Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 26, 1953
NUMBER 46, PAGE 8-9b

The Deacons

Vernon T. Posey, Buena Park, California

Brethren, it seems to me that there is great need for more teaching on this subject than we are giving it. We hear much about the "elders," but what about the deacons? Are they not also a part of the divine function?

Before going too far, I want to say that I may be wrong in some of my conclusions, but perhaps this will at least stimulate a little interest among others, and perhaps some of you older and more qualified preachers will help some of us younger preachers out a little on the subject. If so, would be glad to hear from you.

Another thing I would like to say before taking up the subject in the main, and that is this: Outside of the qualifications of the deacons given to us by Paul in 1 Tim. 3, there is very little said about them in the New Testament. Therefore, in order to learn, What they are, What their duty is, and Why they are, we must depend upon the method of "necessary inference" for scriptural guidance. But first let us notice the:

Qualifications Of The Deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13)

"Likewise must the deacons be grave." A man who is sincere, and serious concerning the office. One who really WANTS to serve the church.

"Not double-tongued." A man whose word can be depended upon. Certainly NOT a man who would agree with the brethren in a business meeting, and then go home and let his wife change his mind. (James 1:6)

"Not given to much wine." God does not want drunkards in any part of the church. (1. Cor. 6:9-10)

"Not greedy of filthy lucre." A man who is more concerned about making money, than serving the church, should never be a deacon.

"Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience." They should know the truth, be unashamed of it, and earnestly contend for it. (Rom. 1:16; Jude 3) A man who is afraid to take God's word and fight against sin and Satan, "Spiritual wickedness in high places" (denominationalism, in or out of the church), has absolutely NO BUSINESS serving as deacon, or anything else in the church. Let me say right here brethren, that the church is built upon the Truth of God's Word. If it is not, then it is NOT the church of Christ! And if contending for the truth will split the church, then lets preach the truth and let her split. The only thing that the truth can run out of the church is the old devil, and he has no business in it anyway!

"And let these also first be proved." Not just anyone, not a novice, but a man who has proved himself to be faithful as a Christian, not only in attendance, but in service to the church, and true to the gospel of Christ. Too often, brethren, we allow sentiment for the man, and not that which is good for the church, to influence our selections. This ought not to be so. The church is far too precious for such. (Eph. 5:21-33)

"Then let him use the office of a deacon." Then, when? After he has been proved, and NOT before! Then let them do what? USE, the office. Some of these congregations in California have deacons alright, but they are only names, or fixtures so far as anyone can determine. And that includes the one where I preach.

"Being found blameless." This does not mean that he is to be free from scoff, scorn, and persecution from without the church, or "all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 3:12) But this does mean that he is to at least be found blameless within the church, thus emphasizing all that is said in the foregoing; to say the least.

"Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderous, sober, faithful in all things." The deacon's wives also must be sincere and serious about the Lord's church. Not a bunch of slandering, gossiping busybodies, but women who are too sober minded for such things. A Christian. She is to be faithful in all things. A woman who can't sit still while the preacher is preaching against denominationalism is not faithful to God's Word, much less, "in all things."

"Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well." It is clear from this verse that the deacons are to be married to but one woman, and that they are to have children. And if any man teaches differently, let him be accursed! (Gal. 1:8-9) (When I ask for the help of some of the bigger preachers, just let it be understood that I don't want them that big.) God's Word is right! "Let God be true, and every man a liar." (Rom. 3:4) If I may deviate a little bit I would like to say that some of my brethren remind me of a story of an old colored preacher and a Methodist Circuit Rider. One day the Circuit Rider was going through the woods and he heard some singing and praying, so he stopped to investigate. It was a baptizing being conducted by some colored folks. After he had watched the colored preacher immerse two or three, he went over and called the old darky to him, and labored for some time to point out to the darky that it was not necessary to immerse these good people, that sprinkling or pouring would do just as well. But all his efforts were in vain. The old colored preacher said: "Sir, I sho do appreciate yo kindness, but us colored folk are just poor, ignorant people. We have not been schooled like white folks, so we don't know how to make those words say something they don't say, and mean something they don't mean. When it says, 'buried,' we just don't know how to make it say something else." Sometimes, I wonder if it wouldn't be better to be a little more ignorant. It does not say, "believing children," however.

Furthermore, it is seen that the deacon is to rule his own house well. Let it be remembered that every deacon is to have a house (home). That in it he is to have a wife and children, and that HE, not she, is to do the ruling. In other words, he is supposed to be a man, and wear the pants. It is said that a woman can either make, or break a man. This is certainly true with elders and deacons according to the Bible. It matters not how good the man may be himself, if the wife is not "faithful in all things," he should not be asked to serve as elder or deacon.

"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." Again the deacons are told to "use" the office, and by thus doing purchase a good degree.

What Is A Deacon?

No doubt this question has come into your mind many times, as it has mine. It is a good question, and one that deserves an answer. (1 Peter 3:15) At this point we must depend upon "necessary inference." So let us see what the Bible infers that they are.

1. They are servants. Necessarily so, because they are to "use the office of a deacon." (1 Tim. 3:10,13) Again, because the A.S.V. says: "let them serve as deacons." (v. 10) It is true that all Christians are to serve, but all Christians do not have an office, therefore theirs is not the ordinary type of service, but a service which they agree to perform whether it is convenient or not.

2. They are assistants to the elders. This is strongly inferred inasmuch as they have an office to be used without any authority to rule outside of their "own house." There is a sense in which the elders are to rule, as "overseers," bishops, etc. (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17)

3. They are apprentices, or as one put under another for the purpose of learning that which he is not already qualified to do. There are a number of things that lead me to this conclusion. (a) So far as type of character is concerned, he has about the same qualifications to measure up to as the elders. (b) Though he is not to have "believing children," he is to have children, thus making him good potential material for the eldership. (c) By making good use of his office, he thus is trained and proved for the office of elder. Let me say here that if more of our elders had first made good as deacons the church might not be drifting so fast as it is today. (d) Those who "have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree." Could be the office of the elders? Huh?

What Are The Duties Of The Deacons?

Perhaps we can learn what the deacons are to do by a process of elimination. It is clear that they have something to do, for they have an office to be used.

1. They are not to "oversee the flock." This is the duty of the elders. (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2)

2. They are not presbyters, to preside over the church. (1 Tim. 4:14)

3. Feeding the flock is not their responsibility, for this is the duty of the elders. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

4. Watching for the souls of the Christians is not their primary obligation, this too, belongs to the elders. (Heb. 13:17)

Since it is clear that the deacons do not have the spiritual oversight of the local congregation, then we must conclude that they are to work under direction of the elders, hence, assistants to the elders, serving the local church in a temporal way. This they can do by taking care of the church property; looking after the sick and the needy; keeping the church books, etc.

Acts 6:1-6

Does Acts 6 say anything about deacons? If so, what version do you use? The seven men in Acts 6 were never called deacons so far as I can see. If they were deacons, where were they addressed as such? Why were they out preaching in other places instead of "using their office." at home? Can one say that this was anything more than a committee, and be sure. If so, how?