it, but that’s the big reason. That’s the big reason.
And a deacon is to set a fine example in his life for these young men who are coming up, “holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” [1 Timothy 3:9]. You know as I was thinking through this sermon, I have never preached a message here on the mysteries of the Christian faith. And I have wondered why I never have.
The mystery of the faith, oh, it would take hours. Maybe I need to preach half a dozen sermons on it “holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” [1Timothy 3:9]. A deacon, like the pastor, is to believe the revelations of God in that Holy Book. Now a liberal may scoff and an infidel may ridicule, and an unbeliever may reject, but not us; not we. To us these great miracles of the faith are mustērions. They are great revelations of God.
Paul said in the second chapter of the 1 Corinthian letter:
For we preach, we speak the wisdom of God in a mustērion, in a mystery.
For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
[1 Corinthians 2:13-14]
The Christian faith is not a philosophy. It is not a metaphysic. It is a mustērion. It is a secret that God has revealed to those who love Him. And some of those mustērions are described here in this Holy Word.
Listen to one, for example: “This I say brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:50]. But I show you a mustērion” [1 Corinthians 15:51]. There it is again. “I show you a mustērion; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible, and we, all we shall all be changed” [1 Corinthians 15:51-52].
Why, the infidels scoff at that! You mean, this body that lies in corruption shall be raised from the dead? And they laugh and scoff. But to the Christian believer, that is a revelation, a mustērion of God. It is God who has power to raise the dead [Romans 8:11], and we believe it, holding the mustērion in the faith in a pure conscience [1 Timothy 3:9].
I take a moment just to point out one other. When I turn the page in the Book out of which I preach, “Without controversy great is the mustērion of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” [1 Timothy 3:16]. And the infidel scoffs at that: “You mean God came down in human flesh, born of a virgin? [Matthew 1:20-25]. I don’t believe in the virgin birth. I don’t believe in the incarnation of God!” This is the infidel world; but not the Christian.
The mustērion of the faith in a pure conscience [1 Timothy 3:9], that is, “In all sobriety and in all persuasion, I believe that God came down in the form and in the likeness of a man [Philippians 2:6-8], born of a woman [Galatians 4:4], made by the genius of the Holy Spirit [Luke 1:30-35], to offer His body a sacrifice for our sins that we might have life everlasting” [Hebrews 10:4-14]. The mustērion of the faith; we believe it! [1 Timothy 3:9]. God has revealed it to us who have opened our hearts to His dear Son.
Let these also first be proved. Paul says as I turn the page again, “Lay hands suddenly upon no man” [1 Timothy 5:22]. I planned, as I thought through this message tonight, to tell you some experiences that I have been through as a young preacher, but we don’t have time. You are not to ordain a man suddenly, quickly; he is first to be proved, then lay hands of ordination upon him [1 Timothy 3:10].
So must their wives [1 Timothy 3:11]. Oh, dear me! And I had a whole lot of things to say tonight about some of the things in my younger days about the deacon’s wife. There is nobody in the earth that can plow up a church like a certain kind of a talking woman. Oh! Oh! Oh! With a tongue anchored in the middle and wagging at both ends. Ah! Oh, and what I’ve seen!
It’s just like that old fellow; he asked his neighbor’s son, he said, “Son, did your pa have any last words?” And the boy said, “Nope, ma was with him to the end.” Ah, what a woman, and especially the wife of a deacon can do to a church. She likewise is to be as dedicated, as consecrated, as committed as her husband [1 Timothy 3:11]. Then he has a word of commendation and reward. “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” [1 Timothy 3:13].
Then there are degrees in God’s kingdom. That’s right. That’s right. There are degrees in heaven. That’s right. You will find that all through the revelation of God. There are degrees. God says some of the people are going to be saved; as if by fire [1 Corinthians 3:15]. We might say by the skin of their teeth. The expression “as if by fire,” refers to a man who is running out of a burning building, naked, unclothed, everything he has burned up.
Some are going to be saved as if by fire: no reward, no star, no degree. But some are going to have great rewards in heaven [1 Corinthians 3:14]. Somebody is going to sit at the right hand and the left hand of the blessed Jesus in His kingdom [Matthew 20:23; Mark 10:37-40]. Don’t know who it is. And we may be surprised when we look upon it. But somebody, when the great day comes, will be at Jesus’ right hand and at His left hand.
There are governments and administrations in God’s kingdom. And Paul is saying here that the man who consecrates his life and dedicates his efforts to the glory of Jesus, and especially in this sacred office, purchases to himself a good degree [1 Timothy 3:13], one of the highest accolades of God.
Now a final word: a church that has a deacon and a pastor that will love each other, and pray for each other, and work together is an unbeatable team. I have never seen it fail where the deacon and the pastor stand shoulder to shoulder and march in a locked step, God blesses that church. And God blesses that congregation. I have never failed but to see the obverse where the pastor and the deacon are separated and apart; somehow the Spirit withdraws Himself. And that is the great incomparable strength of this church as we face this vast assignment. We are committed, not just one of us, nor just two of us; all of us are. God has assigned us a stupendous task! And our spirit is this: we are grateful to God that He matched our souls against this day. What it shall ultimately mean is known but to Him. But by His Word and promise it will be great.
So there stands the pastor, and we pray for him and ask God’s unction from above always to rest upon him, that he might speak in the power of the Spirit of God, not in the wisdom of men, but in the unction of heaven, and by his side, the staff that works with him; then beyond that pulpit, a throng, a multitude of godly men and women, all of them equally as prayerful, as dedicated, as committed as the pastor who stands in the pulpit and the staff who works by his side. I say it is an unbeatable team, and we shall increasingly see God’s blessings upon it as these days and these immediate years unfold.
We sing now our hymn of appeal. And to give your heart to the Lord [Romans 10:9-10, 13], to trust in Jesus as your Savior [Ephesians 2:8-9], to put your life in the fellowship of this dear church, as God shall press the appeal to your heart, do it now. Make it now. “Pastor, tonight, I accept Jesus as my Savior.” Or, “Pastor, tonight, we are putting our lives in the fellowship of the church.” The whole family you, or just one somebody you, make the decision now, and when we stand up in a moment, stand up coming. And the Spirit of Jesus bless you in the way, as we stand and as we sing.
ORDERS OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY
are two orders of Christian ministry (Philippians
1:1, 1 Timothy 3:1-13)
Bishop – called by three Greek names in New Testament
Episkopos, translated “bishop” – “overseer”; oversees the work
Presbuteros, translated “elder” – “an older person”; refers to the
reverence in which he is held by his people
Poimen, translated “pastor” – “shepherd”; the pastor of a flock
2. Deacon(1 Timothy 3:8-13)
II. The diaconate
qualifications(1 Timothy 3:8)
Grave, not double-tongued – not to be flippant, shallow, sterile
Not given to much wine – not to be drunkards
Example of a man is drinking is what Satan uses to destroy the lives of young
men coming up
qualifications(1 Timothy 3:9)
Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience – is to believe the
revelations of God in the Book
The great miracles of the faith are musterions(1 Corinthians 2:13-14, 15:51-52, 1 Timothy 3:16)
qualifications(1 Timothy 3:10)
proved(1 Timothy 5:22)
qualifications(1 Timothy 3:11-12)
to be as dedicated, consecrated and committed as her husband
reward – “a good degree”(1 Timothy 3:13)
Degrees in God’s kingdom(1 Corinthians 3:15)
church that has a deacon and pastor that will work together, loving and praying
for each other, has an unbeatable team