The ministry of deacons is vital to the operation of the New Testament Church. In this series of lessons, we will see that the modern church has deviated greatly from the New Testament with regards to the role of deacons. God did not set deacons in place within the church to rule and govern. But sadly, many churches today are run and governed by deacon boards. This goes against the very definition of the word “deacon,” which means to serve. It primarily deals with the physical aspects of service. First, I will lay the foundation of the nature New Testament deacon, and then we will examine the role of a deacon.
Paul wrote to the Philippian church and addressed them by saying: “…To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1). Some churches have employed one office to the exclusion of the other. The New Testament Church had both offices functioning simultaneously. One is primarily a spiritual service (elders, i.e., bishops); the other, a physical service (deacons).
While the office of the deacon is primarily a physical service, it is, however, extremely valuable to the spiritual ministry of the Church. Without the physical aspects of church life being taken care of, the spiritual needs could not be adequately met. In the most basic of ways, all Christians are called to be deacons; for deaconship is a life of service. All are called to serve. All are called to have the spirit of a deacon, though all are not called to the office of a deacon. In Paul’s salutation to the Philippians he calls himself a “servant of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:1). Though Paul was an apostle, he never stopped being a servant. Jesus Christ, Himself, set forth the greatest example of servanthood for us to follow.
Jesus Christ: Pattern Servant
Mark 10:43-45 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Christ is the supreme example of servanthood and deaconship. His was an attitude of humility and servanthood. To be great in God’s kingdom is not a matter of getting “high enough,” but getting “low enough.” God can only use those with servant’s hearts. Christ displayed this servant’s heart at all times, though He was the Master of the universe.
Phippians 2:5-8 speaks of the humiliation of Christ:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with Goa, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men, And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus Christ laid aside the divine attributes of the Godhead to come to earth as a man. He remained God, while limiting Himself to the capabilities of a man-anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). He was and is 100% God and 100% man. It is the miracle of the incarnation. While living as a man, Jesus did not seek to make a reputation for Himself. What a stark contrast this is for many modem preachers. Instead of making themselves of no reputation, many have hired press agents and public relations firms to promote their ministries. Just a stroll through the latest edition of a current charismatic publication will testify of this trend. Jesus always relegated Himself to the position of servant.
Consider John chapter 13 for the greatest example of servanthood ever. It is not just that Jesus bowed down and washed the disciple’s feet; this was example enough. But among the twelve was Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. Jesus, knowing that Judas was only hours away from ultimate betrayal, bowed down and washed Judas’ feet! Jesus was leaving an example of servanthood for all to follow.
You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I any If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.