by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 5 Lincolnton, NC February 20, 2005
13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
1901 ASV Translation:
13 For they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
There are no textual variations between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 in this verse.
I. This verse is Paul's last comment on the qualifications of church leadership.
II. This comment concerns the benefit to the "servant" who serves well.
A. Thirty-two times the word translated "used the office of a deacon" is used in the New Testament and only in this context is it so translated...implying a corruption of the mentality of the Church within the interpreters.
1. There is no "office of a deacon"; there is only a "position of service" within the Church's structure that is reserved for those who are sufficiently committed to "serving" that they are willing to pay the price that developing maturity in godliness requires.
2. The very idea of an "office of a deacon" implies the kind of heirarchy of authority that arrogant men have always attempted to impose upon the Church of the Servant God.
a. It is possible for a servant-minded church to "think" in terms of "offices" for its "servant leadership", but the probability of that kind of thinking is slight to begin with and unlikely beyond that beginning.
b. The truth of the matter is that the human psyche is so caught up in the "authority is the way I get my will done" mindset since the fall that without determined effort by the Spirit of God no one jettisons the idea. Even in the most fundamental practice of relational interaction with God (prayer) we find most people "telling" God what to do rather than seeking to find out what He would like to do. It is even entrenched in our hymnology that we need "power with men and power with Thee". The tacit implication is that we sing of our desire to be able to "influence" men and God to do "our" will...and we call it "power". Interestingly, these words are found in a "prayer" hymn called "Teach Me to Pray". I have my doubts as to whether we can ever "pray" aright until we jettison the entire concept of trying to impose our will upon others. In fact, unless we are willing to carefully work our way into the biblical notion of "power" as the "ability to aid others in their experience of eternal life", even our proclamations of the "Sovereignty of God" are more likely to be pompous than proper, for God exercises "power" to one end: the production of Life for those who trust Him.
B. The "benefit" of the "service" is twofold...
1. The "purchase" of "a good degree/standing".
a. The word "purchase" signals a "method of acquisition" by referring to the act of "obtaining" something. It is intensified by the middle voice coupled to the reflexive pronominal use of "for themselves". The idea is that the person has accomplished something that has brought the desired "good degree" into his "settled possession" -- so that it is irrevocably "his". This hearkens back to the words of Jesus, "Verily, verily...but that he will receive 100 fold...".
b. The "thing" obtained is called "a good degree", or "a good standing". The word is used to refer to "incremental steps" (as the rungs of a ladder, or the degrees of the zodiac) that can be taken to move from one position to a "better" one. The issue is the position of service that will be granted in the coming servant kingdom as a reward for having learned how to be a servant. Behind that issue is the greater issue of the divine/human sharing in that interrelational realm called "life". Those share the greatest "degree" of life who plunge deepest into the active practice of the principles of selfless service.
2. The "purchase" of "much boldness" in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
a. It is interesting indeed that the "cowardice" which dominates a vast host of people (the "fear" that keeps one in bondage) has its roots in the attempts to "dominate" others that those engage in who refuse to "serve" others.
b. The connection is pretty obvious: the attempt to dominate others is fraught with difficulties that are humanly impossible to overcome ("others" tend to find ways to frustrate the dominion). Thus, the "fear" has real roots -- "I may well fail in this effort to dominate". Service is not like that. Yes, people may well refuse the effort so that it looks like the "service" was "wasted", but the issue of "service" is not "success" but "attempt to help". When "service" is viewed in terms of whether or not it "succeeded", it has been subtly turned from service to dominion because "success" still means "I got what I wanted". Service only means "I attempted to help another get what he needed".
c. When one is simply attempting to help, there is nothing to fear -- thus, those who develop as "helpers" gain "much boldness in the faith".