How to understand 1 Timothy 3:11?
To better understand what the text is about, it is good to read it in its context.
In Chapter 3 of the I Letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul instructs the recipient how to ordain men to the ministry of bishop and deacon in the Church and he wrote
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable,free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, buttemperate, faithful in all things. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:1-13)(NASB)
The question that arises in the reader’s mind is: What women does apostle refer to in verse 11? Are they the wives of those who are elected as deacons, or women who may be elected to serve as deaconesses?
Version I – Deacons’ Wives
Undoubtedly, both wives of the deacons and bishops, elders, pastors and other ministers in the Gospel must have high spiritual qualities. Otherwise, they will put a stain on their husbands’ service in the Church and would discredit the message preached by their husbands and by the whole Church. This passage can be applied to wives of deacons and other ministers of the Church, but I think that it applies primarily to women who are deaconesses chosen to serve and here is why.
Version II – Women deaconess
At the beginning of this passage, the Apostle Paul made reference to the minister’s wife when he said that he should be “the husband of one wife.” I think there was best place to say the requirements for the character qualities of a servant’s wife.
Another argument is that the Apostle could have clearly specified that he refers to the qualities of a minister’s wife, just as he referred specifically to the children’s behavior.
We have the biggest argument in the Epistle to the Romans where the Apostle Paul wrote this:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of thesaints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2)(NASB)
In this passage, it is quite clear that Phoebe was a woman, a sister in Christ and was serving as a deaconess of the Church of Cenchrea. (By the way, Cenchrea is a port of the city of Corinth) It seems that Paul sent the Epistle to Romans through Phoebe. He also said that she had been a helper of many and especially of Paul. Therefore, he asked the Christians in Rome to receive her in a manner worthy of the saints, and to help her in whatever she needed.
God bless us all, men and women who call on the name of Christ, to serve with passion and dedication to the Gospel, as the Apostle Paul and deaconess Phoebe did.
Translated by Felicia Rotaru