Does the office of "Deacon" really exist?

Discussion in 'Church Office' started by Jonathan95, Aug 12, 2017.

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  1. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    Reading through the Bible and this forum, I've gotten very confused on the subject of Deacons and Deaconesses. It seems that the Greek word translated deacons (Διακόνους/Diakonous) might as well be translated as "those who serve". Phoebe herself is called a servant using the word 'diakonon'(servant). Romans 15:8 also uses the word 'diakonon' to refer to how our Lord was a servant. But 1 Tim 3:12 states that 'diakonoi'(servants) must be the husbands of one wife. If deacons must be the husband of one wife, how is it that Phoebe is described with the same word in Rom 16? Even if she is not a deacon but a servant, what gives? Obviously the text in 1 Tim can't be saying that all servants are men.

    What does all of this amount to?
    This just leaves me in a really tight spot. Any advice/words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Joshua

    Joshua pilgrim

    How is it we can describe men as elders (in age or wisdom, generically), and then some men as our Elders (in the ecclesiastical sense, officially)? It is clear that Scripture teaches the office of the diaconate, and that said office is limited to men who have been vetted and approved with qualifications. Just because a woman (or any layman for that matter) is described as "one who serves" does not negate the clear biblical teaching of the office (Acts 6, Phil. 1, 1 Tim 3, etc).
  3. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm not quite sure I understand your reasoning?

    The texts you mention can just as well read like this:

    Acts 6:2
    Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

    Phil 1:1
    Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and servants.

    1 Tim 3:12
    Let the servants be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

    I would like to know that as well.

    It really isn't that clear to me, I apologize.
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I can call you, Jonathan, a "servant," and that won't make you a Deacon (Servant).

    Rom.16:1 doesn't, all by itself, tell us if Phoebe was a office bearer, only that she was identified with one of the churches as an agent of sorts. Again, the fact that she was a capable and reliable person in whom Paul had great confidence cannot tell us if she was a Deaconess.

    The qualifications for the office of deacon are laid out in 1Tim.3:8ff. It appears to restrict the office to males. There are churches that take biblical authority seriously, who propose an alternate exegesis in 1Tim.3, in conjunction with Rom.16:1, and they believe they can defend women holding that office (which they may just term a named function, similar to the roll of the widows, 1Tim.5:9-10, thereby separating it still from a church office).

    Is Phoebe a Deaconess, or is she simply a servant? If Paul (or Jesus) had meant women to serve in the government (the ministry, broadly) of his Kingdom, there was ample opportunity to demonstrate that will, both by example or a direct teaching. We have neither.

    Jesus had followers of men and women (many of the latter out-spiritualizing the former), but he only chose twelve men as his disciples. Paul lists two offices (elder and deacon), and sets out the criteria for them; so where one might expect the clearest deliverance on such an official appointment for such a thing as deaconess, there is... nothing.

    The ordinary offices of pastor, elder, and deacon, are devolved ministries. They begin as all compounded in Christ's supremacy. They are then separated out as offices. Such that, if there are no deacons then the senior office of elder must reabsorb those duties (reversing Act.6:2,6); they don't just disappear.

    It follows (even if Scripture did not say so, which I suppose it does), that if the senior office is restricted to men, the same restriction would apply then also to the lesser office. Those of the lesser office may eventually be raised to the senior office; but this could not happen for a woman deacon who cannot be an elder (or a minister) lawfully.

    When Paul is addressing the problems of church order in 1Cor., in 14:34ff he does not say any like, "Let them be content with being deaconesses, and that should be enough for them." Just this: nowhere do we find a NT teaching that clarifies or qualifies what are apparent restrictions on church office for women. A solitary appeal to an equivocal text like Rom.16:1 is a weak reed for support.

    If ever there was a NT teaching involving a change like this (in terms of what was formerly limited to men in OT setting), which called for a clear reversal for a new era of operation, opening church-government to both sexes would be one. And there is none.
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  5. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    But doesn't the use of the word 'diakonon' give us enough information to deduce that she was in fact a "deacon"? The plural form is used when discussing the attributes of "deacons" in first Timothy(Diakonous).

    1 Tim 3:12
    12 Let the 'Diakonous' be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

    Romans 16:1
    I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a 'diakonon' of the church which is at Cenchrea:

    She is a singular 'diakonon'. Am I missing something?
  6. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    In the first place, it would be a more probable sign of office, if the Rom.16:1 passage had a definite article before the noun. It does not; Phoebe is described as a servant, and not (as would be more likely if an officer of the church) as the servant. [Such a use of the definite article would not be an indicator someone was the only one of such a class; but was the singular representative in a particular context, cf. Gal.2:17.]

    The noun is feminine (and singular) in Rom.16:1. In 1Tim.3:8 & 12, the term is masculine (and plural). Of 27 occurrences in the NT, Rom.16:1 is the only feminine. Just noting that Phoebe is a "servant" or an "assistant" or a "minister" (all three translations of the term, in various passage, can be found in NT versions; and perhaps more than these glosses) does not explain the use of the word, or the nature of her commission.

    Jn.2:5 has Mary addressing servants (diakonoi, masc/pl). These are not Deacons. Jesus says, Jn.12:26, "Where I am, my servant (diaconos, masc/sing) will be also;" this is not a Deacon. But Php.1:1 clearly indicates that Deacon IS an office of the church, "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:" And this would correspond to the 1Tim.3 passage.

    So, there is an office of Deacon for the church, as well as there being ordinary "servants" mentioned, whether of the church or of society.
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  7. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    I just don't know if I can agree with that. Sure an English translation can choose to translate:

    "Παῦλος καὶ Τιμόθεος δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Φιλίπποις σὺν ἐπισκόποις καὶ διακόνοις:"


    "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:"

    But I don't see how it would be wrong to translate the greek as:

    "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and servants:"

  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I guess you might be right, and 2000yrs of church history (including your LBC.26, paras 8 & 9) may be incorrect.

    But I doubt it. Bishops and deacons in Php.1:1. Bishops and deacons, 1Tim.3.

    What is the table-waiting office (with hands-laying on) of Act.6:1-6?
  9. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    Could be. I'll have to do more research.
  10. Joshua

    Joshua pilgrim

    I thought I cleared that up with elder and Elder. They're the same word and signifying different things. Context of passages helps define the limitations of words. We interpret scripture with scripture. Either one believes Paul (and thereby, the Holy Ghost, and thereby God) when he acknowledges that there is an "office of a deacon" in 1 Timothy 3:10, or one does not.
  11. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Senior

    These same arguments are made in favor of female pastors using vague references as evidence. It is better to look at the clear evidence, which clearly demonstrates a pattern of male leadership within the church. This clear evidence includes the facts that, 1. Every priest in the OT was a male, 2. All 12 disciples chosen by our Lord were male, 3. Every clear and unambiguous example of an apostle or pastor in the NT was male, and 4. All of the original deacons called in Acts 6 were male. On top of this, we have the qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy which also indicate that these offices are reserved for males. In the face of all this evidence, arguing for female church leadership on the grounds of ambiguous word usage seems a bit silly.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
  12. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    If there were females deacons, how would you handle the scriptures which talk about women being silent in church and to ask her husband questions about Biblical matters? If women are this restricted in speech, how would she be an effective deacon? She wouldn't be able to give men the smallest of counsel, and most women have husbands or fathers who give them counsel so they wouldn't need a female deacon's counsel.
  13. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    Who's arguing for female church leadership?

    My main question here is if the official office of "Deacon" is a real biblical office. From what I'm reading in the text, I'm leaning more on John MacArthur's side where it's more of a way to generally describe the servants in the church of Christ.

    Also, I'm sorry for seeming either silly, childish, or ignorant on this topic. The reason I've decided to post about it is because I'm genuinely confused and my faith has been a little shaken because I can't reconcile certain things I'm seeing the the text just yet. I'm asking you all to just bear my burdens for a little longer and really be patient and help me figure this out. Please.
  14. Joshua

    Joshua pilgrim

    How does it get any clearer than Paul's explicit mentioning of the "office of a deacon" in 1 Tim. 3.10?
  15. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Puritan Board Sophomore

  16. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

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