Sunday, September 17, 2017 am                                            NT Church 2017 Index

Leaders (6)

     We are in the midst of a study of leaders in the Lord’s church.  We have addressed the work of elders as the shepherds of the flock.  Today we want to talk about the office of deacon.

     The office of deacon is misunderstood by some.  Exactly what their work involves is discussed. To appoint deacons, must they each have assigned duties? Is there a requirement for a plurality of deacons if any?  There is debate about whether women can serve as deacons. Some even discuss if deacons can be appointed when there are no elders. 

     In this lesson, we will discuss the work of deacons, note their qualifications, briefly address these questions.  Tonight, we are going to discuss the question of women serving as deacons (and other offices)

 I.                     What is a Deacon?

a.       The word deacon in the Greek is διάκονος (diakonos).  It is a word that describes a servant.  Specifically, it is one who serves under the direction of another.   An attendant, helper or minister.
W.E. Vines in defining this word distinguishes it from the Greek word, doulos (a bondservant or slave), noting that while doulous generally refers to one’s relationship to his master; diakonos refers to his relationship to his work.  In other words, it describes one who serves. 
The word is used about 30 times in the NT, with it being translated minister(s) about 17 times,  servant(s) about 10 times, and deacon 3 times (NKJV translation).

b.       It is an office –

                                                   i.      While the word servant is a general term, what we are referring to is actually an office or appointed position.  While ALL Christians are to be servants (Col. 3:24, Rom. 12:11 – we serve the Lord; Gal. 5:13 – through love we serve one another; etc.) there are passages that make a distinction between deacons and other “saints”

                                                 ii.      Phil. 1:1, “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

                                                iii.      In 1 Tim. 3:8-13, a passage we will briefly examine, we find a list of qualifications which differentiates a deacon from all Christians.  By listing these qualities it makes it an office.

                                                iv.      NOTE: In each of these passages, like elders, the word, as this office, is always used in the plural.

c.        By NT usage, as you examine the work of the church, deacons serve under the oversight of the elders.  In other words, you cannot have deacons without elders.  If it is an office, there is authority.  If there were no elders, but deacons, they would be the defacto leaders, something we have no hint of in scripture.

d.       Acts 6:1-7 describes how 7 men were chosen among the saints in Jerusalem to tend to Hellenist widows who were being neglected.  This was under the direction of the apostles who needed to tend to spiritual matters (ministry of the word) and thus the “serving of tables” was to be delegated to qualified and faithful men.   7 men were chosen.  WHILE these are not described as deacons, they give us an example of how deacons work under the oversight of elders. 
As we have seen, the work of elders shows that it is primarily a spiritual work – looking out for the spiritual welfare of the local congregation.  But in every congregation, there are administrative tasks that need to be carried out.  Faithful men can be appointed as deacons to carry out these tasks at the ready.  (I believe this to be a difference between appointed deacons and all servants, some who might be asked to carry out some task).

II.                   Qualifications for Deacons

a.       1 Timothy 3:8-13 is the only passage that gives us a list of qualities required for one to serve in this office.  Let us briefly notice each of these qualities.

b.       Likewise (just as elders have qualifications, deacons must:

                                                   i.      Be reverent – having fitting behavior, with dignity and respect.   They are required to be serious – mature.  It is work for grown-ups that requires a level of maturity showing they are dependable and take their responsibilities seriously. 
From time to time, deacons are going to be given responsibilities that require the respect of their brethren in carrying these tasks out.  Thus they need to demonstrate virtue and integrity.

                                                 ii.      Not double-tongued – unhypocritical.  Their conversation needs to be consistent.  This describes one who keeps his word and speaks consistently and honestly. 
When entrusted with a task from the elders, they need to be able to know that he will do what he says he will do, and that it will be done properly.   They might also be tasked with works that require confidentiality and discretion.  Those who execute their duties need to keep that confidence!
One whose speech cannot be trusted is also one whose actions cannot be trusted.
There is a reason Jesus said believers should not need to swear to one another – our word is our bond.  Matthew 5:37, James 5:12.

                                                iii.      Not given to much wine – Christians need to be sober at all times.  1 Peter 1:13, 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8.  This means we will not be brought under the influence of substances such as alcohol or drugs.  We need self-control.  It is fundamental to our lives as Christians. 
A deacon needs to be in a state of mind where he can properly carry out his assigned tasks, and do so with due discretion.  Consider Isaiah 28:7, “But they also have erred through wine, And through intoxicating drink are out of the way; The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, They are swallowed up by wine, They are out of the way through intoxicating drink; They err in vision, they stumble in judgment.”   In this text, the priests were condemned for misleading the people by FAILING to be sober.  It was one of the causes that led to the downfall of Judah. While this applies to elders in teaching, it would also apply to deacons in carrying out their assigned tasks.

                                                iv.      Not greedy for money –one who is not driven by the craving to make money.  Christians are to be content with what they have (Phil. 4:11, 1 Tim. 6:8).  We are to be willing to share and not miserly.  1 Timothy 6:10 says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
One entrusted to serve as a deacon must prove himself to be genuinely concerned about the affairs of the congregation.   The tasks he will be entrusted with may involve money or other resources of the church.  The elders and brethren ought to be able to confidently trust him with these resources. 
You don’t serve in a leadership capacity in the Lord’s church for the sake of selfish gain!!!

                                                  v.      Holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience – a deacon needs to be firm in his convictions.  He needs to believe in what he is doing.  He needs to have genuine faith that is demonstrated in his life.
If one does not truly believe the Lord’s church is the Lord’s church, he will not act in her best interest.
NOTE: This expression does NOT say he has to be a skilled teacher (something required of elders), but he has to have a depth of knowledge and wisdom.

To be continued in our next lesson.