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Midrand Chapel Baptist Church
Sermon Resources

Church Offices


Main Scriptures
Book: 1 Timothy
Scripture References









We are putting forward 6 new elders and 4 new deacons to serve the church in these official capacities, so I thought it would be helpful to teach on these 2 offices and remind you what they are all about, why we have them and what you can do to make sure we have the right men in these offices.

So what I want to cover this morning mostly from 1 Tim 3:







Two offices (Phil 1:1)

The New Testament recognizes 2 official church offices – that of elders and deacons. Different denominations have all kinds of different names for their church leaders:

·      Reverent, cardinal, bishop, pope, his excellency, even the title pastor – these are titles given to positions in the church which you don’t find in the Bible.

·      Many churches have leadership structures called counsels, or committees or society stewards or administrative boards, or synods – none of these are descriptions of leaders in the N.T.

·      The N.T. is simple – there are two distinct offices, 2 major leadership roles in the church – that of elders and deacons.


Turn to Phil 1:1

·      Greets the congregation and the leaders – specifically the elder and deacons

·      The first Greek word is “Episkopos” meaning “overseer” and that describes well what elders do – they oversee or manage the congregation.

·      The second Greek word is “diakonos” from which we get our English word deacon, but the word means simple “servant” and that describes well what the deacons do – they serve.

·      These are 2 offices, they are recognized positions in the church which come with specific responsibilities.

·      Some people say deacons are just servants – but that’s not completely accurate. All Christians are servants and are called to serve. The deacons are recognized servants, official servants of the church which implies that they have a specific responsibility or ministry in the church.

Purpose of offices

 That is the purpose of having specific offices

·      We officially recognize specific individuals to take up specific roles and responsibilities in the church

·      We make sure we have the right people for the right job

·      We give them the resources they need to do the job – the training, the people, the finances.

·      We hold them accountable to do what we’ve asked.


Much of the ministry that happens in the church is informal and voluntary – but elders and deacons are obligating themselves to specific, formal ministry for the benefit of the church.

We need to be able to trust them with important ministries in the church – therefore we test them first and then appoint them and hold them accountable. And we don’t only hold them accountable, but we give them our co-operation, we make ourselves available to serve under their direction. They help direct our service so that it is carried out in a biblical way, and unified way and an efficient way.

THE PURPOSE OF OFFICES – identify the right leaders for a specific ministries in the church and give them the right resources – time, money, people.


Read Acts 6:1-7

Acts 6 doesn’t record the appointment of the first elders and deacons. Here we have Apostles and official servants, rather than elders and deacons. So we can’t be too dogmatic in applying this text to the roles that would later emerge as the church developed. But it certainly gives us a practical illustration of how these 2 roles would function and complement each other.

Two important Needs

 Here we have two important needs emerging in the church – practical, physical needs  and spiritual needs.

The widows in the church who had no other family, needed a daily distribution of food and other practical help.

·      It would not glorify God if the church was preaching the gospel while leaving church members to starve to death. Jesus said the world will know that we are His followers by our love for one another – and that love needs to be practical and holistic.

·      On the other hand, it would not glorify God if the church became a welfare organization and got so busy with taking care of the physical well-being of its members and neglected to feed their souls and to preach the gospel.

So God creates two offices – one to take care of the physical, practical needs of the church and the other to take care of the spiritual, eternal needs of the church. So together its people are comprehensively fed and cared for.

In so doing the unity, the health and the witness  of the church is maintained and sustained.  The wisdom of God!



Does that mean that deacons only distribute food and clothing and never teach or pray or do any spiritual ministry?

·      In vs 5 we have Steven and Philip and we find them preaching and evangelizing in the next 2 chapters – but they weren’t appointed to teach, but to oversee the practical needs of the church.

·      In this example its food distribution, but again, there’s no need to limit it to that. It certainly would have included managing the finances and giving an account of where the money was going. If the church had a facility it would certainly have included maintaining and developing that facility.

·      In modern terms it would include making sure the sermons are recorded and made available online, making sure information is communicated to the right people, rosters for service are drawn up, sound equipment is set up, the order of service is planned and songs selected, refreshments for fellowship are bought and set up, people are greeted, the water and lights are paid.

·      Certainly many members will be involved in much of that ministry – and deacons are charged with the responsibility to co-ordinate those who serve in those practical ministries.


You can’t find a job description for a deacon anywhere in the N.T. You can’t even find a sample list or suggestion – because I think, as the name implies, deacons serve whatever the practical needs are – and they can differ so much in different churches and different contexts


Elders and Deacons (Tit 1:5-9)

Elders on the other hand, are given very specific instructions in the N.T.

Read Tit 1:5-9


·      5: You can see the importance of elders for the well-being of the church. Paul didn’t want to leave any church without spiritual leadership. In every place Titus was to see this this matter was attended to and we saw in Acts 14-15 in our study of Acts how Paul was diligent to go back to all the places where churches had been founded and appoint elders.

·      5: Plural elders – elders oversee the church as a body or counsel of men. They are together responsible. God doesn’t entrust the church to the hands of one man, no matter how gifted and godly, but to a plurality of leaders.

·      5: The Greek word used here is again “Episkopos” which the same word used in Philipians 1 and translated there as “overseer.” The elders together are the managers or overseers of the entire church. Elders are appointed first because elders are the primary leaders of the church. The deacons are to come alongside the elders and assist by helping with some of the practical aspects of ministry.

·      7-8: Gives character qualification because the elders are to be model of godliness. They are to exemplify the characteristics they are called to teach. To show people what sound doctrine looks like in practice.

·      9: Says they must be sound in doctrine, so that they can teach – both to teach what is right and to refute or correct what is wrong.


So if you put it all together. The elders together are accountable to God for the wellbeing of the church. They are shepherds who try to lead God’s people to green pastures so that they might be healthy and happy. They do this by

1.   Managing or overseeing the affairs of the church

2.   Modelling godliness for the church

3.   Teaching sound doctrine

4.   Praying

The deacons work with the elders to make them more effective.


So we’ve looked at the purpose of church offices, the role of church offices – one office for primarily physical/ practical needs and the other for primarily spiritual needs – the elders overseeing both areas with the help of the deacons. Next let’s consider the


Take note of some of the qualifications here in Tit 1:7-8 (read again)– lets go over to 1 Timothy 3 and compare with what we see there.

1 Tim 3 is one of the key passages because it deals with both elders and deacons, both offices and who should be appointed.

Read 1 Tim 3:1-13

·      Elders vs 1-7

·      Deacons vs 8-10, 12-13

·      Their wives, or the women vs 11, which we will talk about in a moment.

The qualifications given here are very similar to those given in Titus 1, but not exactly the same. And likewise the qualifications for deacons and elders are very similar, but not exactly the same:

·      Vs 2 above reproach, vs 10 blameless

·      Vs 2 husband of one wife, vs 21 husband of one wife

·      Vs 2 sober minded, vs 11 sober minded

·      Vs 2 respectable, vs 8 dignified, vs 11 dignified

·      Vs 3 not a lover of money, vs 8 not greedy

·      Vs 3 no a drunkard, vs 8 not addicted to much wine.

·      Etc.

Models of godliness

So I think what we can get out of this is that Paul is not providing a comprehensive checklist. He is highlighting the kinds of qualities that elders and deacons should have and for the most part they are similar kinds of qualities – they must be godly because they are role models and their godliness is what will equip them to be effective rather than their giftedness.

Did you get that – church offices are equipped for the job by their proven godliness rather than their exceptional giftedness. What ever problems arise, whatever difficulties they encounter, whatever service is needed – we want to know that they will handle themselves and the problem God’s way.


Observable qualities

The other thing we should understand then from this list is that they are observable qualities. Paul if providing with qualities by which elders and deacons can be tested and judged fit for service.

The overarching qualification is above reproach in vs 2 or “blameless” in vs 10. Which means you can’t point a finger at their life. If you wanted to accuse them of greed, or lying, or stealing, or bad judgment, or violent argumentative conduct, or even bad judgment – you wouldn’t be able to summon enough evidence to convict them.

·      Who is not guilty of all of these things at the heart level? Who has not bee guilty of them on occasion?...but God is not asking us to judge their hearts, or the exceptions, but the pattern of their behaviour.

·      As a pattern of their life – do we see these godly qualities displayed and are these kinds of sinful vices notably absent?


I think we could group these qualifications into a few major categories or spheres.

·      Family

·      Character

·      Doctrine



1: Family (2,4, 12)

·      What kind of husband is he? A faithful loving husband. A good shepherd to his wife. How he treats his wife will give you a good idea of how he’s going to treat you.

·      What kind of father is he – how does he manage his household? The point being that the household is a testing ground (vs 5) because if you can’t manage the small fear of family than how will you manage the larger sphere of family called the church? In the family, as in the church, you are going to get all types with all kinds of problems – how does the elder or deacon manage them? Is he absent and distracted, does he ignore the problems that are there, is he harsh and dictatorial? Are his family flourishing under his care and leadership or languishing? Because this is a good indication of how he will manage the church.

2: Character

·      Godliness or holiness – again from what you can observe

·      Does he manage himself well – free from excesses – excess greed, excess alcohol, excess anger, excess emotion.

·      Does he manage people well – hospitable – opening his life and home to others, not quarrelsome but gentle (3). Is he able to deal with people, even difficult people, because whether he’s an elder or a deacon, he’s going to have to deal with people.

3: Doctrine

·     As Tit 1 put it, an elder must hold firm the trustworthy word.  Vs 9 says that deacons must hold the mystery of the faith.

·     So only elders are required to be able to teach God’s Word and refute error because that pertains to their role and responsibility

·     But both elders and deacons must understand, hold fast, and live out sound doctrine because both are called to run their lives and their ministries according to the principles of sound doctrine.

·     One who is poorly taught, or new to the faith – doesn’t have the biblical understanding to serve effectively in a formal ministry position.

·     They will make decisions based on wordly wisdom rather than biblical wisdom and God will not be glorified.


So 3 major areas to look at and consider – his family, his character and his doctrine. Then let me add one qualification here and at address the issue of gender –


4: Gender qualifications

Elders are the husband of one wife and are called to be the main overseers and teachers in the church. 1 Tim 2:12 Paul has just addressed the issue of female teachers – I don’t permit a women to teach or exercise authority over a man. So the office of elder is certainly only open to men.

Husbands are the head of the family by virtue of their gender and not their intelligence or skill and likewise men are the head of the local church by virtue of their gender rather than their intelligence or skill.

So this is not about skill, or ability or giftedness – this is about maintaining the order of authority that God has built into the marriage relationship.

But what about vs 11 when it comes to deacons? There are 3 major interpretations of this text

1.   Paul is referring to the wives of deacons

2.   Paul is referring to female deacons or deaconesses

3.   Paul is referring to female helpers or assistants to the deacons.

Let me say up front that I flip flop on this issue – I think I’m convinced, but I might change my mind, but let me tell you how I think about this.


I would reject interpretation 1 for the following reasons:

·      The Greek text says literally “the women” and the term “women” can be translated either women or wives. There is no possessive pronoun “their,” is simply the article “the.” If Paul wanted to be absolutely clear that he was speaking about their wives of the deacons, then you would have expected him to use the possessive “their” but he didn’t.

·      Also, there is this term “likewise.” Vs 2 elders must be…. Vs 8 deacons likewise, vs 11 the women likewise. So it would seem he is giving the spiritual qualifications for 3 distinct categories of church servants.

·      Since he comes back to talk about the qualification of deacons in vs 12, vs 11 can’t refer to the wives of elders and deacons and it is difficult to imagine why deacons wives would need to meet certain qualifications and not elders wives.


So that leads me to believe Paul is either speaking about female deacons or female assistants to deacons.

·      The Greek word “diakonos” had no feminine form in the N.T. So Paul had no way of saying “deaconesses likewise.” The common way of doing this in extra biblical literature was to say the “women deacons” Instead Paul just said “the women” which has made his statement a bit ambiguous.

·      We can split hairs over this and spill blood, but I think we will come to the same point practically – whether you call them female deacons or female assistants to the deacons

o  women are needed for many of the practical ministries in the church. We need them not only to serve, but to co-ordinate such service.

o  Women shouldn’t exercise authority over men in that service. So certain kinds of service would be more suitable to men than women.

o  So I don’t think we should get hung up on the name or title and instead concentrate on affirming the value women in ministry and clarifying the kinds of ministry women could and should perform.

o  So if a deacon is recognized for specific service in the church and operates under the oversight of the elders rather than as a deacon board or governing body alongside the elders – then I don’t see any biblical or practical reason why women should be excluded from this office. Women manage the practical aspects of a household under the headship of their husbands and God doesn’t see this as a conflict but as a wonderful complement to and extension of male headship.

Some specific examples would be helpful with the time that permits…


1 Tim 5:9-10

·      Paul is giving instructions about which widows should be enrolled to receive some financial assistance from the church. Not every widow, those who don’t have any family who could provide for them, and  those who have been role models of godliness.

·      Being a faithful wife, homemaker, doing good works, showing hospitality, serving the saints, caring for the poor and afflicted – this is quite a resume of useful ministry which complements male leadership


Rom 16:1-3

·      Phoebe – same word is used here “diakonos” and there is some debate as to whether the word is referring to the office of deacon, or the act of service because the Greek term can refer to either.

·      But what is not under dispute, is how valuable she was to the church. She seems to have some official church business to conduct and Paul is asking that the saints in Rome assist her in whatever way they can.

·      Remember that is the point of having recognized offices – that we might entrust them with valuable resources to do specific important ministry.

·      The in vs 3 he greets Priscillla and Aquilla and who is not aware of this ministry couple who are always mentioned together and who together instructed Apollos in Acts #


Phil 4:2-3

·      Here are not only fellow saints, but fellow workers and labourers in the gospel. Their value to the church is indisputable which is why Paul is so earnest about helping them sort out their differences so they can get back to fruitful service.


I don’t think we should get hung up on what they are called, the fact is that qualifying women should be tested and recognized in the church according to 1 Tim 3. There are certain ministries and ministry positions which a women should not occupy because it would involve her in teaching or exercising authority over a man and would undermine the principle of male headship in the family and the church – but that leaves a whole lot of ministry which is open to women and many areas of ministry which would favour and even require female servants who are serving the church in an official capacity.


·      It’s awkward if not dangerous for a man to go visit a female member who is sick at home and in need of practical assistance.

·      Various forms of hospitality which involve food and fellowship – why would we exclude women who do that for their “bread and butter” (excuse the pun).

·      Even decorating and beautifying the church facilities – why would we exclude women, who do much of that in our homes?

·      In most of our families, the wives are the social co-ordinators who plan the people interactions – why would we exclude women from doig those kinds of things in the church.

·      And of course teaching and ministering and discipling other women and children – which is what they do every day in their homes.

·      Our present church administrator, Shirley, is a another prime example of a female deacon who is effectively serving the church. Most pastors I know would lay off all their other staff before their church administrator and that person is normally a women.

I think this is something we need to look into as elders as I don’t think we are operating biblically here. According to our present constitution, the deacons form part of the executive of the church, so women couldn’t be part of the diaconate without exercising authority over a man, but this is something we can change if need be.



So presently we are putting forward these 6 new elders and 4 new deacons. We are asking that you test their character, their family, their doctrine – give them feedback both positively and negatively and at the end of August, we’ll appoint those who are willing to stand.