Additional Reading – Deacons

“Deacons are to care for the physical needs of the church. Read Acts 6:1. Some of the Christians “were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” The root of the word deacon means minister or servant, and particularly was used of table-waiters at the time, or of various types of service, usually either physical or financial. In Acts 6:2, the Apostles characterized this service as “waiting on tables,” or literally “deaconing tables.” This is the first aspect of deacon ministry – meeting physical needs. It is important to note that the deacons in Acts 6 likely didn’t do all the deaconing themselves; rather these few deacons probably organized many other Christians in the church to ensure that the work would be done.

Deacon ministry…is centered on the unity of the body. Really, this is the goal for all the gifts that God’s Spirit gives to His church—to build one another up and encourage each other (e.g., Rom. 1:11-12). Paul says to the Corinthians that God’s gifts are “for the common good,” (1 Cor. 12:4-7, 12) He exhorts these early Christians, “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church,” (1 Cor. 12:12). Edifying and uniting the church is especially the ministry of the deacons as we see it in Acts 6. Therefore, deacons are not set apart to advocate their cause, or argue for their corners like representatives or lobbyists. Instead, they are to come on behalf of the whole—to serve particular needs, yes—but with a sense of the whole, a sense that their work contributes to the health of the whole.

In Acts 6:3, the Apostles seem to acknowledge that caring for physical needs was a responsibility that the church, and therefore in some sense they themselves, had. But they said in 6:3 that they would turn this responsibility over to another group within the church. In that sense, these deacons were not only helping the body as a whole, but in so doing, they were helping to support these apostles/elders, whose main obligations lay elsewhere.

So the deacons were not a separate power block in the church. They were servants who served the church as a whole by helping with the responsibilities that the main teachers could not perform. Deacons supported the teachers of the Word in their ministry. They were fundamentally encouragers and supporters of the ministry of the elders. If this is the case, then it is the most supportive people in the church who should serve the church as the deacons. We should look for gifts of encouragement, so that more, not fewer, people will be blessed by their service.”

— Mark Dever, A Display of God’s Glory, pp.9-12

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