Lesson 21 - The Church Which is His Body cont.

1O DEACONS

In addition to the "shepherd-elder-overseer" there is another office in the local church, namely "deacon." Paul, writing to the Philippians, sends his letter to "all the saints in Christ Jesus whieh are at Philippi, with the bishops (overseers) AND DEACONS" (Phil. 1:1) In his letter to Timothy, Paul outiines the required qualifications for deacons immediately after those given for the "bishop" (overseer).

a. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE WORD?

The word "deacon" is a translation or more accurately a transliteration of the Greek word 'diakonos', which means "servant". It is defined as "one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master; a servant, attendant, minister ....a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use." (Thayer).

Another defines it as "one who renders service to another; an attendant, servant; one who executes a commission, a deputy."

Like many other Bible words ("apostle" for example) "deaoon" has both an official and unofficial use. In its unofficial use it refers to

1) Those who serve in the home. "His mother saith unto the servants (deacons), Whatsoever he saith unto you? do it" (John 2:5)

2) Civil rulers. "For he is the minister (deacon) of God unto thee for good" (Rom. 13;4)

3) Ministers of God's Word. "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers (deacons) by whom ye believed" (1 Cor. 3:5)

4) Our Lord Jesus Christ. "Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister (deacon) of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers" (Rom. 15:8)

These are just some examples of the unofficial use of the word. In the King James version it is translated "minister" twenty times and "servant" seven times. In addition to the general and unofficial use of the word, it is also used to designate a special and specific office in the local church.

b. WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE OFFICE?

The office of deacon originated in a state of things referred to in the sixth chapter of Acts. It is said that "when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration" (vs. 1). The "Grecians" were Hellenists or Jews who spoke the Greek language, and usually were not natives of Palestine. The "Hebrews" were not natives of Palestine. The "Hebrews" were dwellers in Palestine, and largely in Jerusalem, who spake Hebrew or Aramaic, and observed all the customs and traditions of Hebraism. Thus we see an early threat of serious division in the young church.

The members of the church at Jerusalem "had all things in common" and a distribution was made out of the common stock "as every man had need." This seems to have been done at first under the immediate direction of the apostles, and the Scripture implies that the increase of numbers in the church made it difficult to make distribution competent or impartial. The apostles saw that, if they made it their personal business to "serve tables" it would greatly hinder their work in its spiritual aspects. They said, "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables; wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (vs. 2-4).

Thus the creatioh of the artiae of deacon recognizes the fact that the duties of pastors are preeminently spiritual; and that they should not be burdened with the secular interests of the church.

While these men are not given their official title as deacons, their duties are described by "using the corresponding verb and substantive, "diakonein" and "diakonia." The daily service to the widows was called a "ministration" (diakonia) and these seven men were chosen to "serve (diekonein) tables."
It has been suggested that the office of deacon was just a temporary one, and that they were intended only to superintend and distribute the common property of the Jerusalem church. However, the common property of the Jerusalem church was only one circumstance of the over all need for deacons. There is not intimation in the New Testament that any church, except the one at Jerusalem, ever adopted the common stock arrangement. "It was doubtless considered by that church a prudential arrangement, which involved temporary expediency rather than permanent principle." That the church at Antioch did not follow the example of the church at Jerusalem in relation to this matter, is evident from Acts 11:29. "Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren who dwelt in Judea." This individual purpose shows that the property of the church was not in "common stock." And Paul's direction to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 16:2) indicates that the Jerusalem policy had not been adopted.

However, even though there is no evidence of the continuation of the Jerusalem policy in other churches, nevertheless, Paul refers to deacons in this letter to the Philippians and to Timothy.

Very simply then, it would appear that the deacon is a qualified man who assists the spiritual leadership in the church, especially in the area of temporal things. This seems clear from the record of the origin of the office and from the position of the list of qualifications which follows immediately on the outline of qualifications for the elders in Paul's letter to Timothy.

c. WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A DEACON?

There are two places in the New Testament where the qualifications of deacons are referred to

1) Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3

a) GOOD REPUTATION - "Men of honest report" (vs. 3)- "Men of good and attested character and repute" (Amp.)

b) SPIRITUALITY — "Full of the Holy Spirit" (vs. 3)

c) SOUND SPIRITUAL JUDGMENT - Full of wisdom": (vs. 3). Not merely practical skill or professional experiences but heavenly prudence, teaching how to act in all emergencies.

d) ACCEPTABLE TO THE CHURCH - "The saying pleased the whole multitude:" (vs. 5) Deacons must be men in whom the assembly can have a confidence.

e) ACCEPTABLE TO THE ELDERS — "Whom they set before the apostles" (vs. 6)- The apostles, serving as elders at this point in the life of the Jerusalem church, must concur in the choice of the people. Unity and growth can be best served by agreement between the leaders and the people on such important matters as this.

f) SET APART BY THE ELDERS - "They laid their hands on them" (vs. 6) By this act the apostles acknowledged the partnership of the deacons in the work. It also indicated the  impartation of leadership authority.

2) 1 Timothy 3:8-13

a) PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS

i "GRAVE" (vs. 8) "Dignified." Both in their inner and outward life the deacons "must be men of Spirit-wrought gravity and respectability.“ As Christians they must be men of a happy spirit but both as Christians and deacons they must refrain from "shallow jocularity."

ii "NOT DOUBLE TONGUED" (vs.8) "Not shifty and double talkers but sincere in what they say" (Amp.), "Not talebearers!" (Moff.). He "does not talk out of both sides of his mouth."

iii "NOT GIVEN TO MUCH MINE" (vs.8) "Not addicted to drink (Moff.). "Should be temperate" (JBP).

iv "NOT GREEDY OF FILTHY LUCRE" (vs.8) "Not greedy for base gain - craving wealth and resorting to ignoble and dishonest methods of getting it" (Amp.). Being a deacon is not for the purpose of enhancing business opportunities.

v "HOLDING THE MYSTERY OF THE FAITH IN A PURE CONSCIENCE" (vs.9) While not required to be "apt to teach," deacons must however be loyal to the Word of God, in their conduct. In handling the practical matters of the church, they must always do so in relation to the Word and a pure conscience.

vi "LET THESE ALSO FIRST BE PROVED" (vs. 1O) "And let them also be tried and investigated and proved first; then, (if they turn out to be) above reproach, let them serve (as deacons)." "Let them serve a period of probation first, and only serve as deacons if they prove satisfactory."

b) SOCIAL AND DOMESTIC QUALIFICATIONS (vs. 11,12)

i "EVEN SO MUST THEIR WIVES BE..." (vs.11) "...must be worthy of respect and serious, not gossipers, but temperate and self—controlled (thoroughly) trustworthy in all things" (Amp.). "Their wives must be serious too; they must not be slanderers, they must be temperate and absolutely trustworthy" (Moff.).

ii "LET THE DEACONS BE THE HUSBANDS OF ONE WIFE" (vs.12) This requirement also is the same as that pertaining to elders.

c) PRESENT AND FUTURE REWARD (vs.13)

"For those who have filled the deacon's office wisely and well, are already gaining for themselves an honourable standing (ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT), and are acquiring great freedom of speech in proclaiming the faith which rests on Christ Jesus“ (Weymouth). As they faithfully fulfill their ministry as deacons, these servants of Christ and the church find their spiritual lives filled with liberty and victory, and their hearts encouraged with the knowledge that their service shall be duly rewarded at that day.

STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #21 ·

  1. What is the meaning of the word deacon?
  2. What two uses does the word have?
  3. Where did the office originate?
  4. According to Acts 6:1-7 what qualifications were required of the first deacons?
  5. According to 1 Timothy 3:8-10 what character qua1ifications are demanded?
  6. Are qua1ifications necessary for a deacon's wife?