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Question 83

Q: I have a question about 1 Timothy 3. Our pastor recently spoke on this passage and differentiated between the office of elder and office of deacon.

He said that the office of elder is for men of the church who meet the scriptural qualifications; and the office of deacon is a position that can be filled by either a man or a woman depending on the job needed.

I’ve always been taught and believed that both roles were to be held by men only. Can you give me some clarity on this issue? I highly respect our pastor but I want to be sure I have a proper understanding.

Asked by: Stan, Alabama

A: Well Stan, thank you so much for your question, and I hope that my answer is not too different from the one that your pastor would give.

In my view, in the New Testament, both deacons and elders were men. I think that’s clear from 1 Timothy 3 and the other passages that talk about the qualifications of both. But I also believe that it is proper in a church to have deaconesses. This is based on Romans 16:1 for example, where a woman, Phoebe, is spoken of as a servant, which is basically the word “deacon.”

Here at The Moody Church we have deaconesses. Now, here’s the point I want to make. I believe that the function of deaconesses should be different from that of deacons. In other words, here at The Moody Church, we do make that distinction.

So rather than saying that the office of deacon can also be a woman, I think it’s more biblical to say that only men can fulfill the role as deacon. But deaconesses are permitted by Scripture, and their responsibilities and roles are quite different than that of a deacon since they support the ministry of the church in different ways.

And I’m so glad, by the way, that you respect your pastor. And you know, if he insists that the role of deacon can be fulfilled by women as well as men, be open to what he has to teach you. Support him, pray for him, and if you have these concerns, go to him or to a member of the board and share them. God will lead you. Thanks so much for your question Stan.

Scripture references

  • Romans 16:1
  • 1 Timothy 3

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