Christ’s church has always enjoyed the work of deacons who serve. They are important to us. What is it that these men do? Why are they so important? What does the Bible say about them and their work?
ROBERT >> What does the Bible say about deacons? What is a deacon, and what role do they play in the body of Christ, his church? And how important are deacons to me, to all of us who are Christians?
SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love
ROBERT >> The last several weeks we’ve been talking about the church. That church, not just any church, not a new and different kind of church, but the church of Christ you read about in the Bible. And we’ve learned that Christ built that church, that that church is divine, and that it consisted of all the saved; that that church had Christ as its head, that it was the spiritual body of Christ, and in that body we find all the different members playing different roles or functions.
There were the apostles and prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, teachers. And today we want to talk about another role or function of the church, that of the deacons.
The Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:13, “Those who have served well as deacons.”
Well, what is a deacon?
I know there are some who see deacons as just junior elders. They’re going to graduate someday to the eldership; but many may make great deacons but never qualify as elders. In some churches these deacons form a board that runs the church instead of the elders, who are to serve as the overseers and the shepherds, like we learned last week. But neither of these ideas are found in the Bible.
No, rather, the term deacon just means servant. Deacons were servants of the church. Now, somebody might ask, aren’t we all to be servants?
And yes, of course that is true. But let’s notice from the Bible that though we are all to be servants of the Lord, deacons are distinguished from the rest of us. If you’ll look with me in Philippians 1:1, I want you to notice how the apostle Paul addressed this letter to the church at Philippi.
Philippians 1:1, he writes, “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”
So you see here, he spoke of all of the church, and then he said, With the bishops and deacons. He distinguished the bishops and the deacons from the rest of those in the church. We’ve already talked about the bishops, who are the elders, or the shepherds, the pastors of the church; but we also want to talk about the deacons. These deacons were distinguished from the rest of the servants, all of us who are Christians in the body of Christ. Now, there’s another way we can look at this if we think about this special group of servants, these deacons.
We can look in 1 Timothy chapter 3, because here we see that there were certain qualifications that these men had to meet in order to serve as deacons in the church, qualifications that did not apply to all Christians, but would apply to these special servants.
Notice with me in 1 Timothy chapter 3, we’re going to begin reading in verse 8. “Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience; but let these also first be tested, then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Now, it’s very clear from these qualifications that the role of deacons is especially important in the church; else, God would not have given them such high standards to meet. We also notice that the qualifications here show that the deacons are not just any member of the church; no, this role has been preserved for certain ones who meet these special attributes and characteristics. We could also say that God has not left it up to us to decide what kind of men should be serving as deacons in the church. I think some believe that if a man is successful in business, we ought to make him a deacon. But if you’ll notice here, God doesn’t ask us to look at someone’s business expertise or his level of education or maybe his popularity among the people or how much money he has. None of those things are mentioned here in these qualifications for deacons.
No, the important question is, what kind of man is he?
And here is God’s checklist. Did you notice he talked about his life, about his family, about his heart, about his reputation? The qualifications of deacons are very similar to the qualifications of bishops, those elders who serve the church as pastors that you can read in the first seven verses of 1 Timothy chapter 3. Now, there are a few exceptions when you compare the list of qualifications for elders to the list of qualifications for deacons. For example, the elder was to be able to teach. That was so important for the overseers of the church, for the shepherds who are watching out for the flock. But it’s not so important for the deacon. We also notice that the elder, the bishop, the pastor, he had to have faithful children. You can read about it in Titus chapter 1, where we also read a list of qualifications for those men. But it was not mentioned here for the deacons. They may be younger men, younger married men who have children, but maybe they’ve not yet reached the age of accountability where they come to faith in Christ and take him on as their Lord and their savior. But they must show that they have proved themselves at home as fathers and as husbands who have ruled well in their homes. It’s not necessary that they have the maturity and the experience of the elders. But they’re still men of proven ability and of character and of reputation.
1 Timothy chapter 3 reveals God’s concept of a deacon, and from this we’re able to recognize and to select these men. God is primarily interested in who a man is, and God only wants one kind of a man, a servant. Those are the deacons in God’s church.
Now let’s notice something else about deacons: How vital they are to the work and to the growth of the church. I want to go back to the beginning of the church and all the way back in your Bibles to Acts chapter 6. The church had grown, it had multiplied in number, and here in this chapter we’re reading about where men were selected to distribute food to widows. Some apparently had been neglected.
But let’s read and see what it says here, Acts 6:1-7. “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the