Servants of the Church
Text: Acts 6:1-6
I. Early in the church’s history, the number of brethren increased dramatically.
A. With that increase came “growing pains.”
B. Circumstances caused the church in Jerusalem to have a large number of widows who needed care.
1. Some felt that preference was being given to native widows over those from foreign lands.
C. The apostles were approached with the problem, but they rightly pointed out that they had their own work to do. The additional workload of personally caring for the widows would prevent them from accomplishing their first duties.
1. Isn’t that often the case? Men are placed at the head and suddenly their expected to do everything.
2. The solution was to ask the church to select seven men of good reputation to handle this business.
II. Though the men are never called deacons, they were asked to serve tables.
A. The word “deacon” is transliterated from the Greek word for “servant.”
1. It is translated in a variety of ways, depending on the context. It can be translated as “servant,” “minister,” “deacon,” or “waiter.”
2. In Acts 6:1 (distribution, serving of food, ministration) and Acts 6:4 (ministry) the feminine noun form is used. It was used for the act of service being performed.
3. In Acts 6:2 (serve) is the verb form. It denotes the action of serving.
a. It is the same word used in I Timothy 3:10, 13 (serve as deacons, use the office of a deacon).
B. We also note that the men selected were appointed to the work by the apostles. It is the same word used by Paul telling Titus to appoint elders in the church.
1. Thus these men held an office, duty, or obligation.
C. The only thing missing is masculine noun form of the word “deacon” that is used as the title of an office in I Timothy 3:8, 12.
1. Because of the missing title, many are uncomfortable calling these men deacons.
2. Personally, I think it is hard to avoid the conclusion.
D. Even if they weren’t formally holding the office of deacon, all would agree that these seven men set the precedence for what did become a formal office.
E. Let us note a few facts
1. The men were selected by the church and not the apostles.
2. The apostles appointed them to a specific task.
3. These men were not serving the apostles, they were serving the church – helping the church accomplish one of its duties.
a. They were not relieving the apostles of some of their duties – the apostles stated that serving tables would distract them from their duties.
b. Thus these men were not serving the apostles.
III. Service is a Christian duty that is not limited to certain people
A. Service to God
1. Jesus set the tone - Matthew 20:25-28 (also Luke 22:25-27)
a. The word in verse 26 is the word for “deacon” as a title, in this case translated as “servant.”
b. In verse 28, Jesus used the verb form twice (“serve” or “minister”)
c. In the kingdom, all are expected to act as servants and serve.
2. All followers are servants of Jesus - John 12:26
3. In the Judgment scene - Matthew 25:41-44
a. In serving (ministering) the downtrodden, Jesus said they were serving Him. - Matthew 25:44
B. Service to the Church and Christians
1. Paul stated that in delivering the relief funds to Jerusalem, he would be ministering or serving the church - Romans 15:25
a. The “relief” is the word for an act of service - Acts 11:29
b. Other men were selected by the church to serve (administer) as well - II Corinthians 8:18-21
2. The writer of Hebrews complimented Christians for their service (minister) - Hebrews 6:10-11
3. Serve as each is able with what God supplies - I Peter 4:10-11
a. Some have a gift of service - Romans 12:6-8
b. There are different ways to serve - I Corinthians 12:5-6
4. Examples of service
a. The household of Stephanas - I Corinthians 16:15
b. Phoebe - Romans 16:1-2
c. Tychicus - Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7
C. The apostles were servants
1. Acts 6:4 - ministry of the word
2. Paul said it was an act of service given to him by Jesus - Acts 20:24
a. In particular Jesus assigned Paul the task of reaching the Gentiles - Acts 9:15
b. He was the apostle to the Gentiles, his particular service - Romans 11:13-14
c. This he did as his act of service - Acts 21:18-19
D. Preachers are servants
1. The work of an evangelist is an act of service - II Timothy 4:5
2. Paul and Apollos are examples of ministers (deacons) - I Corinthians 3:5-6
3. Timothy is another example - I Thessalonians 3:2
4. They work on behalf of God bring the message of reconciliation - II Corinthians 5:18-20
5. It is an act of service for God, but also for Christians - II Corinthians 11:8
6. In the instructing of brethren - I Timothy 4:6
E. The government is a servant (deacon) - Romans 13:3-4
F. All Christians
1. The various offices were to equip saints for the work of service (ministry) - Ephesians 4:11-13
2. Thyatira was congratulated for their service - Revelation 2:19
IV. Though all Christians serve, there are some who hold the office of servant
A. It shouldn’t be a strange idea.
1. All Christians teach and preach as they have opportunity, but some men are dedicated to the job.
2. All Christians are to watch for each other, but some men are appointed to the job of overseeing the souls of the church.
3. In the same way, all Christians are expected to serve, but some men take on the task or office of servant.
B. Qualifications - I Timothy 3:8
1. Reverent (semnous) - “Worthy of respect, dignified, honorable, holy”
2. Not double-tongued (me dilogous) - “double-tongued, insincere, deceitful”
a. Literally having two words. Telling one person one thing and another something else.
b. Can also refer to someone repeating information. Telling someone private information about another
3. Not given to much wine (me oino pollo prosechontas)
a. Literally not constantly holding on to thoughts of wine
b. In other words, not addicted to alcohol
4. Not greedy for money (me aischrokerdeis) - Not having a greedy eagerness for dishonest gain
5. Holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience
a. Holding on the true doctrine, not just in word, but sincerely from the heart (see I Timothy 1:19)
b. Implies a stability of character. Not as described in Ephesians 4:14
6. Must be first tested
a. This is not on the job training.
b. The characteristics must be first shown before holding the office
c. Similar to qualification of elders not being novices
7. Blameless (ontes anenkletoi) - having a good reputation, not open to accusation.
a. Literally a legal term being one who is not changed with a crime
b. Used for all Christians in I Corinthians 1:8 and Colossians 1:22
8. Husband of one wife
a. Literally, being a one woman man
b. Rules out the unmarried, the polygamous, and the adulterer
9. Ruling their children and houses well (proistamenoi)
a. The “rule” here literally means to stand before.
b. The man is leads his family, his children are not neglected or out of control
c. This is not the word for a dictator. He is someone his children want to follow.
C. Their wives
1. Reverent (semnos) - “Worthy of respect, dignified, honorable, holy”
2. Not slanderers (me diabolous) - not a false accuser, not an adversary
a. It is literally the word for “devil”
3. Temperate (nephaleous) - doesn’t drink, abstinent
4. Faithful in all things (pistos) - a trustworthy believer
a. Not just a Christian in name, but a faithful member of the church
D. Why the need for qualifications - I Timothy 3:13
1. They represent the church by their position
2. They have great opportunities to speak out about their faith
E. What do deacons do?
1. These are men who represent the church through their service to the church
2. They are men to have taken on the task to serve the church by helping the church fulfill its duties.
3. They will not be doing all the acts of service. Christians still have their responsibility to serve.
F. Can you have deacons without elders?
1. They are independent tasks.
a. Elders oversee, guide, and teach
b. Deacons perform services
2. Deacons are not serving the elders, but the church and its members
a. They are not elders in training, taking over some of the elder’s duties
b. If anything, it would be like the apostles in Acts 6. Deacons are preforming tasks thus keeping the elders from being distracted from their duties.
3. We know that churches had both deacons and elders - Philippians 1:1
a. But we also see mention of mention of men performing services without the mention of elders.
b. Of course, the debate is whether they were just serving as all Christians should or if they were holding an office.
4. If we take Acts 6 as a rough example, then it is probable that deacons should be found among the church, appointed by those in leadership, and assigned tasks; thus implying that the leadership would have to be in place first.
5. Lacking no other guidance, it is a safe avenue.
a. Even without formally appointed deacons, it is not as if the work of the church is left undone since all Christians are to serve.
G. Can you have elders without deacons
1. Again the example in Acts 6 would make that implication.
2. We see great emphasis placed on the appointment of elders in every church, but there is no mention of deacons being simultaneously appointed.
3. Again, they are independent duties which mutually benefit the church.
H. Must there be more than one?
1. Deacons, when we know the office is being discussed (Philippians 1:1 and I Timothy 3:8-13) are mentioned in the plural.
2. Acts 6 showed multiple men selected.
3. Other references to servants are debatable as to whether they were office holders or just preforming a service. These are sometimes in the singular.
4. Again, lacking better evidence, it appears multiple deacons are expected.
V. All Christians ought to aspire to be the best that they can be
A. Some will display great talent in serving the church and their brethren
B. We ought to look among and encourage those who can met the qualifications of a deacon to serve the church as deacons.