The Work of Deacons

The Work of Deacons
February 19, 2023
Passage: Acts 6:2
Service Type:

The timing of this sermon I had this planned from really before the first of the year. And, the elders and deacons meeting got moved to this same day. I don't know if there's any coincidence there or not. But, anyway, we're going to talk about the work of deacons. 

You know, the autonomous local body of the church, talking about the local, is, by the scriptures to be led by qualified men who serve as elders, who are appointed by the Holy Spirit, who oversee the work of the church locally. 

  • Acts 20:28

These elders are essentially the spiritual leaders of the congregation. They're examples for us to follow as they follow Christ. Their duties and responsibilities are spiritual in nature. That is their primary focus. 

And so, we know other needs of the church are more physical in nature. Things that involve the members of the church that are not strictly spiritual, but they're still important things, important matters that need to be dealt with.

Elders are to feed the flock of God with the Word of God. But there are times though when the feeding of the church maybe is a more literal thing and more necessary in a literal sense. Because the family of God, just like any family, any earthly family has needs, there are times they need the help of their brethren.

If the elders are focused on their primary responsibilities, then they're not going to have the time needed to meet all of these physical needs. You know, even the apostles recognize this.

  • Acts 6:2

There was a need in the family there, a need to feed those that were widows, those that had no means of support. They were dependent upon the brethren, dependent upon the church and the elders, or the apostles who served basically the same function as the elders for their local church. They didn't have time to deal with it.

So they appointed these men. We'll get more on that in a moment, but God made provisions whereby men could be selected to lead in this way. And he's made provision for men to serve, to meet the physical needs, to meet the needs of the church. 

What is a Deacon?

Just as there are God-ordained qualifications for those who lead in spiritual matters. There are God-ordained qualifications for those who are to be special servants or ministers of the church. 

Let's begin by talking about what is a deacon. 

The word, deacon, comes from the Greek word diakonos. Which means one, according to Thayer's dictionary, one who executes the commands of another, especially a master, a servant attendant minister. A deacon is 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. 

And so, diakonos, generally speaking, is to be distinguished from doulos, which is translated as a servant or a bondservant, basically a slave.  Diakonos views a servant in relationship to his work, whereas a doulos, views him in relation to his master.

And so we're gonna be looking at this word, diakonos, at the office of a deacon. 

Now the word diakonos is used in a more general sense, twenty-seven times. It is found thirty times in the New Testament. Twenty times it is translated as minister or ministers. Another seven times it's translated as servant or servants. And then, three times it's translated as deacons.

And so you think about the term minister, minister of Christminister of the Gospel, this is referring to one who is a preacher of the gospel, one who serves by preaching the Word. Then you have some that are said to be the servant of the Lord.  

  • Romans 16:1

This word diakonos is used in a more general sense, of all Christians who are servants one of another. And then it's used only three times in the sense of the office of a deacon who was a special servant to serve the church under the oversight of the elder. We'll get into that particular role, that particular use of the word diakonos.

God Designed the Church and Her Leadership

  • Philippians 1:1 

This is the word, doulos, the bond service the slaves of Jesus Christ. "With the bishops," talking about the elders, "and the deacons." So we see that the fully organized church has elders and deacons. 

Christ we know is the head of the church. He has a preeminence, in all matters of authority. 

  • Christ is the Head of the church, Colossians 1:18
  • He purchased the church with His blood, Acts 20:28
  • Organized the church to have elders in every church, Acts 14:23

Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, went through Asia Minor to establish churches. And then on their return trip, they came back through the churches they had already previously established, and they ordained elders in each of the congregations. And so each congregation was to be led by elders. 

Now elders have additional support, and additional help in leading the church as a recording of the Bible the early church had deacons. They had also teachers and preachers and evangelists. 

  • Ephesians 4:11 

The Role of the Deacon

In this lesson, we are considering the primary role of the deacon. As a vital part of, really, the leadership of the church. Now we need to understand that deacons do not have authority over the local church in the same sense that the elders do. You know, the elders exercise authority over the local church to lead the flock to Heaven. That's their mission. 

Deacons are also leaders in the local body. But lacking authority over the church at large. They lead by example and the carrying out of the tasks assigned to them by the elders. 

We understand that doctrine comes from the Word of God. Authority to implement doctrine in the local church has been delegated, by Christ, to the local elders who serve as again, the spiritual leaders of the flock.

Deacons serve the flock by meeting the physical needs of the church, to free the elders so they can dedicate themselves to meeting the spiritual needs of the church. Again, this was clearly demonstrated.

  • Acts 6:1-2
  • Acts 2:41

Now, if you remember on the Great Day of Pentecost, you had people that came, Jews devout people, from all over the Roman Empire. They came, they heard the gospel, they obeyed the gospel, and many of them remained there in Jerusalem with the church. 

And so, you had the Grecians and you have the Hebrews. The Hebrews were the local Jews. The Grecians were the Jews that came from other places. And there was a problem with those that were widows. They needed help. They needed support and they weren't getting it, to the same [level of] fairness. They were unable to meet the needs fairly. And so that became a problem in the church, and the apostles recognized that they didn't have time to deal with it. Their focus was on preaching, uh, and, and expanding the borders of the.

  • Acts 6:3

Certain qualifications were set forth for these men. 

  • They had to be men 
  • Of honest report
  • Full of the Holy Ghost

So that the apostles could continue in the ministry of the gospel.

  • Acts 6:4-7

And so we see because of this, the result of the resolving of this issue, the apostles were able to continue in their work and the daily needs of all the Christians were met fairly. And it brought great blessing to the church.

And so, the apostles here served in function as the elders of the Jerusalem Church in its earliest stage. Now later, elders would be appointed into that role over the local church as we saw in Acts chapter 14. They had the same need to be freed from physical fo to focus on the spiritual.

Qualified men were selected for the work. 

Qualification of the Deacon

Now we see the same need today. For people that can, who are qualified people to do the work of the church. And so God gave qualifications for those who would serve as deacons. 

  • 1 Timothy 3:8-13

Let's take here a moment, this ties the teaching to the previous paragraph about elders. These two paragraphs clearly communicate that there are two different offices, but they're similar in that they both serve the church as qualified leaders. They're alike in the fact that God has given them the qualifications.

  • Acts 20:28

Again, that's for elders that God has appointed them. In the same sense that God appoints elders by their qualifications, deacons are appointed by their qualifications that are met in the Word of God. And so, they're like that God has given those qualifications. They differ when it comes to their general authority over the church. 

And so as we look here at these qualifications there are some positive characteristics of a man qualified to be a deacon.

The word grave refers to one who is honorable, who is serious, who is dignified, and earnest. 

  • They are grave.
  • They are not double-tongued. 
  • Not given to wine
  • Not greedy of filthy-lucre
  • Faithful in all things
  • Blameless
  • Holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience
  • Husband of one wife
  • Ruling children well

Positive Qualification of the Deacons

And so these positive characteristics. Again, he is to be grave honorable, serious, dignified, earnest, one who holds the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 

Unlike the qualification of an elder, the deacon does not have to teach. That's not necessarily part of their job to do. They can teach, certainly, but it's not a qualification that they must teach.

Nonetheless, he must live and hold the gospel in such a way that a pure conscience is formed and not defiled. This is Paul's complex phrase, stating the qualification of faithfulness to the Word of God. And every aspect of a man's life, including his conscience. And so holding the mystery of faith and the pure conscience.

Also, we see the qualification of blameless. Now, this doesn't mean that he is without sin because no man then would be qualified. Rather, the man must not be presently ruled by sin. If past sins were brought up, the qualified man could prove himself presently to be blameless to this charge.

These are the positive qualifications, the things that are positive to look for in this, and the areas that we are to work on and develop. 

Negative Qualifications of Deacons

Then there are the negative qualifications, the things, which forbid. You know, he is to be not double-tongued. You know, this is the way of the hypocrite. As one who deals dishonestly. It is the act of saying one thing to one person or in one situation or something contrary when other people or in another situation. And so it is a self-contradiction. It's being two-faced, hypocritical. 

He is also to be not given to much wine. You know, he is not one who drinks alcoholic beverages. Now it says, not given to much wine. The verse not given to wine is where it talks about the elders. But I found an interesting quote from Adam Clark. He writes this in his commentary here, and in First Timothy chapter three. 

"It is not affirmed that it would be proper for the deacon anymore than the bishop to indulge in the use of wine in small quantities. But it is affirmed that a man who is much given to the use of wine ought not on any consideration to be a deacon. It may be remarked here that this qualification was everywhere regarded as necessary for a minister of religion." — Adam Clark, Commentary on First Timothy

You know, even the pagan priests on entering the temple did not drink wine. The use of wine and strong drinks of all kinds was absolutely prohibited to the Jewish ministers of every rank when they were about to engage in the service of God. Why should it then be any more proper for a Christian minister to drink wine than for a Jewish or pagan priest? Shall a minister of the gospel be less holy than they? 

And so he is not to be given to much wine.

He is not to be greedy of filthy lucre. You know, there are times when the deacon is entrusted with the funds of the church and sometimes it could be a large sum of money. This is another vice that is, being greedy of filthy lucre, that can control someone's life. 

How do we know what to allow in our lives? How do we know if we are guarding our souls?

  • 1 Corinthians 6:12

If I want to know if something is something that should be done, if it's something that I ought to be involved in, we need to ask ourselves, does it help the work of the church? Does it help me to live a Christian life? Does it help others through my example? 

And secondly, does it have the possibility of becoming addictive? You know, greed for money will dictate our life, ultimately placing money as a higher priority than God. 

  • 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17

You know, the one who will be a deacon to put their trust in God, not in riches. He must not be one that seeks earthly riches above all else. You know, greed destroys contentment. One of the basic, beautiful, characteristics of the Christian, is to be content. 

  • 1 Timothy 6:6

 Qualifications that Deacon must Meet in His Home

You know, he is to be the husband of one wife, ruling his children in his house as well. This verse reveals that the deacon must be a married man with children. Doesn't mean if one is not married and does not have children, that they cannot serve the church in any sense, but they cannot serve in the office of a deacon. There are many works that they can still be involved in. 

This verse reveals that he must be married with children. He must be married to one woman and ruling his house well. The man must be the head of his home dealing as a godly and good steward with a gift of a wife and children. 

  • Proverbs 18:22
  • Psalm 127:3

Qualifications of a Deacons Wife

The Deacon's wife also has some qualifications. She must be grave or dignified, not one who is a slanderer or a gossip, one who is temperate, self-controlled, and faithful in all things.

These really are the qualification of the [deacons] that they must meet in their own, personal lives. The things they're not to be, that are not to characterize them, and the things they are to. There to be blameless, there to be grave, there to be servants of God. 

God-given Description of a Deacon

As we take this and apply these qualifications, consider the God-given description of a deacon.

You know, God calls these men deacons. He uses the same word that is used for a servant. The word means to serveto be an attendantto wait upon. These men are called to serve. But they were also called to lead in that way. 

You know, not all have the gift of leadership from God. 

  • Romans 12:18

As much as possible with them, you know, they can be leaders, but not everyone has the same abilities. If one is not a servant, then one is not qualified to become a deacon in the church of our Lord. 

God-given Expectation of a Deacon

Consider also that the God-given expectation is to be tested. 

  • 1 Timothy 3:10

This verse requires that a man first be proved or tested before he serves as a deacon. On the one hand, his spirituality is tested against the qualifications listed in this passage. Does the man fulfill all of these qualifications? 

On the other hand, his life of service is tested by examining his past service or his lack of it. In other words, looking back, the man has already proved himself to be active in the work of the ministries of the church. If a man has not served in the past, then do not allow him to become a deacon, simply because he fulfills all the other qualifications. 

First, to be proved is a qualification as well.

The Plea for Deacons to Serve Well and Be Blessed

  • 1 Timothy 3:13

So let's consider three things about this verse. First of all, this statement demands a measure of quality in the words well purchased or served well. If the ministry that a deacon is in charge of operates in the same way that he might run his own family business, would he survive? Would he thrive or would he have to close his shop? You know, God expects a deacon to thrive or to serve well in the ministry to which he's appointed. 

Second, the deacon should serve in such a way as to be in good standing. Now, some have debated whether this is a good standing with God or man, but let me ask you this, is there any reason why not to consider it as both? Because both do matter. 

Take a moment to consider if others in the congregation will count the work of a deacon as a blessing. 

How many elders have had their burdens multiply because deacons simply will not do their work? At the same time, other deacons make the elder's job a joy because of their faith will service, and leadership.

  • Hebrews 13:17

Sometimes there might be another hindrance found in the eldership. Some elders struggle to allow the deacons to be leaders and treat them more like errand boys. Their qualifications are for mature Christians, for men to serve in an office, leading ministries, not running errands. When elders allow deacons the opportunity to lead and deacons lead well, then it results in their good standing.

In other words, deacons who serve have well placed themselves, on a good step, that's a definition of the word, well purchased, put themselves a step up. And provide their service and a good influence for others. That's what leadership is. 

And a third thing from this verse is the deacon is to have great boldness in the faith because of his service. Boldness, which is outspoken, maybe even blunt, is tempered by faith. To become a blessing to those who are influenced by such. 

Paul urged Timothy not to be ruled by fear. But to be led by a spirit of power and love and a sound mind. 

  • 2 Timothy 1:7

As deacons, Paul urged Timothy to stand up and stand out for the Lord. 

You know, the deacon is to lead, but they're to lead by doing. They're to follow the lead of the elders and they're to lead others by doing. 

Serving the Lord in the Church

Now, not everyone can be a deacon, but everyone can serve the church and can by love serve one another to serve the church. One must be in the church. You know, the church is the body of those who are saved.

Those who are called out of the world and into the kingdom of his dear Son. To be in the church. One must hear the gospel and believe it. Must act upon that belief by repenting of their sins changing, turning away from those evil ways, following Christ, confessing His name, and being baptized, to have the sins washed away to be added to the church. 

 If you're not a Christian, we urge you to be baptized into Christ.

If you are a Christian but haven't been faithful as one, we urge you to repent to come back. 

If we can assist you in following Christ, contact us so that we can study with you. 

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