Summary: What does it mean to be a deacon?
Within the New Testament Church, there are only two offices for which we receive a list of qualifications.
First, is the office of the Elder.
There are multiple Greek words which are used for this office including presbuteros and episcopas, but they are all speaking of the same office.
The Elder is the overseer of the church, charged with the responsibility of governing the church by the standards of the Word of God.
It is important to note that the elder is not a priest.
The New Testament does not give us the office of priest for the church because the church has only one High Priest, who is Christ, and through Him all believers share in a “royal priesthood” according to 1 Peter 2:9.
Elders are not priests, but rather under-shepherds of the Great Shepherd and Great High Priest, Jesus Christ.
So the first office of the church, the governing and teaching office, is the office of elder.
The second office which is given a list of qualifications in the New Testament is that of a Deacon.
Today, we are installing a new deacon here at SGFC, and as this is not a common occasion, I want to address the role of the deacon as it is laid out for us in Scripture and deal with what it means for a man to be appointed to such an important role within the body of Christ.
We are going to begin by going to the passage which many agree to be the place where we see the establishment of deacons in the church.
In our passage this morning, we see the portion of the New Testament wherein many scholars believe the office of the Deacon was born.
This passage demonstrates a “division of labor” within the apostolic church which would eventually lead to the establishment of the offices of Elder and Deacon.
The men are not called deacons, but they are established to be officially recognized servants within the body, thus becoming the prototypes for the office of deacons.
We see this established in two ways:
(1) They were commended by the congregation (v.3a)
The apostles said, “Pick out from among you…”
This is similar to how we, today, ask the congregation to recommend to the elders those who you believe would rightly fulfill the office of deacon.
The congregation is tasked with the responsibility to look within itself and see who are the men whom God has given to this work.
(2) They were scrutinized in regard to their character (v.3b)
It says, “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom”
These were not to be just any men, but men who were known to be godly in their behavior and genuine in their pursuit of Christ.
NOTE: It is also notable that this issue which had arisen was among the “hellenists” which were the Greek speaking Jews who had converted to Christ.
There was a language barrier between them and those who would have spoken Aramaic.
All of the seven men chosen were Greek, demonstrating that there was also care in choosing men who would be able fulfill the needed task at hand.
As noted, these men are not called “deacons”.
But it is easy to see how they are prototypes of the ministry of deacons.
Likewise, the root word for deacon is used in this passage for the work which needs to be done.
ESV: Distribution (v.1) = Gr. diakoni÷aˆ
ESV: Serve (v.2) = Gr. diakonei√n
Note: Diaconos means to serve or servant, and our english word Deacon is a transliteration of that Greek word.
In the Bible the term is rarely translated deacon, and more translated as “serve” or “minister”.
These men were not titled “deacons” but they were certainly called to the task of “deaconing”.
They show the need for a division of labor within the church.
The division of labor which is created in this passage is between those tasked with “Teaching” and “Ministering” within the body.
The apostles were the original teachers of the New Testament church, but after the first generation this office ceased to be functional.
There are no apostles today, though some have claimed this title.
An apostle is one who followed Christ during His ministry or had a special revelation from Christ as did the Apostle Paul.
The Apostles were given to the first century church for its establishment, and the elders would take up the teaching responsibilities after their deaths.
Even Peter, who we know was an Apostle, calls himself also an elder in the church, demonstrating a link between the two offices (1 Peter 5:1).
Elders are not apostles, but they do carry on the apostolic role as the teachers within the church.
While the elders are the teachers of the church, the ministers of the church are the deacons.