Monday, October 10, 2011

I Timothy 3: Overseers and Deacons

Ever since the lunch rush at the Jerusalem Church cafe got too crowded for the apostles alone to handle, causing Peter to say in Acts 6, "it is not good to neglect the ministry of the word to wait on tables," there have been overseers and deacons. The oversimplified distinction between the two is: overseers serve the soul, deacons serve the body. There is crossover. In the first century, Deacon Philip preached the gospel to Samaritans and Ethiopians. Last Saturday night, Overseer Peter (Andersen) waited on tables at the Jericho Congregational Church chicken supper. Only in the religious flesh is one position "more important" than other, for in the Kingdom all are servants, the greatest least of all and vice-versa. The biblical emphasis on servanthood probably explains why the qualifications for both jobs are less CEO and more PTO: be a good dad, a good husband, well-thought of, honest, sober. As for job-related qualifications: the overseer must be able to teach; the deacon, not given to dishonest gain (unlike Judas, the "deacon" of the original 12). Neither should be untested newbies. As always, Paul points to the Lord Jesus as the example. The church's call to serve both body and soul comes from he who dwelt among us in the body, walked in the Spirit, and magnificently ministered to the whole person, unlike any other before or since. I had never noticed it before, but Paul's little hymn at the end of chapter two (who goes very well with the traditional Christmas song "the Christmas Bells Are Ringing") portrays Jesus equally in body and in spirit, in the "seen" world and in and by the unseen:

He appeared in a body / was vindicated by the Spirit
was preached among the nations / was seen by angels
was believed on in the world / was taken up in glory

I have received some gracious, interesting feedback on the last blog entry about women being silent in churches. One brother wrote that his wife asked him, "so where was Adam when Eve sinned?" In other words, why wasn't the brother leading? Was he off playing golf? Watching passively? It's a good question. (The answer would probably conclude that just because Adam and every male leader since has been a cowardly, power-hungry, lazy, arrogant dope from time to time, their failure has not revoked God's call. The church did not discard the Cross when the Romans and the Klan misused it as a weapon of intimidation and power.) Another brother, by far the most Patriarchal, head-covering-and-silence-for-women believer I know, gently mentioned that scripture encourages women to prophesy in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is an example of scripture commenting on scripture.

There are four steps to inductive Bible study: 1. Definition - what do the words in the passage mean? 2. Interpretation: what is the writer saying? 3. Application: what does this passage mean for my life? And, 4. Correlation: how does the teaching of this passage fit with the rest of scripture? In the last blog, I gave a quick treatment of 1-3 and left 4 untouched. That is a task for another day, or perhaps for a group of godly men and women, led by overseers "able to teach".

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