The First Christian Deacons

small church building by mountain view

As I continue my series on the Book of Acts, I would like to look at the first part of chapter six. What we will see take place is something major in the early church and is something that is still done in many of today’s churches. This is the aspect of deacons, in chapter six we will see the very first Christian deacons who are chosen. I am sure all of us have been in a church or are in a church that has a deacon, or a few deacons depending on the size of the church. The word deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos which is also used in different forms for the words minister and servant throughout the New Testament. Look at 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NKJV) for example, “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses,”. The original text for the word ministers in this verse is diakonoi, which stems from the Greek word diakonos. This teaching is not only to be a historical view on how deacons started in the early church but a reminder that all roles in the church are important.

Time for a Change in the Early Church

Acts 6:1 (NKJV) starts off saying, “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”. The church is continuing to grow, and due to the growth, there is now the realization that it is time for a change in the early church. Acts 6:2 (NKJV) tells us, “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.”. This is now the start of the distinction of those who preach and those who are responsible for the distribution of food, which will be the duty of the first deacons. This verse also shows us the beginning of roles and responsibilities in the early church. Just like in today’s church we not only have people who preach and teach, but also people who do administrative duties, cleaning, cooking, and much more. It is important that we all realize that every duty in the church is important, that is why we each need to be willing to serve and bring glory to God.

Requirements of Deacons

Continuing on we find out the requirements of the first deacons in the church in Acts 6:3 (NKJV) which says, “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business”. The goal was to find seven men who were of good reputation, wise, and filled with the Holy Spirit. However, as the New Testament was written, much more guidelines were given to us for designating deacons. 1 Timothy 3:7-13 (NKJV) which tells us, “Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise, deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.  But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.  Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.  Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.  For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”. This scripture shows us the seriousness of giving someone the responsibility of a deacon, this seriousness also applies to all other duties in the church. Performing any duty in the church should be done for the glory of God and done by true believers of God. Often churches just want to fill positions quickly so they can get stuff done rather than test the individual and get to know them truly and their seriousness to serve God.

The Seven First Deacons are Appointed

Acts 6:5-6 (NKJV) goes on to tell us, “And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,  whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.”. The Apostles laid hands on these seven men in recognition that God truly called them to be deacons. This is something we should all be doing in the church for when someone new begins to serve in a role or responsibility, and that is to pray over them for God to give them wisdom, knowledge, and strength to perform their duties for God’s glory. We should also continually pray for our pastors, Sunday school teachers, administrators, and other church staff regularly. 2 Timothy 1:6 (NKJV) tells us, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”.

Continual Growth of the Early Church

Continuing Acts 6:7-8 (NKJV) says, “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”. The early church continued to grow due to the bold teaching through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is also known that there were some priests from the Temple who began to follow in the faith as well. This is something that may not have been expected from the start of the ministry of Jesus through the Apostles due to the strong rejection they had from the high priests. But with God all things are possible, and religious spirits can be conquered. The growth of the early church due to bold preaching that came through the infilling of the Holy Spirit is a reminder to us that our churches need the power of the Holy Spirit more than ever before. We are living in a late hour before Jesus comes again, and the church should not be this weak right now. It is my prayer that more churches cry out to God for a fresh and new infilling of the Holy Spirit and begin to yield to the works of the Holy Spirit. Acts 14:3 (NKJV) tells us, “Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”.

Where Can You Be Serving?

In closing for this teaching, I would like to remind you that all roles in today’s church are all important. Whether you are preaching to the congregation, teaching Sunday School, making up the bulletin, leading worship, cleaning, or any other duty it is very important to the function of the church. And it is to be done for the glory of God. I would encourage you to take some time and see if there are any ways that you can be a help to your church for the glory of God.