We understand this because the word "diakoneo" simply means "to serve or to wait on tables." The deacon is not described as a "ruler" in the church. . It is interesting and revealing to read Ryrie's note on Romans 16:1. Down through history, most commentators have simply accepted the incorrect traditional ideas of those they followed without a thorough examination of the matter themselves. In 1 Timothy 3:10 and 13 the phrase, "use the office of a deacon," is translated from one Greek word "diakoneo", being a verb, which is properly translated "ministry" or "service of a servant," denoting the action of the verb. For they that have used the office of a deacon (diakoneo - verb ) well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.". When asked do I believe in, "deaconesses in the church." http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/office. Just as the title bishop carries with it the job description of "overseer" and the title pastor means a "shepherd," one who takes care of the flock, the title deacon refers to one who serves. I am showing equal respect for all of our men. This view says if it works, then do it. Kenneth S. Wuest, The New Testament, An Expanded Translation, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1959, p494. The role of the seven in Acts is clearly spelled out. Simply stated, when I need counsel or have matters to discuss with the men, I call all the men of the church together and discuss the matter with them. (See the list at the end of this article which compares the qualifications of the bishop and those of an elected servant). He further states, "like the Latin, minstrare, to wait at table and offer food and drink to guests. The qualifications are quite high. In the New Testament, there is no reference to "ordaining" deacons as practiced by many churches today. The contention I believe was not founded. There is no biblical example of a pastor seeking the counsel of his deacons in the overseeing of a local church. If the New Testament was teaching "elder" rule, the Apostles would have appointed these servants, but that is clearly not how God wanted it done. 1:22). 4. THE ROLE OF A DEACON So what exactly is a deacon? Deacons in the Church Today . The role of a deacon, as Acts 6:1-7, clearly states, was that of waiting on tables and the distribution of food to the widows in the Jerusalem church. It is good to do these things openly so there is no question about honesty or unfairness with the use of church funds. Part of the duty of the deacons is to
Perhaps no fixed number is given because churches of different sizes with differing conditions have very different needs for the deacons' ministry. "2 This word is a verb denoting an action of serving and is not a noun that would denote a title of an office, officer, or official. 5. It should be noted that when Paul sent Titus to the churches of Crete, to "set them in order" by instructing them in the appointing of pastors, he did not instruct him to also appoint "deacons" (Titus 1:5). The Apostles were asking the church to appoint someone to "serve tables." There is a practical division of labor between the only two ordained offices in the church of Jesus Christ (see Phil. Her "ministry" was as a servant. Surely, my congregation and I should seek to appoint and use spiritual men with the ability to carry out a needed service or task, and this should be the only criteria. This material so collected was distributed to those in need by a committee . Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. However, Phebe, not being a man and not the "husband of one wife" could not hold the position of a deacon as the word is popularly used. Using men unscripturally in this position tends to elevate them above the rest of the congregation. The context of Acts 6:2 clearly shows no "office" in a church was being established, but men were being appointed to a particular service. Each Friday in every community two official collectors went round the markets and called on each house, collecting donations for the poor and needy in money and goods. . 3. The emphasis in using the men in the church should not be that they are deacons, as any man in the church could be used without regard to whether they are deacons or not. It will (should) be clear that they would function as the servants of the whole assembly, and once the new pastor is called and arrives; their services are terminated. They were not called deacons because no such a title is used in the New Testament. The church constitution should clearly set forth their duties and term of service. The act of "laying on of hands" was merely a cultural oriental practice in which one would show his identification with or approval of the person on which he placed his hand. One thing I find common to those who teach the "office of a deacon" idea is that they take a eisegetical approach in arriving at their conclusions. It was not used to "set apart to the sacred office in the church" or to "put their honor upon those chosen to the same responsible and dignified position" as Unger's Bible Dictionary states.11 The present day use of "ordination" comes from the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches and should not be confused with what the early church practiced. (2 Timothy 2:15) and ". Within religious circles there are many different views of what a deacon’s role should be. 15:2-3,6; Mark 7:3,5,8-9,13) Paul and Peter also warned against following traditions. This situation is especially hard for a young pastor to deal with, and it has caused many to fall by the wayside. If the deacon board thought it a worthy idea, they would present it to the church, and it would pass without difficulty. One problem is that some churches appoint men to the position as a deacon for life. Instead of electing servants that were needed to carry on administrative tasks and be helpers to the pastor and congregation, churches put these men in a place of authority over the local congregation and often even over the pastor. Often, if a pastor wants something done in the congregation, he first must go to his "deacon board" and get their counsel or approval on the matter. When a pastor leaves, these men are elevated to a special leadership status in the congregation. This is a form of disobedience to God in electing the unqualified or not taking seriously the dictates of Scripture in these matters. The responsibility and position of leadership is established in the use of the word "bishop" which means an "overseer" and other verses of Scriptures establish the place of leadership of the pastor (Acts 20:28, Eph. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, the word is a verb, not a noun. When I informed him, this was not the proper function of deacons, pastors, or of biblical church polity, and I would follow the New Testament, he became upset and from that day on started a campaign to remove me as pastor. "29
Elmer Towns, in his textbook, Theology for Today, also concludes there is an "office" of a deacon by using Philippians 1:1, in which Paul addresses the Epistle to "To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." Elmer Towns, Theology for Today, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, 1994, p492. Their role is second in importance only to the pastor-elders. There is no support in the New Testament for the assumption that God later changed the position and established a ruling office of deacons. Some might suppose that to take this position is to be opposed to having biblical deacons. The pastor and the church must be careful in setting the position within the biblical example and make sure that it is never changed. He fails to note that the word translated into the English noun, "office" and the verb "use" is not in any Greek text. 5:25). When things need to be discussed, as stated above, I call all the men together, and we confer on the matter at hand. The root word "diako" from which "diakonos" is derived means "to run errands. “It comes from a root word (sebomai) that means ‘to venerate,’ or ‘to worship.’
The noun "diakonos" is used thirty times in the New Testament, and in only five of those does it refer to a specifically appointed servant: Philippians 1:1 "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (diakonos - noun)", 1 Timothy 3:8 "Likewise must the deacons (diakonos - noun) be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre", 1 Timothy 3:10 "And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon (diakoneo - a verb), being found blameless. 3:10, diakoneo). 5 It is the word, "diakoneo," and means "to serve." Many men and churches, which I deeply respect, do not hold to the biblical position. The Biblical Role of Deacons. There were both Jews. If a church must have deacons in order to be properly organized, why did Paul omit their appointment? Ibid, p1617. Phebe was a servant in her church in the same way any woman can be a servant in their church. The qualifications in 1 Timothy imply this supporting role for deacons in two ways. The verse says, "Phebe, our sister, which is a "servant" of the church which is at Cenchrea." When I first got married I knew that I was a husband. Someone might point out the phrase "use the office of" is used in 1 Timothy 3:1, in reference to a "office" of a bishop. ", 1 Timothy 3:12-13 "Let the deacons (diakonos - noun) be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. Article Images Copyright ©. However, the fact that both Acts 6 and 1 Tim 3 speak of the deacons as adult males suggests that the office was limited to the men. However, it seems the Greek speaking widows thought they were not being treated fairly. It is a poor leader who must go to his deacons and get them on his side before he attempts to bring a matter before his congregation. Their job was to help the pastors by performing menial tasks for the congregation and work as peacemakers among the widows of the church, thus freeing the pastor's time to ". The sphere of their responsibility should be limited to characteristics of the task in Acts 6:1-7, which was a menial administrative service to the congregation. This has often been the turning point when deacons eventually began to take control of a church. Using a temporary pulpit committee, elected by the congregation from the assembly, precludes deacons assuming authority over the pastor that God does not give them. Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources, Amazing Children's Choir Sings 'I Can Only Imagine', 20 Prayers to Keep God First in the New Year, 10 Ways Wives Disrespect Their Husbands (without Even Realizing It), 10 Bible Reading Plans to Start This January, Get the Power to Go after Your Goals - New Year Devotional - December 29, iBelieve's Top 10 Messages of Hope in the Crisis of 2020, Grace for Families in the New Year - Crosswalk the Devotional - December 30, 5 Things a Wife Really Needs (But Doesn’t Know How to Ask For), 10 Things the Bible Says about the Mark of the Beast, Top News Articles of 2020 Christians Should Know About. The Biblical Role of DEACONS Dr. Jim Vogel, Northeast Fellowship here seems to be more confusion than ever these days about the role of deacons in local church leadership. The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of … The following are those people: It does two things. Although they are "servants" and their ministry is a ministry of service, the fact that they have been … The next few chapters will see us explore biblical leadership as it is exercised in the roles of elders, deacons and preachers, outlining the … Deacons may be involved properly in all of these ministries as appointed by the church, but Strauch is correct when he says that "deacons are the church's ministers of mercy. Oversee steps of correction, discipline, and restoration in the church. History proves this point and sadly, it is a valid one. let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another" (Gal.
Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Moody Press:Chicago, 1988, p534. However, if you understand the word is correctly translated "servant" and not deaconess there is no problem. The men I chose were used because they were godly and spiritual men, and it had nothing to do with them being a deacon. All rights reserved. There is no reference in the New Testament of anyone being called or given the title of "deacon." However, these men were not servants in the sense of officers in the church 7 As a Protestant; Ryrie is upholding the position as an official ruling office. These men were to serve in a position in which there had been accusations of impropriety. Neither I, nor anyone else, have any authority to change in any way the church that He founded and built. But no one could receive any donation from this fund if he already possessed a week's food in the house. Many churches — and plenty of deacons — were doubting the effectiveness of the diaconate, a role played by laity in the context of those churches. For example, if a modern church elected someone as "grounds keeper" we would not be making an official authoritative office in the church, but rather be giving a job description of the position and responsibility to which that the person was elected. History shows that, probably under the influence of the Church of England and Protestant churches, whose roots are found in Roman Catholicism; the word was understood incorrectly as referring to an official office, which supported their unbiblical hierarchical system of church government. A church cannot grow unless it has good leadership, and you cannot have good leadership unless you have biblical leadership. I always make it very clear that what we are discussing will be brought before the whole church and properly discussed and voted on. Without these gifts deacons will not be as effective in fulfilling the ministry to which God has appointed them. Ryrie, in his note on 1 Timothy 3:8, again sites the difference between the "servants" of Acts 6:1-7 and the "servants" (deacons) of 1 Timothy 3:8-13.8 In Acts 6:3, the Apostles stated the qualifications of these first appointed servants in the church as being, "men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom." That was a ratio of almost three thousand people per deacon. Without this ministry the church will not prosper spiritually. The Jerusalem church understood clearly that they were appointing servants to "take care of this business," which was waiting on tables. There is no precedent, rule in grammar or translation, that would support or validate the transliteration of the word, "diakonos," into the English word, "deacon." Paul says that deacons must be “dignified” (v. 8). Certainly, they understood they were not establishing an office of leadership in their church or putting these men in an official position over their church. However, the word office can be used in another sense as "something that one ought to do or must do: an assigned or assumed duty, task, role, or the proper or customary action of something: FUNCTION: something done for another: SERVICE" (4.a-c, "office"). The English phrase "use the office" is a verb and if the Lord had intended to be referencing an official "office" then He would have used a noun. They serve the elders and the congregation by tending to the practical and logistical needs of the church. The Bible defines a deacon as an officer in a Christian church. They should help the pastor or pastors with their ministry and help meet the physical needs of the congregation. Ryrie concludes this was not the official position of a deacon because Phebe was a woman. California - Do Not Sell My Personal Information. This violates no scripture and does not elevate deacons to be responsible for hiring and firing pastors. 1. Clearly the Lord spoke often of the error of following traditions. 13. 3:8-12). diakonos) means “servant.” 12 In numerous pages following, which address the "officers" of the church and their duties, it is well to note that Strong never gives even one scriptural reference for his conclusion of deacons being "officers" in the church. 12:8). If there are two "offices" in a church, pastors and deacon, why did Paul not tell Titus to appoint "deacons" as well? Note what A.C. Gaebelein says about the matter: "The seven were then set before the Apostles and when they prayed they laid their hands on them. Once this unbiblical situation comes into power over a church it becomes a yoke that few churches can cast off. If you correctly translate the sentence as "To all the saints in Christ Jesus, which are at Philippi, with the bishops and servants" the problem goes away. Phebe was a servant in her church in the same way any woman can be a servant in their church. This procedure is merely a dressed-up form of Presbyterianism or elder rule, which is foreign to New Testament churches. This idea is not consistent with the biblical record. "28 The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church of the USA defines the role of the deacon more broadly. . The deacons were to assist the elders (who replaced the apostles as the spiritual leaders of the church) with the physical needs of the church. Phebe was simply a faithful member who served the Lord in her church. In the first church I pastured, I ran head-on into the situation where the deacons ran the pastor and the church. After a church elects its officers each year it is proper to have special prayer and install them in their duties. In addition to these biblical roles, at First aptist, deacons are also responsible to: Guard the unity of the Spirit and peace in the church. The two offices share similar duties but are distinct in that the Bishop preaches the Gospel and administers the ordinances of the church. 2:9), ones who have "purified your souls in obeying the truth" (1 Pet. While I recognize that good people differ on church polity and governance issues – may I share what I believe the 6 Seven spiritual men of good character were elected, not by the apostles, but by the congregation to look after that business. The laying on of hands is first mentioned in the Book of Leviticus. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/office. Thank you. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman Publishers. It results in at least two problems. The most obvious reason is that there was no such official "title" as "deacon" in use in New Testament times. The Greek word is defined by Arndt and Gingrich as meaning "to wait on someone." Distributed in multiple copies without my permission. I do not make this a matter to break or base fellowship with other men. Romans 16:1 refers to Phoebe with the same word Paul uses in 1 Timothy 3:12. As stated earlier, the phrase, "let them use of office of a deacon," is only one word in the Koine Greek and can accurately be translated "let them serve (or minister) as servants." The word ministry used in Acts 6:4, is interestingly "diakonia" or "service." When deacons make service to the church members as their primary role, they can serve as the eyes and ears of the church leadership so that they can better oversee and provide for their spiritual needs. The title "Deacon Jones" carries with it a false sense of prestige and honor, which is totally contrary to the biblical position and responsibility. The congregation was not appointing them to an office, but giving them a responsibility or duty to take care of the widows. The word translated “deacon” literally means servant, which is exactly what deacons do. One place this can create a real problem is in giving deacons the position of locating and calling a new pastor. Proverbs 15:22 says, "Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellers they are established." At first the money for the poor had been administered or at least supervised by the apostles (Acts 4:35), but when the number of the disciples grew to five thousand men (Acts 4:4), the job became too much for them, and deacons were elected to help. There is another practical consideration. (2) It results in weak spiritual leadership for the church. Finally, a church should have no more deacons than there are men qualified to serve. The reason some have a problem with the Phebe being a "deacon" is they assume that it is an official office of leadership in the church. Clearly, the word "diakoneo" would be better translated "let them serve (or minister) as servants." Christ's strong denunciation of the Nicolaitanes in Rev. In following this procedure, I am not promoting a special and unbiblical class of men in our church. The New Testament teaches in every case congregational rule, which means that all members of the church are equal in all matters concerning the church's business. iii: 2). IV, Dallas:Dallas Seminary Press,1948, p152. The Role of Deacons When it comes to the role of deacons in the local church, the Scriptures are surprisingly quiet. Clearly, churches have left the biblical example and elected men to an "honorary" position of leadership, serving on an official ruling board of a church. The most common modern definition and understanding of the English word "office" is: "a position of responsibility or some degree of executive authority." It is always proper in reading and interpreting the Word of God, to see if not elsewhere in the Bible the terms or things to be interpreted are used, so that through them the right meaning can be ascertained. There is no reason to suppose these were "forerunners" of officials called "deacons" as Ryrie states. 6 It is best to discuss this issue in the larger context of the role of women in the church. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul further outlines the qualifications as he defines the responsibilities of the offices of Deacon and bishop. *All Rights Reserved. No matter how they serve, Scripture makes it clear that … . To read an email from a hurting church where deacons ruled, go to my Frequently Asked Questions about Deacons Page. 3 Most other translators translate the word, "serve as deacons. In other words, an "office" is a position of some authority. These appointed servants of the congregation held an important job in the church, but it was not a position or office of leadership. Often, smaller churches do not need deacons (elected servants) as the menial tasks are done generally by all the congregation on a volunteer basis. Any time the word of God is ignored or distorted there will be a negative result. 11. Their responsibilities should also be clearly defined and limited. They should be elected annually and receive prior approval from the pastor who makes sure they meet all the biblical qualifications. Otherwise the apostles would have to "lay down the word of God" in order to serve tables (Acts 6:2). Deacons are the waiters of the church. When there is a need for some service a pastor can mention it in a service and get volunteers. Ibid p1711. Many commentators and Bible dictionaries make the assumption that because Paul in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 lists the qualifications of a deacon, he is setting forth the official office of "deacon.". It simply means a person elected to serve in a particular ministry. 2. "14 Thus he seems to understand the word "office" as being an assigned task and not an official church office. 7. It is exactly the same Greek word. They are to lead the church in ministry. It also got more people involved in serving and helping one another. I do not want to belabor the point, but when a church finds itself without a pastor, often the deacons of a church are given the task of finding a new pastor for the church. In addition, the qualifications are not quite as rigorous for deacons as they are for pastor-elders. The Deacon is to set up and prepare the table for the administration of the Lord's Supper. Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Hendrickson:Mass, 2003) p137. However, as one who assists the "overseers" of the church and is appointed by the church to fulfill specific ministries, the deacon is by virtue of his office a leader of the church.
In the Bible the role of deacons seems to primarily be that of serving the needs of the church in practical ways. 1 Timothy 3:1-16 ESV / 48 helpful votes. Being a deacon is not what qualifies a man to teach or preach in the church. This is why certain issues are hammered-out in deacons meeting before going to the congregation. When handling money, it should be required that at least two deacons are involved. Is it correct and proper to use men from the congregation to help in holding services when the church is without a pastor? Most commentators base their assumption that the position of a deacon is an official office in a church on three factors: 2. Deacons have a very important role in the church. This document must not be: 1. By taking this course, I am acknowledging that the Head of the congregation, that I pastor is the Lord Jesus Christ who died for it (Eph. In closing, I can find no scriptural precedent for a church to misuse or misapply the ministry of specially appointed servants (deacons) in the local church as many churches are doing today. There are those that view the role of deacons as a governing board over the affairs of the church. The first problem with the present-day misunderstanding of this position is caused by the transliteration (spelled in letters of another alphabet) of the Greek word "diakonos" into the word "deacon" instead of translating the word into the English equivalent. At least two of the seven in Acts, Stephen and Philip, were very active in preaching and evangelism (Acts 7-8). 14. 9. This is completely in line with the biblical example. In addition, he must be a good example in his family life and his deportment in the community. He informed me that in the future if I wanted to present something to the church, I should first consult him, and if he thought it worthy, he would present it to the deacon board. 2. The word is generally used simply to denote one who served the Lord or ministered as a servant. Many times when the new pastor comes, the deacons are not always willing to relinquish their new-found prestige and position. This is the only example we have of these specially appointed men serving in a church. The lack of mention of deacons in NT passages where elders or bishops are mentioned should also be noted. Another indication of the deacon's role is inherent in the name itself: "servant." In fact, “We have no description in the New Testament of deacons acting as deacons, with the single exception of Acts 6, which, while controverted, is still widely used as a model for the ministry of deacons. Permission to republish is readily offered if I am contacted. 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