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When we deal with words, much of their meaning comes from use.
For instance, when we say, "President," a picture comes to our minds of the head of a nation,
a business, a college, and other such pictures.
What kind of pictures are created by the word, "deacon"?
To most of us, some individual whom we have known, comes to our minds, but when the word was used
in the New Testament there were other qualities mentioned.
Let us look at the New Testament use of the word.
The word, "diakonos," appears in the New Testament 30 times.
Let us examine a few references in the New Testament where the word, "deacon," is used.
- It is translated in the KJV translation of the Bible as "deacon," 3 times.
- It is translated as "minister," 20 times.
- It is translated as "servant," 7 times.
In Matthew 20: 20-28 Jesus deals with the question of authority and position.
"But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you let him be your minister (deacon);
and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; even as the son of man came not to be ministered unto
but to minister (be a deacon) and give his life a ransom for many."
Pastors and deacons are servants.
- Each has a job to do.
- Each job is necessary for the welfare of the whole body.
Sometimes, the pastor overlooks this and translates the command of "Feed my sheep" into
"Control my sheep."
The pastor is not to control.
Sometimes, the deacon overlooks the fact that he is a servant and attempts to be a master.
But this is not to be!
Pastor, deacons and members must be constantly on guard against this.
We are servants!
Here we have the supreme conception of service embodied in the word "deacon."
In Matthew 23: 10-12, Jesus said, "Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master even Christ.
But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant (deacon) and whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled
and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
In this passage the quality of humility is added to our conception of the word "deacon."
It is not just service, exalted as that ideal may be, but a genuine consciousness that, in that service, there is to be
nothing of self or self-seeking.
The deacon is to serve, and that service is given so naturally that the deacon is unconscious of the service he renders.
The service flows from the Christ within because He is within.
It is without conscious thought of doing good, but it is an inevitable expression of the character of love, which Christ Himself
had for suffering humanity.
In John 12:26: "If any man serve (be a deacon to) me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall also
my servant (deacon) be; if any man serve (be a deacon to) me; him will my Father honor."
The glorious path of deacon service follows the footsteps of the Master, and the one who walks in that pathway finds
the companionship of the Master.
It is a pathway, in which one who has been saved by faith, follows to the Father's House.
So, the word, "deacon," is rich in meaning.
Now, let us notice the purpose of service.
We will see this in the establishment of a principle of service for deacons in the Jerusalem church.
Practically all commentators agree that the selection of the first group of deacons and their functioning
as such in a church is described in the sixth chapter of Acts.
Examine the background.
Let us not confuse the detail of the failure with the principle.
- The apostles are the church leaders.
- The church has grown rapidly.
- The apostles are overburdened.
- And there is a murmuring in the church because the church is failing to live up to her high mission and purpose.
The detail was inequity in the "daily ministration."
The principle was the failure of the church to conduct her affairs in the Christlike manner her membership expected.
All honor to the apostles.
They recognized this failure and their inability.
When we recognize our failure, and are surrendered men, the Holy Spirit speaks now, even as then.
By the Spirit they are led to the conclusion: "It is not reason that we should leave (let down, make secondary)
(the ministry of) the Word of God and serve tables (do deacon service)... but we will give ourselves
(be strong) in prayer and the ministry of the Word."
By substituting the alternate translations, the verses may read: "It is not reason that we should make secondary
our preaching and devote ourselves to deacon service; rather we will strengthen our praying and preaching."
How can we do this?
By the direction of the Holy Spirit, we can do this.
"Seek ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom whom we may appoint
over this business." (The deacon ministry)
The deacon ministry which the seven were called upon to give was a restoration of fellowship (peace) and a removal
of the cause of the breach.
Again, let us insist that there be no confusion between the principle and the detail.
The detail was the daily ministration.
We have no record of how the seven met the problem.
There is no suggestion of the character or kind of organization that was used.
But the church fulfilled her Christian mission and fellowship was restored and this is the principle.
Preaching and prayer continued to be the primary function of the apostles.
There is no suggestion that the apostles abandoned a deacon ministry.
The inference would be that they continued it, although it was secondary to the primary function of preaching.
A deacon ministry became the primary function of the seven, although there is no suggestion
that the seven abandoned witnessing.
Two of their number are best remembered for their preaching.
So here we have the establishment of a principle governing the function of a deacon in a church.
The application of the principle to the many problems of the church today remains the God-ordained function of the deacon.
It is no wonder that the inspired writers seek high qualifications in one who is to hold such an office.
So, the task of the deacon is to seek in and for the church the fulfillment of her high and holy mission,
and to maintain unbroken the fellowship within the church.
And it is the task of the deacon to restore continually where human failures have caused breeches in that fellowship.
These are tasks beyond the greatest human wisdom, but they can be accomplished by men who are Spirit-filled for that purpose;
whose wisdom is prepared and made available for use by the Spirit and whose lives demonstrate their readiness to be used.
Such a service may call for "serving tables."
There is no "pride of possession" in the calling of one to function as a deacon.
- It may call for intelligent financial management.
- It may call for loving reproof to those whose tongues have caused dissension.
- It may call for visiting the sick, and comforting the bereaved.
- It may call for meeting many other needs of the congregation.
There should be a deep humility when one who is called to serve as a deacon sees a vision
of the opportunities and responsibilities of his function.
When there is an awareness of a complete lack of human authority attributable to the holder of the office,
there comes an abiding belief in and a consciousness of the power of the Holy Spirit and a dependence upon His power.
And now at the beginning of your service as a deacon, this church is ready to ordain you.
The service of ordination brings of itself no power or benefit.
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
- It is a recognition by the church after the event of the fact that though one who is ordained has been called by the Holy Spirit
for the service he is to render.
- It is a declaration of the faith of the church in the character, quality and call of the one ordained.
- It is a most solemn moment when a church declares her belief in a man and his call to be a deacon.
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org