Summary: A message on the role of deacons in the local congregation



1 TIMOTHY 3:8-13


Today is a special day. We install some new deacons today. And they get the joy of participating in their first board meeting tonight.

There has been some confusion regarding the role of deacons within the church of Christ. Some come from denominational backgrounds where deacons do the work of the elders. Elders and deacons are not the same thing. They are two different callings and vocations.

But we are not here today to talk about elders. In fact, in our situation her in Martinsville, we are operating without elders at this present time. My prayer is that we will soon be back to full compliance with the New Testament in fairly short order. But as of right now, we have no one who is ready, willing, or able to fulfill the responsibilities of that office. But we do have deacons and they are Biblical in scope and function.

The word in the original language translated as “deacon” or “deacons” is a word that occurs 29 times in the New Testament. Only four of those 29 times is it used to refer to a specific functional office in the church.

The basic meaning of this word is “servant.” It’s often used to describe someone who serves at the table. That’s how it’s used in Jn. 2:5 [the Wedding at Cana] – “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

It’s also used to describe those who serve God. It’s used regularly in what can be referred to as the “servant of” passages. Here are some examples. 2 Cor. 6:4 – “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.” Eph. 3:7 – “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” Col. 1:23 – “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” Col. 1:25 – [talking about the church, Paul says,] “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.”

All Christians should be servants. Our example is our own Lord. The real work of service is seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ. On the night before He went to the cross, Jesus stripped off His outer garments, took a basin of water and towel, and did the work of the lowliest servant. He washed the feet of His disciples – even the feet of one who would betray Him in a short time.

But, even though every Christian should be a servant, some servants are set apart for special ministries in the New Testament church. They are to be distinguished from others who serve.

In our passage this morning, we see a description of these “special servants.” They are called to serve alongside a body of elders to meet the needs of Christ’s church. They have been termed “ministers of mercy” by some writers.

Deacons are mentioned in a leadership role when Paul addresses the church at Philippi. He begins his letter in Phil, 1:1-2 – “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In our primary scripture this morning, we step into a passage where Paul is instructing his protégé Timothy on what needs to be done to set the church in Ephesus in order. In 1 Tim. 3:14-15, Paul gives his reasons for the instructions: “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

Because the church is “God’s household” and “the pillar and foundation of the truth,” the role of leadership was important. The first group he mentions is termed as “elders.” The other group he describes is termed “deacons.”

Deacons are not the same as elders. Elders are described as overseers and shepherds of the church. Deacons are not described in that way. However, do not be confused. Deacons are still leaders. They should be examples of Christian character

1 Tim. 3:8-13 – “In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine,

and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have

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