biblical roles of deacons
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. 25:46). Many times when the new pastor comes, the deacons are not always willing to relinquish their new-found prestige and position. Please note God inspired John to write this almost sixty years after He instituted the institution of the local church. The next few chapters will see us explore biblical leadership as it is exercised in the roles of elders, deacons and preachers, outlining the … What Does it Look Like to 'Do Justice, Love Mercy, and walk Humbly' Today? 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. In the early church, the Deacon rationed any of the leftover elements to the poor of the church or locality. 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. Towns refers to 1 Timothy 3:1 and 3:11 as using the word "office" of a bishop and deacon respectively. The basic task of deacons, then, seems to be helping those in need of food, water, and clothing, as well as ministering through hospitality and welcoming. Often church constitutions incorrectly require the pastor and church to use the deacons in leadership positions. It is not God's will to appoint men as officers in a local church, call them "deacons," and purport that they hold a biblical position. The verse says, "Phebe, our sister, which is a "servant" of the church which is at Cenchrea." THE ROLE OF A DEACON So what exactly is a deacon? 6 It is best to discuss this issue in the larger context of the role of women in the church. (2 Timothy 2:15) and ". Those that do so should acknowlege they have no biblical foundation for their practice. Being a deacon is not what qualifies a man to teach or preach in the church. 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." The most common modern definition and understanding of the English word "office" is: "a position of responsibility or some degree of executive authority." The word "servant" here is the feminine word "diakonon." The last definition (4.a-c) is probably the definition the King James translators understood the word to mean. Without this ministry the church will not prosper spiritually. Lea and Griffin conclude from 1 Timothy 3:8-13 that "deacons likely served in an undefined way to assist the overseer, but they may not have been deeply involved in church financial affairs. This is the same word used in 1 Timothy 3:10, 13 which was transliterated "use the office of a deacon." The Greek speaking widows were complaining that the Hebrew widows were getting preferential treatment because they were born in Judea and spoke the native language. Over the years I have watched as churches have elected deacons from their assemblies "to serve on the Board of Deacons" and be elevated to positions of authority over the congregation. Number of Deacons There is no example or reference to an official diaconate (the office or period of office of a deacon) in New Testament church, that has authority or office over the local congregation. Churches who have such deacons will be blessed indeed. The church has many different traditions that span over hundreds of denominations. 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. The lack of mention of deacons in NT passages where elders or bishops are mentioned should also be noted. There is a practical division of labor between the only two ordained offices in the church of Jesus Christ (see Phil. 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. The church constitution should clearly set forth their duties and term of service. 6 Seven spiritual men of good character were elected, not by the apostles, but by the congregation to look after that business. I am showing equal respect for all of our men. Romans 16:1 refers to Phoebe with the same word Paul uses in 1 Timothy 3:12. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/office. The misunderstanding would go away if we stopped using the word "deacon" and used the correct English word "servant." By involving the whole church and its leaders, the precedent of congregational rule was confirmed. 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. responsibilities relating to the oversight of members, to the finances and properties of the church, and to its evangelistic, missionary, and educational programs. 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. Ibid, p1617. 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. 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. The Role of Deacons When it comes to the role of deacons in the local church, the Scriptures are surprisingly quiet. In Acts 6:1-7, and in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, the context tells you these men were "appointed servants." A church cannot grow unless it has good leadership, and you cannot have good leadership unless you have biblical leadership. A role can be defined as a function or part performed. 13. The role of a deacon is one traditional area that has had seen many changes over the years. They serve the elders and the congregation by tending to the practical and logistical needs of the church. Those whom God has giving the talent of teaching can certainly be used in this position. There is no reference in the New Testament of anyone being called or given the title of "deacon." The type of servant, whether appointed or non-appointed), is indicated by the context in which the word is used. Down through history, most commentators have simply accepted the incorrect traditional ideas of those they followed without a thorough examination of the matter themselves. Some church members find it easier to get a deacon to agree with them and take their side in some disagreement involving the pastor. "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." Part of the duty of the deacons is to Many times this procedure has ultimately led to deacons ruling over a local church and seeing themselves as having the position of authority over the hiring and firing of their pastor. Conclusion In one of my first business meetings, I made a proposal to the church which they voted on and wholeheartedly accepted. 12. The biblical deacon holds the role of a QUALIFIED servant of the church (Acts 6:3 & 1 Tim. Many churches — and plenty of deacons — were doubting the effectiveness of the diaconate, a role played by laity in the context of those churches. Phebe was a servant in her church in the same way any woman can be a servant in their church. The two offices share similar duties but are distinct in that the Bishop preaches the Gospel and administers the ordinances of the church. This does not mean that it is a lowly or unimportant office. God will not and cannot bless error in any form; therefore, a church with an unbiblical use of servants "deacons" cannot expect God's favor or blessings in this area. This is why certain issues are hammered-out in deacons meeting before going to the congregation. However, the word is more likely used here in an unofficial sense of helper. This material so collected was distributed to those in need by a committee . We understand this because the word "diakoneo" simply means "to serve or to wait on tables." This fund was called the tamhui or the tray.27 If a church must have deacons in order to be properly organized, why did Paul omit their appointment? There is no Scripture for the present day usage in Christendom, that a man, in order to preach the Gospel or teach the Word of God must be "ordained."10. 4:11-12, 1 Timothy 5:17, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:2). 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. There is no biblical example of a pastor seeking the counsel of his deacons in the overseeing of a local church. There is absolutely nothing in the New Testament to suggest that these were a different position or appointment and that the later "deacons" of 1 Timothy 3:8-13, were official "officers" in the local church. Clearly, the word "diakoneo" would be better translated "let them serve (or minister) as servants. Some see the role of a deacon as a stepping stone on the way to being a member of the clergy. 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 author grants permission for copying for individual personal or church use only. The single word "diakoneo" is translated into the phrase, "use the office of a deacon." (Eisegesis means reading a meaning into Scripture. The pastor(s) are given by the Lord the responsibility of teaching the Word. Deacons were not intended to have authority over the church leadership. The Biblical Role of Deacons. I have always made it a priority to teach what the Bible says concerning what God intended "deacons" to be to the church. An example of its use in the New Testament is found in Luke 10:40, when Martha complained to the Lord Jesus that, "my sister hath left me to "serve"(diakoneo) alone." Her position was of service not leadership. 14. The local assembly belongs to Him, and I am but His overseer and under-shepherd. Without these gifts deacons will not be as effective in fulfilling the ministry to which God has appointed them. If that be the case, then the church should look for those who have the gift of "helping" (1 Cor. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, the word is a verb, not a noun. When there is a need for some service a pastor can mention it in a service and get volunteers. Thank you. This meant the identification of the Israelite with the offering itself. There is no example in the New Testament of an appointed servant functioning as ruling person or having authority in the church over the pastor or church. He further states, "like the Latin, minstrare, to wait at table and offer food and drink to guests. Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, p443. I would be an encouragement to me to write and inform it is being used. In the first church I pastured, I ran head-on into the situation where the deacons ran the pastor and the church. (Matt. "3 This is strong evidence that the New Testament does not support the establishment of an "office" or "board" of deacons. God has outlined both the qualifications and responsibilities of elders and deacons in the New Testament Scriptures. One problem is that some churches appoint men to the position as a deacon for life. Kenneth S. WuestThe New Testament, An Expanded Translation William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1959, p494. These appointed servants of the congregation held an important job in the church, but it was not a position or office of leadership. Once this unbiblical situation comes into power over a church it becomes a yoke that few churches can cast off. The church constitution should have clear instructions for the election and for the removal of men who become disqualified to serve. There is nothing wrong with a pastor discussing church matters with men in his church, but it is unbiblical for a pastor to go to his "church board" in order to carry out his duties as the overseer of his church. The English word "servant" is a proper and accurate translation of the Greek word "diakonos.". To read an email from a hurting church where deacons ruled, go to my Frequently Asked Questions about Deacons Page. Article Images Copyright ©. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul further outlines the qualifications as he defines the responsibilities of the offices of Deacon and bishop. And this is the only meaning of the laying on of hands from the side of the Apostles. A Biblical Look at Deacons Although they are "servants" and their ministry is a ministry of service, the fact that they have been … "30 Whatever else they do in serving God and His church, they should be careful not to neglect their primary ministry of service to the needy. Further, this unbiblical use of men in churches has also spiritually destroyed many good men who were incorrectly elected to an unscriptural "board of deacons" and told they had authority over the pastor and congregation. Although the Apostles were Galatians (Grecians) it would be out of character for them to show either group of widows any preference. Deacons are the waiters of the church. Evidence of this can be seen in the New Testament example given in Acts 6:2, which states that the Twelve Disciples carried the matter to the congregation, and the congregation appointed them to the task that needed attention. http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/office. 13. 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 ". 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. April 1998, (Revised 2-27-2006; 5-14-2009; June 29, 2011; March 2012.). . A.C. Gaebelein, The Acts of the Apostles, , Publication Office "Our Hope", New York City, 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. He is not to be the pastor-elder's supervisor but his helper. 2. The requirements for a deacon are very demanding because God wants the church to be a "holy nation" (1 Pet. In Acts 15:4, 22, it states the matter was placed before the whole church, the apostles and the elders. When handling money, it should be required that at least two deacons are involved. The exact nature and duties of the New Testament deacon are not systematically described anywhere in Scripture. They preferred to give their alms for the poor through the synagogue rather than doing it individually. This is a form of disobedience to God in electing the unqualified or not taking seriously the dictates of Scripture in these matters. 4 It is normal today to elect deacons without giving them any real function in the church, and "ordain" them merely to an honorary position in the church. There is no example in the New Testament of an appointed servant functioning as ruling person or having authority in the church over the pastor or church. Clearly the Lord spoke often of the error of following traditions. The congregation was not appointing them to an office, but giving them a responsibility or duty to take care of the widows. The poor of the community were given enough food for fourteen meals, that is for two meals a day for the week. 4. . No matter how they serve, Scripture makes it clear that … 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. Another indication of the deacon's role is inherent in the name itself: "servant." In other verses, where the word "diakonos," a noun, is used, the context explains that these references refer to servants in general. What Is the Purpose of Baptism for Christians? 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. The other twenty-five times the word is properly translated "servant" or "minister." Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest translates the word, "be serving as deacons." They were to be in charge of the "daily serving of food" (NASB) to the widows. Using these figures, one could conclude that most churches have too many deacons. Finally, a church should have no more deacons than there are men qualified to serve. We would certainly not call the church member "Grounds Keeper Jones" or "Servant Jones." In Acts 15, when the church at Antioch needed counsel they went to the Jerusalem church. It is a common practice in some churches to see their position as being counselors to the pastor or working in the leadership of a church in conjunction with the pastor. The biblical deacon is MORALLY qualified (Acts 6:3a and 1 Tim. 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. Often, instead of looking for men qualified to perform some specific task that needs to be done, men are chosen because of the social or economic status in the church or because the "earned" the honor. I’ve met some deacons who viewed their role as being … Charles C. Ryrie,Ryrie Study Bible, Moody Press, Chicago, 1978, p1548 I have been using men in my congregation to hold Bible studies, prayer meetings and even to preach periodically during my entire ministry, but I did not use them simply because they held the special status of deacon. (Acts 15:6) The apostles, elders and the whole church recognized that this was the proper way to seek counsel in a church. 15:2-3,6; Mark 7:3,5,8-9,13) Paul and Peter also warned against following traditions. deacons in the Black Church Cost purchase as a book or e-book Suggested Uses Train and support deacons by sharing this resource with lay leaders. The Greek word is a verb showing action, whereas the English word "office" is a noun which denotes a position. ", 1 Timothy 3:12-13 "Let the deacons (diakonos - noun) be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. Two of the men appointed in Acts 6, Philip and Stephen, achieved prominence as preachers. iii: 2). While I recognize that good people differ on church polity and governance issues – may I share what I believe the 1907, p914. 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.". 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.". was called the kuppah, or the basket. 6. (1) It removes the temptation to take money from the collection for personal matters. They identified themselves and the assembly with them in their work for which they had been chosen. It does two things. . 1912, p121. This violates no scripture and does not elevate deacons to be responsible for hiring and firing pastors. Ryrie concludes this was not the official position of a deacon because Phebe was a woman. Just as there is no such thing in Scripture as a board of elders, there is no such thing as a board of deacons. What is the biblical role of the deacon and how does the church organize itself to allow the deacons to accomplish their God-given ministry? 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." 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Their role is second in importance only to the pastor-elders. The word in the Greek text absolutely does not refer to an official ruling position. This procedure has served our congregation well, and we operate in a spirit of unity. Within religious circles there are many different views of what a deacon’s role should be. There were both Jews. 1 Thayer defines the word as meaning "to be a servant, attendant, domestic; to serve, wait upon." Nowadays, as in the early church, the role of a deacon may encompass a variety of services differing from denomination to denomination. I do not believe that God will or can bless a congregation that allows men to usurp their pastor's God-given position and take the rule over him and the congregation. 8. No other directions are given in Scripture concerning the work of the deacon. The Deacon is to set up and prepare the table for the administration of the Lord's Supper. First, to conclude that in Philippians 1:1, Paul only addresses the bishops and servants (deacons) and that this establishes the authority of a deacon is a weak point. He did not want to relinquish his unbiblical position and power in that church. I do not make this a matter to break or base fellowship with other men. Let's study from Scripture what a deacon is, what their role is and how many the church should have. They should help the pastor or pastors with their ministry and help meet the physical needs of the congregation. 3. The Greek word is defined by Arndt and Gingrich as meaning "to wait on someone." Deacons are not required to have the "ability to teach," although this does not preclude them from doing so. Clearly, the word "diakoneo" would be better translated "let them serve (or minister) as servants." In time this principle will prove itself to be true. 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