OceanSide church of Christ
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THE WORK OF A DEACON
Victor M. Eskew
Members of the church, including preachers, often speak of various “offices” that exist within the church. This is not inappropriate because Paul referred to “the office of a bishop” in I Timothy 3:1. It should be remembered, however, that these offices are more than mere positions. These offices involve very important works that need to be accomplished by those who hold these offices. Let’s hear Paul’s complete statement in I Timothy 3:1. “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” The apostle states that the office of a bishop is “a good work.” Elders have duties. They have responsibilities. They have obligations. The Chief Shepherd will hold them accountable with regard to how they fulfill their tasks (I Pet. 5:4).
Another office within the church is “the office of a deacon” (I Tim. 3:10, 13). The apostle Paul sets for the qualifications for this position immediately following qualifications of an elder (See I Tim. 3:8-13). This position of a deacon is restricted to men, married men, and men who have children. It is not a position available to women. Certainly, women can be servants of the church (Rom. 16:1-2), but they cannot hold “the office of a deacon.”
In this article, we want to discuss the “work” of a deacon. There are four distinct areas that we want to examine. First, the deacon’s work involves diligent service to the church. This work is incorporated in the title of his office. The Greek word is “diakoneo.” Strong defines this word as “an attendant.” It involves one who waits upon another. It is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “minister” (Matt. 20:26). One has said that the literal definition of the word is “to kick up the dust.” The picture is that of a servant in a first-century home with a dirt floor. As he busily performs his duties, he kicks up the dirt on the floor.
After a man is appointed to the office of a deacon, he is usually assigned an area of work (i.e., worship, benevolence, youth, missions, building and grounds, education, etc.). This work has certain responsibilities that are to be performed. Once he has been assigned to a work, he should be given the freedom to perform his duties. Four steps are required for him to do his job effectively: 1) the development of a plan to accomplish the tasks assigned; 2) the recruitment of members of the church to assist him in carrying out the plan; 3) the execution of the plan, and 4) being accountable to the elders for how well his duties have been carried out. If a man is not willing to bear these responsibilities, he should not be a deacon.
The other tasks required of a deacon revolve around his qualifications. In I Timothy 3:9, one of the qualifications is for the deacon to hold “the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.” The “mystery of the faith” involves all that is found in the New Testament of Jesus Christ. A deacon is one who knows the gospel, is committed to its truths, and is willing to faithfully live out these truths in his life. This man studies his Bible. He prays to God always. He is faithful in his attendance of the worship services and Bible class hours. He is present when the church is engaged in her works. In essence, he seeks first the kingdom of God and the Lord’s righteousness (Matt. 6:33). This man is a pristine example of Christian service to other members of the body of Christ.
A third responsibility of a deacon is the constant development of his Christian character. “Likewise must the deacon be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre” (I Tim. 3:8). A deacon should be a person who is deeply concerned about his Christian character and conduct. He rejects the world and transforms his mind by the will of God (Rom. 12:1-2). He constantly seeks to conform himself into the image of his Savior, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). Again, he is an example to the believers (I Tim. 4:12). He lives his life in such a way that he can say: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1).
A fourth obligation has to do with the maintenance of a healthy, faithful family. A deacon is the husband of one wife and the father of precious children (I Tim. 3:12). His family unit is to be one of his primary concerns. He needs to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). He also must make certain that his children are reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). His wife must maintain a high level of spirituality. Within the qualifications of a deacon, it is said of his wife: “Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things” (I Tim. 3:11). A deacon must keep in mind that the quality of his family helped qualify him for his work. In like manner, it could disqualify him if he is not diligent to maintain it.
The position of a deacon is a valuable part of the work of the local congregation. It could be said that they are the backbone of the local congregation. Their efforts both coordinate the activities of the members and accomplish the works of the local church. The deacon who performs his role well also benefits. “For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 3:13). Our prayer is that qualified men will arise to accept the office and work of a deacon.