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Theology > Church > Church Government > Service of Deacons


In the early Church practical matters began to demand too much of the time of the apostles and elders. So a decision was made to select reputable men who were full of the Holy Spirit  and wisdom. These men would be appointed over these practical ministries, which would leave the apostles free to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. The details are recorded in Acts 6:1-7.

In the account in Acts reference is made to the need for someone to “serve tables”; the Greek word for “serve” is diakoneō, meaning “serve,” “care for,” or “wait on”. The noun form, diakonos, is used in Phil. 1:1 and I Tim. 3:8-13 with “deacon” or “servant” being the usual translation. It is easy to see, therefore, that the English word deacon is the transliteration of the Greek word. Because of the similarity between these two Greek words, it is generally assumed that the origin of the function of deacon is found in the passage in Acts.

The first deacons were chosen by the “brethren” after instruction to do so was given by the Apostles (Acts 6:3); how the choice was made is not revealed. It is obvious that the emphasis was not on the method of choice but upon their qualifications for serving.

Deacons do not rule and do not teach; they “serve tables” (Acts 6:2); they are responsible for practical matters and the physical concerns of the people.

There was a plurality of elders and deacons in each Church, and deacons were to assist the elders. The elders were to be devoted to prayer and the ministry of the Word, while the deacons were to be devoted to service tasks, social and physical ministry.

Qualifications for this position are found in I Tim. 3:8-13. They are similar to those for elders, with a noticeable difference being the ability of an elder to teach.

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