THE DEACONSHIP

(Acts 6:1-7) 

IN a similar discourse, relating to the eldership, we 
have set down a few facts concerning the two dis- 
tinct classes of congregational officers — elders and 
deacons. The first four propositions treated in said 
sermons — (1) by whom selected, (2) manner of elec- 
tion, (3) number elected, and (4) term of office — may 
be applied to both elders and deacons. We review 
these propositions briefly before proceeding with the 
subject in hand. 

There are two general rules that apply to the elec- 
tion of all church officers: (1) Whatever is done should 
be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10: 31) ; (2) what- 
ever is done must be done decently and in good order 
(1 Cor. 14:40). 

The apostle commanded the church at Jerusalem 
as follows: "Look ye out among you seven men . . . 
whom we may appoint over this business" (Acts 6:3). 
This teaches that the selection was the work of the 
congregation, and that the appointing, or setting aside, 
or ordaining to respective offices, was the work of 
special representatives of the congregation — in this 
particular instance, the apostles. Thus we see at a 
glance that ordination is more than mere election. 

1. Ordination of officers. Then, what is ordination? 
It is the solemn and impressive ceremony by which 
those parties duly elected by the votes of the congre- 
gation are consecrated to the duties of their offices. 

What is the nature of the ceremony? Let us cor- 
relate these passages of Scripture : Acts 6:6; 13 : 1-3 ; 
14:23; 1 Tim. 4:14. A correlation of Mark 16:16; 
Acts 2 : 38 ; Rom. 10 : 10 ; Acts 16 : 31, and Gal. 3 : 27, 
gives us faith, repentance, confession and baptism as 
the gospel plan of salvation. In the same manner, a 
correlation of the above passages gives us the pro- 
cedure divinely authorized for the ordination of officers. 
That procedure consists of prayer, fasting and the 
imposition of hands. 

Prayer naturally becomes an essential factor in 
every form of worship. It also serves to impress upon 
the officers, as well as the congregation, the responsi- 
bilities of their relationship to each other and to the 
Head of the church. 

Fasting is a source of spiritual strength. It is an 
open admission that "man doth not live by bread 
alone" (Matt. 4:4). Fasting is a means of moral cul- 
ture (Acts 13:3; 14:23; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 11:27). 
We can see no reason why this element of worship is 
omitted from the program of modern churches of 
Christ in view of the array of divine authority for it. 

We regard the imposition of hands as the form of 
ordination. Some will maintain that the laying on 
of hands was for the purpose of imparting spiritual 
gifts. But such a proposition can not be substantiated, 
for several reasons. 

a. Old Testament shadows (Eom. 15 : 4) . The first 
instance of laying on of hands on divine record (Gen. 
48:14). The Hebrew manner of conveying a blessing. 
The ordination of Joshua (Num. 27: 18-23) by the lay- 
ing on of hands. The consecration of the Levites 
(Num. 8: 5-11). The service of the Levites was typical 
of the duties of Christian deacons (Num. 1:50-53). 

b. In no instances where spiritual gifts were con- 
ferred, in the New Testament, were any officers 
ordained (Acts 8:15-17; 19:6). 

c. In no instance where officers were ordained by 
the laying on of hands were any spiritual gifts con- 
ferred with the exception of the seven deacons at Jeru- 
salem (Acts 6: 16). This was the way in which Philip 
became endowed with extraordinary power (Acts 8: 
5-9, 13). Paul and Barnabas already possessed the 
needed power to perform miracles before they were 
set aside for their special evangelistic work (Gal. 
2:8, 9; Acts 13: 1-3). There is no allusion to spiritual 
gifts in Acts 14:23. From 1 Tim. 4:14 and Acts 
16 : 1-3, it is evident that the elders of Lystra laid 
their hands on Timothy, not to impart miraculous 
gifts, for that could be done only by the apostles (Acts 
8:14-20; 19:6; Rom. 1:11), but to make him an 
evangelist. The Lord ordains men to office who are 
already qualified— and not to qualify them for office. 

2. Qualifications of deacons (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Tim. 3: 
8-13). There are three general qualifications necessary 
to make a man eligible for the deaconship: 

a. He must be a man of honest report. 

b. He must be full of the Holy Spirit. 

c. He must be full of wisdom. 

Too frequently churches prematurely insist upon 
thrusting new converts into the deaconship. This is 
a mistake. These new converts, as well as all others 
who might be considered for this office, must first have 
been proved and found blameless^ before they are 
properly qualified. No man ^an make a good deacon 
who is a novice in church activity. Deacons should be 
men of experience, just as much as elders. 

3. The duties of deacons. Like that of the Levites 
(Num. 1:50-53), their duties were those of a secular 
nature (Acts 6: 1-7). This includes all benevolent and 
charitable activities, the management of finances, the 
care of chapels and furnishings, the waiting at the 
Lord's table, and so on. There in no intimation that 
teaching is a part of the work of the deaconship, be- 
yond the extent to which it should be a work of every 
Christian. 

4. Deaconesses (Eom. 16 : 1, 2 ; Acts 18 : 24-26 ; 1 
Tim. 5:9-15). This class of servants, of which Phoebe 
is an example, was appointed to look after duties 
among the female sex similar to that of the deacons 
among those of the other sex. 

5. Relationship between the deacons and the congre- 
gation. While the deacons, like all other officers, are 
servants of God, and hold their office only through the 
confidence and esteem of the whole flock, yet their 
actions and recommendations should be heartily en- 
dorsed and approved by the congregation. And though 
the office is somewhat inferior in rank to the eldership 
(Phil, 1:1) j yet the work is of such a nature that it 
can only be managed by men who are full of the Holy 
Spirit and wisdom. By "wisdom" is meant good busi- 
ness ability. A combination of spirituality and busi- 
ness ability should make a man a splendid deacon in 
the church. The language of Paul to the church at 
Jerusalem sets such a high spiritual standard for the 
deaconship, that those men who are really qualified 
and selected for the office are deserving of the respect 
and co-operation of the entire flock (1 Tim. 3: 13). 

The divine evangelistic policy included teaching, 
preaching and nurturing (Matt. 28:18-20). The apos- 
tles manifested a constant solicitude for their children 
in the faith. "We find them journeying through the 
churches time after time; setting them in order, 
strengthening them in the service of the Lord. 

The divine arrangement for church management 
was simple, yet perfect. It made room for four dis- 
tinct classes of officers: The apostles, who were super- 
naturally qualified, and whose work, once performed, 
remains on the divine record as the infallible guide 
in all future ages; the evangelists, who labored in word 
and doctrine, who established churches, and set them 
in order; the elders, who superintended the spiritual 
interests of the local congregations; and the deacons, 
who superintended the secular interests of the local 
congregations. All other titles are included under these 
divisions. All improvements upon this plan have 
resulted in apostasy, ecclesiasticism and final downfall. 
The gospel, being "the perfect law of liberty," does 
not make room for any ecclesiastical authority over 
any part of the kingdom of God. It demands full 
allegiance to the great Head of the church, whose will 
is revealed in the New Testament.