Buried Talents: Deacons (Conclusions)

In conclusion:

1. In the only possible scriptural description of the role of a deacon, Acts 6:1-6, the apostles themselves described the deacons’ jobs, perhaps ironically, as “waiting on tables.” There is no justification for our expanding the role of the deacon any farther than specified in Acts 6, where it was simply the task of handling the benevolent program.

The Second Century church also saw the job of a deacon similarly. This is in accord with the views of such notable Restoration commentators as Robert Richardson,Tolbert Fanning, W. K. Pendleton, and E. G. Sewell. We must be silent where the Bible is silent.

2. The only possible example that we have of how deacons served is that the seven were appointed to a single task, very much as a committee.

3. Romans 16:1 states that Phoebe was a deacon (not “deaconess”). 1 Timothy 3:11 probably describes women deacons.

4. There is nothing that a male church member cannot do without being appointed a deacon — other than wear the title. Some would require that deacons handle all church funds, but there is no basis in scripture for making this a rule. Some would put all “worldly” matters in the hands of the deacons, leaving the elders to handle spiritual matters. But this rule is also missing from the Bible. Some would make the deacons into a cabinet of department heads, but there is no scripture for this interpretation. And some would make the deacons into a House of Representatives, voting on matters that must also pass the Senate — the elders. This is not only unsupported by scripture, it directly challenges the authority actually given by scripture to the elders.

5. In the First Century, a major work of the church was to support widows during a time of short male life expectancies and no pensions. 1 Timothy 5:3-16 deals with this problem at length. It is not surprising that 1 Timothy 3 deals with the qualifications of those charged with administering the church’s care for such widows. But we no longer maintain a list of supported widows, and the need for a special class of members to handle this job is over. If a church were to take on such a noble work, the work should certainly be entrusted to members who meet such high standards of behavior.

6. But even if we find in the scriptures a broader role for deacons, women can do anything that deacons can do, because there is no scripture denying them the right to use whatever gifts they have in God’s service. Giving them the title is amply justified by Romans 16:1 as well as 1 Timothy 3:11. Indeed, the Bible unambiguously commands those who have gifts to use them in God’s service and condemns those who refuse to do so and those who refuse to permit others to use their gifts. We should make the fullest use of our gifts possible.

We speak of direct commands, necessary inference, and binding examples as providing authority for church practices. The lessons taught by Jesus and Paul regarding talents and gifts are plain authority for putting gifts into practice. They are indeed direct commands. There are many women with unused gifts given by God for use in His service. There is no safety in burying those talents. There is grave danger for those who fear to allow others to serve God!

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Buried Talents: Deacons (Conclusions)

  1. Pingback: Vox Bloguli » Eppur Si Muove: Mark Elrod’s Personal Blog

  2. Alan says:

    We must be silent where the Bible is silent…
    We speak of direct commands, necessary inference, and binding examples as providing authority for church practices.

    Now those are certainly phrases I didn't expect to see you using!

    Surely you aren't saying that we require biblical authorization for every duty we assign to a deacon! Are you now adopting the regulative principle?

  3. Jon Shelton says:

    I have wondered throughout discussions on the 'qualification' if it is indeed a list of must-haves or if it is a guideline. I have always heard it referred to as the must-have list – but I'm not so sure. Just wondering what you or others though about that.

  4. Jay Guin says:


    I'll address the guidelines argument when we get to elders, which is next up.

  5. Jay Guin says:


    I take it my attempts at irony didn't communicate well via the electronic medium. Ah, well …

    There is some truth, of course, in what we've always said. We can't invent rules where the Bible doesn't invent rules. Hence, there is a proscriptive meaning of silence — but it's quite the opposite of what we often say.

    Silence is not a law. Rather, silence is the absence of a law. Hence, silence proscribes the making of laws (as Thomas Campbell said in the Declaration and Address).

    Just so, commands, properly exegeted, remain commands.

    The point is that, as to deacons, we've invented a doctrine out of next to nothing and then imposed it on one another as though our imaginings came from the throne of God — damning each other over nothing. It's very wrong.

    The Gospel Advocate, for example, routinely damns those who argue for female deacons, which is wrong at about every level I can think of. It even violates their own, flawed hermeneutic.

  6. R.J. says:

    I agree. But I’ve read that Jerusalem’s church grew somewhere between 20-100,00 converts. Now I doubt merely seven men could feed that much.

    So it’s likely that the church was divided into 7 divisions and the seven men were administrators or Patrons of each department. Note Phoebe was a Patroness in Romans 16:2. Not a ruler but an administrator(one who takes care of business).