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).
- Among the “saints” at Philippi, some were serving as “overseers” and others as “deacons.”
- Without “overseers,” significant work is “unfinished” (NIV); full potential is “lacking” (NKJV, Tit 1:5).
- 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.