This morning we are blessed as we receive three deacons into the ministry of our church. “The office of deacon is set forth in the Scriptures as ordinary and perpetual in the Church” (Book of Church Order). In the NT the ministry of deacons is presented alongside that of the elder/overseers (in Greek two words are used interchangeably to refer to the office of elder (presbuteros and episkopos). For example, addressing the Philippians, Paul says, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers (episkopois) and deacons (1:1). Likewise, in 1 Tim. 3 the qualifications for the offices of the church are listed, first for the elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7) and then for the deacons and their wives (3:8-13)
The word translated deacon in the New Testament is a very common word often translated simply service (diakonia). Hence, the ministry of deacons is summarily “one of sympathy and service” (BCO) and is crucial to the ministry of the local church because it profoundly “expresses also the communion of saints, especially in their helping one another in time of need” (BCO). As the Book of Church Order succinctly summarizes it:
It is the duty of the deacons to minister to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress. It is their duty also to develop the grace of liberality in the members of the church, to devise effective methods of collecting the gifts of the people, and to distribute these gifts among the objects to which they are contributed.
This ministry of sympathy and service and one that expresses the communion of the saints is seen in no better place than in the account of Acts chapter 6. There we are told of a church that takes seriously the ministry of the word and prayer as well as that of sympathy and service. Evidently with the growth of the church certain needy widows were being overlooked. The solution was the selection of seven servants who offered support to the word/prayer ministry of the apostles. There the office and ministry of deacon was given birth.
The office of deacon is particularly dignified in that the word used to designate it (diakonia) is the one chosen by the authors of holy scripture to describe the ministry of Jesus. Jesus is chiefly one who comes with a ministry of “sympathy and service.” “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45).
These men are gifts from God for the good and growth of our Church. Not only was the problem of overlooked widows alleviated but Luke records another result of the newly ordained deacons in a summary statement at the end of this account: So the word of God spread, the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7). Boom! God attaches his blessing to the sacrificial sympathy and service of the newly ordained deacons. So buckle up. I’m expecting that with the addition of three new deacons to our church that God is also going to attach his blessing to us and that the word of God is going to spread.