Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

SJ in the NT: Deacons

Posted by Chris on August 16, 2007


Growing up, the deacons were the men who collected offering, made decisions at church, and handled various other administrative and leadership issues. In the Bible, these types of functions are arguably for the office of elder, an entirely different position largely absent in the modern church. What is very clear is the origin of the deacons, presented in Acts 6:1-7.

Before the clash between gentile believers and jewish converts to christianity, there was a conflict between more traditional Jews (Hebraic) and Jews that had been assimilated into gentile culture (commonly called Hellenistic or Grecian). Acts 2 & 4 discuss how the Church was looking out for its own, selling property even to ensure that everyone had enough food. Like any organization, an increase in size complicated the task of managing and satisfying all the new Christians. In Acts 6, we find out that Grecian Jews perceived that their widows were being overlooked in favor of the Hebraic Jews.

The 12 apostles, the leaders of the church, could no longer lead in every area. So they chose 7 brothers, wise men full of the spirit, to ensure that all the poor Christians were given care. Paul later uses the greek word “Diakonos” to describe this office. The definition, as I perceive it, does not imply any administrative leadership– in fact, the word normally referred not only to being in service, but being the servant or attendant of a king or master.

Four Implications of this knowledge:
1) The Church must ensure that it carries out the “Diakonos” ministry. Do I really care if your church doesn’t have elders, and deacons are what the leaders are called, if you have those who ensure that others are cared for? No. I don’t see why you would follow the Biblical model, but then complicate things with different names, but hey, no church has 100% knowledge of the will of God for church structure and cannot operate in a state of perfection.

2) In several places in the NT, Paul spells out the requirements for deacons. These include: sincerity, well-respected, having his household in order, etc… see 1 Timothy 3. We must hold to that standard.

3) We must take this ministry seriously. I do not view it as a low position, in spite of the apostles seemingly not wanting to waste time to “wait tables.” This was just to show the importance of their dedication to the “ministry of the word.” The apostles show how much they value this service when they select men of good reputation. Furthermore, two of the men chosen, Stephen and Philip, go in the next chapters of the book to be martyred and to be sent on a missionary journey, respectively.

4) While they are not administrative leaders, there is a spiritual component to the ministry of distributing food. The passage highlights that the church grew, not that no one went hungry. As just written, two of the men went on to be a martyr and a missionary. I will talk about this concept more in the next post, on “spiritual poverty.”

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible and this is just a condensed version of my thoughts, both composed and uncomposed, on it. I must give thanks to Ed Silvoso and his book Anointed for Business as it led me to study this passage in detail and he illuminated several great truths.


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