The Appointment & Work of Deacons
Introduction. (I Timothy 3:14, 15). The Bible is to serve as our guide for church conduct. We can have confidence that in the pages of Scripture we have all that we need to govern the organization and functioning of the Lord’s church. This is true whether the subject is dealt with extensively in the Bible or only in a few places.
The elders have announced that they would like the congregation to consider the appointment of additional men to serve as deacons. The good men that serve in this capacity at present are working hard and doing great work. It is the hope of the elders that additional men serving as deacons will help take some of the burden off of the current deacons and allow us to be able to carry out other work as well. They have asked me to do some lessons that can help us in this appointment.
I. Their Appointment.
- The Appointment of the Seven (Acts 6:1-7).
- Not specifically identified as “deacons.” It is unclear whether these seven may properly be identified as “deacons.”
- Vs. 1, 2 call their task the diakonia - “service” (NKJV “distribution”) and diakoneo - “to serve.” These are from a fairly generic word group that refers to service in a variety of capacities - religious and non-religious.
- The only other appointed role in the New Testament . We usually make this association because the role of “deacons” in the later New Testament is the only other appointed role, other that the work of elders. (cf. Philippians 1:1) Note: “saints” (all believers); “bishops” (also called overseers, elders, pastors, shepherds or presbyters - different names for the same workers) and “deacons.”
I believe that these men were either “deacons” just as their role was identified later, or a type of servants who were the forerunners of this role in the early church. We will consider more about this later.
- First be proved. The Bible teaches very little about the nature of this process. Acts 6:3 - brethren “seek out”- Apostles “appoint.” With no apostles living and present we act by their instructions in the word. We must “seek out” those qualified and then “appoint” them in accordance with what the apostles taught-by the direction of the Holy Spirit. (I Timothy 3:10).
- Be proved to see if they are qualified.
- Let them serve. This is not an election-but a congregation must consent and submit to the appointment. Brethren voice objections-elders evaluate qualifications and merits of objections.
II. Their Qualifications.
- Qualifications of the Seven (Acts 6:3).
- Good reputation. The success of a congregation in teaching within a community depends (in some part) upon the reputation of its workers and leaders. If a man has a reputation as a cheat, a hot head, a drunkard, a liar-even though the work they might do as a deacon has nothing to do with this reputation they should not bring shame to the congregation by acting as one of its appointed servants. Within church? Without the church? Perhaps both are important. (Colossians 4:5).
- Full of the Holy Spirit. This means something different for us than it did for those during the age of spiritual gifts. Then there was a miraculous “filling” of the HS. I Cor. 13, Acts 8 & Zechariah 13 teach that these miraculous gifts would pass. Now one is filled with the HS when they allow the “sword of the Spirit” to dwell in us. (Ephesians 5:18; 6:14-17). Note: It is a choice.
Deacons should be those who know and live by the word. It should “fill” them and the way they speak, act, treat their family, carry on business and treat others.
- Wisdom. Wisdom is hard to define. It is not purely knowledge of something, nor is it just common sense and good judgment. There is a type of wisdom that...
- God puts in the mind (Job 38:36);
- That God used in creation (Job 39:26);
- Yet it is also something that must be sought (Ecc. 1:17) and prayed for (James 1:5).
- It begins with the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10) and is gained by one with a proper understanding of their mortality (Psalm 90:12).
- There is worldly wisdom and wisdom which is from above (James 3:13-17).
One who would serve as a deacon must not be wise by the world’s standards, but reverent and humble and interested in the things of God. They must seek (and possess to some measure) the wisdom from above. (James 3:13-18).
- Paul’s Words to Timothy (I Tim. 3:8-13).
- Reverent (vs. 8). This word is related to one of the words referring to worship. We all have seen those, even among brethren who can’t take anything seriously-those who don’t show a reverential fear of God and desire to worship Him. Like wisdom, as mentioned above it starts with a fear of God. This isn’t saying that a person can never laugh and joke- but they must also have a reverence for God that shows itself in humble worship of Him.
A person is not appointed as a deacon (or elder for that matter) because they are one of the most popular, of fun to be around. All that is fine, but those who serve the church-the “pillar and ground of the truth” must have a spirit that is respectful and reverent.
- Not double-tongued. As the translation suggests this addresses the trait of saying two things. This is the person who...
- Says one thing and does another.
- Says one thing at one time and something different at another time.
- They talk one way to your face and another behind your back. (cf. James 3:8-12). The deacon must be one who controls his tongue well. He speaks what is true and what is consistent. One who would serve in this role should have such a tongue because in their work as a deacons this will be important. What if in their service they say one thing and then another thing? The church is shamed. They also must be the kind of people you can count on to do what they say. (Matthew 5:37).
- Not given to much wine. Some look to texts such as this and see in them a justification for “a little wine” but not “much.” That is an oversimplification of what the text is teaching, what the Bible says as a whole and what the history of ancient culture teaches us. We don't have time in this lesson to consider all that is involved in a full consideration of this subject, but it is clear that: 1.) ancient cultures had ways to preserve grape juice unfermented; 2.) fermented or unfermented grape juice is called “wine”; 3.) ancient cultures often watered down fermented and unfermented grape juice; 4.) this was sometimes done to allow a person to drink alot without felling the effects of the drink; 5.) godly people usually watered down the grape juice that had fermented to avoid intoxication.; 6.) the Bible condemns drunkenness and other types of drinking of strong drink short of drunkenness; 7.) the word translated “temperate” in vs. 2 of elders & in vs. 11 was used of wineless offerings; 8.) Christians are to be watchful and sober. All these things teach Christians today, to refrain from all intoxicating drink. (I’ll address this in greater detail in a lesson on this subject in the future - Lord willing).
The Holy Spirit is teaching that the one who would serve as a deacon should be in control, both in mind and body. This means that they are not only free of slavery or mind caused by drunkenness but free of the slavery of habit caused by gluttony and indulgence. (I Corinthians 16:13).
- Not greedy for money. Same word (most MSS) have) in vs. 3 for elders lit. “shameful-gain.” Elders and deacons both are in positions in which they will be entrusted with a good deal of money that is given to the Lord’s work. They will have a say over its use. Such a person should not be the sort that you would feel uncomfortable watching over such matters. Not just a crook-perhaps just the careless, the imprudent, the poor steward, the self-indulgent. Such a person should not serve as a deacon.
- Holding the mystery of the faith... (vs. 9). As a Christian we are entrusted with the mystery of God’s plan of salvation. (Romans 16:25-27). When we hold to the gospel we are “holding the mystery of the faith.”
- ...With a pure conscience. Are we consistent in this faith or not? (Ephesians 4:14) Although deacons are not mentioned above this, other workers are said to work to prevent being “tossed to and fro.” To help prevent this- one must not be guilty of it themselves.
- Husbands of one wife (vs. 12). Note: They must be married and they must have children. Note: This is not to say that one can't be a great servant of God as a single person or without children-but there are certain challenges that are unique to the married and parents. In order to lead the married and parents such a person must be both themselves.
“One wife” - excludes the bigamist, whether law allows it or not. That is, human law may have granted an unscriptural divorce, but from a Biblical standpoint such a person is still “bound to his wife.” As a result the state in which they live is a state of adultery. (cf. Romans 7:1-3).
- Ruling their children & own houses well. (Proverbs 29:15; cf. I Timothy 3:5).
We have considered tonight some things about the role of deacons. We have considered their appointment and some of their qualifications. In our next lesson we will look at their name, work and some additional qualifications.