The Ordained Officers of the Church
April 18th, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
THE ORDAINED OFFICERS OF THE CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Timothy 3:1-13
4-18-82 10:50 a.m.
And welcome the great throngs of you who are sharing this hour on radio and on television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message, one of the “Great Doctrines of the Bible” on the church entitled The Ordained Officers of the Church; the orders of the Christian ministry, the official, serving family. I cannot but mention the message tonight on security, both here and there, in this world and in the world to come. In the many years of my sermon preparation, I have never prepared one that moved my own heart, that meant more to me, than the one delivered tonight. And after it, we shall break bread together; we shall observe the memorial of the Lord’s Supper. So, if it is possible, welcome as you come to the service tonight at seven o’clock.
In Philippians 1:1, are named the two ordained officers in the church. Paul writes, “Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and the deacons” [Philippians 1:1], those two, the bishops and the deacons. We are going first in the message, which is a part of this doctrinal series—which will be printed in the third volume, the second volume is already prepared and will be out within a year. The third volume, this is the section on ecclesiology, on the great doctrine of the church. And in the organized life of the church, there are two ordained, consecrated officers. And we shall discuss them first: what they have in common, the two. Characteristics that present both of them to us, and then the second part of the message will be the unique assignments of each one.
So first, what they have in common, in what they are alike. There are five characteristics presented of them in the Bible, and the first one is this: they may make up the leadership of the church. It is a New Testament fact: leadership in the church. If you read a harmony of the Gospels, a harmony of the life of Christ, you will find that in His public ministry, when He began to meet difficulty and opposition, He ordained, He called out and set aside twelve apostles [Luke 6:13-16], and gave them authority and sent them out to preach the message of redemption [Matthew 10:1-8]. It is thus in the church. We do not live in a perfect world. We live in a secular world, a fallen world, and in that world the Lord has placed His church. And for it to be effective and strong, it must have leadership; and that leadership is provided in the two ordained officers of the church—the pastor and the deacon.
A second characteristic that they have in common regards their qualifications. For example, in the third chapter of 1Timothy, he first writes of the qualifications of a pastor—the first seven verses [1 Timothy 3:1-7]. Then the eighth verse begins like this: hôsautôs, in the same way, in like manner—translated here “Likewise must the deacons” [1 Timothy 3:8]. Then he gives the qualifications of the deacon [1 Timothy 3:9-13]. Now they largely fall under three categories. Number one, both of them are to be well-reported of on the outside [1 Timothy 3:7, 13]. The people beyond the church are to think well of them. They are to be men of integrity and known as such in the community.
A second thing you’ll find in the qualifications concerns their domestic life. They are interdicted from being polygamous or deuterogamous. They are to be monogamous [1 Timothy 3:2, 12]. They lived in a day when there were many wives. They lived in a day when there were two wives. No officer of the church is ever to have more than one wife. And, of course, he’d be foolish financially to try to support two of them in our day.
A third qualification, of course, is religious. This deacon here, for example, is to hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience [1 Timothy 3:9]. And the minister of Christ, of course, is to be a man who cares for the flock in feeding them, preaching to them—responsible to God for their souls and committed to our blessed Lord [1 Peter 5:2]. The qualifications of these two officers are largely the same. What you expect of the pastor, according to God’s Book, you also are to expect of the deacon.
A third qualification that they share in common: they are not to be ordained without first being tried and tested. In 1Timothy chapter 5, verse 22, the apostle Paul writes, “Lay hands tacheôs—translated here “suddenly.” The word tacheôs means quickly or hastily—”Lay hands hastily on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins” [1 Timothy 5:22]. No man is to be ordained who has first not been carefully tested and tried.
As you know, I began preaching and pastoring when I was a teenager. And I had read in the Bible where we were to have deacons in the church. Well, in my little congregation, I had eighteen members. In my little congregation, I thought we ought to obey that biblical injunction and ordain deacons. So we chose three deacons to be ordained. When the time for ordination came, one of them was drunk so he wasn’t there; the other one was so sorry, he wasn’t there; and the third one we ordained and in a while, very little while, he fell away.
Now that was adolescent immaturity. We had in these years past men ordained to the ministry in the church. We never saw them again; have no idea what became of them. They came to be ordained in this church so that they could say, “I was set aside for the gospel ministry in the great First Baptist Church of Dallas.” All of that is a contradiction of the plain Word of God: “Lay hands tacheôs, hastily, suddenly,” it says here in the King James Version, “on no man” [1 Timothy 5:22]. He is to be tried and tested.
Then there’s a second clause there that at first when you look at it you wonder, “Well, why did he write that?” “Lay hands quickly, hastily on no man, neither be thou partaker of other men’s sins” [1 Timothy 5:22]. Well, what do they have? Well, when you study it, it becomes very apparent. When we ordain a man, a deacon or a preacher, we are thereby placing imprimatur on his life, a seal of approval upon what he does. We become therefore a sharer in his work, his ministry. And if he leads people astray, we have had a part in that astraying leadership. If he teaches heresy, we have a part in it. If he doesn’t faithfully perform his assignments, we are guilty.
I remember reading in the life of Augustine a prayer that when I first read it was amazing to me. He said: “O Lord, forgive me my other men’s sins!” Well, that’s the strangest kind of a prayer, “O Lord, forgive me my other men’s sins!” Then when you read this passage, “Be not partaker of other men’s sins,” it becomes very apparent. I am not only guilty of my own sins, but I am guilty of the sins of my children. And I’m guilty of the sins of my church, and I’m guilty of the sins of my friends and of my neighbors. My life is inextricably bound up with the family, and the church, and the community, and in the nation. And I must be responsible to God for the assignment to me in helping guide all of these that I might know into the way and wisdom of the Lord.
Now a fourth qualification that both of them have in common—whether he’s a pastor or whether he’s a deacon, a layman—we are servants of Christ. One of the most emphatic of all of the teachings of our Lord is this: “He that would be greatest among you, let him be servant of all” [Mark 9:35, 10:44]. The apostles in 2 Corinthians are called deacons [2 Corinthians 6:4]. Diakonos is a common Greek word meaning servant. And the apostles are called deacons [2 Corinthians 11:25]. They are servants of Christ. Paul, several times—such as in Ephesians and Colossians—refers to himself as, “I Paul the”—translated minister, the word is diakonos—“I, Paul, a deacon of Jesus Christ.”
Our ministry is always in the realm of a servant. I would not object—you may think I have lost my mind—I would not object the practice of the old, Primitive, Hard-Shell Baptist people of washing feet. I wouldn’t object to it at all. It’s not an ordinance, but it’s a sign of the humility of the true ordained messenger, officer of Christ. We are servants! [John 13:3-16]. And he that would be the greatest among us, let him be ambitious in this: that he minister to us all even as the Lord said that: “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, to be a servant” [Matthew 20:28].
Now there’s a fifth characteristic of both the preacher and the deacon, and it is this: they have an especial award, reward. “They that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith” [1 Timothy 3:13]. Now that “boldness in the faith” is very apparent. If a man is a faithful deacon, he is not ashamed or hesitant to speak for his Lord, to say a good word for Jesus anywhere, anytime, in any group—in his business, in his office, anywhere, to say a good word for Jesus.
I never was more disappointed in all my life than talking to a businessman in the city of Dallas. And we got to talking about one of the men in our church. Well, he said, “I didn’t know he was a member of your church.” Well, I said, “He’s not only a member of our church, he’s a deacon in our church.” Well, he said, “I certainly didn’t know that!” He said, “I’ve been doing business with that man for over twenty years, over twenty years—constantly, I’ve been doing business with him. And I never knew that he was a Christian. I never knew he belonged to your church, and I never guessed that he was a deacon!”
Now that passage is very, very apparent. A man who is faithful in that office is bold in the faith. He wouldn’t hesitate to talk to anybody about the Lord—give his own witness: “I found grace and peace and strength in my wonderful Savior. Do you know Him?” Or, “We have a great fellowship down there at our wonderful church. Do you go to church? Are you rearing your children in the love of the Lord?”
There are ten thousand ways in which you can talk to a man about Jesus, and he will never resent it. I’ve been a pastor fifty-four years. I have never yet, in fifty-four years, ever had the experience of a man resenting my talking to him about the Lord. Never have! Sometimes he’s a stranger, sometimes he’s an infidel, sometimes he’s just cursed; but I’ve never had that experience, not yet, of a man resenting my interest in his soul. You’ll be that way too. God will help you be that way.
“Great boldness in the faith” [1 Timothy 3:13], that’s one of the rewards. And they, “purchase to themselves a good degree” [1 Timothy 3:13]. Now that refers to the reward here in this life. There is honor, and esteem, and appreciation, and love for a man of God who magnifies the office of a deacon servant, but it is also talking about the world that is yet to come. There are degrees in heaven. Don’t ever persuade yourself that heaven is a bland, blanket unanimity, uniformity of everything—not so! There are people that will barely get in, to whom heaven will be like the highest grade of hell.
There are degrees in hell. Paul said, in third chapter of 1 Corinthians, he said, “On this foundation of Christ, we can build gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay, and stubble” [1 Corinthians 3:11-12]. And the day will come when it is it tried by fire; and how you have built upon the foundation of Christ will be revealed. And if what you have built is wood, hay, and stubble, it will be burned up, “though you yourself are saved as if by fire” [1 Corinthians 3:13-15]. That is, as though you ran out of the house naked—nothing at all, absolutely nothing! “Lord, Lord. I don’t want to be that way! I don’t want to be that way!” There are rewards in heaven. That’s what the bema is all about [2 Corinthians 5:10].
The Lord speaks so much of the rewards that He has in store for those who work in love for Him. That’s why I had you read that passage just now in the tenth chapter of the Book of Matthew [Matthew 10:37-42]. We are to forsake all and follow Him, and if we do God has an eternal reward in heaven for you.
Now, he speaks of the reward of a pastor. In 1 Peter 5, verse 4, when he gets through talking about the pastor, he says, “And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that never fades away” [1 Peter 5:4]. There are five crowns spoken of in the Bible: the victor’s crown, the soulwinner’s crown, the advent crown, those who look for His coming, the martyr’s crown, and this pastor’s crown. The pastor who is faithful in his work, God has a special reward for him in heaven—and what a beautiful prospect that God would thus honor a faithful undershepherd.
Now we’re going to speak of the unique assignments of each one of those consecrated, ordained, set-aside, laid-hands-upon officers of the church. First, we speak of the pastor. There are three words used in the New Testament to describe that man, that officer. And the words are used interchangeably. He’s called the presbuteros, he’s called episkopos, he’s called a poimēn. He’s called an elder. He’s called a bishop. That’s the way it’s translated in English, and he’s called a pastor, a shepherd. Now those words are used interchangeably, they refer to the same man. Sometimes the Holy Scriptures will call him a presbuteros, sometimes an episkopos, sometimes a poimēn—always the same man.
For example, in Titus, the first chapter, in verse 5, he says to Titus, “For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every church” [Titus 1:5]; elders—for he says, “A bishop must be blameless” [Titus 1:7], and then he goes on to give the qualifications of an elder, that he calls a bishop [1 Titus 7-9]. So they’re called by three names. The elder, the presbuteros, is actually the word for an older person. From the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, the patriarchs were greatly honored—the man who headed the family, and that’s what that word refers to. It refers to the dignity of his office and the reverence of the people for that officer, the pastor. He is called a presbuteros. He’s called an episkopos –epi (“upon”), skopos (“to look over”). So epi, “over upon”—skopos, “to look”: he’s an episkopos. He oversees all of the work of the Lord—translated “bishop.” Then he’s a poimen. He is a shepherd. He cares for the souls of the people. He is called a presbuteros, referring to the dignity of his office.
Dr. Truett, the far-famed pastor of this congregation, was undershepherd of this church for forty-seven years. He was greatly honored and deeply loved. When I came here, I was forty-three years younger than Dr. Truett—forty-three years! But I inherited from him the same love and respect and reverence accorded Dr. Truett, though I was so very much younger—in my early thirties.
This is a great church. It’s a great congregation. Any church that loves and honors its pastor, however its size, is a wonderful church. And the obverse of that is true. Any church that looks upon its pastor as a hireling is a cheap church, a weak church, and an unblessed church. There’s no exception to it in the history of the ecclesiastical world. I’d say to a church, “So you don’t like your pastor, and you want to get rid of him? I tell you what you do: pray for him. Pray for him! God answers prayer. Pray for him, and he’ll turn out to be such a good pastor and preacher that some other church will call him and take him off your hands.” It’ll work! To love and honor your pastor is the will of God. He’s a presbuteros. The word “Presbyterian” comes from it. Presbuteros—he is God’s ordained leader in the church.
And that brings us the second word that characterizes him. He is an episkopos. Your word “Episcopal” comes from the word episkopos, and that refers to his assignment in the congregation. Now, this part of the message didn’t come from me. This is just an expounding of the Word of the Lord. The Bible called that elder—that episkopos, that poimēn, that pastor—the Bible refers to him constantly as the ruler of the church. In 1Timothy, 5:17, he will say: “Let the elders that rule well.” Then he goes on—we’re coming back to it.
I turn again to the Book of Hebrews, and three times in that thirteenth, and the last chapter of Hebrews, the pastor is referred to as the ruler of the church. Hebrews 13, verse 7: “Remember them who have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, who preached to you the word of the Lord” [Hebrews 13:7]. Look again in verse 17, “Obey them that have the rule over you… for they watch over your souls, as they that must give account…” [Hebrews 13:17]. And then again in this same chapter, at the end of it, “Salute them that have the rule over you…” [Hebrews 13:24].
Well, look again here in 1Timothy, chapter 3, verse 4, this elder, this pastor, this bishop is to be “One that ruleth well his own house… for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he epimeleomai, how shall he take charge of the church of God?” [1 Timothy 3:4-5]. Well, that’s very plain. The leader of the church is the episkopos, the presbuteros, the poimēn. Now, Paul says another thing about him. In 1Timothy 5, beginning at verse 17, “Let the elders, the pastors, that rule well be counted worthy of double honor . . . For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward” [1 Timothy 5:17-18].
Now let’s look at that in the way Paul wrote it. “Let the elder, this pastor, that rules well be counted worthy of double…” That’s a good translation—diplous means “twofold, double” honor, timē. The first meaning of that is “stipend”; what you pay somebody for something. And the second meaning of it is “honor and esteem.” Now which one of those meanings is Paul referring to here? Well, it is very apparent, for he describes it in the verse, “Let the elder that rules well be counted worthy of double stipend, double salary. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his,” translated here, “reward, misthos, wages” [1 Timothy 5:17-18].
Do you deacons see that in the Scriptures? We have a deacon’s meeting tomorrow night, and it’s in the Book: “If he’s a good preacher and pastor, he is to have double his salary!” Oh, I like that! Haven’t I told you all my life this was the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God? Isn’t that what I’ve been preaching to you? Well, amen! I tell you I love the Lord, and I like what He writes; it’s just wonderful, it’s just wonderful.
And he’s called a poimēn, p-o-i-m-e-n, poimēn. That is a simple word for “shepherd.” And it’s translated pastor several times in the Bible—in Ephesians [Ephesians 4:11], in Peter [1 Peter 2:25], all through the Bible. They refer to him as a pastor, as a presbuteros, as an episkopos, as a poimēn—a pastor.
I don’t know—in all of my reading—I don’t know of a sentence that ever moved me more than this that I read in the life of Dr. Truett. He was asked—when he was pastor of the church here—he was asked to be president of Baylor University. And, when the committee talked to him about leaving the church and going down to be president of Baylor, in his decline, in his refusal, he said a sentence that has burned in my heart ever since. He said in declining, “I have sought and found the shepherd’s heart.” And he stayed here until he died—forty-seven years, God’s undershepherd. “I have sought and found the shepherd’s heart.”
“Well,” you say, “that’s such a simple sentence. Why should it find such repercussion in you?” Well, for several reasons. One is this: I cannot remember when I didn’t want to be a pastor as far back as my memory will take me into childhood. I look at these little kids today that go to our academy over here, little-bitty kids. And I think, could it be, when I was their age in elementary school, I was studying hard to be a pastor? After having entered this ministry, I have been asked to be president of several universities and colleges. I’ve been asked to be executive leader in the denomination. There has never yet been anything ever said to me that ever pulled me away in any interest from this desire and prayer and love of being a pastor, a pastor.
If I resigned my church to be president of the United States, I would feel I was stepping down. If I resigned my church to be prime minister of the British Empire, I feel I would be stepping down. I’m not saying that others would say that. It is just the way I feel. I love being a pastor! I only have one objection to being pastor of a large church, and it is this. When I was with my country and village churches, I lived with the people. I was in everybody’s home. Most of the time, I was not married. I was single. I ate with the people. I slept in their houses, in their beds. I knew everything about them. I loved that. I only have one objection to be being a city pastor, most of the homes of the people now, I’ve never been in; I’ve never eaten with their children, I’ve never knelt with them and prayed with them in their homes. I think that is a great loss to me; I don’t see anybody but that I wish I could go home with them.
“Well preacher, we haven’t invited you!” That wouldn’t make a difference to me, I’d just invite myself! I’d just go to the house, knock at the door. Well, there’s another thing, nobody yet has ever said, “Now listen, we’ve got bread here to eat; but we’re not going to share it with you!” I’ve never been in any home, and I’ve invited myself into a thousand of them, I’ve never been in any home that ever turned me away. I say, “I want to eat dinner with you. I want lunch with you. I want to stay with you.”
“Fine, we’re glad to have you!” I love that! It’s the way God did something in me even when I was a boy. I love being a pastor. I don’t want to be anything else. That’s enough for me.
Now, with regard to the deacon, we’ll just take one part of it; and that is its historical origin. Where did the office of a deacon come from? We find it in the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts—Acts chapter 6, that’s where the office of a deacon was born. Well, there’s several things said about him. “In those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Greek-speaking Hebrews against the Aramaic-speaking Hebrews” [Acts 6:1].
Now that’s an interesting word. There in that church, there arose a gongusmos, gongusmos. That’s an onomatopoetic word, gongusmos. It’s a word that tries to imitate what it sounded like, gongusmos. Those are interesting—those are interesting things, an onomatopoetic word. A philological scholar will say all of our words, ultimately, were onomatopoetic. They were trying to imitate the sound of what they were describing. For example, “whippoorwill,” whippoorwill sounds like “whip-poor-will.” That’s an onomatopoetic word; whippoorwill. Bobwhite, bobwhite; that’s an onomatopoetic word. Cuckoo, cuckoo; that’s one of those words.
My wife, as you know, loves antiques, and she had an antique cuckoo clock there in the hallway of the parsonage, and I was having the most wonderful wedding out there you ever saw in your life, and as I stood up before that fine wonderful couple, I turned to that man, and I said, “Will you take this woman to be your lawful, wedded wife?” And at that very moment, that thing cuckooed eight times! I said to her, “As of this minute, that goes out of the house.” Well, that’s what this word is. It’s an onomatopoetic word—gongusmos, gongusmos, gongusmos, just all around, gongusmos, gongusmos—they were murmuring.
Now that is where the deacon was born. It says here, “We want to pick out men whom we may appoint over this,” that, translated, “business,” chreia [Acts 6:3]. Twenty-five times that word is translated here in the New Testament; every time, it’s “needs.” It’s just here it is translated “business” [Acts 6:3]. They are brought into the family of the house of our Lord to minister to the needs of the congregation. Man alive, we fall into all kinds of differences, and all kinds of troubles and problems, and [they’re] there to make it beautiful, make the house of God a place of joy and gladness. And those men, full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom that comes from God—there’s a lot of difference between knowledge and wisdom—full of faith; and one of them, of course, was Stephen [Acts 6:5], God’s first martyr [Acts 7:55-60]. Well, it’s just wonderful to see laymen who are dedicated to the Lord; love God just as much as any pastor or preacher who ever lived.
I was in Washington D.C. as a youth, and listened to James L. Kraft, who at that time was the leader of the great food company, Kraft Food Company, and he said in his address, he said, “I had rather be a layman in the North Shore Baptist Church in Chicago than to head the greatest corporation in the America.” I preached later in that North Shore Church in Chicago and was a guest in his home. There’s just nothing in the world that has the strength in it and the witness in it as a layman who is dedicated and consecrated to our Lord. Edgar A. Guest said it like this:
Leave it to the minister
And soon the church will die.
Leave it to the sewing club
And the youth will pass it by,
For the church is all that lifts us
From the coarse and selfish mob.
But a church that is to prosper
Needs a layman on the job.
Now, a layman has his business
And a layman has his joys,
But he also has the rearing
Of his little girls and boys.
And I wonder how he’d like it
If there were no churches here,
And he had to rear his children
In a godless atmosphere.
When you see a church that’s empty,
Though its doors are open wide,
It’s not the church that’s dying,
It’s the laymen who have died.
For it’s not by song or sermon
That the church’s work is done,
It’s the laymen of the country,
Who for God, must carry on.
[“It’s the Laymen,” Edgar A. Guest]
Verily, they make an unbeatable team, a godly pastor and a consecrated laymen. Put them together, and they literally shake the world for Christ. They build to the glory of the Lord. O God, bless our dear church, our laymen, and our laywomen, and may our young and our boys and girls following in our steps find the path leads to heaven and to home. Now, may we stand together
Our Lord, there are wonderful things God hath prepared for those who love Him. And it isn’t just the crown of a pastor, it is that bēma of Christ at which all of us shall receive our ultimate commendation and reward [1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10]. O Master, that we might be faithful in the brief, so brief, span of this life and that God might delight in giving us a wondrous reward in eternity.
And in this moment that our people pray, that we wait before God, a family, a couple, or just you: “Pastor, today, we’re answering with our lives. We want to accept Jesus as our Savior, and we’re coming.” Welcome. “We want to be baptized according to the command and mandate of our Lord [Matthew 28:19-20], and we’re coming.” Or, “Pastor, we are putting our lives in the fellowship of this dear church, and we’re coming.” Make that decision in your heart now, and when we sing our song, that first step you take will be one of the greatest you’ve ever made in your life. Do it and welcome.
And our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet harvest You give us this precious, gracious hour, in Thy saving name, amen. Welcome. Come. Come.