When the Bible Talks About Deacons (1)

When the Bible Talks About Deacons

Philippians 1:1 provides a snapshot of a fully organized local church.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons…

Each member of a local body has work to do (Eph 2:10; 4:12).

  1. Among the “saints” at Philippi, some were serving as “overseers” and others as “deacons.”
  2. Without “overseers,” significant work is “unfinished” (NIV); full potential is “lacking” (NKJV, Tit 1:5).
  3. Without “deacons,” issues of utmost spiritual concern and oversight can be easily neglected (Acts 6:2).

When the Bible talks about deacons, what can we learn?

Three Words from the Original Language of Scripture to Enhance our Understanding

  • Diakonos (noun): servant, helper, deacon.
    • “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matt 20:26).
    • “And where I am, there will my servant be also” (John 12:26).
    • “For he is God’s servant for your good” (Rom 13:3-4).
    • “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised…” (Rom 15:8).
    • “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae” (Rom 16:1).
  • Diakoneo (verb): to wait on, to serve, to care for, to help or support.
    • “Whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies” (1 Pet 4:11).
    • “I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me” (Philem 13).
    • “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matt 20:28).
  • Diakonia (noun): service or ministry.
    • “That my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints” (Rom 15:30-32).
    • “Martha was distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40).
    • “They have devoted themselves to the service of the saints” (1 Cor 16:15).
    • “Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5).
    • “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).

The Development of Deacons in the New Testament

  • In the “infant” days of the life of the Lord’s church (Acts 6), men were selected to serve.
    • Very real physical needs of believers were being neglected (6:1).
    • It was not right for the twelve to give up preaching the word of God to serve tables (6:2).
    • Seven men were picked out from among the disciples and appointed by the apostles (6:3-7).
  • As Paul, Barnabas, and others proclaim the gospel throughout the Gentile world and seek to appoint elders in every church (Acts 14:21-23), it only makes sense that elders would depend upon deacons to cover and resolve a wide variety of physical needs (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8-13).
  • These men are not:
    • Inferior (Matt 20:25-38).
    • The holders of an honorary (but idle) position (1 Tim 3:10).
    • Elders-in-training (1 Tim 3:13).

Just as elders serve under the oversight of the chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5:4), deacons serve in the footsteps of the chief Servant (John 13:1-20).

This sermon was delivered on September 15, 2013.

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