Summary: This sermon examines how Jesus organizes his church into elders, deacons, and the congregation.
For the past few Sundays we have been studying the topic of the church.
I have been preaching a short series of sermons titled, “Jesus Is Building His Church.” We examined the nature of the church, and made distinctions between a true and a false church.
Today, I want to examine briefly how Jesus organizes his church. Jesus organizes his church into officers (which consists of elders and deacons) and the congregation.
It is our great joy today to ordain and install a man who has been duly elected by the members of this congregation into the office of deacon.
So, let us examine how Jesus organizes his church into elders, deacons and the congregation.
Acts 14:21-23 records the ordination of elders in the early church:
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
How does God reveal to the church who the elders should be so that the church can ordain them? This passage suggests that prayer and fasting are part of it.
But in the end, the church must determine who God desires to serve as leaders based on a set of biblical qualifications that are clearly delineated in the word of God.
Elders are not primarily chosen on the basis of their knowledge of the business world, their financial ability, their prominence, or even their innate ability as leaders.
They are chosen because God has called and prepared them for the leadership of the church. The men whom God selects will meet the biblical qualifications.
And what are the biblical qualifications of an elder? First Timothy 3:1-7 lists what is required of an elder:
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
What, then, are the duties required of an elder? Acts 20 gives us a look at the elders in Ephesus. In verse 28 Paul says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” An elder who rules the church must evaluate not only his own life, but also the spiritual needs of his flock.
Our Book of Church Order (8-3) specifies the duties of an elder in the following words:
"It belongs to the office of elder, both severally and jointly, to watch diligently over the flock committed to their charge, that no corruption of doctrine or morals enter therein. They must exercise government and discipline, and take oversight not only of the spiritual interests of the particular church, but also the church generally when called thereunto. They should visit the people at their homes, especially the sick. They should instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourner, nourish and guard the children of the church. They should set a worthy example to the flock entrusted to their care by their zeal to evangelize the unconverted and make disciples. All those duties which private Christians are bound to discharge by the law of love are especially incumbent upon them by divine vocation, and are to be discharged as official duties. They should pray with and for the people, being careful and diligent in seeking the fruit of the preached Word among the flock."
These, then, are the qualifications and duties of an elder.
Acts 6:1-7 introduces us to a group who many believe to be the first deacons. Though these men are never specifically called deacons, they are certainly an appropriate model for deacons. Apparently, it was sometime after this that the office of a deacon was officially recognized in the church. Acts 6:1-7 says:
1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.