Who are they?
The word for deacon means “servant” or “minister” and is used 29 times in the New Testament. Of these, only four could be said to suggest an official position or office in the church (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 12; Romans 16:1). The root of the word itself (including the verb forms) was always connected to table service in secular Greek.
In Acts 6, actual table waiters assisted the leaders (apostles) of the church by administrating this task so that the leaders could focus on shepherding. Together with the fact that the noun “deacon” is not even used in Acts 6, it is our conviction after study and prayer that this account was not about setting up a church office at that time. However, we believe it did set a clear precedent and even a pattern for the future offices that would be commanded in Scripture. This pattern describes a church leadership structure that includes shepherds and servants. It is clear in Scripture that both roles are needed so that the church can be cared for and pursue Jesus’ mission faithfully.
Who can be a deacon?
As with the office of elder, in 1 Timothy 3 Paul lists the various qualifications for the office of deacon as follows. They must:
- Be dignified—deacons should live lives that are worthy of imitation.
- Not be double-tongued—deacons should be honest, truthful and careful in speech.
- Not be addicted to much wine—deacons should be self-controlled in their lifestyle choices. As with elders, this does not mean that deacons must abstain from alcohol. Rather, it means that they are not to be addicted to it.
- Not be greedy for dishonest gain—deacons should serve without the thought of getting reimbursement. This does not mean that deacons could not be paid. It simply means that they should not be motivated by reimbursement or compensation.
- Hold the truths of the faith—deacons must have sound theology. At times and in certain contexts they may teach, but to be a deacon they are not required to have this spiritual gift.
- Be tested—deacons should have shown themselves to be faithful to Jesus and His Church.
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