Text: Acts 6:1-7
Nowadays, serving is not seen as a noble task. Most of us, if not entitled, want to be served. We want others to do the sweeping of the floor, the washing of the dishes, the cleaning of the yard, and so on.
Same with our sermon last week about Church Elders, Deacons were also present in the early church as stated in our passage in the book of Acts. Furthermore, in Philippians 1:1 (“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons”) and Romans 16:1 (Phoebe), Paul recognized the deacons at those churches.
But when did the church begin choosing deacons? The answer is in our main passage today. Examining the passage one by one, we can see in verse 1 that the church that started in Chapter 2 of Acts is already growing; “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number.” Now that is good news. We all want to have a growing church. But usually, it is not always good things that come along with this growth. There are also conflicts.
In verses 2-3, the apostles convened for a meeting and choosing of the seven as the first deacons of the church. Now, we should be careful about this. The motivation of choosing the seven is not just for the sake of the distribution for the widows. But clearly, in verse 2, it is for the apostles to not give up preaching the word of God to serve tables or the giving ministry.
Brothers and sisters, we may lack or fail with a lot of fellowship, activities, and other ministries. But a true biblical church cannot exist without faithful preaching of the Word of God. The main reason why we have Preaching Elder or Pastor is for this supreme goal—the proclamation of God’s Word in the church. Even Paul reiterated this priority in 1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.”
First point: Submission to Christ is necessary. It means that a deacon is a mature Christian; not a recent convert and shows Christ-like character. Why? As stated in our bulletin today. Christ is the ultimate example when it comes to the serving. He is the suffering servant who redeemed us as stated in the prophecy of Isaiah. Likewise, we are called Christians because we ought to conform to the likeness of Christ.
Second point: Serves the church. The Greek word for deacon is “diakonos.” This term literally means to serve at the table as a waiter or server. But hear this out, biblical diakonos means servanthood. To serve is not mere serving but becoming a servant of Christ for the church.
Last point: supports the Elders. Deacons are not pseudo-leaders but servers. A misconception that deacons are the one who decides or directs the affairs of the church. Indeed, they can be a guide or support, but they do not take the lead for the sake of leading.
Woman deacon? Luke 10:40 (Martha); Luke 8:1-3 (women helping Jesus and the twelve in the ministry); and Romans 16:1 (Phoebe); even 1 Timothy 5 speaks about older widows, women, to serve in the church accompanying the necessary character qualifications.
Again, deacons are distinct from elders but inseparable. Alexander Strauch noted, “the diakonoi operate under the leadership of the episkopoi [overseers].” But “elders alone are identified to oversee (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim 3:1-2, 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:2; Heb 13:17). “Elders lead ministry; deacons facilitated ministry, and the congregation does ministry.”
Let us check the last verse of our passage, in verse 7. It bears a wonderful picture of a healthy, glorious, and wondrous church. Because of keeping the Word of God central in the church, alongside the faithful choosing of the seven deacons, the church grew in numbers; they multiplied, and many became obedient to the Christian faith.
Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
July 11, 2021
*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.