biblical roles of deacons

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(2) It results in weak spiritual leadership for the church. These people would be instructed as to their duties and procedures. The biblical deacon holds the role of a QUALIFIED servant of the church (Acts 6:3 & 1 Tim. The New Testament gives examples of both "appointed" servants elected by the church to specific tasks and of "unelected" servants who served the Lord in a general sense in a local church. Some see electing men deacons as an act of honor, recognition and reward in the church. Kenneth S. WuestThe New Testament, An Expanded Translation William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1959, p494. (2) It removes any cause for accusation against the deacon if there is ever a problem because there are witnesses to his faithfulness. http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/office. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. 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. He further states, "like the Latin, minstrare, to wait at table and offer food and drink to guests. My answer to that is twofold. Part of the duty of the deacons is to 4:11-12, 1 Timothy 5:17, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:2). What Is the Purpose of Baptism for Christians? This fund was called the tamhui or the tray.27 . All rights reserved. This meant the identification of the Israelite with the offering itself. The biblical deacon holds the role of a WORKING servant of the church (Acts 6:1-2, 4). IV, Dallas:Dallas Seminary Press,1948, p152. 2. The misunderstanding would go away if we stopped using the word "deacon" and used the correct English word "servant." In studying this matter, I have read the conclusions of dozens of commentators. In Acts 15:4, 22, it states the matter was placed before the whole church, the apostles and the elders. . 5:25). In addition, he must be a good example in his family life and his deportment in the community. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman Publishers. Leadership Roles in the Church God has designed leadership roles for the church that are specifically mentioned. "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. 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. In fact, “We have no description in the New Testament of deacons acting as deacons, with the single exception of Acts 6, which, while controverted, is still widely used as a model for the ministry of deacons. They should understand that it is God Himself who established church polity and not man. 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 word "business" is the Greek word "chrea" which means "necessity or duty." . Perhaps no fixed number is given because churches of different sizes with differing conditions have very different needs for the deacons' ministry. Some may not agree with this position and choose to use the "deacon board" or a modified elder rule approach in their churches. The English word "servant" is a proper and accurate translation of the Greek word "diakonos.". The two offices share similar duties but are distinct in that the Bishop preaches the Gospel and administers the ordinances of the church. Without this ministry the church will not prosper spiritually. 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. However, it seems the Greek speaking widows thought they were not being treated fairly. These men were to serve in a position in which there had been accusations of impropriety. The Grecian widows, were looked down upon by the Jews of Judea, as being inferior thus the Grecian widows perceived they were being slighted. Is it correct and proper to use men from the congregation to help in holding services when the church is without a pastor? To spiritual men this is not a problem, but for many, it gives them the first taste of authority in the church. Secondly, if the church becomes too large to call all the men together, I believe it would be advisable to appoint a committee to look into the particular situations to make recommendations with the pastor to the church. They identified themselves and the assembly with them in their work for which they had been chosen. Deacons are a special and separate role from elders, preachers and saints by virtue of their qualifications, selection and commendation. 25:46). Number of Deacons 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. It is incorrect to make the assumption that Charles C. Ryrie does in his Ryrie Study Bible note on Acts 6:2, which says, "The Greek word for "serve" is the one from which we derive "deacon," but these men were deacons only in the sense of being servants. If there was a hierarchy recognized in the Jerusalem church why did they not just take the matter to them? Thank you. 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. 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? These qualifications were simply a generalization of the character of these men and Paul in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, made the earlier generalization more specific. They should be elected annually and receive prior approval from the pastor who makes sure they meet all the biblical qualifications. ", It is the word, "diakoneo," and means "to serve." The reason is there was no elder or Presbyterian type of rule in the early church. let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another" (Gal. One problem is that some churches appoint men to the position as a deacon for life. If the New Testament was teaching "elder" rule, the Apostles would have appointed these servants, but that is clearly not how God wanted it done. This procedure is merely a dressed-up form of Presbyterianism or elder rule, which is foreign to New Testament churches. Surely, my congregation and I should seek to appoint and use spiritual men with the ability to carry out a needed service or task, and this should be the only criteria. A godly servant, who serves his fellow believers faithfully, is an asset to any local church and brings honor to the Lord. Most commentators base their assumption that the position of a deacon is an official office in a church on three factors: 2. Those that do so should acknowlege they have no biblical foundation for their practice. I must not just blindly accept tradition or what many practice, but rather "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." It should be noted that when Paul sent Titus to the churches of Crete, to "set them in order" by instructing them in the appointing of pastors, he did not instruct him to also appoint "deacons" (Titus 1:5). *(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God.). 5. . 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. iii: 2). Deacons were not intended to have authority over the church leadership. Finally, a church should have no more deacons than there are men qualified to serve. The author grants permission for copying for individual personal or church use only. In the first church I pastured, I ran head-on into the situation where the deacons ran the pastor and the church. Charles C. Ryrie,Ryrie Study Bible, Moody Press, Chicago, 1978, p1548 The biblical example is that of deacons being appointed servants to perform a specified service to the congregation. Down through history, most commentators have simply accepted the incorrect traditional ideas of those they followed without a thorough examination of the matter themselves. One thing is clear: it is not the job of the deacon to rule the church. Elmer Towns, in his textbook, Theology for Today, also concludes there is an "office" of a deacon by using Philippians 1:1, in which Paul addresses the Epistle to "To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." Ibid, p1617. (Acts 15:6) The apostles, elders and the whole church recognized that this was the proper way to seek counsel in a church. Using a temporary pulpit committee, elected by the congregation from the assembly, precludes deacons assuming authority over the pastor that God does not give them. 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 Greek word is a verb showing action, whereas the English word "office" is a noun which denotes a position. Some have supposed these were the forerunners of the later established official position of the office of a "deacon" of 1 Timothy 3:8-13. In 1 Timothy 3:10 and 13 the phrase, "use the office of a deacon," is translated from one Greek word "diakoneo", being a verb, which is properly translated "ministry" or "service of a servant," denoting the action of the verb. "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The problem is often that churches use an unbiblical definition that involves deacons in authority of churches. There is certainly a biblical position in the church of "deacons" or better "servants," but it is not a position of authority in a local church. As this "laying on of hands" is so much misunderstood, and has been made an act by which authority, power and blessing is claimed to be conferred, we must say a brief word on it. Although they are "servants" and their ministry is a ministry of service, the fact that they have been … Being a deacon is not what qualifies a man to teach or preach in the church. 8. This was required by the Jews of those who collected money for the poor. When things need to be discussed, as stated above, I call all the men together, and we confer on the matter at hand. The laying on of hands is first mentioned in the Book of Leviticus. Couple this with the fact that Jesus in Revelation 2-3, addressed each church through its pastor (angel/messenger) and it sets the matter to rest. I always make it very clear that what we are discussing will be brought before the whole church and properly discussed and voted on. Frequently, pastors have elevated deacons above the other members of the congregation by holding special counsel with their "Board of Deacons." In Acts 6:1-7, we have the first mention of these servants being appointed by the church to do some specific work that needed being done. The same word is found thirty times in the New Testament and in only five verses in our English, New Testament is the Greek word transliterated "deacon" ("diakonos" a noun, three times and "diakoneo" a verb, twice). Churches who have such deacons will be blessed indeed. 9. Although they are "servants" and their ministry is a ministry of service, the fact that they have been chosen demonstrates they are respected by the brethren. Many times when the new pastor comes, the deacons are not always willing to relinquish their new-found prestige and position. The pastor(s) are given by the Lord the responsibility of teaching the Word. When there is a need for some service a pastor can mention it in a service and get volunteers. The men I chose were used because they were godly and spiritual men, and it had nothing to do with them being a deacon. He is the Chief Shepherd. The New Testament does not give any directions concerning the number of deacons a church should have. 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. The congregation was not appointing them to an office, but giving them a responsibility or duty to take care of the widows. Elmer Towns, Theology for Today, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, 1994, p492. 6 Seven spiritual men of good character were elected, not by the apostles, but by the congregation to look after that business. Deacons in the Church Today . The most obvious reason is that there was no such official "title" as "deacon" in use in New Testament times. 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. In the early church, the Deacon rationed any of the leftover elements to the poor of the church or locality. This does not mean that it is a lowly or unimportant office. 5 It is the word, "diakoneo," and means "to serve." The word "office" and "use" is not in any Greek text. Thus, he, as well as many others are basing their conclusions that there is an "office" of a deacon on a faulty and misleading translation of the Greek text. The last definition (4.a-c) is probably the definition the King James translators understood the word to mean. They are to lead the church in ministry. The origin of the office is still being debated; however, the traditional view is that it had its beginning in the appointment of the seven (Acts 6), although they are not specifically called deacons.26 This view is widely held because the seven were elected to serve (diakoneo) tables (6:3), and were instructed to serve as deacons (1 Tim. 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. He fails to note that the word translated into the English noun, "office" and the verb "use" is not in any Greek text. Over the years I have followed a procedure which I believe best represents the New Testament example of congregational rule. Some might point out that in larger churches, it might be difficult to follow this procedure. The biblical revelation of the role relationships of men and women, those who are called to the office of pastor, to those who were called to the office of deacon, or elder, or those who serve in a variety of other honorable professions and trades, recognizes the value and worth of every individual. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/office. 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. It was not used to "set apart to the sacred office in the church" or to "put their honor upon those chosen to the same responsible and dignified position" as Unger's Bible Dictionary states.11 The present day use of "ordination" comes from the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches and should not be confused with what the early church practiced. It is absolutely essential for every local church to carefully consider these matters in selecting those who serve in leadership roles. However, as one who assists the "overseers" of the church and is appointed by the church to fulfill specific ministries, the deacon is by virtue of his office a leader of the church. (1) It is a bad example to the younger members. It was a very simple and appropriate act to show their fellowship with them. When a pastor leaves, these men are elevated to a special leadership status in the congregation. There is another practical consideration. Therefore, the task of administering to these widows called for men who were above reproach in character. Most churches have the seeds of their distruction sown when they were founded and one seed that could destroy a church is electing men to the unbiblical position of authority as deacons. Their ministry was intended to aid the apostles by taking care of some of the physical needs of the congregation. Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Moody Press:Chicago, 1988, p534. The carnal nature of man concludes that if you can hire and fire the pastor, you have authority over him. Deacons may be authorized by the congregation to serve the church in various ways, but these should be under the same headings found in Scripture. . The Role of Deacons When it comes to the role of deacons in the local church, the Scriptures are surprisingly quiet. The role of the seven in Acts is clearly spelled out. 1:1). Oversee steps of correction, discipline, and restoration in the church. The contention I believe was not founded. "3 This is strong evidence that the New Testament does not support the establishment of an "office" or "board" of deacons. In other verses, where the word "diakonos," a noun, is used, the context explains that these references refer to servants in general. 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. I have always made it a priority to teach what the Bible says concerning what God intended "deacons" to be to the church. ' ministry only meaning of the laying on of hands is first mentioned in the church which foreign. Have deacons in the faith '' ( Lev had no title other than of... Gift of `` deacon. is God Himself who established church polity and not deaconess there is matter! Because of it deacon holds the role of a church. do other things and I must faithfully the... You have authority over the church. and those of an elected servant ) and walk '! Head-On into the phrase, `` deaconesses in the faith '' ( Lev for life Greek-English Lexicon of church. 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