Office of Deacon I
Office of Deacon I
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” Philippians 1:1
1. The word deacon is a translation of the Greek word diakonos and is the ordinary word for “servant” when it is used in contexts not dealing with church officers.
2. Deacon is translated servant in two ways: 1. One who serves, without necessarily having the office of deacon (Mt 20:26; Ro 16:1; Eph 6:21) 2. One entrusted to serve the needs of believers in the office of Deacon (Phil 1:1; 1Ti 3:8, 12).
3. Deacons are mentioned clearly in Philippians 1:1: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” But there is no specification of their function, other than to indicate that they are different from the overseers (elders).
4. The qualifications for Deacons are also mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:8–13:
“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)
5. The function of deacons is not spelled out here, but the qualifications for deacons suggest some functions. For instance, they seem to have had some responsibility in caring for the funds to be distributed to the poor since they had to be people who were “not greedy for gain” (v. 8 cf John 12:4-8 also see discussion of Acts 6 next week.)
6. Lets talk about 2 verses now. If verse 11 speaks of their wives (as I think it does), then it would also be likely that they were involved in some house-to-house visitation and counseling, because the wives are to be “no slanderers.” It would do no good for deacons if their wives (who would no doubt also be involved in prayer and counseling with the deacons) spread confidential matters around the church.
7. The qualification “the husband of one wife” (v. 12; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) has been misunderstood in different ways. Some people have thought that it excludes from the office of either deacon or elder men who have been divorced and have then married someone else, since they have then been the husband of two wives. But this does not seem to be a correct understanding of these verses.
7. A better interpretation is that Paul was prohibiting a polygamist (a man who presently has more than one wife) from being an deacon or elder. Several reasons support this view:
• All the other qualifications listed by Paul refer to a man’s present status not his entire past life. For example, 1 Timothy 3:1–7 does not mean “one who has never been violent,” but “one who is not now violent, but gentle.” It does not mean “one who has never been a lover of money,” but “one who is not now a lover of money.” It does not mean “one who has been above reproach for his whole life,” but “one who is now above reproach.” If we made these qualifications apply to one’s entire past life, then we would exclude from office almost everyone who became a Christian as an adult, for it is doubtful that any non-Christian could meet these qualifications.
• Paul could have said “having been married only once” if he had wanted to, but he did not.
• We should not prevent remarried widowers from being deacons or elders, but that would be necessary if we take the phrase to mean “having been married only once.” The qualifications for deacons and elders are all based on a man’s moral and spiritual character, and there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that a man who remarried after his wife had died has lower moral or spiritual qualifications.
• Some could also argue if this is true that a man who did had never been married or was married but did not have children could not hold office of deacon or elder either
• Polygamy was possible in the first century. Although it was not common, polygamy was practiced, especially among the Jews. The Jewish historian Josephus says, “For it is an ancestral custom of ours to have several wives at the same time.” Rabbinic legislation also regulated inheritance customs and other aspects of polygamy. Therefore it is best to understand “the husband of one wife” to prohibit a polygamist from holding the office of deacon or elder. The verses say nothing about divorce and remarriage with respect to qualifications for church office.
GracePointe Baptist Church
2209 N Post Road
Oklahoma City, OK 73141
Phone: (405) 769-5050