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Deacons in the Church

Eugene Prewitt

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Eugene Prewitt

Director, The Institute of East Asia Training (IEAT)

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  • 2007-03-03T00:00:00-08:00u00to00
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We're looking at this morning is church order and I want to I have a few ideas of goals I have for you this morning. One is to exalt the office of the deacon if I could contrast just virtually the Bible's idea of a deacon with our common understanding the deacon the day I would do it this way our understanding of a deacon is a man who is a middle aged male capable of turning on and off lights and not really gifted with speaking or preaching or necessarily knowledgeable about scripture but basically a good guy. I would say that sums up not everyone but that would be a pretty general idea of what people have about deacons. The Bible's idea about deacons is that they are God's special servants able to preach able to evangelize able to share guide in their own homes able to manage the churches business able to handle the churches problems capable efficient workers. And isn't that quite a contrast if we found someone in our church that met the local conditions of being a deacon. We would probably recommend him to be the head elder. In fact before we read in first Timothy five I'll just tell you something that the first. This time the church ordains deacons in the Bible and spends the next three chapters of the Bible telling about the things they accomplished they were ordained in Acts six. The very first one ordained became the first martyr of the church in X. seven Stephen the very next an ordained became the one who took the gospel to the Gentiles. The man who helped the Ethiopian eunuch the one who knew well the subject of Acts Chapter eight. He was called Philip the evangelist. But what was his title. His position in the church he was a deacon. So the first idea I want to do for you again is to exalt the position of Deacon something significantly higher than perhaps what it has descended to and I don't know how to explain how it's happened. We're still not going to read in first Timothy five but please keep your Bibles there still. I want to teach you a couple Greek words and a little bit about Greek syntax. You don't need to know the syntax but I think it will help you remember my point in the sermon today. Most Greek verbs and in the sound. Oh like oh I know that sound. Oh most Greek verbs and in there and many Greek nouns and in the end in office like Boss or toss us. And now I'm going to teach you two words that are very close to real Greek words close enough to use them that way they are. Deacon AFS and Deacon. Oh and as for the Greek letter sorry Deacon. Oh those are very close to Greek words you know this one means it means servant. You know what this one means exactly right. This one means servant and this would mean serve. And this one is translated a few different ways in the New Testament. Sometimes it's translated servant sometimes it's translated minister and sometimes it's translated Deacon. In fact it's a little bit humorous for me to read in the writings of Paul to Timothy and to see the different ways that it's translated sometimes is very close to itself because when it's applied to the man in a local church it will be translated Deacon. But a few verses later once a pall applied to an apostle like Paul himself or to Timothy the elder It's called minister. That's the same word. Am I trying to do at this point I'm trying to exalt in your mind the position of the can in fact when you look at the first times this word is used in the New Testament the first four of them the first four times the word is used are here this is actually Deacon O. that is the word that means serve. What a deacon does a deacon Deacon's says you I just said angels come and minister to Jesus after he's been tempted in the wilderness. That's the first example of a deacon in the Bible. Angels are the ministers. Peter's mother in law is sick. She's in bed. Jesus heals her. She really gets up in the room which she does when she gets up she goes to make food for people to take care of them. She deaconesses deacons then. And this isn't the only time but the New Testament Jesus is a deacon. He says something like this let's look. I know you turn to first with the fives OK if we go somewhere else come back to it turn your Bibles to John Chapter twelve. John Chapter twelve and we're going to look at verse twenty six. John twelve verse twenty six says If any man serve me let him follow me and where I am there shall also my servant be. If any man serve me him will my Father Honor this is the word Deacon. Oh the way we're saying it today in this lecture it's a synonym for being a Christian who are Christians. They're the ones that follow Jesus they are the ones that serve him. Christians are in one sense all deacons. You know stand by me what I mean by what I'm saying. In one sense turn back to Luke Chapter twenty two Luke Chapter twenty two and we're looking at verses twenty six and twenty seven. Luke Chapter twenty two and we're looking at verses twenty six it says but it says but you shall not be so that is it shouldn't be in the Christian Church that the people who have the most authority are the ones that tell everyone else what to do. You know it shouldn't be that way. If some man is given authority in this church I'll tell you the kind of authority he is not given he's not given the authority to tell you what to do. If you're given authority you're not given authority to tell us what to do. Verse twenty six that he that is greatest among you let him be. What does it say as the younger and younger is an interesting word. The opposite of it. The opposite of that is Elder and elders are the ones we say are the ones we put in charge of the church. Let me just say this idea again in modern words. If any of you are made elder let him be as younger and he that is Chief as he that does serve that is Deacon Oh. If everyone is in a certain sense. If all Christians are in a certain sense a deacon. Yet those who are given responsibilities of authority in the church are they more or less deacons than the others it was an odd question you know I mean by the question there are more deacons look at the next verse for whether is greater he that sits at the table to eat or he that serves that is deacons. Is not he that sets if to eat meat. Listen but I am among you as he that service. This is another example this passage it's not the third one it's just one of many where Jesus is in the general sense of servant. Jesus is the deacon of the church. I'm what I'm hoping is happening in your mind is that you're developing an ambition to be a deacon that you're viewing this as a position in the church that is a high one modeled by angels modeled by Jesus modeled by the first marcher modeled by the first man called an evangelist a position worthy of honor in the church. I'm just going to run through a few of these things about deacons and we're going to move to some other thoughts about church order in the Bible. Government is a deacon that's in Romans thirteen. I mentioned that to you when you read Romans thirteen it says for he is the minister of God to be for good. That word minister is Deacon. What does the government do similar to deacons deacons in the church are set aside to handle the business of the church to handle the operations and the ministries of the church. This is what deacons do they organize the ministries of the church. I mean the business and of the ministry of the church. Part of that is what we might call Welfare Ministry. I hope this idea will be simple and sensible and short. Two Is it right for the church to feed people who are hungry. Is it right for the church to give clothes to those who lack is it right for the church to help old ladies with their housework if they have a hard time doing it themselves. Is it right for the church to take care of orphans. Can I go on with a list of questions like this that would be quite lawn. But if the church tried to take care of all of those kind of social needs for all of the people even right here in Arkadelphia if we were the church and we decided that as a church we were going to try to take care of all those who were hungry all of those who were crippled. All those who were widows in need if there was no social security no welfare system and we had to be in it to take care of the elderly and take care of those who are poor. Do you realize that we would not be able to do it with five million dollars a year. That's just in this little town and you are cumulative resources beyond what we need to pay our utilities and eat our basic food would not even come to a million dollars a year. Could we do it. I mean it would even come close and say when to even come close to a million dollars a year. What I'm communicating is that God has not given up all of the business of welfare ministry to the church that is the work of deacons But does he have deacons outside of the church. And what's an example of one of his deacons outside of the church. It's government and not me glad the government takes a large burden on our shoulders this way then shouldn't we give government some respect if they are God's servant ministering to people the very same kind of work is given to us is given to them part of it and he's given them the larger share of it in this. Particular field for obvious reasons because the church is always a small part of society. Does that make sense to follow what I'm communicating in the Bible. P.B.S. is called the servant of the church. Send Korea. Ever since I was nineteen years old I've been fascinated by this phrase servant of the church and creed. My imagination is played with it some trying to imagine was her full time job doing the business of the church. Or did she have another full time job or was she had full time job being a mother of children. Because that is a full time job isn't it. Did she have another full time job and this was just a thing that she did as her ministry on the side like all of us do ministry. I don't know the answer that question. I'll tell you something about her work. Maybe I should show it to you so you remember it. Turn your Bibles to Romans Chapter sixteen Romans Chapter sixteen. I probably didn't mention it that Phoebe was a woman but I think I used the word her so you gathered it but it's very apparent in Romans sixteen verse one Roman sixteen verse one. I command unto you feed me our sister which is a servant of the church which is that send Korea I'll tell you my suspicion that if it had been feeble OS instead it Phoebe. It was said which is deacon of the church which is that same Korea you know it's the same word. But since it's a woman it says servant you know it when men and women have in common they don't have exactly the same positions in the church. They don't they're given different duties and different responsibilities in church but they're something they're both given and that is the privilege of serving the privilege of serving the church with the needs that it has and I'll tell you something if this was a side responsibility for Phoebe. She was given some pretty serious responsibilities looked down at verse it's twenty something let me just find it see if you see Phoebe again I'll be faster typer look at my notes. Verse twenty seven now there it is the very end to God Only this isn't my verse my version doesn't have it in there I mean it's the edition at the end of the thing right. Romans sixteen verse twenty seven then written to the Romans from corrent this and sent by was it say feed the servant of the church at sing Korea listen Phebe took a letter from Paul written in Corinth and made a trip. It's from a trip to Corinth Scuse me I made a trip to Corinth that was a long ways and if ladies in that time are like ladies today they don't like travelling a long ways by themselves. I want to say about Phoebe is that she was a woman who serve the church and that is a high honor for women to have I think for time sake I won't go into some of these details but if you ever want to. Read about a man who we all want to know about. You can read about EPPER Frasse after France is mentioned several times in New Testament and the reason we don't all know about him like we know about Daniel or Paul is because his name has too many syllables that's not familiar to us but he was a loving man who nearly died because of his care for the people he was ministering to. Timothy was an elder but you know he was also a deacon. I don't mean he was ordained as a deacon but I mean that that word was used to refer to him a servant of the Church minister. Let me move over to my little graph over here for a minute and turn in your Bibles to Matthew twelve verse thirty six Matthew twelve verse thirty six. In the next few minutes we're going to talk about the relation of elders elders are a different position in Scripture than Deacon. The relation of elders to numbers Matthew twelve and verse thirty six. But I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. It's speaking to all of us we are the members of the church and we're going to give account to God when we give account to God when you know when or where it's in the judgment. I give account to God in the judgment you give account to God in the judgment. Turn to Romans fourteen verse twelve Romans fourteen twelve highlights the idea that we just gathered from Matthew twelve Romans fourteen twelve it says. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. So how many of the members give account to God you know the whole bunch of us do. Look in your bible is it. Hebrews Chapter thirteen and verse seventeen Hebrews thirteen verse seventeen is a word is a passage that begins to refer to how to relate to men of authority inside the church. Hebrews thirteen verse seventeen it says obey them that have the rule over you. I probably should be fair to tell you that the word obey there could also be well translated honor. Kind of like in the commandment Honor your father and mother obey your father and mother. But is there a limit to when you obey your father and mother. If I tell you to do something contrary to what God says you should obey God you think the same thing would apply to elders you know absolutely. You give respect to the things they have to say but they don't have authority will look at that later a little bit later. But no that's what it says Obey your honor then they have the rule over you and submit yourselves for they watch for your souls listen as they that must give account. What do I have in common with elders. Well in this case I happen to be an elder but pretend I wasn't for second last ration. What do I as a member have in common with an elder you know we both are going to give account to God there is a slight difference in the way that we give account. God as a member I give account to God for myself as an elder. I am also a member. I give account to God for myself but also I must give an account to God for the way I took care of his church. Is it fair that I have to render an account for how I took care of his church. You know it's fair and because of that god does not place does not want the authority of an elder just placed on people without careful consideration because that position of the elder puts them under a tremendous responsibility in the judgment. Would you want that kind of responsibility. That's a bad question to ask because in the Bible an ambition to be an elder is a good thing. The Bible says If any man desires the position of the ship he desires a good thing. But if you aspire to the position of a bishop or elder it's all the same thing in the New Testament press bitter Bishop elder. Really there's not a difference if you aspire to that. You should understand what you're aspiring to or you aspire into the opportunity to control what the people under you do know you're aspiring to a position to help and minister to Deacon to the members under you to help them get to heaven. Knowing that in the fear of God you're going to have to render an account for how you discharge your duties. Turn back to our scripture reading First Corinthians chapter fourteen. First Corinthians chapter fourteen and we read it for our scripture reading verse thirty three The passage says for God is not the author of confusion but of peace as in all churches of the saints. Look also at verse forty. Let all things be done was say decently and how in order. I'm very willfully this morning not going to speak to you in the next ten minutes I'm speaking for ten more minutes then I'll close in those ten minutes I'm not going to get into this topic of tongues speaking in tongues. I'm talking about church order. However in this passage the topic of tongues is used as an illustration of church order and I'm going to use it the same way. So let me try quizzing my trying to get into the topic of speaking in tongues. I'm not why am I going to address it briefly as an illustration of church order in First Corinthians chapter fourteen. It creates a picture of a church that is out of order. What is apparent in that church is that people are speaking in tongues. What's apparent in that church is that people are prophesied. The problem apparently is that people are doing it several at a time and apparently they're not all agreeing. And that creates a feeling of confusion. That's the backdrop to verse thirty one. Maybe we need to even go all the way back. Two verse twenty seven just to run through it briefly if any man speak in a tone in a tongue that is not recognized. That's what unknown would mean. Let it be by two or at the most by three and that by Course or by turn there's going to be speaking in tongues in the church. Is there a maximum number of people that should speak in tongues at the church. What would be the maximum number you know. That's it. Am I talking about speaking in tongues. No but I'm illustrating that in church there ought to be some order there should be some system and it even extends to the use of spiritual gifts. Now suppose we have three people here that are going to speak in tongues should they all do it at one time you know they should take turns and why should they take turns. Because God is not the author of confusion but of peace. Verse twenty eight. But if there be no interpreter let him keep silence in the church and let him speak to himself and to God. So if a man has the gift of a tongue and there is no one around that can understand it who should he speak to in the church. You know he should speak to himself and he should speak to God but why not just go speaking out loud because God is not the author of confusion but of peace. Do you think that this idea that God is not the author of confusion only applies to speaking in tongues. I hope you don't think so. The reason why God ordains elders and deacons is because he wants things to be done decently and in order in the church. Verse twenty nine let the prophet speak two or three and let the other judge that is if there's just one prophet in the church there is no one to evaluate the truthfulness of his revelation. That's not the best thing but if you've got two or three in the church how many of them should speak at one time. One speak what is the other one do you know it interpreter of a prophet the other one judge that is the other ones evaluating whether or not this revelation is from heaven because would you want to accept a revelation it wasn't from heaven. You know you want it you wouldn't want to have someone began prophesied and just figure out whatever they're saying must be from God. Isn't there a fair chance that it isn't and God has warned us against false prophets. Verse thirty. If anything be revealed to another that sets by let the first hold is peace. So if God gave you the gift of prophecy and you're speaking in church and then someone else is going to get to prophecy you know what you should do. Sit down and be quiet. Even though you have the gift of prophecy you should know why because God's church should be organized in order to leave this passage because it's going to really feel like I'm getting on the topic of tongues and prophesy and I'm so not. You turn way back when the first Timothy Chapter five turn back there. First Timothy Chapter five. And we're going to be looking at verse seventeen verse sixteen is interest in relation to welfare ministry. I'll tell you what it says and you can study yourself later. It says that if you have relatives in the church that need welfare type assistance you should give it to them yourself and not let that be chargeable to the church. So OK since you are I would say that if it doesn't ask me later and I'll give you some sense to it. Verse seventeen it says Let the elders that rule well be accounted worthy of double honor what are elders worthy of their worthy of honor and if they do a good job they are worthy of double honor. But they don't take the place of God to you especially they who labor in the word in doctrine. Now it looks like the kind of Honor they're worthy of a support from verse eighteen and verse nineteen that's not even what I want to go into. Look down to verse twenty one. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the electing jewels that you observe these things without preferring one before another doing nothing by partiality. When this church comes to choosing elders new elders from among its members there are many things that will have to pay attention to. I made a list here from Timothy and from Titus I was going to read it to you because there's no time to go into it in detail but we should not choose an elder unless he has a functional family. There are two ways you could have a functional family the New Testament could be by having his own children. Or it could be like Jesus where he had a group of those that were following him. But he had them in an orderly fashion. The disciples were like his children. Now it's Paul recommended that not everyone ought to be married he was doing God service men remember that he should have well behaved children. This sounds like I'm emphasizing this point because the Bible emphasizes it. In fact in the case the children should be subject with all the gravity that is his children should he should not have to control them and and bribe them into doing the right thing. Would you want to man who bribe the children doing the right thing to be taking care of the church. He shouldn't be self-willed he should have a cool temper but as the Bible makes quite a distinction between getting angry and getting angry fast. There is a place for becoming angry at problems but there is no place for being of a hasty temper and an elder should not be someone who has one. He should be temperate. I mean self control and all kinds of things in particular he should not be given to the bottle. He should be gentle he should be generous he should be hospitable he should be patient. He should really appreciate good men. So make sense she what the elder should really appreciate good men. Well says he should be a lover of good men. I suppose one reason so he won't become autocratic. That is the elder is not the king of the church and he should be doctrinally sound. Those are things we should consider you know are some things we should consider. I want to say we shouldn't consider age because there's something in the Bible to be said for experience in life there is. Something but age is not a an objective criteria. Timothy was an elder and was he old or young. He was a young man. We should not consider financial status. That is it can be a habit in churches to get the position of elder to a man because he's a physician. But the Bible says nothing about that except for that he should be someone who loves money. So if a man became a physician because he wanted to get rich would that make him qualified or disqualified to be an elder. You know that would go the other way. Race could never be taken into consideration in choosing an elder. You should take into consideration whether a man is your relative. But you know something you should consider his reputation outside of the church. There are about thirty more thoughts I could share and share zero of them because this is too much to hold in your head already. I take it back on the share one of them because it's already on the board and then will close. It's about authority in the church in X. a big argument happens in the church of here I'm going to church where there was an argument in the book of Acts there's a big argument and the argument is between elders and some of them have to be prophets and one of them happens to be an apostle they still can't agree so what do they do. They decide to go to Jerusalem and present this thing to the Apostles and elders and I was going to give you a whole bible study up right hand the papers to someone so I can give it to themselves about this term apostle. Some elders in the book of Acts Apostles and elders are the authority in the church and the Book of Acts when it comes to yourself and you want to know what's true. You know who your authority is. If the Apostles and Prophets themselves you can go to your Bible yourself and you can know what's true. But what if we don't come to an agreement as a church about what the Bible says. Do we all have to believe what it says because you tell us it says So do you have to believe what it says because I tell you it says so now if we can agree if the church is going to be united we have to have some authority beyond just what Scripture says. Do you understand I'm trying to communicate. Everyone individually has the authority of the Bible but for as a whole we choose men as elders who we know are doctrinally sound whose character show that they're reliable. If you have proof that they have the Spirit in their life by their temperance and self-control and there are other characteristics we choose those men of experience and what they conclude as a group. So is the authority for the church in terms of doctrine. I mean for the local church. Does that mean that you have to submit to what they say individually and eventually your authority is the Bible. But for the church is working together the authority is the apostles working together with the elders. Does that make sense to you. I don't prove it to you I just told you so in the book of Acts you can see it but if we're going to have the authority beyond the local church it can't just be the elders in a local church. It has to be the elders that represent the whole church. So on Acts fifteen it says that it pleases the Apostles and the elders and the whole church. Which is to give the decision that was made to resolve the difficulties there. Now if the elders have this much responsible in the church do you think we ought to be careful who we choose I think so too. Summary of what we've said. Some of us in this church are going to become deacons and some are going to become elders over time you should aspire to that high thing the whole bunch of us should be deacons in the spiritual sense that is serving the church as we're aiming high how do we qualify ourselves by rule in our families by temperance ourselves by not going after money by seeking to have doctrinal soundness to understand what God is saying so that he can so safely put responsibilities on us and the next verse that we didn't read in first of the five said lay hands on no man suddenly because we don't want to put people in danger by lifting them up to that heavy responsibility before they're ready. If we put in the position of an elder they're going to have to give account of themselves to God for the way they take care of the church. Are you honored if the church chooses you to be a deacon. You've been honored are you honored if the church chooses you to be an elder. You've got your honored. Does that mean you have the authority to tell people what to do. No it means that those that are chief among you let him be as the servant you have a work of serving in teaching to do that the church needs so badly if they're going to come through all right.

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