Deacons –The Original Pattern

"And in those days, when the number of he disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples to them, and said, it is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.   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. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.  And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people” (Acts 6:1-8).

We will start out taking under consideration the three primary “qualities” of the man chosen to fill the office of deacon; starting with the first one, which is that a deacon must be a man of an “honest report.” The Greek word that is translated in the KJV as “honest report” is the Greek word “martureo,” (mar-too-reh'-o) which means to be a witness. This is where we get our English word “martyr.” As we search the scriptures, we find that this word is used no less than twenty-five times in the New Testament meaning “to bear witness.” In Hebrews 11:2, we find that “the elders obtained a good report,” meaning that people who knew them spoke of their good and upright qualities. In the very same chapter we find that these were those who had “obtained a good report though faith,” (Heb. 11:39). The word literally means, “To affirm that someone has seen or heard or experienced something that good in quality or manner.”

No matter what a man may say about himself, if people outside of the church cannot or will not say good things about him, he may not be a good candidate for a deacon. A man’s character ought to be blameless so as to not bring about harm to the Church of Christ.  The general opinion of him and his character should be at least favorable concerning his personal conduct, not only at and around the church membership, who respect or admire him, but above and beyond what are the facts of his conduct outside of the church? Not hearsay, but facts. For example, if he has a proven record of not paying his debts, or is known to frequent places that are of ill reputation. This would without a doubt bring dishonor to Christ and His church.

I want to add here that there may be times when it is right to defy public opinion, especially when it is from those who hate our Lord and would falsely defame His name and His servants.  That’s the very reason that Paul tells us in 1st Timothy 3:10, “let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless

Second, a deacon must be “full of the Holy Ghost.” The word “full” occurs many times in the scriptures.  Stephen was a “man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.”  He gave his life to the cause of the gospel of Christ (Acts 6:59-60).  Luke tells us that Jesus was “full of the Holy Ghost” (Luke 4:1).  John tells that the Word of God was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  In addition, Barnabas was “full of the Holy Ghost and of faith” (Acts 11:24).

What does it mean to be full of the Holy Ghost? Does it mean a spiritual quantity like one part faith and two parts Holy Ghost? Or does it refer to a spiritual quality? Yes and as I said before this most certainly must refer to a “quality” and not a “qualification,” a quality as in their character and sincere zeal for the cause of Christ and His church. The word “full” is the Greek word “pleres” (play'-race), which means, “to be covered in every part, thoroughly permeated with, complete and lacking nothing.” This refers to his whole being; his wholeheartedness, his total and complete dedication to Christ and His Kingdom Church.

No man ought to be considered, much less be placed within the office of deacon who is not growing in his spiritual and personal outlook. A man without a stable and mature spiritual outlook would quickly become a curse and not a blessing to the church where he is expected to serve, and as has been the case from time to time a deadly foe to the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour. There can be much harm and despair that come to those who carelessly move to select and place a man who is without this important quality.

The men who are called to the office must be men who are first and foremost spiritual men. Their focus must be to “seek first the Kingdom of God’ (the Church) ‘and His’ (Jesus Christ) ‘righteousness,” as it is in keeping with the Lord’s commandment in Matthew 6:33. This must be firmly established from the start; real and true spirituality is to be found first, not in words, but in a personal and living relationship between the man being considered and the Holy Ghost, of which can be clearly viewed in his walk and manner of life.

Third, a deacon must be full of “wisdom.” The English word “wisdom” comes from the Greek word “sophia” (sof-ee'-ah), and it refers to a wisdom that comes from God Himself, of whom James says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). We find this expression no less than fifty-one times in the New Testament.  Luke tells us that the child Jesus that He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). This wisdom has a twofold meaning, first, and primarily it refers to that which can only be borne in a relationship with God the Holy Ghost. Secondly, it refers to that one who is wise to the way and manner of the world and its corruption. He understands the words of the Apostle Paul when He tells the church at Galatia, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” (Gal. 5:9). 

It’s only in this relationship with God that men are able to make wise choices, and that’s because they are wisely led. I will add here that learned men are not necessarily wise men. What is required in a deacon is “wisdom” of a highest spiritual order.


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