Deacons: The New Testament
Looking to the scripture we see God’s magnificent hand at work in all that occurs on Earth. However, our God does not merely involve himself in the grandest events: celestial formation, solar activity, cosmic phenomena, etc. But, he intimately involves himself in the minutiae of everyday life. God shows himself time and time again, to be sincerely and personally concerned with the finer points of the lives of individuals. In fact, all that Jesus has done on the grand scale in creation was for the benefit of those he would later make peace with through his own blood (Colossians 1:15-22). So, it is an unquestionable reality - and something worth deep consideration - that the Lord cares deeply for the daily lives of the people he has made.
This consideration would naturally beg the question, “if the Lord cares so deeply, how does he undertake this work and show his care?” And one answer to this question is found in the office of Deacon.
Unlike the office of Elder which finds its roots in the Jewish Synagogue, the office of Deacon was a New Testament institution. This isn’t to say that the function of the office was novel (Psalm 9:18), but that it was an office officially established in the early church, whereas previously, service to those in need was done primarily through alms. This being the case, the occasion under which the office was established is something worth examining.
The early church was surging (Acts 2:41,47,6:1)! New disciples were being added everyday, and this meant that the demand for shepherding and care grew exponentially. In the midst of this growth, complaints began to surface among the Christians, regarding the distribution of food to widows. The Greek-speaking Jewish widows were being neglected their share of daily food while the Hebrew-speaking widows were being supplied with much (Acts 6:1-2). And this occurrence was cause for an urgent remedy.
There was a recognition of the work that the Apostles were ordained to do, and because of the growing number of disciples, it became obvious that if they continued in the way they were going, either the physical needs of the church, or the word of God would need to be neglected (Acts 6:2). So, seven men were selected from among the congregation who met the qualifications to be set in charge of the service to the widows.
Qualifications and Function
The office of Deacon seems to be of significance to Paul. In his letter to the Philippians he does not fail to mention them in his greeting, and in his letter to Timothy he labors to show Timothy what would qualify a man to be a deacon. Paul does not make explicit mention of what a deacon ought to do, however, but from their qualifications, their functions can be suggested.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:8 that deacons must “not [be] greedy for dishonest gain,” indicating that they would have had responsibility for the care of the finances of the church. They would have had administrative responsibilities as well, since they had to manage their children and households skillfully (1 Timothy 3:12) and oversee daily service (Acts 6:3). They also needed to have a strong faith, hold to Christ and be shown to be blameless (1 Timothy 3:9-10) intimating that along with tending to the physical needs of the church, the deacons were also helpful in the defense of the faith and were able to show other believers the truth of God's word (Acts 6:8-10).
The Blessing of Deacons
Deacons often seem undervalued and the office looked at with disinterest. They don’t possess the “spot light” like an elder, and they do the work that many find demeaning. But, this was not Paul's view when he wrote to Timothy. He sees this office as being one of great honor and blessing to the entire church. Paul regards those who serve well as deacons worthy of great reputation (1 Timothy 3:13), because of their service. This means in their service they exhibit diligence and faithfulness, they are cheerful, and take great care in their ministry toward both the elders and the congregation whom they serve.
As deacons serve well they obtain a high standing within the church. In other words, as they faithfully discharge their duties, they are honored by the congregation and greatly loved by those who recognize their fidelity, because of the love of Christ they have exemplified to his bride. The deacons are also rewarded with confidence in Jesus Christ, and assured that their service to the church is valuable and important. They are granted a well grounded hope for their own salvation by their unwavering and loyal service to Christ and his church.
Space fails to mention the great privilege of this office both to the one who holds it and those served by it, but we must realize that a church which possesses for herself faithful deacons will be a church that is greatly blessed by God.
Nick Muyres is a USN veteran and now lives in Pittsburgh PA with his wife and 3 children. He owns and operates a handyman business and is a graduate of Liberty University with a Bachelors Degree in Christian Counseling. He is currently pursuing a certification in biblical counseling through RPTS with the ACBC.