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THE REASON FOR
Intro: This is a very serious time in our church. In a few weeks we are going to be selecting four new Deacons to serve this congregation. In preparation for that time, we are going to spend the next few Sunday evenings considering the office and responsibility of the Baptist Deacon.
There is much confusion and misinformation about what role the Deacons have in the church and what there are to the church. I hope we can clear some of that up by looking at what the Bible says. If you have been paying attention since I have been here as your Pastor, you will have noticed that I am not interested in the traditions or teachings of men. I believe that the final authority for all matters of faith and practice in the church must be the Word of God. Therefore, we are not going to concern ourselves with what men have to say about the Deacon and his role in the church. We are only going to concern ourselves with what the Bible says about those matters.
This passage does not use the word “Deacon” in our English translation. Still, it is often assumed that this is the first reference to the office that would come to be known as Deacon in the Bible. This passage gives us some insight into why the early church felt the need to set aside a special group of men to be servants of the church. I want to preach about The Reason For The Baptist Deacon today. Let’s find out why we have Deacons and see if we still need them today.
1 THE PROBLEMS
(Ill. Verse one exposes a conflict that was brewing in the early church. They had a real problem and the Holy Spirit doesn’t gloss it over. We must never forget that where you have two or more people you have the potential for trouble. When trouble comes in the church, it must be faced head-on and dealt with, and not allowed to simmer and brew. We must also remember that the Holy Spirit has a remedy for our problem if we are willing and able to hear His voice. Let’s examine their problem.)
A. The Problem Of Multiplication – The Spirit had stopped adding to the church, Acts 2:47, and He had started multiplying. 3,000 men had been saved at Pentecost; another 5,000 men had been saved shortly thereafter. Add to this their wives, children and other family, and you can see that the church growing by leaps and bounds. It is estimated that the church in Jerusalem numbered between 20,000 and 50,000 at this time. (Ill. As a church grows larger so does its potential for problems. As a church grows larger so does its need for strong, godly leadership.)
B. The Problem Of Murmuring – There were two classes of people in the early church. There were the Aramaic speaking Jews who were native to Israel, and there were the Greek speaking, Hellenistic Jews that had come back from various parts of the world. The Hellenists were Jews that lived in Greek speaking countries. They were loyal Jews, but they had absorbed some of the Greek culture where they lived. They were different from their native Jewish brothers and there was a little friction between them.
The Bible tells us that they were “murmuring”. This word refers to “secret debate; whispering”. People were talking about others in a negative manner behind their backs. That is always a problem!
Satan had already attacked the young church in two ways. He tried persecution, Acts 4:1-31; 5:17-41; and he had tried introducing sin into the church, Acts 5:1-11. Both attacks failed and only caused the church to grow faster. Now, he tries a new tactic. If he cannot defeat the church from without, he will attack it from within! If he can divide the people, he will be able to cripple the church!
The same is still true today! If the devil cannot infiltrate us and attack us from without, you can rest assured that he will try to do it from within. He will do everything he can to divide us and cause us to attack one another. There is no place for anger, unforgiveness, division and trouble in the church! That kind of thing is deadly to a congregation, Matt. 12:25. What the church needs to thrive is unity, Phil. 1:27; 1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 2:1-4; Eph. 4:31-32. If there are divisive people in the church that refuse to walk in unity with the brethren, here is the Lord’s counsel regarding them, Rom. 16:17; Phil. 3:17.
C. The Problem Of Ministry – The Greek speaking widows were not getting their share of the daily food supply. The early church was committed to meeting the needs of its members.
In those days the people sold their goods and pooled their resources to see that every member had what they needed, Acts 2:44-45. Some of the more affluent people in the church, like Barnabas, sold houses and lands and gave the money to meet the needs of others, Acts 4:34-37.
Evidently, the Apostles were responsible for seeing to it that the people, but especially the widows, had the food and essentials they needed to live. As the church grew, the task became too large for the Apostles and some people were inevitably missed in the daily food allotments.
The Greek speaking element of the church apparently felt like this oversight was deliberate and they spoke up about it. The problem was this: there was too much to do and not enough hours to do it in. As a result, some things were left undone and it caused problems in the church.
(Note: The church still faces the problem of ministry. In our day the sole burden for ministry in the church, in most cases, has been placed on the shoulders of the Pastor. In a small church this is a barely possible task. In a church as large as ours, it is absolutely impossible! If everything is left up to the Pastor, some people are going to be neglected and they are going to be offended. Problems will come and the church will suffer. I will say more about that in a minute.)
II. v. 2 THE PRIORITIES THE CHURCH FACED
(Ill. When this conflict arose, the Apostles took responsibility. They had been trying to be everywhere and do everything. They found it to be an impossible task and they took action. They reminded the people of the priorities of ministry. We need to be reminded of those priorities in these days as well. Let’s look at them.)
A. The Priority Of Preaching – The Apostles said, “It does not make sense for us to put off the necessary preparation for the preaching ministry of the church and wait on tables.” The Apostles recognized the truth that their primary responsibility was preparation for the ministry of the Word. This involved too elements: prayer and preaching, v. 4. If these men spent all their time handing out groceries, they would have no time to pray and prepare for the preaching services. They were spending their time doing a good thing when they should have been spending their time doing the best thing!
The Apostles were no above the routine ministry of the day; this was simply a matter of priorities for them and for the church. What was more important; passing out supplies or preparing to preach?
(Note: What was true then is still true today. Most people have no clue about the time it takes to get ready to preach. I would estimate that most sermons I preach require between 10 to 12 hours preparing. That is 30 to 36 hours of sermon preparation per week. Add to that the time that I must take to pray and most of my time is spent in pray and sermon preparation. It is essential that a preacher prepare his heart and his head if he is going to be an effective preacher.
You can shortcut the process if you wish. You can use sermons from a book; you can download them from the Internet; you can use the outlines you collect at Bible conferences and camp meetings, but all you are doing is shortchanging yourself and the people of God. Every great preacher is a man of pray and a man of thorough preparation. There is no substitute for either one, and nothing must be allowed to come between the preacher and his preparation time.
Some people think you get the sermons when you get the call. Some people think that all you need is the gift of gab. Just get up there and run your mouth for a while and talk about the Bible; that’s all preaching is.
Well, you can have that if that is what you want. But, if you want a word from God; then you had better guard your preacher’s preparation time. Do everything you can to ensure that he has the time he needs to pray and prepare so that he can come to the pulpit with a word from God and a holy heart.
Nothing we will ever do in this church will ever be more important that the times when a man walks to this pulpit, opens his Bible and begins to preach. Nothing equals that! If the preaching is to have power; if it is to change lives; if it is to glorify God, then the preacher must have the time he needs to prepare properly! For the preacher, preparation is the number one priority!)
B. The Priority Of People – Sermons are important, but people are a priority too! Sermons must be prepared, prayers must be prayed, but people must be ministered to as well.
The church is made up of people and where there are people, there are needs. Where there are needs, they must be met, or the people will go elsewhere.
The early church faced this problem. They needed the Word of God and their people needed ministry. Both were legitimate needs and both were priorities, but it was impossible for the Apostles to do it all by themselves. They had to enlist the help of others to get the job of ministry done.
(Note: This same tension still exists in the modern church. There is a great need for sound, expositional, biblical preaching in these days, and there is still a need for personal ministry. We have to come to the place where we understand that one man cannot possibly do it all!
He can visit, but he cannot visit everyone. He can go to the hospital, but he cannot spend his whole day there. He can be available, but not all the time. There are times when he must shut himself up with the Lord and the Bible and get a Word from Heaven for the people.
What is more important, someone who sits in a waiting room while you are having surgery, or someone who can feed your soul when you come to the house of God? It comes down to a matter of priorities!)
III. v. 3-5 THE PROPOSAL THE CHURCH FACED
(Ill. So, there is a problem. There are too many needs and not enough people to meet those needs. The Apostles place the matter back in the hands of the church. They issue a command for the church to choose from their number seven men who will be the servants of the people. Let’s dissect these verses and see what the office of a Deacon is all about.)
A. They Faced A Commission – The church was told to choose from their own number “seven men…whom we may appoint over this business”. The church had the responsibility for choosing the men who would be their servants in the church.
The phrase “over this business” has been taken out of context and misunderstood for years. The Deacons do not exist as church bosses. They are not over the “business” of the church. In fact, the Deacons have no more authority in the church than they are given by the church.
The Deacons serve at the pleasure of the church! No where does the Bible say that when a man is chosen as a Deacon he is to serve in that position for life. Like the Pastor, the Deacon serves at the pleasure of the church. Any Deacon can be removed from his office by the church at any time. Deacons are servants, not rulers!
The “business” they were to be placed over was the “business” of “serving tables”, v. 2. The phrase “serving tables” translates the same word that gives us the word “Deacon”. The word refers to “a table waiter; a domestic servant; one who attends to the needs of others.” The word literally means “to kick up dust.” It is the image of a servant working so hard and moving so fast that he leaves a cloud of dust in his wake.
Thus a Deacon is a man who is chosen to be a servant of the church. He is to be busy in his service, kicking up dust and he meets the needs of the people of God.
Any man who sees the office of a Deacon as a position of power does not deserve the office. Any man who refuses to serve and meet the needs of the church is not fit to be called a Deacon! He is simply not worthy to hold that office.
The commission was for the church to choose from their number seven men who would be servants in the church. That same commission will fall to the members of this church in a few weeks. You will have the responsibility to choose from your number four men who will be servants of this church.
B. They Faced A Challenge – While the men they were told to choose would be servants, they were also to be special men. We will talk about the requirements of the Deacons over the next two Sunday evenings, for now we will consider the three qualifications mentioned in these verses. The men they were to choose were to have three special characteristics.
· They Were To Be Good Men – “of honest report” – This phrase refers to men who “have experienced something.” It speaks of men who by their testimony and lifestyle have earned the love and respect of the church. It is referring to men who are saved and who live a Christian life. These are to be men that no one can point an accusing finger at; good men who are worthy of respect. They are to be men of personal integrity and unblemished character. They must be men who avoid evil and seek the well-being of others.
· They Were To Be Godly Men – They are also to be “full of the Holy Ghost”. This means that they are to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled. The Deacons are to be men, who are in tune with God; led by God and who display godly ways in their lives, Gal. 5:22-23. The church will forever regret electing men who are not full of the Holy Ghost to be Deacons. A man who is not filled with the Spirit, but who is filled with his own ways will be a thorn in the side of the church for as long as he serves! Be cautious about the men you select!
· They Were To Be Gifted Men – They are also to be “full of…wisdom”. This means that they are to be able to make sensible decisions. They are not to be influenced by personal opinions, family concerns, or emotion. They are to make their decisions based on what “thus saith the Lord”. They must be men who can move beyond their own boundaries to see the needs of others. Far too many Deacons bring their own agendas to the meetings. When the Deacons meet, they must always seek what is best for the whole church!
(Note: Those are some pretty stiff requirements! Not many men really measure up to them. But, those are the kind of men you must ask God to reveal to you when you choose.
I am going to admit to you that I have a real problem with the way Calvary has traditionally chosen its Deacons. I am afraid that the process degenerates into a popularity contest. Parents voting for sons; children voting for dad; friends voting for friends, etc.
In every other church I have served prospective Deacons were chosen by the Pastor and the Deacons and were presented to the church for approval or rejection. I have problems with that system too! It can degenerate into a “good old boys club” where the membership is protected by a select few.
The biblical model is for the church to choose the Deacons from among themselves. However, this assumes that the church will do the right thing! So, pray about the men you will vote for! Pray that God will give our church the men we need. Folk, we need men with a servant’s heart!
We need men who are good, godly and gifted. We don’t necessarily need men who are good business men. We don’t necessarily need men who have money. We don’t necessarily need men who are a certain age. We need men who know God; who know His voice; who have a heart to serve and who will be a blessing to the church. We need men of God!)
C. They Faced A Choice – The church got together and made their selections. These men were presented to the Apostles for final approval. (Ill. By the way, I will not lay hands on a man who is not qualified to serve as a Deacon, regardless of the number of votes he receives!) The seven men they chose where appointed to the task. The church prospered as a result of the ministry of the Deacons. In fact, two of them, Stephen and Philip, became mighty evangelists in those days. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, Acts 7. Philip was used as a mighty preacher, Acts 8. Being a preacher and a Deacon are not mutually exclusive. In other words, a man who is called to preach can also serve as a Deacon, if the church so desires.
The early church chose the right men and they benefited from their choice. If we choose the right men, we will benefit as well.
Conc: Do we still need the office of Deacon in this day? Yes, we still need Deacons! Beyond that we need the right kind of Deacons!
We need men who will take up the mantel of service in these days. We need men who are good, godly, gifted men to meet the needs of the church. We need servants!
We do not need men who want power, prestige and position. We do not need men who are just looking for a title and an office.
That is what we need. What we get will ultimately be up to us. In the end, we will get what we want and we will get what we deserve!
Today, I am calling this church to prayer. We need to get done before the Lord and ask Him to give us wisdom as we choose the men who will serve our church. We need to ask Him to help us put aside personal opinion. We need to ask Him to help us make our decision apart from emotion, popularity or preference. We need to ask Him to guide our choice for His glory.
It is not an understatement to say that the very future of this church rests in the choices you will make in a few weeks. The right choices will help us to continue to experience growth and blessing. The wrong choices will hinder the things God wants to do in this place.
This is a very serious matter and we need to take it seriously. I am calling Calvary Baptist Church to an altar of prayer right now to seek God’s face as we seek His men.