Elders and Deacons--Part 3
The role or function as a deacon is as unclear and ambiguous as is the role of an elder in the church of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament. It is not clear at all that Acts 6:1-7 has to do with deacons.
I. The Greek word for "deacon" is "diakonos." Obviously, the English word "deacon" is NOT a translation, but a transliteration. The same is true of the Greek word "baptizo," which is transliterated into English as "baptize." The translation of "baptize" is another matter.
a. "Diakonos" occurs often in the New Testament, but only very rarely of a person who functions in some capacity in the church. The verb "diakoneo" means "to minister, to serve," cf. Matthew 4:11; 20:28; Acts 19:22; Romans 15:25; and often. Consult a good concordance. The cognate Greek noun "diakonia" means "ministry, ministration, ministering," which also appears often, e. g., Luke 10:40; Acts 11:29; 2 Corinthians 3:7-9; and often. Consult a good concordance. "Diakonos" occurs in many texts which clearly does not mean a designated functionary in a local church--see e. g., Matthew 22:13; John 2:5; 1 Corinthians 3:5; and often. Consult a good concordance.
b. The ONLY possible understanding of "deacon," therefore, is a person whose capacity in the church is to serve or minister to other people. Where there is a need, there must be a deacon, a servant, a minister.
II. The only text which gives a description of a deacon is 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The qualities described here are almost identical with the qualities of an elder. Two VERY IMPORTANT truths appear in this text.
a. 1 Timothy 3:11 clearly states that both men and women are to be deacons in the church. The qualities of elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3 are essentially parallel to the qualities of "widows to be put on the list" in the church in 1 Timothy 5:9-10.
b. This proves that the quality "be married only once" in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 cannot be gender specific. This quality has to do with fidelity in marriage whether the individual is a husband or a wife.
III. Romans 16:1 openly declares that Phoebe was a "deacon" in the church at Cenchreae.
a. Biblically, these texts show that men and women can function as elders or deacons in local churches.
b. Along the same line, there are numerous texts which emphasize that women are to be preachers in God's Church. Acts 2:17-18 says: "In the last days . . . your sons AND YOUR DAUGHTERS shall prophesy . . . Even upon my slaves, both men AND WOMEN, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy."
c. Acts 21:9 says that "Philip had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy."
d. Throughout the Bible, God raised up WOMEN to prophesy, that is, to preach God's word, including Miriam in Exodus 15:20, Deborah in Judges 4:4, Huldah in 2 Kings 22:14-20, etc.
Summarizing: The role of elders and deacons in the church is to serve God and serve others. They are NEVER ABOVE anyone else in the church, but humble servants to honor God, the Creator and SUSTAINER of everyone and all creation.
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