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People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Deacon. The name of an office-bearer in the Christian church. It is generally connected with the appointment of the seven who were to relieve the apostles in the "daily ministration," the distribution of the funds, and of provision for the members of the early church. Acts 6:1-6. The special name of deacon is not, however, given to the seven; the order called deacons was subsequently established, and founded upon or in imitation of the office committed to the seven. See Alford, The Greek Test., note on Acts 6:5. It has indeed been suggested that there was already a class called "the young men," which was the prototype of the diaconate. Acts 5:6; Acts 5:10. Different Greek words are used, however, in the two verses just referred to, and the specific duties of the two classes do not closely resemble each other. The Greek word for deacon often is used to indicate any person ministering in God's service. Thus it designates our Lord himself, Romans 15:8; and Paul describes by it his own position, 2 Corinthians 6:4; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23; in all which places it is translated "minister." Then ft began to be used of a particular order in the church. Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-10; 1 Timothy 3:12-13. The qualifications of deacons are described; from which in some measure their duties may be deduced. They were to hold a certain authority, and to show themselves patterns to believers. They were to be pure in faith; but it is not required, as it is of the bishop or overseer, that they should be "apt to teach." The inference undoubtedly is that, even if there were exceptions, teaching was not an ordinary part of the deacon's duties. Some of the seven, however, certainly joined teaching with the more secular "daily ministration." And though Paul does not affirm that it was part of a deacon's duty, his words constitute no proof that it was not. It has been questioned whether the diaconate was originally a step to a higher ecclesiastical office; and different interpretations have been given of 1 Timothy 3:13. It seems natural to understand that the honor there mentioned was gained in the position of deacon, and not in promotion to another office. Generally speaking, too, permanence in the diaconate seems to have been the rule in primitive times.

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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Deacon'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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