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Dear Donna.

I met you at Grace Baptist retreat last Spring and I finally got to read your wonderful book. I did have a question as you clearly stated we must do. On page 21 of the book [Choices That Lead to Godliness] you mention about Paul speaking to women who wanted to be deaconesses. When I went to the verse this was not clear to me; the entire chapter is about qualifications of the deacon and how women are supposed to act.

I would love it if you could explain more what you mean. I just do not see how you could say that when it is not there. I am just making sure that everything aligns with the Bible. I am now doing the book as a Bible study with our group so I want to be equipped to answer the question. The Bible reference is 1 Timothy 3:11. Thanks so much! (name excluded)

Donnaís response:

Carefully go back and read the entire Chapter 3. This will help you understand the verse in question.

You will notice that 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are verses in reference to Bishops. The Greek word for "overseer" mentioned in 3:2 is episkopos , which is translated as Bishop. Yet, this also could be in reference to a pastor, although we never see the word "pastor" used in the Bible. Just because we don't see the word "pastor," doesn't mean that 1 Timothy 3:1-7 wouldn't apply to the position of pastor. Likewise, when discussing the position of deaconness.

You will notice that Chapter 3:8-16 deals primarily with Deacons. The word "deacon," in the Greek, is diakonos which simply means "servant." Practical service is diakonia. We first see practical service, and the existence of deacons (although the word isn't used) in Acts 6:1-7, when the church was looking for men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom to daily serve food to the widows. This has nothing to do with teaching, nor with espousing doctrine. The office of deacon is simply one of service to others in the church.

Some believe that 1 Timothy 3:11, is a reference to female elders. Impossible. We know scripture tells women not to usurp authority over the men in the church. Some believe this verse is in regards to the wives of the deacons. The question we must ask is, "why should the duties of deacons' wives be set forth when there is no allusion earlier for the duties of the bishop's wives? Plus, if it was directed to the deacon's wives, Paul would indeed be stating that this is to the wives of the deacons.

What we have to do, is look at this verse in its context. The entire chapter 3 involves leadership in the church. It wouldn't make any sense to discuss leadership, and then pull away from it to say something general about laywomen not being gossips, and then go right back into the discussion of leadership. As my teenagers would say, "that's random!"

We must ask, if the women aren't to be gossips---what type of women is Paul referring to? Again, staying within the context of the chapter and the verses above and below 1 Timothy 3:11, he clearly is talking about women who are in a leadership position. What type of position? A "servant's" position--a position that is "faithful in all things." I'll make a similar point as I did above. Paul wouldn't be going off the topic of service, to talk about gossip, and then go back to "service," unless he was discussing gossip within the context of those in leadership.

Another bit of "food for thought": If Paul was just speaking to the laywomen in the church, why didn't he talk to the laymen as well? The answer is because Paul clearly stayed focused upon the behavior and requirements of those in leadership. He was not speaking to the layperson (male or female) in the church.

While we don't see the English word for "pastor," nor for "deaconness," I believe Scripture does show us these positions. For instance, Phoebe was a "servant of the church" (Romans 16:1). The Greek word to describe Phoebe in Romans 16:1 is "diakonon" meaning "servant." This is the basis for many believing that Phoebe was a deaconness, since diakonon is the female version of deacon (again, male deacons are diakonos). I do not know why Paul didn't use the word diakonon in 1 Timothy 3:11. The only thing I can say is that, he most likely knew his audience would understand that his entire topic in 1 Timothy 3 were instructions to all, men and women, who are in leadership, which in verses 8-16 specifically involve service.

There are in churches, deaconness positions (I was one at Church of the Canyons). There are other churches that simply don't have that position--but clearly have women who perform in a leadership capacity at their church. They are, no question, called "diakonon," meaning "a servant" (or deaconness) to the women in the church.

I hope I explained this clearly enough, please write back if you have further questions.

Blessings & Joy in Jesus,