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The First Deacons


The First Deacons

Text: Acts 6:1-7

Growth in the church often causes problems. Many of the Christians had sold their possessions and used their money to give practical support to one another. But some of the widows felt that others were being favoured when the food rations were being distributed. A number of widows of who spoke in Greek thought the Aramaic speaking widows were getting more attention than they were.


Caring for widows was a priority in the Early Church

V6  Perhaps they had a point, for the apostles freely admitted that they were becoming overwhelmed with the amount of labour involved in the practical administration of the work. There needed to be a practical solution and that solution was the creation of the Diaconate. 

1 Elders and Deacons. V 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.

The separation of ministry in the church. Ministry in a biblical church is divided into two distinct categories, both equal in importance and calling, but with different functions:-

a) The Practical Oversight of the Church. Acts 6:3 The work of the deacons. Cf 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

  • Men. They were all MEN. When Paul later would define the roles of the church leaders, all would be men. Some may say, ‘That’s NOT FAIR!’ But bear in mind that very few men are permitted to be in church office either!
  • Men with a good name. These men had to be of a good reputation – to be trustworthy – and to be TRUSTED by everyone. They all seem to have Greek sounding names! The Greek speaking widows thought that they were being neglected, so the church reacted to that by placing them in the care of people who they would trust. They were openly trustworthy.
  • Spiritual men. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, men who had Christ indwelling them by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and who would have a testimony.
  • Sensible men. They were recognised for having wisdom. That is a quality really needed in church work. Practical common sense in administering the affairs of the church.
  • Appointed men. They were not self appointed. These first deacons were chosen by the church, but their appointment was from the elders, so they only held office because they had an appointing authority to oversee them in the work.
  • Capable men. They were to oversee the business of the church. The word ‘deacon’ in its Greek context simply means ‘servant.’ In that sense of course, every single Christian is to some extent a ‘deacon’ for we are all servants of one another and servants of God. Romans 12:10-12 but we are not all elected to office, as these were, we are not all to be placed in charge of specific ministries, we are not all appointed to office in an act of consecration – so these servants of the church are different from the rest of us.

b) The Spiritual Oversight of the Church. 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The work of the elder is distinct from the work of the deacon.   1 Timothy 3:1-7, Here in Acts, Peter summarises the day to day work of an elder…

  • Prayer. An elder is to give himself continually to his spiritual life, to prayer. He is not to be distracted from this spiritual work by disputes about who got more bread at the daily hand-out, the Greeks or the Hebrews.
  • Preaching. This is vital. Ministry is essentially all about preaching. Now we can’t be preaching every minute of every day – so how do we give ourselves continually to preaching? Preaching requires intensive preparation. One of the greatest curses in the modern church is preachers who don’t prepare properly. The deacon’s role is to free up the elders for these tasks.


2 The Approbation of the Church. V5.
The church CHOOSES THE DEACONS – and now the deacons are named. Now let’s look a little closer at the text…

  • Deacons are a blessing to the church. When it was announced that men would be put into office to do the practical work of the Lord, it pleased the whole church! Deacons are a blessing to the church!
  • Deacons are chosen by the local church. By the people, appointed from the people, not from above. Notice how this is enacted. The people CHOSE these men, and then they SET THEM BEFORE THE APOSTLES. They are not chosen by the vision-casting leader, and appointed by him but are chosen from among the local church by the local church members.
  • Deacons need our prayers. We all need prayer to effectively serve the Lord. Every one of us, and so did these early believers. So when they were brought before the apostles, they prayed!
  • Deacons are set apart for office. The final part of this installation service, was that the elders laid hands on them, – setting them aside and marking them out for their office.

So the church has decided, and the apostles have prayed about it and the first deacons have been put into office in the church. But how is it that deacons remain in the church to this day, but that we aver that there are no longer any apostles in the modern church? Paul instructs us on the qualities and methods of appointment of elders and deacons, but not of apostles! He tells us quite clearly that he was the last of the apostles 1 Cor.15:7-9.


3 Working Together for God’s Kingdom. V7
These ministry offices are COMPLIMENTARY. They work together and the church benefits from this complimentary ministry and more people become believers in Jesus,   With this new cadre of deacons in place, looking after the distribution of the food and welfare of the poor, the apostles are given more time for spiritual leadership – Then the word of God spread,

  • The church experiences phenomenal growth. Because the church is being ordered in a disciplined manner, in accordance with God’s commands, and the people are working together in harmony – the number of the disciples multiplied greatly …
  • The church experiences growth in unexpected places! and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. Many of the priests believed! Soon, even a Pharisee, a persecutor of the church, a man called Saul of Tarsus would be brought to repentant faith in Jesus. No-one is so sinful – so far from God, that they cannot be reached by God’s grace and mercy!


Let us always remember that working together, united in purpose for the good of God’s Kingdom, we too can experience the sovereign grace of God at work, in saving sinners and transforming lives.

© BobMcEvoy December 2019

From → Acts, Bible Study

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