This week we are going to catch up with a few sermons that were preached in the month of May. Today is the message from May 2 that Pastor Davis preached regarding the work of deacons in the church.
You can click here to go to the Internet Archive page for this sermon, or listen to the sermon using the player below.
Thistletown Baptist Church
Jesus Christ – Body Builder XIV: DEACONS
May 2, 2010
1 Tim. 3:8-13 (ESV)
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.  They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.  And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.  Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.  Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.  For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
1. We spent three weeks considering the office of pastor/elder/bishop
a. Ephesians 4:11-16 – They are called by God to equip the saints for the work of the ministry
b. I Timothy 3:1-7 – they are to be men of exemplary character
c. I Timothy 2:11-15 – Elders are men. We did not choose this topic to create controversy. We chose it because it is a commonly asked question today and needs to be addressed. And what we heard last week was an excellent explanation of a difficult text.
2. Today we go on to the second office of the church. The second and final office of the church. The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith states it thus:
a. 8._____ A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.
( Acts 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1 )
3. Put into contemporary English that says that a church organized in a manner pleasing to Christ has but two offices – pastor/elder/bishop (that’s one), and deacons (that’s two). I won’t be emphasizing this throughout the message so let’s say it now. Be very clear about this. There are only two offices in a New Testament church. There are more than two officers, but all the officers fit into one of two offices.
a. In our church the officers of the church are 2 Pastors, 4 elders – two of whom are the two pastors; 3 Deacons, 1 Deacon Assistants, 3 Trustees, 1 Treasurer, 1 Clerk. Biblically the deacons, deacon assistants, trustees, treasurer and clerk are deacons. And they are deacons because their work is not the spiritual direction of the church. The spiritual oversight, care and direction of the church is the work of the elders. The care of the building, finances, certain aspects of ministry development, administration etc. are the work of the deacons, trustees, treasurer, deacon assistants – or biblically – the deacons. It is deacons we are going to look at this morning.
Now then, let’s begin.
4. Daniel 6:1-7 – It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom;  and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss.  Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.  Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.  Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”  Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever!  All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.
a. Lots of things have and can be said about this famous story of Daniel in the lions’ den. But as we begin to consider the work of deacons in the church let us note this about Daniel. What this church needs more than anything else, after it needs the triune God, is elders who are so above reproach that in order for them to have anything bad said about them is to have communion with God made illegal. And the work of deacons is to do their work in such a way that nothing hinders the elders from rightly pursuing that goal of prayer and ministry of the Word in such a way that the church is benefited and led by men who are above reproach. Men who would have to have prayer made illegal in order for them to be found to be guilty of anything. Deacons, as we shall see, give themselves in their work to ensure that the most important work of pastors giving themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word is able to be carried out. They stand, as it were, between all the things that need to be done in a church and the elders, and only let those things pass which fosters the elders in their prayer and Word ministries. It is crucial, God given, Spirit led, Church growing, sinner saving, Christian growing work. And if they do not do it the prayer and Word ministry of the church will suffer. This is the thrust of Acts 6:1-3.
1. We read this morning from I Timothy 3:8-13, the section of I Timothy that deals with deacons in the church. What deacons are to do is never specifically spelled out in the New Testament. There is no text of Scripture that says, deacons do this. God again, as He often does, wants us to think. The closest thing to a job description in the NT arises out of the situation in the Jerusalem church in Acts 6. And we will head there in a minute.
2. I Timothy 3:8-13
a. The qualifications listed in I Timothy 3:8-13 for deacons are similar to those for the bishop in verses 1-7.
i. Character, not ability
ii. Compare the two lists
(1) v. 8 – dignified – see v. 2 – above reproach, respectable, v. 3 – not quarrelsome
(2) v. 8 – not double tongued – see v. 2 above reproach
(3) v. 8 – not addicted to much wine – see v. 3 – not a drunkard
(4) v. 8 – not greedy – see v. 3 – not a lover of money
(5) v. 8 – hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience – see v. 2 – able to teach
(6) v. 12 – husband of one wife – see v. 2 – husband of one wife
(7) v. 12 – managing their own homes well – see v. 5 – manage his own household
b. Likewise – Gk. – In like manner; even so, likewise. In like manner explains it best. This word “likewise” introduces a new office, an explanation of something different than he was previously discussing. He has been talking about bishops and explaining their qualifications. “Likewise” consider the deacons.
c. A word needs to be said here regarding the women who are referred to in verse 11.
i. “Likewise” – an introduction to a separate office?
ii. “Women” – the word here can mean both wife and woman.
iii. The word “their” – so it is simply not accurate to translate “their women” or “their wives”
iv. Why would Paul give a special qualification for the wives of deacons but not the wives of elders?
v. Not deacons but women doing diaconal work. Not deacons but “deaconesses”. They assist the deacons in their work especially in the matter of women (They are “Deacon Assistants”). In this text these women do not get a separate heading. But neither are they left out of the list altogether. It seems that they are not a different office per se but they are recognized by the church as holding a special place and work that needs to be done.
vi. These are women along the lines of I Tim. 5:9 and Titus 2:3-5
(1) 1 Tim. 5:9 – Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.
(2) Titus 2:3-5 – Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. This text does not say that only those officially recognized can perform such a task (any more than the Bible says that only elders can lead in prayer and do a bible study or preach, or that only deacons are permitted to help the poor.)
vii. They do not form a separate office known as “deaconess”. But they are known within the church as those women who are called upon to do a job that will help the elders do their work and which is particularly focussed on women.
viii. Why in Acts 6 is it specifically stated that those who are to be chosen be men?
(1) This is the founding of the office …
(2) The needs being addressed are not those needs of peculiar interest to women. It is the women being neglected but the issue is not one that we would say is of a nature that it demands, in the Titus 2:3-5 sense, that women instruct the women.
ix. Character not ability
III Deacon Work
1. Why? Why must these men and women be of such outstanding character? What job have they been assigned that calls for them to hold to such high moral character?
a. What deacons are to do is never specifically spelled out in the New Testament. There is no text of Scripture that says, “deacons do this”. God again, as He often does, wants us to think. The closest thing to a job description in the NT arises out of the situation in the Jerusalem church in Acts 6. And so we head there.
2. Acts 6:1-3 – Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.  And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.  Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
a. Was the Apostle Peter lazy? Were he and the other Apostles of the church in the early days of the church looking for easy ways to spend their time? Was it their desire to spend their days sipping tea with the rich and well heeled and rake in money for themselves? Are the Apostles saying “We don’t want to work . We would just rather sit around and say a few prayers and read our Bibles all day, maybe get out now and then and give a sermon or two, which, as everyone knows, is a good job for anyone who just can’t do anything else of any worth.” Don’t be silly. Of course they weren’t lazy.
b. Were they hard hearted? Was the Apostles’ refusal to help with the doling out of need to the widows a matter of them simply not caring for them? How easy it is to sit in our homes and not bother with what is going on around us. But that is not it either.
c. In Acts 6 the apostles respond to the need of caring for the Greek widows with the comment: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.  Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
i. Verse 2 – The word “right” in the ESV means – agreeable; by implication, fit — (things that) please(-ing), reason. So the Apostles are saying that it would not be proper, fitting, appropriate for them to get involved in taking care of this need. This means dear ones that in that Jerusalem church, if the Apostles had taken it upon themselves to do this ministry in the church, probably to the disappointment of none, someone could have said – “that’s not right”.
ii. This does not mean it is never right for pastors to get involved in ministering to people socially … . But is does mean that they are not to do so at the expense of their work of prayer and Word. Then who will do it? Men chosen by the church who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Men who can take care of the building (Trustees), men who can manage the distribution of funds to those in the church with such needs, men who can manage the money that comes in, women who can help women with things that will help them better than if a man tried to do it.
(1) But note that in order to do this work in the Jerusalem church properly would have demanded organizational abilities, clear thinking, the ability to assess a situation and come up with a solution. The diaconate is not just for practitioners. It is for thinkers. It is for those with an inventive mind set. Those who can see a problem and come up with a proper solution…. . This is why they are to be wise. Full of wisdom. And it is why they must be full of the Holy Spirit. It takes a mind and heart tuned into the will of God to know what to do in these types of situations. The deacons are not just concerned about how best to repair the building and manage the finances and help the poor. They are concerned that those things be done in a manner that demonstrates the Gospel, that points people to Christ, that is done as an act of worship.
IV Deacons High Value of Prayer and Word Ministry
1. Verse 3 – “Therefore” – Verse 3 begins with “therefore” and the sense is this: since there are two jobs that are needing to be done and since the one we are currently engaged in is of much greater importance to the life and health of the church and since the caring of the needy can be done by others who are not called to preach, choose seven men who are wise and full of the Holy Spirit and have them do it. In other words – this job is an important job. We simply cannot have any of our widows suffering due to a lack of compassion in the church. We [the Apostles], would love to help them, but the only way we can do that is if we stop praying and preaching – and that we cannot do.
a. The text does not imply that the serving of tables is bad idea. It merely states that the Apostles were in a situation that was forcing them to choose between the good work of feeding the needy Gentiles of the church food for the body and feeding them the Word of God, food for the soul. Given that they cannot do both they have no choice at all – it would be wrong to drop the feeding of the soul for the feeding of the body. So, get someone who does not have to choose between the two, to do the other.
b. If TBC does not have viable social ministries that speak to the daily needs of. First of all, our people, then we have ceased to be the church. And if TBC does not have a firm commitment to prayer and the Scriptures (giving the Gospel, discipling new believers) then all our help for people will simply mean that we are the Lions Club, or the YMCA, or the Department of Social Services.
2. TBC needs to have a biblical understanding of the role of its deacons (trustees etc.). We need to see them as doing a crucial work for the sake of the Gospel to be proclaimed, the Word of God to be taught by the elders of the church.
3. So, note this: What the deacons do is enable the ministry of the Word get properly done. What they do is facilitate:
(1) Ephesians 4:11-16 ministry
(2) II Timothy 4:2 ministry
(3) I Timothy 1:3 ministry
(4) I Timothy 2:1 ministry
(5) I Timothy 4:11-16 ministry
(6) I Timothy 6:20 ministry
(7) II Timothy 2:2 ministry
(8) II Timothy 2:4 ministry
(9) Hebrews 13:17 ministry
4. A word to those who serve as deacons et.al. When you fix the toilets, repair the walls, manage the funds, provide advice and expertise regarding how to better do things – you are doing Gospel work. You need to have this in your head. If this were up to the elders then the crucial work of prayer and Word ministry would be neglected and that we simply cannot have. (And if you left it up to the senior pastor you would have a building that the city would condemn as unfit for human habitation!!)
5. The evangelical church in Canada is rapidly coming to the place where it thinks that helping the poor IS the Gospel. If we do not insist that the pastors and elders of TBC devote themselves – the word in verse 4 means – “to attend constantly” – then we are helping people save their own lives while losing their souls. If we do not insist on this we will lose the Gospel witness out of our church.
6. Does this mean that the pastors should never visit the sick or help the poor or offer their opinions about the use of the building? Not at all. But they are to do it as part of their ministry-of-the-Word work.
V Some Closing Applications
1. When voting for deacons/trustees/clerk you are looking for people who will take seriously the calling upon them to do whatever they do in their office, so that the elders can devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word of God.
2. “Ministry of the Word” means teaching, preaching, correcting, encouraging, rebuking, evangelizing, visiting (for the purposes of teaching/helping with … the Scriptures)
3. Pray as you consider who to vote for.
4. Pray that the elders and pastors do this prayer and Word ministry right. Your soul depends upon it.