The Biblical Role of a Deacon

The Biblical Deacon—Part 1

In the business world many catch phrases and buzz words arise. Several years ago I started hearing about paradigms (pair-a-dimes). I’m a simple kind of guy, an Alabama boy at heart. I thought a pair-a-dimes was what I used as a kid to buy twenty pieces of bubble gum! However, after hearing the term “paradigm” used many times I finally figured out that they were talking about how we view things.

Intellectually and emotionally, the way that we see and react to things is often based upon our life experiences. Spiritually, our paradigms influence how we view our relationship with, and our service toward, our God. Religiously, many often look through the paradigm of tradition rather than truth. As Bible-believing Baptists, we often pride ourselves in the fact that the Bible is our only rule of faith and practice. Yet, if we are not careful, we can find ourselves viewing God’s work through the lens of tradition instead of the truth that we hold so precious. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

A role can be defined as a function or part performed. Within religious circles there are many different views of what a deacon’s role should be. Some see the role of a deacon as a stepping stone on the way to being a member of the clergy. There are those that view the role of deacons as a governing board over the affairs of the church. I’ve met some deacons who viewed their role as being “checks and balances” on the Pastor. In the eyes of others, the role of the deacon is simply just a title with no function. There are even those who deny that the role of a deacon within the realm of the church even exists.

Why are there such varied views on the role of a deacon? Could it be that some are viewing the role of the deacon through tradition or trepidation, rather than the truth of the Word of God? Let us seek to understand the role of the deacon through biblical bifocals, “Rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Bible clearly shows us two distinct roles within the local New Testament church.

Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:” Philippians 1:1

It is obvious that the church at Philippi had “bishops” and “deacons.”

These two roles are further distinguished in First Timothy chapter three.

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.” 1 Timothy 3:1, 10

These Two Roles Are Distinct in Service

The titles bishop, elder, and pastor literally mean an overseer or ruler.

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;” 1 Peter 5:1-2 (emphasis added)

 “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (emphasis added)

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” Hebrews 13:7 (emphasis added)

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17 (emphasis added)

The title of deacon literally means a servant or waiter.

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;” 1 Timothy 3:8

Then 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.” Acts 6:2

The word serve (Greek word diakoneo) in Acts 6:2 comes from the word deacons (Greek word diakonos) found in 1 Timothy 3:8 which means an attendant, a waiter, a servant, or one that runs errands.

Therefore, we see that these roles are very distinct in service. The role of a pastor is clearly that of an overseer, ruler, and edifier. The role of a deacon is that of a servant, one that waits on the needs of another.

These Two Roles Are Also Distinct in Selection

The pastor is God-chosen and God-appointed.

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church… Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:17-28

We see in these verses “the Holy Ghost hath made you…” it is God that chooses men for the role of pastor. It is also God that appoints these chosen men to accomplish their purpose within the church “…overseers, to feed the church of God.

The deacon is church-chosen and pastor-appointed.

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.” Acts 6:3

We see that these men were chosen by the members of the church at Jerusalem, according to the spiritual qualifications that they were given, “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” After they were chosen by the church, the pastors appointed them to their purpose “whom we may appoint over this business.

Therefore we see that these roles are not only distinct in service, but they are also very distinct in selection. The pastor being God-chosen and God-appointed, while the deacons are church-chosen and pastor-appointed.

Looking through the paradigm of truth, we can see that the biblical role of deacons is that of scripturally-qualified servants, who are chosen by the church from among its membership and appointed to their purposes within the church by the pastor.

This is part one of this article. Please click here to read part two, three, or four.

If this article was a help to you, consider sharing it with your friends.