Deacon & Deaconess: An Office or a Service?
The Sovereign Father's earthly family and holy nation of king-priests was structured around the apostles and a council of elders. These men were responsible for the doctrinal integrity of the church under Jesus Christ (See Acts, chapter 15). As dynamic as this church was, however, it virtually disappeared from history after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.. From 70 to 120 A.D., there was very little recorded about the true church of God. When historians began to write about the church again, they wrote of a dramatically different church from the one that embraced the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Today, we find churches that call themselves Christian yet the vast majority do not even faintly resemble the early church.
In most churches that claim to follow the example of Christ and the apostles, individuals are ordained to an office of authority as a deacon or a deaconess and become an integral part of the organization's governing body. However, is the practice of ordaining a person to an office of authority as a deacon or a deaconess as practiced in most congregations of the elect what the apostles intended, or is this practice a perversion of what they set forth as a function and a responsibility among the elect?
NO CENTRAL AUTHORITY
The apostles are dead and the early church and its eldership have disappeared as prophesied by Zachariah when he said: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd [Jesus], and against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep [the disciples] shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand upon [against] the little ones [the Father's elect children]” (Zech.13:7 KJV). See also Matt.26:31: Acts 20:28-30.
The reason for doctrinal chaos among the elect during this present age is obvious—no central authority on earth governs the doctrinal integrity of the Sovereign Father's holy nation of earthly children. Clearly, we are living in the times spoken of by the prophet Amos in which there is a famine of understanding God's word. See Amos 8:11-13.
The members of the Father's holy nation of king-priests are scattered among the nations of the earth without a central authority to guide them in doctrinal unity. Therefore, how do we go about investigating the issue concerning the functions and responsibilities of a deacon or a deaconess? Do we use non biblical authorities? Or do we go to the Bible itself to resolve this issue?
The Use of Non-biblical Authorities to Establish Doctrine
There are many excellent books that have been written containing historical, geological, and scientific facts about the Bible that cannot be disputed. However, when attempting to understand doctrinal issues concerning the Sovereign Father's holy nation of king-priests, Bible commentaries and other informational sources concerning what is written in the Bible have a limited value, because the vast majority of these books were written by individuals without the indwelling of the holy spirit and therefore give little insight into doctrinal issues concerning the elect. Moreover, you should exercise caution using these sources and measure the information in them against the empirical standard of the Bible itself.
Deacons and Deaconesses
The answer to the issue concerning the functions and responsibilities of a deacon or a deaconess is simple if you will put aside preconceived notions concerning the subject and believe what the Bible actually has to say about it.
A common belief is that, Acts 6:1-7, Philippians 1:1, and 1. Timothy 3:8-13 show that the apostles established the offices of deacon and deaconess as an office of authority and rulership within the early church. Does this belief have any biblical authority?
A careful study of the New Testament scriptures containing the Greek word diakoneo and its derivatives diakonia, and diakonos, clearly shows that these words are tied to the actions of individuals and do not describe a position of authority or the title of an office within the early church.
As the early church grew, it became apparent that there was a need for someone to care for the physical needs of its widows. As a result of this need, men were chosen by the membership of the early church and sanctioned by the apostles to perform this duty:
"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 (diakonia). 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 (diakoneo) . Wherefore, brethren, look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the holy spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry (diakonia) of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the holy spirit, 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 [the Apostles] had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased . . ."(Acts 6:1-7)
Although these scriptures are used to justify the organizational office of a deacon, no such authority is found in them. In the strictest sense, these men were chosen by the members of the congregation to serve the needs of the widows in the congregation.
The Greek words diakoneo, diakonia and diakonos noted in Acts 6:1-4 are derived from the Greek word diako, which means to run errands. These Greek words are used to denote someone who serves and are used in the New Testament texts to refer to men and women who served their brothers and sisters within the congregations of the elect.
Although many biblical commentaries use diakoneo, diakonia, and diakonos to describe a teacher, a minister or a church official, there is no biblical authority for this application.
Errors in the interpretation and a mistranslation of Philippians 1:1 and 1.Timothy 3: 8-13 by the King James Bible translators has led many to falsely believe that power and authority in the church is given to those designated as deacons and deaconesses.
"Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (diakonos)" (Phil.1:1 KJV).
In this text, the Greek word diakonos is left untranslated by the translators of the King James version of the Bible to give the impression that both bishops and deacons are in positions of authority within the church. However, there is nothing in this text that would indicate that the diakonos were anything other than fellow ministers or fellow servants in the church.
"This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop , he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (vs.1-7 KJV).
Not a Novice
In verse 6 the apostle Paul told Timothy that there are many prerequisites that must first be in place before a person who desires to serve his brothers and sisters in the faith as a bishop (an overseer) can take on this function and responsibility. Moreover, Paul forbids a person who is just beginning to learn the Sovereign Father's truth and way of truth to fulfill such positions.
The Diakonos (The Servant)
"Likewise must the deacons (diakonos) be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon (diakoneo), being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons (diakonos) be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon (diakoneo) well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (vs.8-13 KJV).
In verses 10 and 13, the King James translators replaced the word diakonos with the phrase "office of a deacon" in an attempt to show that the Greek words diakoneo and diakonos connote an office of authority separate from that of a bishop. However, without the insertion of the phrase "office of a deacon", which is not in the original text, the context of verses 10 through 13 does not support the presumption that the Greek word 'diakoneo' and 'diakonos' refer to anything other that the action of service by an individual who is a bishop.
In verses 8 and 12, the Greek word diakonos is also left untranslated by the King James translators to give the impression that a deacon (i.e., one who serves) is a position of authority separate from that of a bishop. If the translators had translated diakonos as servant, it would have clearly indicated that it was the bishop who was being referred to.
When the scriptures containing the Greek words diakoneo, diakonia, and diakonos are considered in context, none of these words supports the supposition of Deacon or Deaconess as a position or office of authority that existed within the early church. In the strictest sense, the use of these three Greek words when applied to the elect connote service rendered by individuals to individuals and the church as a whole. Moreover, the scriptures containing these three Greek words show that those who desire to serve their brothers and sisters in the Father's royal family must have their own attitudes, behaviors, and priorities correct before the Father and Jesus Christ and be well versed and practiced in the Father's truth and way of truth.
Today, there is a misconception that one who serves as a deacon (i.e., one who serves) within a congregation is in a position of authority and rulership. However, this is not true In the strictest sense, a deacon's function is to serve the needs of the widows within a congregation of the elect.
The misconception about the duties of a deacon primarily stem from the fact that a deacon must have the same qualifications as a bishop (See 1.Tim.3:8-13) and the account of Stephen in Acts 6:8-15; 7:1-60 that shows Stephen as a gifted preacher of God's message and one who worked miracles. Although Stephen was an extremely gifted and dynamic individual, he was not in a rulership position within the church; he was a dedicated servant of the church who cared for the needs of the widows.
Although there were other women noted by the apostles as serving their brothers and sisters within the congregations, only Phebe is noted as being a servant (diakonos) within a congregation, a helper of Paul, and one to whom he entrusted major responsibilities. The apostle Paul said of Phebe:
"I commend to you our sister Phebe who is a servant (diakonos) of the congregation (i.e., the calling out) of Cenchrea: Receive her in the Lord, as is worthy of saints, and assist her in whatever business she needs your help to do, because she has been my helper as well as helping many others" (Rom.16:1-2 Para).
Paul introduces Phebe as a prominent member of the Father's elect at Cenchrea who should be received with the courtesy and respect due to a child of God. Paul had apparently sent her to Rome to accomplish some task for him and instructed the elect there to assist her in the things that she had to do. This account shows that some women in the church were trusted with responsibilities that would affect the church and its ministry; however, this account does not sanction an office of a Deaconess, nor does it imply that such service is a part of an office of authority within the church.
Philip and His Daughters
Philip the evangelist, who had four daughters who were prophetesses was one of the original individuals chosen to serve the widows noted in Acts 6:5. This text indicates that Philip either was an evangelist before or after he had been given the responsibility to serve the widows of the church and that this responsibility to serve the widows was in addition to his other responsibilities. However, this account does not indicate that Philip occupied an office of authority as a deacon.
In the apostle Paul's two lists that contain the organizational functions of the minister, he does not include a congregational servant as a function of the ministry of the gospel or as an office of authority within the church:
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph.4:11-13 KJV).
"Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I to you a more excellent way" (1.Cor.12:27-31 KJV).
The early church had problem serving the needs of the widows in a fair and equitable manner. The apostles determined that the care of widows was not a part of their function or responsibility, but belonged to men of good character within the congregation.
The apostles instruct the elect to choose men to perform this task. Once men were chosen they were set apart for this service—they were not chosen by the apostles or the elders and ordained to an office.
These men were to administer and distribute the goods and services provided for the care of deserving widows within the congregation. But, they were not the personal servants or assistants of the ministry. And they were not the enforcers of the faith within the congregation.
The establishment of an office of authority denoted as Deacon or Deaconess within the congregations of the Sovereign Father's earthly family is contrary to the apostles instruction and intent.
By B.L. Cocherell a8w8