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Tuesday
Aug072012

Theological Term of the Week

deacons
A group of officers in the New Testament church whose primary responsibilities were to assist the elders by taking care of the physical needs of the church so the elders could concentrate on preaching, teaching, and governing.

  • From scripture:
  • 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. 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. 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. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 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. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:1-6 ESV) 

    Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:8-13 ESV)

  • From A Display of God’s Glory: Basics of Church Structure by Mark Dever:
  • We should always be careful to maintain a distinction between the ministry of deacons and the ministry of elders. In one sense both elders and deacons are involved in “deaconing,” but that service takes on two very different forms. It is in the first seven verses of Acts 6 that we find the crucial passage where deaconing is divided between traditional deaconing (table-waiting, physical service), and the kind of “deaconing” of the Word to which the apostles (and later, elders) were called. The deacons described in Acts 6 are very much like the church’s waiters, at least in an administrative sense. They are to care for the physical needs of the church.

    Deacons supported the teachers of the Word in their ministry. They were fundamentally encouragers and supporters of the ministry of the elders. If this is the case, then it is the most supportive people in the church who should serve the church as the deacons. We should look for gifts of encouragement, so that more, not fewer, people will be blessed by their service. 

Learn more:
  1. GotQuestions.org: What are the responsibilities of deacons in the church?
  2. John Piper: What Did Deacons Do?
  3. Robert H. Thune: Deacons: A Theological Study (pdf)
  4. Jamie Dunlop: Deacons: Shock-Absorbers and Servants
  5. Benjamin Merkle: The Biblical Qualifications and Responsibilities of Deacons 
  6. John MacArthur: Qualified Servants for the Church—Deacons, Part 1 - 1 Timothy 3:8 (mp3), Qualified Servants for the Church: Deacons, Part 2 - 1 Timothy 3:8-12 (mp3).

Related terms:

Filed under Ecclesiology

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Reader Comments (3)

Thanks for this one. It was really helpful.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim Shay

Hi Rebecca,

Have you read Kevin DeYoung's "Freedom and Boundaries?" I'm curious to know what you think. I read it last summer and I loved it. He does an excellent job maintaining a complementarian view but showing that it's Biblical to have female deacons.

Curious about your thoughts on this. If you don't want to discuss it I completely understand. :-)

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLuma

Luma,

For several years my view has been that it's right to have women deacons as long as the duties are service rather than governing or teaching. However, it gives me pause that all the deacons named when the office is instituted in Acts are male.

I haven't read Kevin's book and I should. It's an issue that I'm not overly concerned with right now because I'm stuck with the policies that my church has anyway.

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

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