TGOC Bible Class Curricula – The Church of Christ (1st Quarter) - Lesson 6 - God's Pattern For The Organization Of His Church (Part 2): The Deacons, Preachers, Teachers, and Other Members
As we continue to look at God’s organizational plan for His church we will learn that He also authorized the selection and appointment of godly men to assist the elders in their work. These men were called deacons. Like that of the elders/bishops/pastors, the office of the deacon has also been greatly misunderstood and misused.
A. The First Selection: In Acts chapter six we have the first selection of godly men to assist the apostles. It is possible that the apostles functioned in the capacity of elders prior to the selection of deacons. The selection of these men would set the pattern that would be followed later in the church. If this was the first selection of men to serve as deacons in the church, it does not indicate the order the church should follow in the selection of leaders for the church. If it is the case that deacons were selected first in the first-century church, such does not give deacon selection priority over elder selection today.
The reason behind the selection and appointment of these men in the church are given:
Acts 6:1-4,“1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, ‘It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.’”
These men were appointed, in this case, to free the hands of the apostles so that they could put more emphasis on the function God assigned them as apostles. Deacons are also selected to free the hands of the elders of the church so that they can perform their God-assigned tasks.
The word “deacon,” is translated from the Greek word DIAKONOS, which means “(1) Servant. (2) One who executes the commands of others. (3) deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use.” (Thayer) The word is used over 35 times in the New Testament; only 5 times does it refer to the office of deacon in the church (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8,10,12,13). 30 times it is used to simply refer to the act of serving the church or Jesus Christ.
Some have tried to say that because the same word used for the office of the deacon is also used in reference to Phoebe in Romans 16:1; therefore she was a deaconess in the Lord’s church. However this word was also used to refer to Christ (Romans 15:8; Mark 10:45); Paul (Romans 15:25; 1 Corinthians 3:5; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23,25); Timothy (1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 4:6); rulers (Romans 13:4); angels (Hebrews 1:4); every man (1 Peter 4:10-11); apostles (2 Corinthians 3:5; 6:4); even the Devil’s servants (2 Corinthians 11:15,23). Do all of these occupy the office of a deacon in the church? Jesus said that anyone who would be great in the church must become a deacon (Matthew 20:26,28). Does that mean if we are not selected as a deacon we have no chance to be great in God’s kingdom? The answer to these questions is, of course, No! When this word is used to refer to the office in the church, that office is specifically mentioned.
B. The Qualifications: Like the elders, the deacons are to be godly men who possess specific characteristics and qualifications. Paul outlines the qualifications of these men in his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:8-10,12). While the qualification of a deacon is not as strict as those for an elder they are important nonetheless. They were to be men of high character both morally and spiritually.
1. Grave – A serious thinker.
2. Not double tongued – Not a hypocrite.
3. Not given to much wine – Does not get drunk (not implying the authorization of “social drinking”; compare James 1:21, ‘Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness’, which does not imply that some wickedness is authorized). Also, this may be authorizing the use of fermented wine for medicinal purposes (compare 1 Timothy 5:23 – but must be limited so as to maintain good judgment and example).
4. Not greedy of money – Does not “love” or “lust” for money
5. Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience – Possessing a genuine faith. Does not pretend.
6. Be proved – Have shown by their faithfulness, conduct, and work that they are worthy.
7. Blameless – No one can bring proof of wrongdoing against him.
8. Husband of one wife – Must not be a polygamist or an unscripturally divorced and remarried man
9. Rules his house and children – He is the head of his house. His children obey him.
C. The Duties of a Deacon: The duties of a deacon will vary according to the needs of the church. All deacons must work under the authority and oversight of the elders (Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:7,17). They have no authority in the church. Their work is assigned by the elders.
“Deacons may assist the elders by performing assignments in all scriptural works, particularly material, physical, benevolent, and mission areas.” (Ben S. Flatt, “Deacons Serve the Church”, Introducing the Church of Christ, Star Bible Publications, Inc., p. 83)
The office of the deacon is a very important work in the church. It is impossible for the elders alone to accomplish everything that needs to be done. By having these godly men upon whom they can depend to take care of some of their duties, elders are then freed to give their attention to the tasks the Lord has assigned them.
II. Preachers (Evangelists):
One of the primary missions of the church is that of evangelism, the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. God gave this mission to the church. It was His eternal plan that His mystery be made known to the world by the church.
Ephesians 3:10-11 “10 His intent was that now, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
One of the ways God chose for the church to fulfill this mission was through the use of godly men who would publicly proclaim the gospel of Christ.
A. The Appointment of Evangelists: Paul in his letter to the Ephesians shows us the plan of God for His church. God knew, the church being but a babe would need guidance and support. He, therefore, placed key people in the church to fulfill this need.
Ephesians 4:11, “11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”
Paul told the Corinthians that God had chosen preaching (evangelism) as the means of letting the world know about His plan.
1 Corinthians 1:21 “21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”
B. Evangelists Had No Authority: These men were called preachers, evangelists, and ministers. They held no office in the church. They had no authority in the church. Their only job was to preach the Good News under the oversight and by the authority of the elders (after they had been appointed in the churches).
Romans 15:16 “16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (See also Colossians 1:23)
2 Timothy 1:11 “11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald (KJV: preacher) and an apostle and a teacher.”
2 Timothy 4:5 “5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
C. The Duties of an Evangelist: Paul outlines the duties and responsibilities of the preacher in his second letter to Timothy. He told Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:2, “2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”
1. Preach the Word: Paul’s charge to this young evangelist was made, partly to encourage him, and partly to instruct him about preaching only the word of God. There were some who were not preaching the Word. There were some who were turning their backs on the Word. The Word Paul instructed Timothy to preach was the gospel of Christ. There is only one gospel.
Galatians 1:8, “8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”
2. Be prepared always: The preacher was not only to prepare himself for the task of proclaiming the Good News of Christ, but he had to also be prepared to defend the gospel against those who would pervert it or who simply opposed it (Philippians 1:16). He had to know his subject matter, and he had to secure the skills necessary for its presentation.
3. Correct: It was then and it is now, the responsibility of the preacher to correct error in the church (along with the elders, Acts 20:28-31; Titus 1:7-13). He did this privately and in the public assembly. We see many examples of this in the New Testament. When the Galatians left the truth of the gospel and turned back to the Old Law, Paul corrected them and showed them the foolishness of their decision (Galatians 3). When the Thessalonians had listened to the doctrine of the false teachers regarding the second coming of the Lord, Paul wrote them a letter and pointed them back to the right track (2 Thessalonians 2).
4. Rebuke: Sometimes it becomes necessary for the preacher to rebuke members of the Lord’s church. When they have been corrected and still fail to do what is right, the preacher has the responsibility to rebuke them in hopes of turning them back to the truth and saving their souls. Paul told Timothy and Titus,
1 Timothy 5:20, “20 Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.”
Titus 1:13, “13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith”
5. Exhort: To exhort is to urge someone strongly. Often a preacher finds himself in a situation where he needs to urge a member or members of the church to do what is right. We all need a little exhortation from time to time. It was common practice in the early church and among the apostles to exhort those who were becoming weak and in danger of going astray. In writing to the Hebrews, the inspired author exhorted and warned the brethren to take heed to the things they heard lest they drift away from it (Hebrews 2:1).
Hebrews 13:22 “22 Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.”
The preacher was to do all these things with love and a great deal of patience (longsuffering, 1 Timothy 3:10), and with careful instruction.
The evangelists are to preach the Word (1) forcefully (Acts 18:28); (2) simply (2 Corinthians 11:3); (3) with a sense of urgency (1 Corinthians 9:16); (4) courageously Acts 4:13,29,31; Ephesians 6:19-20); (5) and, with love (Ephesians 4:11,15; 1 Corinthians 16:13).
Teachers also played an important role in the early church. They taught the Good News one-to-one or in small groups. Like the preacher, they held no office in the early church. In writing to Timothy, Paul indicates the need for training others so that they would be able to help spread the gospel of Christ.
2 Timothy 2:2, “2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”
Older women were expected to teach and train younger women to be virtuous and good wives and mothers to their families (Titus 2:4). Teachers are an indispensable part of the work of the church.
IV. Other Members:
This covers all members of the church who do not fit in one of the categories that we have mentioned. They held no office in the church; they were not preachers or evangelists; and, they were not teachers. There are many in the church today who fall into this category. However, in the early church, almost every Christian was committed and dedicated to telling everyone whom they met about the risen Lord. Immediately upon their obedience to the gospel, they began to tell others what they had learned and experienced. Even when persecuted, they were teaching the Good News of Christ (Acts 8:4). Since Jesus’ mission for the church is to go into all the world with the gospel – even to the end of the world/age, we all need to make sure we are doing our fair share of proclaiming the gospel of our Lord (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11-16).
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