A LABOR OF LOVE
Today God has laid on my heart the need to talk about the church. In our day and time we hear a lot of comments about this subject. Some say it is a religion other says it is a building. Today we will be looking at the beginning of the church and its work.
The church in its earliest days had no formal organization and no official or leaders, with the exception of the apostles. The numerical growth of the church and the rise of problem in its internal fellowship required additional leaders or ministers.
Here was the problem, the Jews who were native of Palestine spoke primarily Aramaic; but the Jews who had lived in the Mediterranean world, which was outside of Palestine, they spoke Greek and often did not know Aramaic; many of these Jews had returned to Jerusalem to live, and some of them were converted and came to church.
Now the problem came and a contention arose between the Greek-speaking Christians and the Aramaic-speaking Christians, because it appeared that favoritism was being shown to the Aramaic-speaking Christians the Hebrews. The Grecians felt the food to the widows was being distributed unfairly. In those days widows were people without any means of support. The church provided them with the bare necessities of life by the Christian community.
Now, with this problem in the church the apostle with wisdom from God called together the entire and pointed out, that this responsibility for the care of the poor had become such a burden that they found themselves de voting most of their time to this material ministry and neglecting the ministry of the word.
The apostle knew this was not right. They recommended that the distribution of food be placed under the direction of seven spirit filled men of good reputation. There are several important facts we need to look at. First, the need for deacons were because of discontent or entrust; Second these men were to be selected by the people, from the people and approved by the apostles; Third these men duties were to be servants of the people and not ruler of the people. Fourth, these men needed to meet strict standards.
Looking at the word deacon, we see it means servant. This word appears some 30 times in the New Testament in the most cases there are no technical meanings relating to a specialized function in the church. The word basically means a servant. Paul uses this word of himself. The word in the New Testament is usually connected with the supply of material needs and service, where fore brethren, look ye among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom whom we may appoint over this business. Acts 6:3.
Now that we are familiar with the need for a deacon. We should now look at the qualification for deacon. This is the area we find the biggest problems in. Friends, there is not much need of having deacons unless they meet the qualifications of God. Unqualified deacons can destroy the work of God in the church. As I travel from church to church I can see these requirements being ignored everywhere. Today I want everyone to understand the proper way of selecting deacons.
letís look at the positive side as we read I Tim. 3:8-13, Deacons, likewise,
are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not
pursing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with
a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing
against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be
women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in
everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his
children and his household well.
Friends, just this verse alone disqualified a woman from being a deacon. A woman cannot be the husband of one wife. A woman canít be in submission to her husband and take authority over him in church. Dear Christians friends, I know a lot of woman want to become deacons but according to Gods word, women just donít qualify. The Bible gives women many duties in the church but they cannot be pastors or deacon let us learn our duty in the body of Christ, and just praise Him for what he will allow us to do. First of all Ė a deacon ought to be of honest report. The word that is translated honest report is very interesting. The Greek word in New Testament that is translated witness and from which the English word martyr comes. is related to it. The word here in acts means that men witness good things about him. If people outside the church cannot or will not say good things about the one selected to be a deacon, then there is not much possibility of him being a deacon. Friends it is a must that the servants of the highest God, be well spoken of, if the people of the community hears bad reports about church leaders they want come to that church and that is the very ones a church should be trying to reach. So let us select men with an honest report. People that are well thought of both from within and without the church body.
A deacon must be full of the Holy Ghost. These same men in Acts were to be full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. Friends that requirement has not changed, it is still the one and for most requirements for a deacon. You cannot, I repeat, you cannot do the work of God without, the power of God on your life. This is a must for all deacons.
Much could be written here about the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, a multitude of books have been written about Him. Christians know that he is God with them, the third person in the Trinity. He comes into the heart of the believer at the moment of saving faith and is the agent who works the miracle of the new birth. His business is to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment he is to make real to Christians minds and hearts all things concerning Jesus. To be full of Him is to be wholly to his direction. The Holy Spirit in full possession of the Christian brings holiness to their life and the power of God to works.
These men who served as deacons were to be spiritual men. We must be careful of this word spiritual because the Bible mentions spiritual wickedness. Some people speak of a person as being spiritual because he seems to have a large amount of piety. True spirituality is not first an attitude or act but a relation to the Holy Spirit.
Let us remember friends being filled with the Holy Spirit do not mean 2 liters or 3 liters. I believe it refers to the spirit of sincerity and zeal. I believe a deacon must be sincere and zealous, and bold in the faith. He must be one willing to stand up for Christ at all cost. Stephen was certainly this kind of man. Some people think that a man secular abilities or business abilities qualifies him for office but! It does not. The Bible only requires the power of God to be present in a deacon that will allow God to work through him.
A deacon must also be full of wisdom. It is wisdom born in a relationship. Men act and choose wisely when they are wisely led. This does not mean that the deacon has to be an educated man. Educated men are not necessary wise. The life and ministry of any man should be fuller and richer for real learning, but the wisdom required here is essentially of a high spiritual order. A deacon needs to be well educated in the scriptures, a student of the word.
A deacon must be full of faith. Of course we all know with out faith it is impossible to please God. Although this is not stated directly as a requirement it is drawn from the choice of Stephen who was certainly full of faith. I donít believe anyone of that day had more faith in Jesus than did this man. This man knew the Bible and had faith in what he read to be true. In the story of Stephens preaching and his controversy and debates with the high priest and the councils, he showed knowledge of the Bible. These were men who suppose to know the scriptures, it is said they were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit by which he spoke. Acts 6:10
This completes the list of positive requirements to be a deacon now we will take a look at the negative. These are traits, which should not be found in deacons. To start with we know from I Tim. 3, that deacons should not be double-tongued. This is saying one thing to one person and something else to another. There are men that would say one thing before one group and another before a different group. Such a man is double-tongued. The word as used in the scripture plainly indicates double speech is used with intent to deceive.
Along with not being double-tongued a deacon must not be given to much wine. In verse three a pastor is not to be given to any wine. Some people think the Bible has a double standard, the pastor is to be one way and the deacon is to be another, friends this is simply not true, there are no grounds for believing that. A deacon has a different responsibility toward the matter of alcoholic drinks, when we examine the Bible it indicates that if a man is going to be useful in the church as a servant, he must leave into xicating drinks and even the appearance of it, out of his life.
Dr. Paul Candill tells of an experience in his pastorate in Kentucky. He was asked to make a speech in the interest of banning the sale of alcoholic drinks. Activities before the election had been pretty bitter. In preparation for the speech he was to make the next day, knowing that much of his audience would be hostile, he spent a night tiring every passage out of his favorite Bible that had to do with alcoholic drink. When he was though, he had so mutilated his Bible that it was no longer of any value. A thing that is important enough to God to have such a large place in the Bible is important in the life of any man that will serve God.
Friends a deacon must put out of his life any connection with, or any encouragement of the consumption or even the sale of alcoholic beverages. A deacon must not be greedy of fitly lucre. He is not to have a great love for money. We also have a warning against covetousness. Covetousness will ruin any Christianís life but when it is found in a deacon it will ruin the ministry of any preacher. A deacon must work hard to make a living but first must desire to serve God more than money.
We have a few more positive qualities for a deacon, but we must remember if a man wants to a deacon with any of these negative qualities in his life he would not be qualified.
Grave, is one of the first things Paul says a deacon must be. This word means to be honorable a deacon must also hold the ministry of the faith in a pure conscience. In other words he should be a man of great spiritual conviction. A deacon must be proved. The central idea of this word proved is that of testing or the demonstration of the individualsí capacity to with stand the attacks of Satan. Being found blameless, does not say ever deacon is to be perfect nor is such said of the preacher. No one be perfect. This means that no charge of wrongdoing has been made against this man.
In conclusion a deacon must be the husband of one wife, ruling his own house. The deacon is to have only one living wife. It is generally accepted among churches that a man who has two living wives ought not to be selected as a deacon. Very often this excluded from office some very good faithful Godly man that has proven themselves, before the church in the bonds of a second marriage. The scripture however is so positive about it that it is best that the service of the men be directed into other useful channels in the church.
Friends, it is our prayers that each of you look close at a manís life before voting for him to hold such a high office in Gods service. If the churches are to grow they must have servants that meet Gods standards.
If you are listening today and have never met the qualifications of a Christian you need to do that today by asking God to forgive you of your sins and turn from them, asking God to become Lord of your life. Dear precious listener turn your life to Christ and we all start working in the service of God today.