The Qualifications and Work of Deacons/Deaconess
Part 4, In Pursuit of Godliness Series
1 Timothy 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-8
One of the greatest challenges of a starting up church is how to strengthen the body of Christ. Matt Smethurst, writer of a book with a title Deacons: How They Serve, and Strengthen the Church wrote, “The witness of history is plain: a congregation without a biblically functioning deacons is impoverished, but a congregation with them is incalculably rich.” What this means is that the absence of deacons in a church will negatively affect all its members. On the other hand, when deacons thrive, the whole congregation wins. Deacons are God’s gifts to Christ’s church, and they come bearing more gifts to us.
The Bible provided us with the qualifications of deacons and deaconess and gave us examples of their work.
I. The negatives and positives of qualifications. 1 Timothy 3:8-13
The three negatives of their qualifications are: (See also Smethurst, Deacons)
· Not double-tongued or in NASB rendition not malicious gossips v.11,
· Not be prone to drink much wine, v.8a.
· Not greedy for money. v.8b.
The three positives of their qualifications are:
· Must hold the mystery of the faith in a clear conscience v.9.
· Must be tested first v.10.
· Must be good leaders in their family v.12
II. The work of the deacons/deaconess. Acts 6:1-7.
A quick note: The office of the diaconate wasn’t established yet at this time in Acts 6, not until 1 timothy 3:8-13, but we were given a glimpse of the work of deacons in this short passage.
1. Practical ministry: meeting the tangible needs of the church.
· The New Testament church was quickly growing in numbers, v.1a.
· Thousands came to faith in Jesus including Jews born in Greek cities.
· God’s people continued to meet in homes of members where they learn from Scriptures and share meals together. (See Acts 5:42; cf. Acts 2:42-43).
· Because of their fellowship in homes, an inter-cultural problem was inevitable.
· Hellenistic Jews complained that their widows have been overlooked in the daily serving of food according to verse 1b.
· The apostles encouraged the church to choose seven men to meet the tangible needs of church (widows).
2. Spiritual ministry: peace makers and unity keepers.
We were not told in Acts 6, about the reason or reasons behind the neglection of Hellenistic widowed Jews. But we can only surmise that since the Hellenistic Jews were born in Greek territories, they have absorbed some Greek cultures. Greeks practiced polytheism. Polytheism refers to the worship of many gods, which the native Jews abhor. That might perhaps be the cause of the apparent imbalance in food distribution involving the Hellenistic widows. To protect the unity and keep the peace in the church, the solution that the disciples gave was to choose 7 men from the Greek converts. These men were expected to rectify the imbalance in their ministry.
· Deacons are shock absorbers.
· Deacons are problem solvers.
3. Support ministry: Give flesh to the ministry of spiritual leaders.
“Select from among you seven men of good reputation,full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.4 But we willdevote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word… 7 The word of God kept spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:3-4, 7.
· Deacons are like the pillar and support of a structure; they support the elders’ spiritual direction (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).
· They give flesh to God-given mission (see v.7) and vision (see v.4).
 Matt Smethurst, Deacons: How They Serve and Strengthen the Church, (Wheaton, ILL: Crossway, 2021), Pg. 24.