Sermon #1436 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: The First Seven Deacons
Text: Acts 6:1-7
Subject: The First Deacons of the Church
Date: Sunday Evening – November 19, 2000
Bible Baptist Church – Madisonville, KY
1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
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.
3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
The church at Jerusalem grew in a very short time from 120 to several thousand members. The Lord God had greatly blessed his Word. The gospel of Christ was triumphant over the hearts of men.
This early church, though a great multitude, was a community of love and care. Though they numbered in the thousands, they walked together in sweet love and fellowship in Christ. They had all things common. Many, who had lands and property, sold their estates and gave the money to the church. Of course, such a large number of people also included many in the congregation who were poor, destitute, and dependent upon the charity of others. These poor ones, particularly the fatherless and the widows, were clothed, fed, and housed with church funds.
But a problem arose. Some of the Grecian widows were being neglected (or at least thought they were), not receiving an equal share of daily compensation with those widows from Judea (v. 1). Several things in this passage deserve our attention.
(Acts 6:1) "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration."
1. THOUGH THE CHURCH SUFFERED MUCH PERSECUTION, IT CONTINUED, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, TO GROW.
Like Israel in Egypt, the more it was afflicted, the more it multiplied. The work of God, the cause of Christ, and the success of the gospel cannot be hindered by man or even hell itself (Matt. 16:18).
2. WHEN THE CHURCH INCREASED STRIFE AND DISCORD AROSE FROM WITHIN!
How sad! Up until this time they had been of one accord (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24; 5:12).
(Acts 1:14) "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren."
(Acts 2:1) "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."
(Acts 2:46) "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart."
(Acts 4:24) "And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is."
(Acts 5:12) "And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch."
They had been one in heart, mind, and purpose, serving the interests of Christ and one another, sharing their lives and everything they owned. But when they began to multiply, they corrupted themselves.
They increased in numbers, but not in joy. Like Abraham and Lot, when the family increased, there was strife. "There arose a murmuring," not an open falling out, but a petty strife, nurtured by selfishness and pride (Pro. 16:28; 17:14, 19; 26:21; 28:25).
(Proverbs 16:28) "A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends."
(Proverbs 17:14) "The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with."
(Proverbs 17:19) "He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction."
(Proverbs 26:21) "As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife."
(Proverbs 28:25) "He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat."
3. OF ALL THINGS, THE COMPLAINT WAS ABOUT MONEY!
It is a great pity that the insignificant things of this world should ever cause strife between those who profess to be taken up with the far greater things of the world to come. Yet, this evil is so often repeated that it must not be ignored. "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). It blinds the eye and perverts the judgment of men (Ex. 23:8).
· Most every spat between a husband and wife is about money!
· Most every sore spot in a family has something to do with money or other earthly possessions!
· Most church splits begin with strife about money! How sad!
4. NO CHURCH HAS EVER BEEN PURE AND PERFECT, AND NO CHURCH IN THIS WORLD EVER WILL BE.
Learn this – We are all sinners, sinners saved by grace, washed in the precious blood of Christ, robed in his spotless righteousness, accepted in the Beloved, but sinners still.
Any congregation of saved sinners will, from time to time, have problems to face, deal with, and overcome. Never forsake the church of God, or the local church to which you belong, because a problem arises. Instead, work together with God's saints to overcome the problem.
Husbands and wives do not break up the family because they have a little spat. Neither should we allow petty differences to break up the household of faith. Let us rather yield to one another and serve one another (Phil. 2:1-5; Eph. 4:1-6).
(Philippians 2:1-5) "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,  Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 4:1-6) "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,  With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;  Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
In order to solve the problem and, hopefully, to prevent such problems in the future, the apostles, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, established a new office in the Church, the office of deacon. Acts 6:1-7 records the establishment of this office. Tonight, I want to talk to you about the this noble office. The title of my message is -- The First Seven Deacons.
· These first seven deacons were chosen to meet a specific need in the church.
· Seven were chosen because seven were needed, but that certainly does not imply that every church needs seven deacons.
Proposition: Faithful deacons are an asset to any congregation and an asset to the ministry of any pastor.
I. Why was the deacon's office established?
Let’s be sure we understand this. – The apostles did not simply invent a new office in the church as a matter of expediency. They did what they did under the direction of God the Holy Spirit. Unlike the choosing of Matthias to be an apostle, this was an act inspired by God. We know that to be the case because it is confirmed in the Epistles.
God ordained this office in his church for one specific and noble reason. -- Deacons are to relieve their pastors of all secular, worldly concern, so that those who preach the gospel may give themselves entirely to the ministry of the Word (1 Tim. 4:12-16; 2 Tim. 2:4; 4:1-5; Acts 6:2-3).
(Acts 6:2-3) "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. (3) Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business."
(1 Timothy 4:12-16) "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (13) Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (14) Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (15) Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. (16) Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."
(2 Timothy 2:4) "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
(2 Timothy 4:1-5) "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; (2) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (3) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (4) And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (5) But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
No man can properly give himself to more than one weighty employment. It is not so much the time involved as it is the care involved in other concerns, which forbids pastors from engaging in secular, carnal, worldly pursuits.
Therefore the churches of God have deacons whose responsibility it is to see that their pastors have no need to concern themselves with mundane affairs.
· Deacons must take care to see that the material needs of the pastor and his family are met.
· Deacons are to make certain that the church property and church members are cared for properly.
· Deacons are to distribute the church's funds for the ministry of the Word and the care of the poor (1 Cor. 16:2).
· Deacons are servants. They serve tables, the Lord's table, the pastor's table, the tables of God's saints.
II. How were the first deacons chosen?
I have no doubt that the church at Jerusalem met in several congregations scattered throughout the area. It was one local church, but it met in different parts of the city of Jerusalem. I say that simply because there was no single place in Jerusalem for 10, 000 people to assemble at one time.
When Luke tells us that the apostles called together the multitude of disciples, his meaning, according to Matthew Henry, is that they called together the heads of the various congregations throughout the city, the elders from these congregations.
Once the elders were gathered, the apostles instructed them to choose from among the saints of God "seven men (no women) of good report". Then those men were ordained to the work. This much is certain:
· The deacons were all men.
· They were chosen in compliance with the apostles instructions.
· They were chosen from among the members of the church.
· And they were permanently ordained in the office, not installed for a short term.
III. What kind of men were the deacons to be?
The Word of God clearly describes the character of those men who may be properly ordained to the office of deacon. They are not to be chosen upon the basis of friendship, but of faithfulness. Carefully read Acts 6:3 and I Timothy 3:8-12. These two passages tell us what the qualifications of a deacon are. No man should ever be placed in this high office who does not meet the qualifications given in the Word of God.
A. In Acts 6:3, the Holy Spirit gives three characteristics which must be manifest in those men who serve as deacons in God’s church.
These characteristics are not things which these men see in themselves; but things obvious to those who observe them. Particularly, they are characteristics which the pastors with whom they serve see in manifest in them.
(Acts 6:3) "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business."
These men, whom we have come together to ordain to this office tonight, Bro. Everett Brady and Bro. Paul Hibb, are men whom you and your pastor have observed to be…
1. Men of Honest Report – Dependable men, honest, with a reputation for honesty and integrity, both in the church and in the community.
2. Men Full of the Holy Ghost – Men whose day by day behavior make manifest the fact that they are men of faith, men who believe God, walking in the Spirit they serve Christ the Lord.
3. Men Endowed with Wisdom – It is not necessary that a deacon be a worldly wise man; but it is necessary that he be graciously wise, one who fears God and honors the name, character, and reputation of others. – A man other men can trust.
B. In 2 Timothy 3:8-12, the Apostle Paul gives us eight additional characteristics of those men who are qualified to serve the church of God in this blessed capacity.
(1 Timothy 3:8-12) "Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; (9) Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. (10) And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. (11) Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. (12) Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well."
1. Grave – Soberminded, one who takes serious things seriously.
2. Not Doubletongued – One whose word is his bond, whose confidence can be trusted.
3. Not Given to Much Wine – A man of temperance, avoiding any lack of moderation, especially drunkenness.
4. Not Greedy of Filthy Lucre – A man who displays an inordinate desire for money, wealth, and luxury, simply must not be placed in this office.
5. Holding the Mystery of the Faith in a Pure Conscience – It is not necessary that deacons be gifted as teachers and preachers, as Stephen and Philip were, but they must be men thoroughly committed to the gospel of the grace of God.
6. “Let these also first be proved.” – No novice should ever be given a place of leadership in the church of God. Those who lead God’s people must first be proved, both in their daily lives and in the life of the local church.
7. Their wives also are to be faithful women. – Because deacons are entrusted with confidential matters, no man should be used as a deacon whose wife is an unbeliever, or a gossip.
8. A deacon must be a man who is the head of his house. – He must be the husband of one wife, that is a man devoted to one wife (not a polygamist). And he must be the head of his family, ruling his hose in the fear of God.
IV. What is the work for which deacons are ordained?
The word "deacon" means "servant". A deacon is a man who serves Christ's church, the interests of the gospel, and the pastor who proclaims the gospel to him.
As the first seven deacons were chosen to relieve the apostles of the burden of caring for the poor, so it is the work of deacons to do whatever they can to relieve their pastor of any burden or care that would in anyway distract him from the preaching of the gospel. Deacons are to…
A. Set and serve the Lord’s Table.
B. Take care of the physical, monetary, mundane concerns of the local church.
C. Visit the sick and relieve the poor of the congregation.
D. See that their pastor has no worldly concern to interfere with him giving himself relentlessly to the business of preaching the gospel.
V. What affect did the service of these seven deacons have upon the church of Christ and the ministry of the gospel?
Let no deacon in a gospel church ever take his office and work in the cause of Christ lightly. Let none of God’s people look upon these men and their work contemptuously. Faithful deacons deserve the highest esteem of those they serve for Christ’s sake.
Look at Acts 6:7. Here, we see that these first seven deacons, faithfully serving the church of God, were a great blessing to it. And these men (Bro. Brady and Bro. Hibb), I am confident, will be a great blessing to this congregation as well.
(Acts 6:7) "And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."
Because of the quiet, unassuming, faithful service of these first seven deacons, two things happened.
A. The Word of God increased. – The gospel was preached more fully, more freely, to more people, than it could otherwise have been, because these men gladly relieved God’s preachers of unnecessary cares.
B. Many of God's elect were converted. -- The gospel was preached where it could not have been preached, if these men had not relieved the apostles. And the church of God grew.
Faithful deacons are an asset to any congregation and an asset to any pastor's labors. Pastors, elders, and deacons, together with the membership of the local church, labor together in the cause of Christ.
1. Those deacons who labor faithfully as deacons earn the respect and esteem of their pastor and of the church (1 Tim. 3:13).
(1 Timothy 3:13) "For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."
2. My final word is to you men to whom this great work is now trusted.
I call upon you to do what I know you have done for many years, and what I am confident you will continue to do for the glory of Christ, the good of this church family, and the furtherance of the gospel. As Aaron and Hur served God and Israel by serving Moses, serve our great God and Savior, and this congregation, by serving your pastor. Hold up his hands, in every way you can, in the work of the gospel, for the glory of God and the increase of his kingdom (Ex. 17:11-12).
(Exodus 17:11-12) "And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. (12) But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."
(Numbers 6:22-27) "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, (23) Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, (24) The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: (25) The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: (26) The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. (27) And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them."
 We have no authority to invent offices, ministries, and programs in the church of God and appoint people to fill them.
 In smaller congregations, where there is not a plurality of elders, when the Lord is pleased to take the pastor home to glory, it naturally becomes, and rightfully should be, the responsibility of deacons to guide the church in seeking another pastor.