SECOND CONTINUATION IN ANSWER TO
NORMAN EDWARDS' CHURCH GOVERNMENT PAPER
OFFICIAL FUNCTIONAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN
A MINISTER/ELDER AND DEACON/SERVANT
We have before proved in part one, that the elders of the
church are also the same as the overseers, bishops, shepherds,
and teachers. An appointed elders can be called by the preceding
names. The word "elder" or as we commonly today would say
"minister"(used in the religious community) is an overall
umbrella name, under which lies the names mentioned
above(overseer etc.). The word commonly given to official church
servants - deacon - by most Christian churches, is not an
umbrella name, in the same way "elder" can be. A deacon/servant
of the church in the way Acts 6 appointed is just that - a
servant or deacon, no other names specifically given in the NT.
Their one official function is that of "serving tables" -
physical matters within the church. The eldership ministry in
contrast, is broken down into what we might call sub-functions
under the one name of eldership.
The following will I hope clarify what I have said in simple
overseer, bishop, shepherd, pastor, teacher(as used in the KJV).
to "give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of
the word"(Acts 6:2,4).
(Eph.4: 1 )
to "serve tables" - physical matters(Acts 6:2).
As before shown, the Elders/Apostles at first in the NT
church had the responsibility of BOTH the spiritual and physical
duties. When this became too much work to handle, they answered
by delegating the physical work of the church to qualified
persons. As the elders were delegating half of their
responsibilities to others, it was naturally logical that such
persons chosen should have nearly all of the same basic
abilities and qualifications that the elders had.
This we shall clearly see as we look at the following
outline of basic requirements and qualities Paul was inspired to
lay down, for the appointment of Overseers/elders and
Deacons/servants, in his letters to Timothy and Titus.
The reason as to why, should I believe, be plain to those
who have carefully studied all that has been written by me thus
Acts the sixth chapter tells us that the apostles believed
their number one function in life was "prayer and to the ministry
of the word." Paul here to Timothy breaks it down further still
into two categories - "able to teach" (or as the Greek reads -
"skilful in teaching") AND in taking "care of the church of God."
The time involved for a man to qualify in these two skills
alone would require some considerable length of days. That is why
Paul went on to say such a person could not be a "novice" or as
it is in the Greek - "newly planted." They would have to have had
a pretty good duration of time living as a Christian and walking
with God and His word, together with "church community"
These two functions as well as prayer, are the MAIN heart
and core of the work of the spiritual eldership ministry. As we
have seen earlier, an elder may also function for a long or short
time as an apostle, or prophet, or evangelist, maybe a
combination of the functions mentioned in Ephesians 4:11.
Nevertheless, an overseer/elder has always to officially be "on
duty" shall we say, as a "skilful teacher" and as someone who
"takes care of the church of God."
Those two duties "go with the territory" and are "part of
the job" - they "come with the job" as some say.
But those same two duties DO NOT OFFICIALLY BELONG TO THE
WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY OF DEACONS!
Persons chosen as official church servers or deacons for
physical duties DO NOT have to be official church "teachers" or
official "taking care of the church" servants in the spiritual
Elders must "feed my sheep" spiritually, as Jesus told
Peter. They must "teach" in official church gatherings the word
of God. They must "teach" in ways that are other than private
personal evangelism. I am teaching in writing these study
articles, or bringing a sermon, or conducting a church "bible
study." I am officially obligated by God and the church to teach
in these ways, though not necessarily all of them. A deacon while
functioning in that appointment IS NEVER UNDER ANY OFFICIAL
CHURCH DUTY TO EVER "TEACH" IN THE WAY I HAVE JUST DESCRIBED
If a deacon is invited or requested to preach a sermon,
conduct a church "bible study" or write a spiritual article, he
is not under ANY obligation to accept. He can politely refuse.
His deaconship should never come into question because he refuses
to lead out in official spiritual church functions.
He was called and chosen to serve in physical matters in the
church and that is where his duty starts and ends. He should be
wonderful at fulfilling those physical duties because he has the
qualifications and the abilities from God to so function. I have
known and talked to some deacons who had been faithfully carrying
out their duties in the church for decades, and who had NO DESIRE
WHATSOEVER to be an overseer/elder or have any official function
in spiritual duties within the congregation. They had no desire
to preach, to teach groups of people, or write any spiritual
articles for the churches publications. They knew their calling,
they knew where God had placed them in the body of Christ, they
were honest enough to "examine themselves." They knew God had not
called them to be elders. They knew God had not given them the
gifts and abilities needed to be spiritual overseers in the
church. And they were perfectly happy and contented Christians!
They sure knew, had no bones about it, were quite candid in
admitting, often the first to admit, that THERE WAS A DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN A MINISTER AND A DEACON.
An Elder must take care of the church of God. He is required
to do so, he is obligated to so work. This may call for private
member counselling on many personal problems and troubles in
life, that the individual member requests guidance on, from child
rearing, to marriage difficulties, to sex questions, to financial
matters, to employment decisions, and whatever else the church
member wants to confide in the minister/s. After all the elders
are to be as spiritual fathers (not to be called "father" as a
title) to the members of the congregation. And I have noted that
churches who do have the correct form of NT government, live as a
family, where the elders are highly respected and taken into
great confidence, as the people do want to be cared for in many
Sometimes that "taking care of the church" may mean the
elder/s are humble enough to see the personal problems of some
are so large and complicated, that the advice given is for the
member to seek counsel from someone who specifically deals with
and is a certified expert in such matters.
The duty of a deacon covers no such territory. He is under
no obligation to so counsel with congregation members. If someone
from the church comes to them wanting to pour out all their
nitty-gritty private problems and seeking advice, he can kindly
refuse to hear and send them to the elders.
Again I have talked to many deacons who have been wise
enough(one of their qualities is wisdom - Acts 6) to realize they
were not called to function as elders, and just did not
have the gifts from the Lord to "take care of the church of God"
in this spiritual way. And believe me it does take special gifts
to care for the church in this manner. The mental stress of
having people confidently share with you their many trials,
tests, and troubles, hoping you will be able to help them, can
put you in the hospital with a nervous break down. I have seen a
few good ministers end up this way. Certainly men who have not
been called, given the gifts, and met the qualifications to be
overseers in the church, should ever try to be one, for it is a
most demanding occupation! Please believe me, as one who speaks
from personal experience.
It is one reason why James was inspired to write: "My
brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we
shall receive a stricter judgment" (James 3:1).
A minister's life can be very difficult at times, in many
ways, sometimes physically, sometimes spiritually, sometimes both
at the same time. Read again 2 Corinthians chapter eleven and
verses sixteen to twenty-eight. Note verse 28, "Besides those
things that are without, that which comes upon me daily, the care
of all the churches."
OH, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MINISTERS AND DEACONS !
Then let me say, in the event that some would misunderstand
all I have stated above. If some deacons are gifted, or find
themselves to be gifted in spiritual matters, after being
appointed to function in official physical matters, it will come
out, it will be noticed believe me. Such things can not be hidden
from the elders or from the congregation. If such deacons are
invited to lead in spiritual church matters such as "Bible
studies" etc. they can accept the invitation. It is hoped they
will accept, for in so doing God may be calling them to move into
the eldership ministry. They will need to be trained and proved
to find if this is so and the will of God.
I have seen this in action also over the years. Some men
have been called from the official deaconship duty into the
official eldership duty in the process of time and experience.
Then on the other hand, I have seen it work this way. A man is
appointed as a deacon, he has met all the requirements to
function in that duty. After a while, the elders as well as the
general membership note that he has some spiritual leadership
abilities. God may be calling him to the eldership. The man
himself is pleased to be given official spiritual church
opportunities, so he and others can see if the eldership ministry
is his ultimate destiny.
As time goes by he serves in spiritual church programs like
Bible studies, youth evangelism gatherings, and visits to the
homes of the brethren with an elder or elders. He clearly
discovers within himself that although he may have some "talking"
ability and a pretty good understanding of the word of God, the
ELDERSHIP MINISTRY is just not for him! He finds through getting
his feet wet, he just cannot cut it, just cannot handle the
daily stress and responsibilities of "caring for the church" as
elders must do. He is then quite content and happy to let
everyone know, and once more function in the duties of a deacon
I have seen this very thing take place among some churches
of God. That is fine, sometimes it takes a little maneuvering
within the body of Christ before we find exactly which part of
the body we are to function as. God places us in the body as it
pleases Him, and in accordance with the gifts and abilities we
have through the Holy Spirit.
I should also make it plain that a man chosen for the
eldership ministry does not have to be a deacon first. The 12
apostles, Paul, and others in the NT were not deacons(as we think
of deacons today in the church) first, and then later elders.
Many officially appointed elders have never served as officially
appointed deacons, for their qualifications as noted above COVERS
that for deacons, and goes beyond to that of the overseership.
MORE NECESSARY DUTIES FOR MINISTERS/ELDERS
Before we look at them, somewhat in detail, I think this is
a good place to answer an argument that goes like this: "Timothy
is not called an elder, he may not have been one."
True, we may not be able to find the words "elder Timothy"
or in any of Paul's letters something like: "Unto Timothy, my son
in the faith and elder in the church of God."
Yet despite this, I believe the overwhelming internal
evidences of the letters to Timothy, prove beyond a reasonable
doubt, that Timothy was an officially appointed/ordained elder in
the church. The following are the main points to support this
1. 1 Tim.2:9-15. He(Timothy) had obviously from the very wording
by Paul, some authority and enough respect to not only teach the
women this directive of Paul's(inspired by God), but to make sure
it was followed. Surely only an officially appointed elder could
carry this much respected guidance and teaching for all the women
in the church to obey.
2. Chapter 3:1-13. The fact that Timothy is given the
instructions as to what the basic qualifications are for the
overseership and deaconship of the church, naturally implies he
will teach other elders/deacons this truth, and has enough
respect from every quarter of the church to see that it became
established true doctrine. Anything less than Timothy being an
officially appointed elder of the church for such an undertaking,
would to me, be naive to contemplate, especially in the light of
the fact that Paul himself had many who opposed him as his other
3. Chapter 3:15. Paul wrote these letters to Timothy "...so that
you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of
God........." Not exactly the same words as he earlier gave to
Timothy concerning one of the requirements for overseership -
namely, an elder is to "take care of the church of God"(verse 5).
But close enough to make this another way of saying the same
thing. Surely an honest mind will see by reading carefully
these two letters, that Paul is instructing Timothy in some
rather fine detail at times, how indeed to "take care of the
church." Instructions that Paul (not having much longer to live
- 2 Tim.4:6-8) thought important for his "son in the faith" to
have, and to be able to pass on to other elders and the church as
4. Note verses 6, 11, 13, 16, of chapter four. Timothy was in the
function of teaching the brethren, and in no uncertain manner at
times: "These things command and teach"(verse 11). As before
shown, one of the qualities needed to be an overseer/elder is
that of being a "skilful teacher." From this section alone(never
mind many other passages in these two letters showing the same)
we have proof Timothy was an official elder within the church.
5. Chapter 4:14. The word "presbytery" in the KJV is the Greek
word presbuterion. It is the same Greek word as in Titus 1:5
except for the ending. In Titus it is presbuteros. See the
Englishman's Greek Concordance page 652, for all their places of
use. The Greek Interlinear by Berry, translates presbuterion of 1
Tim.4:14 as "elderhood" while presbuteros in Titus 1:5 is
rendered as "elders."
I guess we could argue from now until the cows come home, as
to WHEN and for WHAT REASON specifically did the elderhood lay
hands upon Timothy. Was it at his baptism, at his official
appointment to the eldership ministry, or for some special
undertaking(as with Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:1-3)? From the
use of where Paul puts this sentence - the context it is
enclosed within - having to do with instructing, teaching, even
commanding, the brethren concerning the things so far stated by
Paul, I believe the best understanding would be to take this
"laying on of the hands of the elderhood" at Timothy's official
appointment to eldership.
6. Chapter 5: 17-18. This is obviously concerning spiritual
elders - appointed elders - of the church, who are guiding and
leading in an official way. It is hard to imagine Timothy
having any influence over this matter unless he himself was a
recognized appointed elder.
7. 5:19-21. Here Timothy is instructed to act as "arbitrator"
between church saints and an elder. If the elder is in a
sin(obviously a major one and unrepentant) he is given the
authority to "rebuke before all, that others also may fear."
Again, to think under these conditions, that Timothy was anything
less than an elder himself, to me is absurd.
8. Verse 22. The context is spiritual elders of the church.
Timothy is instructed to be very careful and slow in laying hands
on men to the appointment of elders. There is a certain amount of
blame to be carried by the one or ones doing the appointing, if
the one appointed turns out practicing sins that need rebuking
before all(above verses). Once more showing Timothy was an elder
with authority to lay hands on and appoint other men to the
9. Timothy was to "teach and exhort"(chapter 6:2). The whole
context of this first letter to him is in the form of "teaching"
in an official church format and frame. Elders are to function as
teachers in the church.
10. 2 Tim.4:1-5. Paul urges Timothy to "Preach the word, be
instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with
all longsuffering and doctrine.........do the work of an
evangelist, make full proof of your ministry." Words from Paul
that I cannot reconcile being given to anyone but an elder in the
church. Surely no one believes this is instructions for personal
evangelism that all church members can undertake to do? No, it is
for Timothy and those in his like function today. For those who
are obligated because of the church appointed duty as elder, to
officially teach and preach to the brethren and to the
With all the weight of the above ten points it should be
plain to see I believe, for the honest seeker of truth, that
Timothy was indeed an officially appointed Overseer or Elder in
the church of God.
STILL MORE DUTIES FOR THE ELDERSHIP MINISTRY THAT IS NOT REQUIRED
FOR THE DEACONSHIP MINISTRY, IS FOUND IN THE LETTERS OF PAUL TO
TIMOTHY AND TITUS.
LET US LOOK AT THEM!
Qualifications and Requirements of
1 TIMOTHY 3
Blameless = E
One wife = E
One wife(v.12)= D
Vigilant ( 1 Pet. 5: 8)= E
None = D
Sober (1 Pet.5:8)= E
None = D
Good behaviour = E
None = D
Hospitable = E
None = D
Able to teach = E
None = D
Not given to much wine = E
Not given to wine(v.8)= D
No striker = E
None = D
Not greedy for money = E
Not greedy for money(v.8)= D
Patient = E
None = D
No brawler = E
None = D
Not covetous = E
None = D
Rules well house = E
Rules well house(v.12)= D
Take care of church = E
None = D
Not novice = E
Be proved first, Acts 6(v.10)= D
Good report (character) = E
Honest,Spirit,Wisdom(Acts 6)= D
Note the differences!
Now please take note of the following:
Tim.1:18; 2:1,8,9-14; 3:1-15; 4:6,11,13,14,16; 5:1-22;
Here we find clear and obvious directives and instructions
to a person that must have had the official backing and sanction
of the church, to teach, establish, and some authority to carry
out, or see they were carried forth in practice. Only overseers
or elders would have the respect and authority to so guide and
"care for the church." The SERVANTS(diakonos - deacons) appointed
to "serve tables" in Acts 6 were never given this kind of
directive or instructions to serve the brethren, as we find in
the verses above.
Let's move to 2 Timothy:
Verse two of chapter two shows Timothy was to train other
men to be "teachers." A deacon is under no obligation to so do,
it is not within their function of serving in physical matters
for the church.
Verse 24. Paul tells Timothy he is a servant of the Lord. He
uses not the word "diakonos" here but the Greek word doulon -
bond slave. He reminds Timothy of some of the qualities and
qualifications for the eldership - skilful in teaching is one of
them. As we have seen those in the deaconship are under no duty
or obligation to be official teachers in the church, as was
Chapter 4. The very instructions given in verses two through
five were never given to those who would serve the church in
physical matters only. Official church servers/deacons are under
no obligation to fulfil the directives here given to Timothy by
As we look carefully at the letter to Titus we shall see
many more functional requirements pertaining to the elders of the
church, which are NOT specifically amplified upon, for those who
will function as deacons.
Verse six mentions children not accused of riot or unruly.
Verse seven, an "overseer" is to be "blameless as the steward of
God, not selfwilled, not soon angry. Verse eight - a lover of
good things(marg.reading), just, holy, temperate. Verse nine -
holding fast the word, exhort by sound doctrine, and to convince
the gainsayers. Verse eleven tells the overseer that he must at
times (mentally, verbally, and in written form) stop the mouth of
those who teach deception in the name of God.
Chapter two starts out with powerful instructions from Paul
about more automatic duty functions for the men like Titus. The
overall quality of being "apt to teach" is broken down into some
specifics on teaching older men, older women, younger men,
servants to masters. Note verse seven and eight. Incorruptible in
doctrine, serious, sincerity, and sound speech that brings shame
upon those who oppose.
Verse 15 is mighty strong, no punches pulled. I did not say
it friend, Paul did, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
"These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.
Let no man despise you."
The Greek word used here for "authority" is epitage (number
2003 in Strong's Con.). Here is what Vine's Dictionary says:
"epitage.......an injunction(from epi, 'upon,' lasso, 'to
order'), is once rendered 'authority,' Titus 2:15 (RV marg.,
'commandment'). See COMMANDMENT. Note: The corresponding verb is
epitassoo, 'to command.' See COMMAND."
Need I say any more on this word? The reader can explore it
more under the words commandment and command in Vine's or some
There is POWER and there is AUTHORITY in the sound speech,
doctrines, and word of the Lord. It is the duty of elders to
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth
not be ashamed, rightly dividing(handling correctly, cutting
straight, being faithfully honest with) the word of truth" (2
tim.2: 15). The Greek word used for "study" means to "be
It is let me again EMPHASIS, an awesome responsibility for a
man to take on the function of being a spiritual elder and
teacher in the church. When James was inspired to write the words
he did in chapter three, verse one, of his letter, he was not
talking about one on one personal evangelism(which usually only
cover the simple basic truths of sin, repentance, salvation,
etc.). He was talking about men desiring the function of
overseer, elder (1 Tim.3:1). While that desire is not wrong as
Paul told Timothy, there are important qualifications to attain,
and James said, "My brethren, be not many teachers...." He had
very good reasons to say it!
Paul finishes his letter to Titus with still more
instructions for the duties of functioning elders. He mentions
more things to teach in verses one and two. Certain things a
minister is to avoid in verse nine. And even people (heretics) to
reject in verse ten.
It would not be correct for me to leave this without
commenting on still one more important section of NT scripture
that pertains to the function of Elders and not deacons. It is
the instructions of the apostle and elder Peter, found in his
first letter, chapter five, verses one to eleven.
Elders NOT deacons are to "feed the flock of God....taking
the oversight (overseership/shepherding).......willingly......."
They are to do it without money being an issue. They are to
oversee not as pompous dictatorial masters, but by example
mainly. Yet we have also seen they do have some authority(the
word of God is authority) in the truth of God they are to teach,
preach, and proclaim.
The younger (in age and length of time as elders) are to
submit to the older(in age and length of service) elders. Yet,
ALL elders are to submit to each other and be clothed with
Yes, sure.......it is true, the basic principles of the
above can be taken and used by ALL THE SAINTS, including those in
the deaconship. But that still does not negate the truth of the
matter that all of the instructions we have covered, were first
given to officially appointed Elders in the church, in order to
elucidate more fully upon their functioning duty.
THERE IS A LARGE FUNCTIONING DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MINISTERS AND
As this work and study of mine has now evolved over the
years from a relatively lengthy paper(the first section written
in 1983) into a full size book(at the close of this third
section), I will not move on to another argument in the study by
Norman Edwards, without quoting in some length, from the book MAN
and WOMAN in Biblical Perspective by James B. Hurley. The
pertinent section of his book to our present study is found in
chapter 8, page 224, beginning with the sub-heading Church office
in the New Testament.
".......The book of Acts gives indications of an emerging
structure, but does not give sufficient detail to gain a full
picture. The letters provide more insight.......The elders are
to nurture, guard, teach, build up, and be examples to the flock.
Deacons minister to it. Responsibility to foster growth and to
ensure faithful teaching necessarily entails authority.
Authority can be abused. We have already noted Jesus' concern to
prevent abuse of authority (Lk.22:24-26). His concern is
reflected by Peter (1 Pet.5:1-2). I hope that the concentration
on authority in the study which follows will not mislead any into
thinking that I am suggesting that the eldership should be
conceived of primarily in terms of authority and the right to
command. The eldership should be seen primarily in terms of
In Acts we see apostles and 'elders' (Acts 11:30; 14:23;
15:2-23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18) and the appointment of 'deacons'
(diakonoi, men who serve needs) to ensure fair treatment of
Hebrew and Hellenistic widows (Acts 6).......Acts witnesses the
appointment of 'elders' (presbytery in cities such as
Ephesus.......We get some indication of their function when Paul
charges them, 'guard....all the flock over which the Holy Spirit
has made you overseers (episkopoi, 'bishops'). Be shepherds of
the church of God....' (Acts 20:28). The elders (or bishops or
presbyters; the terms are used interchangeably in the New
Testament) were charged with the welfare of the congregations.
Their shepherding responsibilities involved guarding their people
against false teaching (20:29) and teaching them by word and
example to live as Christians (1 Pet.5:1-3; Eph.4:1, 12). Acts
knows other roles in the church such as prophet and
The New Testament letters, especially those of Timothy,
Titus and the Philippians, witness to the establishment of the
categories of elder and deacon in a formal way. Paul and Timothy
are teachers of the apostolic message and Timothy is charged to
entrust that message to qualified men who will in turn teach
others (2 Tim.2:2). These men are not just congregational
members, but have formal responsibility for passing on correct
teaching, which teaching is to be lived out in the lives of the
Christian (2 Tim.1:13-14; 3:10-12). Such men are elders who
direct the life and work of the church.
Paul commands that 'the elders who direct the affairs of the
church well are worthy of double honour(possibly 'honorarium',
i.e. wage), especially those whose work is preaching and
teaching' (1 Tim.5:17). The author of the letter to the Hebrews
comments on such men from a slightly different perspective. He
calls upon his readers to be mindful of those who rule over them
(13:7) and to 'obey those who rule over you and submit yourselves
to them, for they watch over your souls, and they must give
account' (13:17). Paul charged the elders/shepherds to watch over
the sheep which God had placed in their charge. The author to the
Hebrews charged the sheep to obey and noted that the shepherds
are accountable for them. These texts from the letters to Timothy
and Hebrews supplement what we have seen in Acts and provide a
picture of the elders as men who are involved in the direction of
the congregations and who are charged particularly with teaching,
ensuring that the message is faithfully taught and directing the
outworking of the message in the life of the church. These tasks
involve distinctive leadership and authority, extending to formal
actions to rid the flock of the 'savage wolves' whom the apostle
warned would rise up within the flock (Acts 20:29; cf. 1 Cor.5).
We need not pursue the work of elders here at length.
Sufficient has been said to show that his task of instruction,
shepherding and discipline falls easily within the area of
'teaching and exercising authority over men' which Paul reserved
to men in 1 Timothy 2. These basic considerations will be of
importance when we look at 1 Timothy 3.
The role of deacons is more difficult to define precisely
We shall first consider the biblical data. The term diakonos
means 'one who serves', 'servant' or 'minister'. It can be used
to describe the activity of 'one who serves' the needs of another
(Mk.9:35; 10:43). It can also describe one who represents or acts
on behalf of another as his servant or minister (Acts 6;
Eph.3:7). In this sense it takes on a slightly more formal
meaning. The formal, representative aspect and the idea of
serving others can come together, as with the deacons of Acts 6
who ministered to the needs of the widows as representatives of
the church. The term 'deacon' points both to their representative
role and to their actual function in serving. It is clear that
the deacons of Acts 6 possessed a certain amount of authority in
their distribution of food......
The biblical data are not the only data to be considered
when using the terms 'elder', 'bishop', 'minister', and 'deacon'
today.The terms are used differently in different forms of church
government. Virtually all are agreed that the role of the bishop,
elder or presbyter is one which involves responsibility to direct
the life of the flock, teaching with authority, and the exercise
of disciplinary authority to guard the faith. The term 'minister'
is most frequently used of a man who preaches regularly and
supervises the pastoral care of the congregation. His function is
that of elder. The term 'minister' can, however, be used in a
less technical way to describe someone who meets the needs of
others(ministers to their needs). In this sense it has little to
do with church office as such. It is important to be careful to
grasp which sense is intended in a given context........
The 'deacons' of Acts 6 were men who were well respected in
the congregation and would not be suspected of favouring either
Jews or Greeks. Their task was not in directing the flock, but in
distributing resources. The apostles, on the other hand,
continued in prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). The
basic division is not identified as corresponding to that of
elder and deacon in the letters to Timothy, but is very
suggestive, especially when coupled with those passages in the
letters to Timothy which call for the committing of apostolic
messages to men who will faithfully teach and for special respect
for elders who direct the church by teaching and preaching (1
Tim.5:17; 2 Tim.2:2). The impression is strengthened by the
coupling of apostles and elders in the authoritative decrees of
the Council held at Jerusalem (Acts 15). Those elders were
certainly carrying out functions parallel to those of the
If the elders preach and teach and shepherd, what did the
deacons do? 1 Timothy 3 isolates elders and deacons as special
classes of persons, with special qualifications, and also clearly
distinguishes them from one another. In Acts 20 Paul met with the
elders, but not with the deacons of Ephesus, addressing them as
the shepherds of the flock (Acts 20:28). The deacons of Acts 6
did not teach and rule but served physical needs.
Could it be that the deacons of 1 Timothy 3 are to be
distinguished from the bishops by similar division of labour? I
The discussion which follows will presume that both deacons
and elders are congregational representatives and are
distinguished by their tasks. The elder's calling is to foster
the spiritual growth of the congregation, and the deacons lead in
ministering to its physical needs and showing the love of Christ
to outsiders through meeting their physical needs. Elders teach
with formal authority and exercise disciplinary authority to
protect the flock, deacons do not share this task. As described,
the task of a deacon does not involve the sort of teaching and
exercising of authority which 1 Timothy 2:11-12 reserves for men.
With this understanding of the office of deacon, therefore, there
is no violation of biblical restrictions on authority if women
serve as deacons. This fact does not authorize the appointment of
women deacons, but it does remove a problem which many
face when they think of women deacons......."
For those interested in an in-depth study on the subject of
the role of men and women in the church, I do recommend James
Hurley's book "Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective" published
TO BE CONTINUED