6. THE OFFICE OF DEACON "The king called for Jehoiada the chief (priest), and said unto him: 'Why have you not required of the Levites to bring in out of Judah and Jerusalem the collection of the Congregation of Israel for the tabernacle?'" — Second Chronicles 24:2,6 cf. Exodus 20:12-16.
In 1645, the Westminster Assembly and also the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland adopted in its Form of Presbyterial Church-Government:1 "The Officers which Christ hath appointed for the edification of His Church…are…Teachers and other Church-Governors and Deacons… The Scripture doth hold out Deacons as distinct Officers in the Church, whose Office is perpetual. To whose Office it belongs not to preach the Word or administer the Sacraments, but to take special care in distributing to the necessities of the poor (Philippians 1:1 and First Timothy 3:8-15 and Acts 6:1f)."
Here we shall successively discuss the following sections. (1) Everybody needs "diaconal" help. (2) The Diaconate and priestly service. (3) God is our great Deacon. (4) Man is essentially a priestly Deacon. (5) The Levitical priesthood and the Diaconate. (6) Jesus Christ our model Priest and Deacon. (7) The priesthood of all Christians. (8) The instituting of the Diaconate. (9) The duties and requirements of Deacons. (10) The relationship between the Diaconate and other bodies. (11) The function of the Diaconate today. (12) Were Early Christians and Deacons ever Communists? (13) Deacons at the Tables, the Love Feast, and the Lord's Supper. (14) Did "Deacons" Stephen and Philip ever "preach" or baptize? (15) Are "Deaconesses" indeed fully-fledged "Deacons"? (16) Final Conclusions about the Diaconate and its functions. (17) Endnotes. And lastly, (18) Select Bibliography.
EVERYBODY NEEDS "DIACONAL" HELP
To be a "Deacon" in the Church of Jesus, means to be a "help." The world needs help. It still has at least seven million lepers. Each year about three hundred million people get malaria and at least three million die from it. Millions more are enslaved to dangerous drugs. One third of the human race has grossly inadequate housing (and sometimes none at all). And malnutrition rose from 40% of the world population just before the Second World War to more than 60% today.2
Christians too need help. Not only do they need spiritual sanctification,3 but they often also need material support. For they too get sick,4 widowed,5 distressed through natural disasters such as floods and tornadoes,6 dislocated by political upheavals such as civil or international wars,7 and economically afflicted by depressions or droughts.8
But God gives help! For He is our great Helper9 and "a very present help in trouble."10 He is merciful and gracious,11 of great kindness,12 full of compassion and plenteous in grace,13 overflowing in lovingkindness and tender in pity.14 The Lord has instituted human Officers through whose actions He Himself helps mankind, so that it is as His Officers that they are to help their fellow man.15 And He gives much of His help to man through the services of — priestly Deacons.16
THE DIACONATE AND PRIESTLY SERVICE
The Diaconate means priestly service. For the root meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words for "priest" and "deaconly service" and their related concepts, shed much light on our study.
The ancient Hebrew word kooheen or "priest" is uniformly translated by the Greek word hiereus in the third century B.C. Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Moreover, the same Greek word (or its cognates) is used throughout the New Testament — regardless of whether it is describing the Adamitic priesthood, the Melchizedekic priesthood, the Levitical priesthood, the Aaronitic priesthood, or the New Testament priesthood of all believers.17