Briefly on Baptism

Has the idea of baptism ever confused you? It has been practiced in different ways with different ideas surrounding it. Is it really important to be baptized? Should baptism be reserved for adults only or is it okay to baptize infants? For answers to these questions, we must turn to God’s Word. Below I have provided a short summary of how the Bible speaks of baptism with references to the corresponding passages. May God bless you as you consider this important act of discipleship.

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Baptism is the initiatory ordinance (that is an authoritative order) of Christ received by every Christian upon his conversion symbolically identifying him with full commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a symbolic act, it has no power to save, but instead points to that which does—fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection. Baptism is a symbol of repentance of sin (Matt 3:11), a way to identify with the Triune God (Matt 3:13-17; 28:18-20), a manifestation or display of genuine saving-faith in Jesus (Acts 2:37-39), a portrayal of conversion and the union of the believer with Christ by which he has died to sin with Christ and risen from the dead to live a new life in Christ (Rom 6:1-7), a representation of a “humble request to God for a conscience cleared of guilt because of Christ’s atoning blood”[1] (1 Pet 3:18-22), and a familial identification with Jesus and the church (Gal 3:26-29).

As Jesus, the head of the Church, commissioned His apostles, those He called during His first coming to serve as the foundation of the church, to baptize as a necessary step of making disciples (Matt 28:19), the local church is the only right administrator of baptism. As baptism represents repentance, a manifestation of true saving faith, and conversion and as the New Testament never commands or portrays the baptism of unbelievers of any sort, the only right subject of baptism is the one who has surrendered to Jesus Christ in personal faith. Therefore, infant baptism is illegitimate as infants cannot comprehend the gospel or surrender to Jesus’ Lordship. Those who wrongly received baptism as infants should be baptized legitimately upon placing their faith in Jesus as an act of obedience.

The term for baptism throughout the New Testament, baptizein, and its cognates signify “immersion.” Immersion is the act of being completely immersed or covered in water. The New Testament shows no other mode of baptism than immersion. Therefore, immersion is the only proper mode of baptism while sprinkling (also known as aspersion) and pouring (also known as affusion) are illegitimate modes of baptism. As baptism identifies the believer with Jesus and His church (Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:4-6), churches should not extend baptism to any person unwilling to join a local church. As baptism is a command of Christ, the church should not extend Lord’s Supper to a person who lives disobediently by rejecting baptism (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

[1] Mark Dever, “The Church” in A Theology for the Church ed. Daniel Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 789.

7 Reasons to Be Thankful this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an entire day that we set aside to be thankful. But our thankfulness isn’t to some blind power of the universe. Thanksgiving doesn’t make sense apart from a Creator who made us and sustains our lives. Without God, thanksgiving is a sham. There would be no need to thank fate or chance for these forces have no will or mind. They cannot be gratified by our gratitude. But there is a Creator who made us, who revealed Himself in the Bible and in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, who exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the God from whom every good and perfect gift comes down (James 1:17). This is the God whom we can thank for our many blessings on Thanksgiving. And the greatest of these blessings are the spiritual blessings which come to us in the new life obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. What are these blessings? Below you will find seven of them, although there are many more that you can discover by reading Christ’s Word as you walk with Him.


Reason #1: Justification

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:8-9).

What precious truth we have here! In order to be thankful for justification we must understand that we are sinners. In fact, the Bible says that every person is a sinner (Romans 3:23) and that every heart is deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We must also understand that the punishment of sin is death and an eternity of suffering without God (Romans 6:23, Revelation 20:11-15).

Yet, God loves us even though we’re sinners!  What evidence do we have of this? “Christ died for us.” God sent His Son into the world that He could be your substitute—that He could die in your place! The Bible declares that Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15) and therefore He did not deserve to die. Yet, He gave up His life to take your punishment that you might live in His place (1 Peter 3:18).

Because of what Jesus did that day on the cross, you can be justified! The word justified (δικαιόω, dikaioō) is a legal term. It means to declare innocent or righteous. Even though you have sinned against God and were headed for eternal condemnation, God can declare you innocent because Jesus took your place. Therefore, if you are in Christ, God, the universal and eternal judge will not hold you eternally guilty and you will be saved. How can you take hold of this justification? By surrendering your life to Jesus Christ—that is by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:14-15).

Reason #2: Sanctification

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

In Ephesians, Paul has explained the mystery of the gospel. Nearing the end of his letter, Paul is explaining how the gospel of Jesus makes a difference in our interactions with others. He uses Christ’s love for the church to explain how husbands should love their wives. In doing so, Paul reveals a great blessing in the gospel for which we can be thankful: sanctification.

Paul first reminds the Ephesian husbands that Christ “gave Himself up” for the church. Then Paul explains why Jesus gave Himself up. He did so in order that He might sanctify the church. What does sanctify mean? The word used here is ἁγιάσῃ (agiasē) which means to make holy or righteous. It carries the idea of consecration, that is the setting apart someone from profane things.

The idea is that through justification, Christians are declared righteous. In sanctification, Jesus works to make Christians what He has declared them to be—innocent and righteous. Jesus, by His Spirit, convicts Christians of their sins and gives them the will to put those sins away. He also convicts them and guides them into righteous acts. And how does Jesus do this?  He does it “by the washing of water with the word.” Jesus uses the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:13, 2 Peter 1:20-21) to make His people righteous. So this Thanksgiving, we get to be thankful that Jesus doesn’t give up on us because we are too sinful. Instead, He works to change us. Just as Paul encourages us, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Reason #3: The Promise of Glorification

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).

We can also be thankful for the promise of glorification. What is glorification?  If justification is the beginning of salvation and sanctification is the process of salvation, then glorification is the end or result of salvation. In the passage above, Paul has explained that God’s love for His people is eternal and victorious in Jesus. Then he makes the promise that “God causes all thing to work together for good” for those who are in Christ. But what is the good for which God works? It is not our selfish desires. It is our glorification! Paul strings together the process of salvation which includes God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.

The word glorified is ἐδόξασεν (edoksasen) which means to make glorious or to clothe with splendor. God created mankind in a glorified state—in His image (Genesis 2:26-27). But mankind rebelled against God and that rebellion marred the image of God in mankind so that man is not quite what he was meant to be. Yet, Jesus came in order to defeat death so that, by union with Him, His resurrection would lead to our resurrection to a glorified state—a state in which the image of God is repaired within us. Thus, Paul tells the Corinthians,

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

The promise of glorification is a great promise!  It means that one day we will not struggle with desires for sin. God will take them away completely. It means that we will not struggle in a world of sin, for Christ will make a new world that has not been corrupted by sin (Revelation 20:1-8). It means that one day we will not have bodies that fail as the ones we have now. We will have eternal bodies; glorified bodies.  That means no hair loss, no diabetes, no cancer, no blindness, no Alzheimer’s, no down syndrome, and no death.

In the Romans eight passage, Paul uses the word “glorified” in the simple past tense. Why would he say it has already happened? Because God has declared it. God is completely faithful. Therefore, when He promises something, it may be stated with such a certainty as if it had already taken place. So, this Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for the assurance of glorification!

Reason #4: The Presence of the Holy Spirit

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, before His arrest, He desired to comfort His disciples in preparation for their impending grief. He consoled them by disclosing His future plan to prepare an eternal home for His followers. While this promise imparted, and still imparts, great consolation, Jesus had more comfort to grant—He promised His Spirit’s eternal presence with His followers.

Notice that the Holy Spirit is given by the Father at the request of the Son. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as another “Helper.” Helper translates the word  παράκλητον (paraclēton). In the technical sense, this is a judicial term for an advocate who pleads one’s cause before a judge or an intercessor who intervenes on another’s behalf. The Holy Spirit certainly acts as an advocate or intercessor for the born-again Christian. Paul assures,

the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

When Christians do not know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us!  He guides our will and even when our knowledge is obscure, He guides our way!

Jesus tells us that the Helper will be with His followers forever. In Jesus’ incarnation, He took on a human body, which He retains even to this day at the right hand of the Father. A body may only be in one place at a time. Yet, Jesus promised His presence with His followers forever (Matthew 28:20). How then can He be with us even now? By sending His Spirit to us. He said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). This is the very Spirit that inspired the Scriptures and in, by, and through those Scriptures, He guides us “into all truth” (John 16:13). And this Holy Spirit only abides with those who surrender to Christ. He is our Helper through Christ Jesus! What a comfort and blessing worthy of all praise and thanksgiving that we are never left alone; never left to our own understandings. We have a Helper to advocate for us and guide us!

Reason #5: The Fellowship of the Church

and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The writer of Hebrews had just reminded his readers of the confidence that Christians have to enter into God’s presence by the blood of Jesus. Then he makes several exhortations based upon that truth. Since Jesus died for us “let us draw near…let us hold fast…let us consider…” It is to this last exhortation that we now turn. Christians are called to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Why? Because the world is full of distractions that want to choke out our service to the Lord (Matthew 13:22). Therefore, we need each other to stimulate us to love and good deeds. The word for stimulate is παροξυσμὸν (paroksusmon) which usually carries a negative connotation of provoking someone to argue or fight. But the writer of Hebrews makes a sharp contrast with this word. Christians are to provoke each other for good not for evil. The word can also mean to irritate. Have we gone so far as to irritate each other to serve God? The life of the Spirit will always irritate the desires of the flesh. Therefore, let’s irritate one another, let’s provoke one another, let’s call one another to serve God through love and good deeds.

But how can we provoke one another to love and good deeds if we never gather? How can we love Jesus if we don’t love His people (cf. John 13:34-35, John 14:15)? How can we love His people if we neglect them? The assembling together of which the writer of Hebrews spoke certainly included the weekly Lord’s Day gathering of the church. This is and has been for nearly 2,000 years, the regular time for the church to meet every week and celebrate the resurrection Jesus. It’s a time for stimulating one another toward love and good deeds. What a blessing Sunday mornings are!

Not only do Christians provoke each other to love and good deeds each Sunday morning, but as we gather we are “encouraging one another.” The word for encourage has a vast range of meaning that covers instructing, encouraging, strengthening, comforting, begging, and admonishing. It would be hard to know exactly which one of these ideas the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he used the word. But one thing is certain, he intended that we would come together and address each other with God’s Word—His commands and His promises.

The writer of Hebrews reveals a truth that makes us ever grateful for fellowship with our brothers and sisters: the Day of the Lord is approaching. The day when Jesus returns to separate His church from the world and to judge the world will come. The fellowship of the church guards us from wandering from Christ and His will, from building with the wrong materials (1 Corinthians 3), from having greater loves than Christ (Mark 12:28-34). The fellowship of the church is one of God’s greatest blessings for which we can be thankful.

Reason #6: Purpose for Living

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3).

Without God’s revelation of Himself and His will through His Word, the Bible, this life would be one full of confusion that could be likened to being cast into the ocean at night time—you wouldn’t know which way was up or which way was down. But instead, the God who created us also has a purpose for us. What is that purpose? Jesus, just before He was arrested, prayed for His disciples—even all His future disciples. He prayed for you and for me. At the beginning of His prayer, He stated the essence of salvation—knowing God and Christ.

Considering the grand narrative of the Bible, you will notice that Adam and Eve were created in fellowship with God. But after they rebelled, they were cut off from fellowship with Him. God made a temporary way for Old Testament Israelites to fellowship with Him through the tabernacle, the temple, and the sacrifices until the time was right for a permanent and better way. Jesus came to bring a permanent reconciliation between man and God (Romans 5:10). Jesus came so that we could live in relationship with God. Jesus came as God among us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus came so that we could have God live within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus returns, He will bring us to the New Jerusalem in which the church will get to live with Jesus forever (Revelation 21:3).

God’s purpose in the Garden of Eden, in the tabernacle, in the Temple, in sending Jesus, in sending the Holy Spirit, in the creating the New Jerusalem is to be in relationship with His people. God loves you and wants a relationship with you. That is your purpose in life. That is something to be thankful for. So then, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Reason #7: The Promise of a New Home

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

This is my favorite passage in the entire Bible because it is full of unceasing hope and joy. When God created mankind in His image, that meant that He created mankind to rule—to rule over His creation as stewards (Genesis 1:26-30). Yet, when mankind rebelled against God, all that was in their care suffered the consequences (cf. Genesis 3:16-19, Romans 8:18-22).  Sin entered the world and corrupted it. With sin came relational turmoil, pain, disease, natural disasters, and death.

The majority of the book of Revelation speaks of God’s judgment upon the world that will end with the destruction of the world. But, since Jesus came, that will not be the end. Jesus promised that He would go to prepare an eternal home for His people (John 14:1-6). After His return, Jesus will provide a new heaven and a new earth for His people that will be uncorrupted by sin. There will not be any of the plagues that entered the world because of sin. Jesus will be there physically with His people once again. His bride, the church, will be completely cleansed of sin and will sin no more. Since God is the source of all good, no wrong will ever be done to His people or His new heaven and earth. All sadness and death will be a thing of the distant past.

Yes! We have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. The greatest gifts are those which come from the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ! Do you have that salvation? Do you have those gifts? Jesus has done all that is needed for you to be saved; to be brought into a relationship with God. All that’s left is for you to take hold of that salvation. Paul says,

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation… for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Thanks be to God!


A Deeper Dig on Deacons


Over the past several years I have heard of a concerning number of Baptist churches who intentionally do not have deacons. I have heard some Baptist pastors boast that their respective churches do not have deacons as if deacons were a hinderance to God’s plan for gospel advance. I find this to be very problematic since God’s inerrant Word provides the office of deacon and reveals that New Testament churches had deacons. God did not make a mistake when He divinely guided the Apostles to direct local churches to select deacons from among their numbers. Biblical faithfulness rather than pragmatism must guide church order and structure. Or do we think we know better than God?

In the past, the church in which I pastor did not have deacons. By God’s grace, we now have three faithful, Biblical deacons who are serving God and His people for His glory to the advance of the gospel. On the evening I am writing this post, I was privileged to hear one of our deacons share about the opportunity that God had given him and another one of our deacons to provide a benevolence need and share the gospel. I heard one of our other deacons close a church service in prayer, asking God to give all the church members opportunities to share the gospel. Thanks to these three faithful men who accepted the call to serve as deacons, I am able to serve as a pastor more freely and faithfully and our church is functioning in tune with God’s design as revealed in the New Testament.

As you read below a portion of one of my essays for a doctoral seminar at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary which discusses the deacons of the New Testament, please consider the grace that God has revealed in providing His local churches with deacons. I would encourage you to write one of your deacons a card to let him know that you are praying for him. Thank your deacons for the way they serve. Praise God for His perfect and unchanging plan in local church structure and order! May God bless your church and deacons even as you read this article!

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The Office of Deacon

When Paul established churches, he did not intend for an organic gathering of individuals without structure. He addressed the Philippian church emphasizing that he wanted two groups of people in particular to heed his message: “the overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1:1).[1] Paul required that deacons, like overseers/elders, meet specified qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13). Paul, nor the other apostles, treated any other offices with such concern.

Paul used the term διάκονος (diakonos) for this office in Philippians 1:1 and First Timothy 3:8-13. This word translates as “minister,” “servant,” “attendant,” or “deacon.” John Hammett notes that the New Testament writers use the term thirty-six times but only the two passages referenced above clearly refer to the ecclesial office.[2]

The Origin of the Diaconal Office

Viewing the two clear passages which refer to deacons does not reveal the location or time in which the office began. While Acts 6:1-7 does not use the term διάκονος (diakonos), many scholars and churchmen consider it the pericope of diaconal origin. Darrell Bock and F.F. Bruce do not believe that this passage speaks of deacons because Luke does not use the technical term for deacon.[3] However, apart from mentioning that Luke neglects the technical term for deacon, neither produces an argument against the traditional understanding of the passage. Some of these denials of the traditional rendering seem to consider institutionalism harmful. Hans Küng argues that these seven Hellenist men serve more as elders than as technical deacons.[4] The account of the elders caring for monetary funds in Acts 11:30 seems to corroborate Küng’s claim. Gregg Allison urges caution in viewing Acts 6:1-7 as an account of deacons while acknowledging strong arguments for both sides.[5]

Kari Latvus does present an argument against taking the seven men in Acts six as deacons: the seven are never called diakonoi (deacons), the verb diakonein (to serve) and noun diakonia (service or ministry) are used generally to refer to both preaching and serving in this passage, and the seven have a different outcome than the current understanding of deacon ministry in that they work as preachers or evangelists in the following chapters.[6] Yet, the Scriptures refer to church leaders at other times without using the technical terms (i.e., Hebrews 13:7, 17). The terms for serving and service/ministry make an association of this passage with the office of deacon more likely. Finally, preaching and serving as a deacon are not mutually exclusive activities. Only Stephen is shown preaching (Acts 7) and Philip is shown evangelizing (Acts 8). But Stephen’s apologetic proclamations and Philip’s witness of the gospel are activities expected of all Christians (cf. 1 Peter 3:15, Acts 1:8).

John Hammett presents a very convincing and concise argument for accepting the traditional view of Acts 6:1-7. First, Luke uses the cognates of the office in question, διακονίᾳ (service or ministry) and διακονεῖν (to serve), in verses one and two in relation to the work these seven men would undertake. Second, the qualifications for these seven men are commensurate with the qualifications in First Timothy 3:8-13. Third, “if Acts 6 is not linked to the origin of deacons, we have an office with no precedent in Jewish society, with no origin described in Scripture, and yet an office that was widely and readily accepted by New Testament churches.”[7] Merkle relates the apostles and the seven men in this account to the relationship between the future elders and the deacons. He concludes, “although the term diakonos does not occur in Acts 6, this passage provides a helpful model of how godly servants can assist those who are called to preach the Word of God.”[8]

God’s sovereignty and Jesus’ headship and pastoral care for the church make it unlikely that He would leave His church ignorant about an apparently important office that He wanted them to implement. The textual evidence is strong enough to warrant belief that this passage speaks of deacons or at least provided a reliable pattern for deacons to follow in their relationship with their elders and congregation.

The Responsibilities of the New Testament Deacon

A survey of Acts 6:1-7 and First Timothy 3:8-13 hints at four responsibilities of New Testament deacons within their respective churches. In Acts 6:1-7, both Judaic and Hellenistic Jews comprised the church. According to Polhill, these Hellenistic Jews likely came from the diaspora and settled in Jerusalem later in life. They spoke different languages and wore different clothes than the Judaic Jews.[9] Bruce explains that the main differences between the two groups were their differing languages and attendance to synagogues which used their respective languages.[10] The gospel had not yet gone to the Gentiles but the mixture of Judaic and Hellenistic Jews created a potential fault line that the church would need to guard. Complaining[11] arose along this natural fault line.

The church had been providing food for their widows. This was a normal practice among religious Jews in Jesus’ days. While the Apocryphal book of Tobit contradicts the gospel, it does reveal the thinking and practice of the Jews soon before the church began. Tobit states,

Praier is good with fasting, and almes and righteousnesse: a little with righteousnes is better then much with vnrighteousnesse: it is better to giue almes then to lay vp gold. For almes doth deliuer from death, and shall purge away all sinne. Those that exercise almes, and righteousnesse, shall be filled with life.[12]

The church had continued this Jewish practice of providing for the needy but they did so motivated by the gospel rather than an attempt to earn their salvation.

In the daily distribution of food for the widows, the church unintentionally neglected the Hellenistic widows. The apostles addressed the situation with the wisdom of Jethro when he told Moses to delegate some of his responsibilities in Exodus 18:17-27. The apostles called the church together and proposed a plan inspired by the Holy Spirit:

It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2-4).

From this account, the church derived the diaconal role.

The first New Testament diaconal responsibility involved the deacons’ relationship to the apostles. They served to protect the apostolic ministries of the Word and prayer. Had the apostles met the needs of the Hellenistic widows themselves, they would have neglected the ministry to which God called them. Later, the deacons served in this same supporting role for overseers as Philippians 1:1, in conjunction with this passage, displays. Hammett explains, “Diakonos indicates more of a support role than episkopos or presbyteros…The example in Acts 6 fits the distinction between the ministry of leaders (elders/overseers/pastors) and the important but different ministry of other servants (deacons).[13]

Second, the New Testament deacons cared for the physical needs of the church. The seven men of Acts 6:1-7 provided for the widows’ sustenance. The meaning of the office title indicates this function as “one who waits tables.” The apostles did not require the deacons to be able to teach as they required of the overseers (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2; 8-13). However, this ministry of providing for the physical needs acted as a complimentary role to the apostles’ and overseers’ ministry of teaching. It enabled the ministry of the Word to advance.

Merkle, combining the first two responsibilities states, “the deacons provide leadership over the service-oriented functions of the church…it seems best to view the deacons as servants who do whatever is necessary to allow the elders to accomplish their God-given calling of shepherding and teaching the Church.”[14] Paul’s requirements in First Timothy for the deacons to not be fond of “sordid gain” and to be “good managers of their children and their own households” likely hints at their responsibility in using church funds to provide for physical needs.[15]

Third, the New Testament deacons worked to prevent divisions within the church. The reason the apostles proposed the office was because a division was beginning. Merkle acknowledges that the apostles “understood that allowing this problem to continue could cause division in the church.”[16] The apostles also knew that Jesus wanted the church to have unity as one people. They heard the Lord pray, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21). When a threat of division appeared, they dealt with it decisively by establishing the diaconate. Mark Dever adds,

The apostles were not just interested in rectifying a problem in the church’s benevolence ministry. They wanted to prevent a fracture in church unity, and a particularly dangerous fracture–between one ethnic group and another. The deacons were appointed to head off disunity in the church. Their job was to act as the shock absorbers for the body.[17]

Since preventing and repairing division in the church served as a catalyst for the apostles establishing the diaconate, it likely continued as one of their responsibilities throughout the New Testament.

Fourth, the New Testament deacons set a godly example for their respective assemblies. When the apostles guided the church in selecting their deacons, they did not allow anyone to serve. The men who served had to meet certain qualifications. They had to be “men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). The good reputation was necessary so the church could have an effective witness with outsiders. The fullness of the Holy Spirit and wisdom were necessary to deal with divisive issues within the church. However, the early church had the expectation that every Christian should be of good repute and full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. When Paul guided Timothy in establishing leaders in Ephesus, the deacons and their wives had to meet certain qualifications (cf. 1 Timothy 3:8-13). The early church expected this kind of character from the members of their assemblies.

A perplexity exists as to the need of giving and stating qualifications since the apostles expected the same from everyone in the assemblies. The likely conclusion is that the New Testament deacons shared with the elders (that is, pastors) the ministry of Christ-like modeling. Hammett, after mentioning this role of the deacon, states, “Anyone identified as an officer in the church in some way represents the church publicly and is thus required to possess a degree of maturity…the office of deacon is not a small, unimportant ministry that anyone can render.”[18]

While the New Testament authors do not explicitly state that these four responsibilities belonged to the deacons, Acts 6:1-7, First Timothy 3:8-13, and Philippians 1:1 hint at them. The scarcity of information on the diaconal role in the Scriptures may be intentional. The apostles may have intended to be vague so the deacons could serve unforeseen needs in the church as they arose. The early deacons may have served in any way needed.[19]


[1] Moises Silva, considers why Paul singled them out and concludes that he was showing a regard for them while preparing to give them “rebukes and criticisms that occur in the body of the letter” in Philippians (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 41.

[2] John Hammet, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 192.

[3] Darrel L. Bock,  Acts (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 259. F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 182, and F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts: Revised (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 122.

[4]  Hans Küng, The Church (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1976), 511-512.

[5] Gregg Allison, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 242.

[6] Kari Latvus, “The Paradigm Challenged: A New Analysis of the Origin of Diakonia.” Studia Theologica  62, no. 2 (2008): 147-148.

[7]  John Hammet, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 192.

[8] Benjamin Merkle, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2008), 229.

[9]  John B. Polhill, Acts (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1992), 178-179.

[10] F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts: Revised (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publlishing Company: Grand Rapids, 1988), 120.

[11] The word here is γογγυσμὸς which can be rendered “grumbling” or “murmuring.” This would have been a certain sign that division had begun and would need to be dealt with swiftly to defend unity.

[12] Tobit 12:8-10 in The Authorized Version of the English Bible 1611, Vol. 5, William Aldis Wright, ed. (London: Cambridge University Press Warehouse, 1909), 113.

[13]  John Hammet, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 194.

[14] Benjamin Merkle, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional), 240.

[15] John Hammett points this out as well in Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 196.

[16] Benjamin Merkle and Thomas Schreiner, eds., Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond (Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2015), 65.

 [17]  Mark E. Dever, “The Church” in A Theology for the Church, Daniel L. Akin, ed. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 799-800.

[18] John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 196.

[19] See Benjamin Merkle, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2008), 238-242.