\o/    2 or 3 gathered, number 6

Deacons: A Discussion

Q. Doesn't the New Testament refer to Deacons and Bishops in Philippians 1:1? Wouldn't this imply offices? And what about Acts 6?

A. There is no reason to presume that ecclesiastical officers are in either passage brought into view. First, these persons are not called officers here nor elsewhere. Second, no other letters in the Scripture refer to or are addressed to church officers of any name or description. This fact is most significant. Third, the word used here for deacons is so general a term that it and its derivatives are applied to Christ Himself, angels, the apostles, evangelists, apostolic messengers, civil rulers, the saints in general, certain women in particular&endash;even to a run-a-way slave. Fourth, the Bible does not reveal that officers are necessary to the formation or existence of the church. Consequently, we see none inducted into an office or expelled from such. Fifth, there is no mention of the origin of such an office of deacon. Those mentioned in Acts 6 are referred to as the Seven&endash;not deacons. One of the Seven, Philip, is later called an Evangelist. Sixth, there is no mention of the specific duties or privileges of an official "deacon" in New Testament literature. Seventh, deacons, so called, both preached and baptized in the first century, unlike their modern counterparts. Eighth, if we were speaking here of an office, it would not be a "lower one" because that which is denoted by the word deacon is a very high form of Christian expression. Christ said that if you would be great you must be a servant. Mark 9:35, 10:44.

What Paul and Timothy are possibly employing here in Philippians 1 is the same contextual motif that appears numerous times in the apostolic writings. They are contrasting the old and the young as they introduce their letter. The function of the older ones (bishops) is to oversee. The function of the others, the younger (deacons) is to serve.

A number&endash;but not the majority&endash;of commentators lend support to such a position. For example: Oxford's Century Bible Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, dated 1904. From page 109: Deacons are the younger men of 1 Peter 5:5. Paul often called himself a deacon or minister and his work a ministry. And it is doubtful whether in his lifetime the word had obtained any official significance. As the elders of the church were the overseers so the younger men were appointed to subordinate tasks. The seven elected in Acts 6 are not called deacons.

Q. Doesn't 1 Timothy 3 speak of qualifications for the diaconate?

A. No, there is no mention of qualifications but rather of qualities that are mandated. These are the same standards that all of the saints are elsewhere exhorted to pursue. They may be regarded as qualifications in the sense that they denote a quality, an ability, or an accomplishment that makes a person suitable for a particular position or task. The grammatical structure of 1 Timothy 3 is not conditional as it is when pertaining to the widows who were to be taken under the churches care. 1 Timothy 5.

The key to unlock this passage is in the phrase in like matter (which is also translated likewise). Paul addresses the old men, then the young men, then the women. The three groups are separated by this key word. It is important to know that the Greek word for deacon is identical in the masculine and feminine forms. This is why he differentiates between deacons and women.

By conventional logic and wisdom we would also have to make an office out of women and "being grave, not slanders, and temperate and faithful in all things" would become the conditions for office. Our translators broke the rules when they rendered this word as wives. In this context it is a linguistically unfeasible. Besides, why should the wives of deacons meet higher standards than the wives of elders, which are alleged to be the higher officers?

It is fascinating to observe that the only particular person in Scripture that is referred to as a deacon in connection with a particular church is a female. Phoebe, in Romans 16.

It is also intriguing to realize that if the standards in the above passages were to be taken as absolute conditions for "church office", then very few&endash;and we do mean very few&endash;of the great Patriarchs could qualify as candidates to serve in our local churches as official deacons or elders. Even if they could have made the grade, their wives or children would have prevented them from maintaining their official status as for very long. By the way, these Patriarchs mentioned in Hebrews 11 are actually called elders as is the older brother in the prodigal son saga. Hebrews 11:2f, Luke 15:25. Do we really think these were qualified, elected, ordained, and salaried officers in a local church setting as the word elder now imports?

Again, the alleged qualifications are rather to be applied across the board to all the saints as ethical standards to which we should aspire. Commands&endash;not conditions. God commands that the saints be perfect. Perfection is the requirement of the saints&endash;not the condition to become a saint. A requirement is not a condition.

Furthermore, the similar letter to Titus, the missionary, is curiously silent about an office of deacon, as are Acts, Corinthians, etc. And how strange of Paul to convey to Timothy the qualifications of some indispensable and lesser office of the local churches and then immediately to tell Timothy that he himself would be a good deacon as he brings people to remember certain truths. The NASV is correct in its rendering of 1 Tim 4:6. "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant (deacon) of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following." Should not Traditionalists add this "qualification" of exhortation and teaching to their other list in accordance with the KJV since the word if was added to both passages? Consistency would demand it.

And since it can be ascertained that Timothy was called a deacon, shouldn't they add the "qualifications" of 2 Tim. 2:24, 25 to their list from 1 Tim. 3? It reads: And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct... Thus they could produce the office of "teaching deacon" to compliment their office of "teaching elder."

Moreover, Timothy's work as a deacon in this text, or any text, had nothing to do with the temporal and physical realities with which deacons are supposed to be occupied.

Q. What effect have the modern translations had in respect to this issue?

A. The KJV is a beautiful translation but it has some discrepancies which even the translators admitted to in the Letter from the Translators that used to be printed in front of every copy. We should not continue to idolize it nor to believe that it has been so highly revered in bygone ages.

Consider that though it is called the authorized version, it was never authorized. Also, note that the Pilgrims banned it in the New World and would not allow it on the Mayflower but chose instead, the Geneva Bible.

Surely, the translators were doing what they thought was the best with what they had. Of course no malice would have been involved. These Episcopal high-churchmen could no more visualize the simplicity of the primitive arrangement than could our nations founding fathers visualize the complexity of the modern welfare state.

Let us rejoice that the period in which the Scriptures were unavailable or were only available in Latin has come to a close. And let us remember that when any document is transferred from one culture and language to another that something is probably going to be "lost in translation."

Q. Since we know that elders were church officers, doesn't the association of deacons with them lead us to safely assume that deacons also are officers?

A. First, it should not escape our notice that elders and deacons are rarely ever mentioned together. Second, we do not know that elders, i.e. older ones, were officers in modern terms. We humbly assert that they were not.

Elders were the wise and mature seniors in each community, who were to oversee, to example, to pastor, and to shepherd in God's transgenerational plan. They were the role models for the younger ones that our own generation so desperately needs. Thousands of years of recorded Biblical history attest to their identity and presence prior to the writing of the so called "Pastoral Epistles". Josh. 24:31, 2 Sam. 12:17, 1 Kgs. 12:8. The very first reference to elder in the Scripture is Gen. 18:11 which mentions Abraham and Sarah as being old. The very first reference to elders is Gen. 50:7, which speaks of the elders of the family of an Egyptian king. Neither of these incidents nor dozens more suggest offices.

Elders, therefore, did not suddenly appear in the first century. When they do appear in Matthew's gospel it should be carefully observed that they have no introduction or explanation. They needed none. F.J. Hort of Cambridge was correct when he wrote in 1900: "In this epistle, Paul is not providing for the institution of an order of elders but giving instruction respecting a long existing order." (The Christian Ecclesia, p. 194).

1 Timothy 3 cites three&endash;not two&endash;distinct groups (elders or bishops, deacons or servants, and women) in the church. This leaves only one casual reference, Philippians 1:1, upon which to possibly hang or rather to force the entire weight of our modern system! This is astonishing!

The prominence of these bishops and deacons is further subdued by the facts that they are named after the congregation and are named without the use of the definite article the. See article entitled An Alternative.... below and see the previous edition of 2 or 3 g for more on the subject of elders and office. The article demonstrates that Philippians 1:1 can be accurately translated as: the bishops who are servants (or deacons). After all, it is the elders who are to be the bishops and pastors and this pastoral function consisted of training the body of Christ for works of ministry&endash;diakonia. See and study Acts 20:28, 1Pet. 5:2, and Eph. 4:12. If the elder-pastor is to train others for the ministry then he is most certainly a minister himself. That elders are also deacons is inescapable.

Q. Isn't there some illustration of deacons receiving ordination or installation to office as were the elders?

A. Sorry. Elders or older ones already existed in every community. If they were Christian elders or seniors, then they were appointed, assigned, or ordained to the work of mentoring and overseeing as the name bishop denotes. This is why Paul summoned the elders of the church&endash;not the elders of the town&endash;in Acts 20. As Hilary, an early Church father, wrote, "Old age is honorable among all nations; whence the church had seniors, without whose council nothing was done in the church." (quoted from The Theory of the Ruling Eldership, Peter C. Campbell D.D. Blackwood and Sons, 1866, p.10).

Consider, as well, this passage from Marvin Vincent's celebrated Word Studies in the New Testament Vol 3, 1887, p. 256: "Thus are to be explained the allusions to appointed elders, Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23. Elders are to be appointed as overseers or Bishops....The Presbyterate denotes an honorable and influential estate in the church on the ground of age, duration of church membership, and approved character. Only Bishops are appointed. There is no appointment to the presbyterate (eldership i.e. seniority&endash;ed. note). The late Dr. Hort, in his Ecclesia, holds that 'bishop' was not the designation of an office, but of a function."

We must let the Scriptures speak and interpret for itself. Consider as a clear example John 6:35: And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. We can safely derive from this that to come to Christ is to believe in Christ. Similarly when we see in 1 Peter 5 (and elsewhere) how the Spirit of God contrasts the elder ones with the younger ones, then their identity is confirmed. Eldership is a state into which you grow into&endash;not one in which you are voted into.

The connotation of Biblical eldership is maturity for the purpose of role-modeling. Is there not a gigantic deficit of this element in our civilization? And have you not seen, dear friends, too many older ones who were pretending to be eternally young? Eph. 4:13-15 ...till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (mature) man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.

Let us presume now for the sake of argumentation that the table servers of Acts 6 were indeed the prototypes of the modern diaconate. It then becomes suddenly apparent and problematic that these deacons had no official relationship with any of the local house-church congregations. At best, here would be a case for city or community deacons&endash;not the variety that are alleged to be essential to the constitution of a local church. If this is our precedent for deacons, as is universally claimed, the ratio would be 1 per thousands of Christians.

Q. Doesn't "being the husband of one wife" sound like a prerequisite to separate some from others? How about the expression "let them first be proved"?

A. Again, the nature of this passage is exhortational&endash;not conditional, as is apparent from the verb forms (i.e. the present indicative active and present infinitive active), grammatical context, and historical context.

Paul addressed an age when polygamy was prevalent, even among the Jews. Monogamy was the Apostle's directive for all. Eph. 5:31. Paul elsewhere allowed for second marriages, under certain stringent conditions, after the first marriage had been dissolved. Matt. 19:9, 1 Cor. 7:15.

Neither deacons nor elders were subjected to a probation period, nor were converts subjected to a waiting period before baptism. The practical idea in view is to be first converted yourself before you seek to convert or teach others. Rom. 2:21-23. Cautious recognition of another's gifts and credibility was frequently advised and allowed.

Scholars agree that personal letters of approval or commendation date back to the apostolic age. Such letters would have expedited matters for these earliest and mobile Christians. Even the apostles examined themselves and warned others of self deceit. 1 Tim. 5:22.

As elder and deacon were not offices in the modern sense, we look back and consequently seeing no one training or studying to be such and no one entering or leaving office.

Q. Is there still a basis for electing anyone for a specific task in the church?

A. Yes, if a special need or project would warrant such. The church would be entirely at its own discretion and liberty to do such. Examples are found in Acts 6 and Acts 15. In both events you have temporary&endash;not permanent&endash;delegates.

These newly elected persons could even be called deacons. The term is that comprehensive in its application.

Q. Why do today's "teaching elders" and "preachers" constantly refer to themselves as ministers which actually means a deacon? Why aren't the other deacons called ministers?

A. These are stimulating questions. They point us to the same misguided theology that gave us these phrases and their accompanying disorders: "full time ministry", "going into the ministry", "the minister of the church" and "ordained minister."

Incidentally, the term preacher is synonymous with evangelist or missionary in Biblical usage. It is not used in the context of any local church nor is its verb form to preach used to describe the verbal activity among the saints. Thus Jesus is said to have gone out teaching and preaching.

The formal title of the main man in most Protestant churches is "Minister of the Word and Sacraments" but we have never yet met one who preferred just to be called a deacon. Maybe deacon doesn't sound as distinguished or professional as Reverend. It must be added, for the sake of fairness, that we have encountered many men of sterling character who utilize that title. It isn't a litmus test.

Thousands of Baptist Churches, by the way, have a minister and a board of deacon's. Why is this?

Q. Isn't there something that has to happen in a meeting of the church that requires an officiant?

A. Negative. Churches can survive or thrive with elders&endash;not officers. The basic concept of an officer or mediator between us and God is that which was typified by the Old Testament priesthood and later realized in the eternal priesthood of Jesus. The distinguishing feature of every false religion is a separate human priesthood. Why do Christians follow false religions in this respect?

Thomas Witherow, historian extraordinaire of Presbyterian fame, touched on this more than a hundred years ago when he wrote: "As to the administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper we ought to divest ourselves of the last relic of that old sacramental theory, that the ordinances lose all their influence if not dispensed by the hands of a minister. What mystery is there about these symbolic institutions, that we should believe them to be more efficacious when administered by one of the elders rather than by another? Is such a notion consistent with our own doctrine, that 'the sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them or in him that doth administer them'?" (The New Testament Elder, James Bain, Bookseller, Toronto, 1873, p. 45,46. The quotation which he cites is from the Westminster Confession of Faith.)

As to the disciplinary process revealed by Jesus in Matthew 18, it should startle us that no officers are included. Paul, as well, affirms this most simple, direct, and expeditious plan: If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 1 Cor. 6:4.

Q. We know of plenty of churches with elders, deacons, and a minister. Everything is fine. What's the big deal?

A. The big deal is the sovereignty of God that causes even the wrath of men to praise Him and the dumb ass to speak. Ps. 76:10, Num. 22:28. If He were limited to flawless instruments for His work, then He would use none of the human species. Our commitment, however, is to the proposition that truth is better than error. The NT has much to say about the examples and continuing validity of the apostolic patterns.

Thousands of churches each year close their doors both here and in Europe, usually for the lack of "a minister" or money to pay one. Worse still are the millions of Christians who are not engaging in any kind of ministry, having left all of that for "the Minister" or the United Way or the Department of Social Services. The cumulative effects of this massive desertion of duty and this massive misappropriation of funds is known only to God.

Q. What exactly is meant by your phrase that service&endash;diakonia&endash;is a high form of Christian expression?

A. We live in an age in which "Christian knowledge", "Christian worship", or "Christian spirituality" has been elevated far above Christian service. The means has replaced the end. Christ and the apostles addressed this many times long ago. "Knowledge puffs up but charity builds up," Paul wrote. Examine 1 Cor. 13 concerning this. Take, as an illustration, Jesus' account of the good Samaritan who by his deeds fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets. Jesus promised blessings to those that "did" as well as "heard." Matt. 7:26. As to true Christian spirituality, notice that the fruits of the Spirit begin with something tangible&endash;love. Gal. 5.

Salvation is by faith but faith without works is dead. Knowledge isn't enough. Meditation that becomes an escape mechanism isn't enough. 1 Tim. 1:5: Now the end (i.e. purpose) of the commandment is charity... Faith, hope, and charity are all precious virtues. The greatest is charity.

Q. Whom does this issue confront?

A. All of us in all kinds of ways. This is the basis of ethics and thus the meaning of life. As all Christian doctrine revolves around Jesus Christ, all Christian duty revolves around diakonia. The world-wide, life-wide implications of this are so very, very vast.

Diakonia essentially represents the difference between a "worship service" paradigm and "worship and service" paradigm. Whether it will ever be implemented on a major scale in the churches will determine if all are in ministry or only a few are in the Ministry. Acceptance or rejection of this ministerial assignment, to a great extent, will determine whether one's faith shall be dynamic or anemic. Alive or dead.

But first, let us put all the religious dimensions of diakonia aside and look at the purely sociological aspects of it. Here's the point: human beings respond to other human beings who can identify with their circumstances. Hebr. 4:15. Diakonia not only identifies but it seeks remedies. Diakonia says, " I not only see you, I understand you, and I will help you." The universal effect is that service generates respect, appreciation, and influence. Politicians know this and thus profess to be "public servants". The politicians of the former Soviet Union knew this and thus restricted all charity to only flow through government channels. A dictator such as Fidel Castro knows this and therefore outfits himself in the plain military attire of an ordinary service-man. Groups such as United Way, Planned Parenthood, Shriner's hospital, Kiwanis, Civitan, etc. make their appeal as voluntary service organizations and therefore attract large numbers and large amounts of money because service is regarded as a universal virtue.

Corporate America and its advertising agencies, you have seen, have just about worn out the theme and phrase: quality and service. Now that our industrial base has gone east and south, we're supposedly becoming a "service and information" economy. What a comforting thought this must be for the unemployed.

Those involved in the slaughter of the innocent call themselves "abortion service providers." And those that collect your Federal tax dollars &endash; the Internal Revenue Service.

A popular book, entitled Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (Robert K. Greenleaf, 1971, Paulist Press, New York) was on the list of bestsellers for self-explanatory reasons.

The friends of Christ must realize that servant leadership is their timeless ideal and that it has been essentially hijacked by other parties in this century. Wisdom demands that she recover her missing treasure. The church must again become the servant-church in order to prosper, to command respect, and to fulfill the Great Commission.

As you recall, there were those in Jesus's lifetime who followed Him for the loaves of free bread. John 6:26. Their spiritual descendants are still among us and still expect God to be their servant&endash;their little Genie in a bottle who will magically appear to grant every whim and wish whether its more possessions or a "word of knowledge." Think about a woman who marries a man for his money and you'll get the picture.

And as you would suspect, these frequently get angry at God when they don't get what they want. There is a message of reproof for such in the study of diakonia.

This service lifestyle speaks to those who say that conduct and ethics don't really matter anymore in this age of grace. Scripture, on the other hand, says that we were created for good works and for ministry. Eph. 2:10, 4:12. In Colonel Doner's profound Samaritan Strategy, A New Agenda for Christian Activism, 1988, pg. 106, we read: "The most common trap we fall into is to think that our acts of personal piety or religious observance substitute for service. Our fundamentalist heritage has all too often been summed up in religious exclusions or slogans like "we don't smoke, dance, drink, chew, or go with people who do" to the exclusion of works of service. Unfortunately, in our zeal for personal piety, we have managed to miss God, because service cannot be replaced by religious exercises&endash;special offerings, our sacrifices, fasting, or even prayer. Of course, service must be based on these things, but it cannot be substituted for by any one of them."

Furthermore, the diakonia issue flies into the face and into the teeth of our modern seminary system which awards it "Doctorate of Ministry" degrees, thereby perpetuating false dichotomies of clergy&endash;laity and of sacred&endash;secular. Seminarians are the very ones that should know better than this, but to admit to these self-contradictions would, in effect, be to commit professional suicide.

It seems that many of our clergyman are more interested in protecting their trade secrets than in proclaiming truth, despite their frequent challenges for others to call them into account if they stray from the Book.

Clergy habitually gut the meaning of ministry, reducing it to the priestly activity a few chosen ones. Next, they cut the nerve of volunteerism by turning ministry into something that is bought and sold. Then they'll churn out an endless supply of books, tapes, and magazine articles to discuss "getting the laity involved" or more appropriately, "why the laity will not get involved."

The centrality of ministry also prompts those who are endlessly pursuing undefinable "higher life" and "spiritual highs", not unlike a drug addict looking for his next fix. Much of this fascination with getting spiritual thrills is likely a clever cover-up for selfishness and sloth, despite all of the rhetoric that speaks of "deeper life", "higher plains", "praying through", and "intimacy with God." Jesus, on the other hand, says that what we do for others is actually done to Him and that even a cup of water, given in His name, is taken notice of. In other words, He takes diakonia very personally. So why is this aspect of "intimacy with God" given so little attention?

Diakonia&endash;with many other inspired words that connote motion&endash;is an action word from the Holy Spirit to define and give meaning to our lives and to the universe. The emphasis of Scripture is to make a difference for God, not to have an experience for yourself. Charity seeks not itself. 1 Cor. 13.

Let us, brethren, not reduce activism to a passive form of mysticism. Don't overly concern yourself with whether you're "letting go" enough or "holding on" enough. Christ has something better for His followers than a suspended state of animation, in which Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. Or to put it more politely: ...what does it profit...? James 2:14-16.

Certainly, we are to meditate upon our Lord and to pray without ceasing, drawing near, by faith, to Him as we bring "every thought captive to King Jesus." But such meditation about God and appreciation for God does not negate what God has commanded. He has commanded what to do as well as what to believe, think, and meditate upon. We are only to pray in our closets&endash;not live in them.

Rivaling this group in the area of cultural irrelevance are the brethren that reduce the life of faith to prophetic speculation and sensationalism. These can scarcely encounter a newspaper headline which doesn't signal the "last times" or Armageddon. Rather than overcoming evil with good, they are overcome with evil. They seem to think they are furthering God's purposes by retreating in the shadows as things worsen. Yes, things do worsen when the salt loses its savor and lights are hidden under a bushel. Rom. 12:21; 1 John 2:13, 14; 1 John 4:4.

Evangelism-minded Christians will recall a strong connection with diakonia and the art of fishing for men. Countless studies show that most respondents to the gospel were influenced, not so much by an evangelist or pastor but by a caring friend or relative.

This means going further than Christian bumper stickers, gospel tracts, and speaking in religious slogans. Life-style evangelism and old fashion hospitality must again become the order of the day.

Missionaries, too, easily trace diakonia throughout the execution of their specialty. Foreigners, they've learned, are very keen in discerning what is motivating the person who is seeking to convert them. They are very receptive of the servant approach.

This can be illustrated by the two kinds of ships that brought white men to black Africa in the proceeding centuries. The long term effects of these two groups of mariners are still prevalent throughout the world. Many of the new visitors dealt in the trade of slaves or, as the old versions of the Bible would say, "man-stealing." They bore the sword. Their message was: You will serve us.

Other ships carried gospel heralds, who bore the sword of the Spirit and proclaimed: We are your servants for Jesus sake. We will help to feed and clothe you. Our medicine will bring relief to you. Our teaching from God's word is good for all. His laws will mean justice for the family and the society. We will become all things to you, that we may win you. We will do unto you as we would have you do unto ourselves. We do not seek yours but you...

On the political front, this ministry-concept brings into check the pious theologians who grab the headlines and beg governments to spend billions of dollars more than is available, having conveniently abdicated their own responsibilities in the area of social services. It is no wonder that these are the same mainline denominations that are losing tens of millions of members, thus becoming sideline denominations.

In the same manner, some forms of "Christian Reconstruction", in attempting to reconstruct society without first reconstructing the church, can do little more than complain with the liberals, having also put their own eggs into the basket of "maintaining the minister" and "building houses of God."

And on the domestic scene, this theme rebukes parents who believe that the grand goal of family life is the upbringing of moral and intelligent children. As noble and necessary as this goal is, it is an incomplete one. Children, too, need to learn to serve, assist, comfort and relieve others. They can know and experience the joys of service and sacrifice for their royal Friend. How sad but true that many unregenerates&endash;young and old&endash;have experienced more of the joy of giving than have the saints. Friends, this ought not to be.

Christian husbands, as well, without reversing their roles should consciously and sacrificially serve their wives as Jesus Christ served the church. Too many Christian men have the idea that God has rewarded them with a lifetime personal valet, who is supposed to be on 24 hour alert. Wrong.

An attempt has been made to build a doctrine of male supremacy upon Genesis 2 in which woman is cited as a helper to man. This building topples in that the word for help, ezer, is used all seventeen other times in the Old Testament as referring to God. Hardly an inferior. Helper doesn't mean inferior.

Charity begins at home and so does true ministry. Charity produces ministry. In marriage, little things quickly grow into large things, as all have observed. Men, as a rule, don't see this because they can't see beyond the "big picture." "It's the little things that mean so much," women say. Thus diakonia with its emphasis on the menial tasks of life is a perfect antidote for lukewarm, low burning domestic fires. It has been said that one of the most effective preludes to romance in marriage is the act of taking the garbage out. Husbands take note.

As the root of the word diakonia means labor and service, so the indolent lifestyle of millions of Americans is contradicted. Shame on the multitudes of free-loading young men that have exempted themselves from the work force and entered "early retirement." Double shame on those that force their wives to work so that they can stay home and play. Triple shame on the sleazy lawyers, doctors, politicians who help ablebodied men and women to milk the system at the expense of the other taxpayers and future generations under a system known as Entitlements. And a fourfold shame on the apathetic American Church that did nothing as this hellish Pandora's box was opened.

When the letters from the apostle Paul were first circulated, his favorite introduction as a servant doubtlessly recalled his willingness to dirty his own hands rather than make merchandise out of the gospel. According to his teaching and example, the people of Faith and their leaders were to work so that you would have something for themselves and for others. Acts 20:34-35. His words, who had the care of all the churches upon him, come down through the corridors of time with an uncanny relevance: "If any man will not work, neither should he eat." According to this spokesman for Almighty God, loafers have departed from the faith&endash;regardless of the high-sounding spiritual psyco-babble that may be coming out of their mouths. 1 Tim. 5:8, 2 Ths. 3:10, Eph. 4:28.

Another important inference that must be drawn from our review of diakonia is the legitimacy of women&endash;all Christian women&endash;in ministry. Our dear translators sought to cover up Phoebe's ministerial role in Romans 16 by designating her as a servant.

While in that 16th chapter of Romans, notice also the honorable mention of Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labored in the Lord. This passage is reminiscent of of Phil. 4:3: "Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel..." We find it very difficult to conceive that such "labor in the gospel" and "contending for the gospel" consisted of being on hand to provide refreshments or laundry service.

The greatest 19th century defender of the Bible was, in our opinion, J.B. Lightfoot of Cambridge. If you enjoy footnotes containing seven different languages then you will love his 5 volume set on the Apostolic Father's. Concerning these women he wrote: "If the testimony borne in these two passages to a ministry of women in the Apostolic times had not been thus blotted out of our English Bibles, attention would probably have been directed to the subject at an earlier date, and our English Church would not have remained so long maimed in one of her hands." On A Fresh Revision Of The English New Testament, J.B. Lightfoot, London and New York, Macmillan and Co., 1871, p. 114.

The Church has quite often fought battles with one arm tied behind its back because many good men could not choke up these three words: women in ministry. Take the great John Knox, for example, and his book The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, which was just republished amid euphoric praises. In it he declares: Nature, I say doth paint women forth to be weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish, and experience hath declared them to be inconstant, variable, cruel, and lacking in spirit and regiment. (The Political Writings of John Knox, Washington: Folger Books p.43.)

Well, if women are so foolish when compared to men why do they attend more church meetings, pray more often, read more Christian books, listen to more Christian radio, manage more Home Schools, manage more crisis pregnancy centers and have more desire to keep their marriages intact? If they had no significant part in the advancement of God's kingdom, why did Saul arrest men and women? Acts 22:4.

We highly advise that the daughters of God do not wait around with the hope of being nominated and elected as a "deaconess" but that they begin now to deliberately affect others for God in their role as His minister and His priest. Someone is waiting for or perhaps dying for want of a loving and prayerful feminine touch.

And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we must see how the "least of these" must be factored into the diakonia equation and what our specific obligations are to them. They form that special strata of society that God has historically sided with. Yes, we are aware that those who receive salvation by grace through faith are ultimately on God's side, but...

Remember how Jehovah chose the Jewish people who were small and rebellious as a nation. Remember how He chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith. Remember how He chose the lowly things of this world that his own glory would be promoted. Remember how, symbolically, He prepared a banquet, compelled the poor, and the maimed, the halt, and the blind to enter and enjoy. The least of these are all around us. Now He wants us to side with them as His personal emissaries. They are the elderly, the unborn, the orphans, those in physical, mental, and especially spiritual pain.

What are we doing for them? In this me-first culture of ours, where do others fit into our priorities? Have we forgotten the great truth of that little acrostic: JOY is Jesus, Others, and Yourself.

Bonhoeffer, the Nazi resistance leader and eventual martyr, wrote and proclaimed that Jesus was the "man for others" and that "the church is the church only when it exists for the sake of others." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ, John DeGruchy, Collins Liturgical Publications, 1988, p. 275; A Testament of Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, G. Kelly and F.B Nelson, Harper Collins, 1990, p. 565.)

The Bible claims and experience confirms that inner pain is just as oppressing as external pain. Solomon observed that the spirit of a man will sustain his infirmities but a wounded spirit&endash;who can bear? Proverbs 18:14. Politicians in the U.S. are realizing this as well and have begun a new campaign of "mental health rights." Christians diakonia obviously intersects with this unseen dimension. It's what the NT epistle writers had in mind when they frequently wrote of "building up one another" and "encouraging one another."

This means that the church must address and relieve, by the power of God's spirit, these disorders that fall under the category of psychiatry and mental health, whenever possible. In a recent Christianity Today interview, Dr. Larry Crabb, boldly asserted that the Christian Counseling industry should be immediately dismantled in favor of what he calls eldering. Crabb, himself, has been a major player in that system for several decades.

Elizabeth Eliot, on her national radio broadcast, referred to this interview with great enthusiasm. We shall examine it at later date since "lay counseling" is one of the building blocks of the Christian Home Church, as is "eldering."

Older, caring persons conveying truth and love to their younger companions in a non-commercial environment is the model that we should have before us. Elders instead of experts. Such a system would still have a place for the Christian professional, but on a much, much lesser scale.

Q. Can't we just pray about everything and let God take care of it? God says that He will heal the land if we just seek his face?

A. Prayer is our first impulse in every undertaking and nothing should be said to minimize it, however it becomes a mockery if other duties are ignored. In the popular passage 2 Chr. 7:14 we are also instructed to turn from our wicked ways, as well as to pray. The prophets did not speak in uncertain terms as to what wickedness entailed: Isa. 1:15-18. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. "Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

A closer examination of the OT message will reveal that it is inescapably a social one as well as a spiritual one. Whole redemption for the whole human race. Body and soul. Individual and society. Let man not put asunder what God has joined. See, for instance: Deu. 10:18, Jer. 7:6, 22:3, Is.1:17, 58:6-7.

Q. Well, all this talk about ministry activity is making me a nervous. Are you sure this isn't legalism?

A. Let me answer that question with another question. How would you like it if your spouse bragged about his or her love to you but seldom demonstrated it? That is how our Saviour must feel when he sees His bride obsessed with crass minimalism towards Him and His laws. Jesus said that if we love Him we should keep his commands. To obey is not legalism.

Q. Can we reach a conclusion in this matter?

A. Against the precepts and examples of Christ and His apostles, the church gradually dispensed with brotherhood and introduced hierarchy under the guise of church officials. The seeds of this transition were embedded in fallen human nature from the start. This spirit of hierarchy appeared when the apostles argued who was the greatest as the one who washed their feet hastened toward disgrace and death. It was manifest, too, in the mother who wanted her sons to rule on Jesus' left and right hand. Etc., etc.

In a much more subtle fashion the church devised ecclesiastical offices in what was probably an honest effort to improve things. Church fathers and Bible translators conspired together in this endeavor that unfolded over hundreds of years. In order to accomplish their plan, the meanings of two of the most common words&endash;elder and deacon&endash;had to be stripped of their former and proper meanings.

In the first era of Christianity, to have referred to an elder as a younger person vested with religious authority would have been a thing unknown. The analysis of the timeless Milton's is true: old presbyter has become new priest. (from the poem: The New Forcers of Conscience...)

As to making an officer out of deacon, the most basic term for the child of God, and to presume that this officer is required for the establishment of churches is treason against the Word of God and an impediment to the Kingdom of God. A preposterous idea it is to assert that every church&endash;in order to exist as a church&endash;needs an indispensable group of deacons to be occupied with physical things. Excuse us one more time, please, but God has already ordained that every Christian man and woman is to be occupied with physical things. Such occupation is, as a matter of fact, to be our daily portion and province .

Let us, therefore, as we travel life's road, not be as were "the priest and Levite" who would not slow down to lift up a fallen fellow human being. Let us imitate the good Samaritan and our good Saviour and thus "fulfill all the law" by, shall we say, "getting physical." Christian, if you have the spiritual life of Jesus within you, this is your hour to "get physical" or quit masquerading as a faithful servant.

Q. Anything else?

A. We need to be humbled by this subject as we see how disproportionate our response has been compared to our Lord's favors. Fortunately for us, the Lord's mercy and forgiveness endures forever.

Let every Home Church family thoroughly acquaint itself with these great realities, then move on from the doctrinal into the practical realm. A great work, a great journey and a great trail of blessings lie ahead.

Let it not become, we implore you, a favorite pastime to criticize our other brethren with respect to the doctrines of ministry. Disagree &endash; perhaps. Despise &endash; never. A perpetually critical spirit of your brothers and sisters will only lead down a time-wasting, life-wasting path of stagnation.

The Home School movement is a needed reaction to U.S. public education, which is the worst in the industrialized world. Much of the capital for this movement has come from extensive criticism of the educational crisis. We recommend, however, a different and more tempered approach for the advocates of the Christian Home Church. Build upon Jesus rather than upon denunciations of the other brethren. Speak the truth in love and leave the consequences to the Lord. Exactly what are we trying to say? "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men." 2 Tim. 2:24. That's it.

Cooperate, as opportunities arise, with the local members of Christ's body, in spite of of their leadership configuration. Many, if not most, of them are better than their theology. (And if you happen to believe that your own theology is better than another's then you, of all people, will just have more to live up to.) In any event, Christians must learn to work together. Do your part to make it happen. Hold your own ground but always hold out your hand to the family of God.

Concentrate daily on the development and deployment of your gifts, resources, and opportunities. Rely completely upon God's power that works within you mightily. Dare to experience those words of your Lord&endash;it is better to give than to receive. Be vigilant and be among those who will someday soon hear the words, "well done you good and faithful servant&endash;enter into the joy of the Lord."

An Alternative Translation to Phil. 1

Sun episkopoi'''''" kai diakonoi'''''", "with the bishops and deacons." It is striking to observe that in Paul's lists of officers of the church&endash;apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph 4:11)&endash;there is no mention made of bishops or deacons (unless, of course, they are referred to by different names, e.g. "helpers" and "administrators": antilhmfei'''''" and kubernhsei'''''", 1 Cor 12:28). And nowhere else in Paul's letters do these two terms, "bishops and deacons," appear so coupled together. Hence, it has been thought difficult to determine whether they refer to administrative officers within the church at Philippi (cf. Ign. Trall. 2.12; 3.1; 7.2; Phld. 6.2) or simply to any person who might at any time be called upon to perform a particular function important to the welfare of the church.

The following general matters should be noted, however, before reflecting on the specific terms themselves: (1) The phrase episkopoi kai diakonoi may be explained grammatically as referring to two distinct groups of people, bishops and deacons, or it may also be correctly explained as referring to a single group of people, bishops, who are also deacons (see Moulton, Grammar, Vol. 3, 335 on the epexegetical kai). (2) Paul mentions the episkopoi kai diakonoi in such a way to distinguish them from the congregation...

It is possible to translate the expression, episkopoi" kai diakonoi", as "bishops who are deacons" or "overseers who serve." This is an ancient interpretation (Chrysostom) but it has been rejected, perhaps too hastily, by most scholars. Yet notice the following things: (1) "Bishops and deacons" looks very much like a ready-made, stock phrase (Lemaire, Les ministeres, 97-103). (2) This same coupling of terms not only appears in Phil 1:1 but also in two other early Christian texts, 1 Clem. 42:4-5 and Did. 15.1, whereas in Timothy bishops are discussed separately (1 Tim. 3:1-7) from deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13). (3) It is worth noting that Clement speaks of the apostles appointing their first converts as "bishops and deacons" and then he legitimizes this action by a free quotation from Isa 60:17, where in typical Hebrew parallelism bishops and deacons are equated: "For the Scripture says . . . 'I will establish their bishops (episkopoi'''''") in righteousness and their deacons (diakonoi'''''") in faith " (42:4-5). (4) The conjunction kai in episkopoi kai diakonoi legitimately may be used to point to a single group of people known as episkopoi kai diakonoi. (5) episkopo'''''" (bishop) and presbutero'''''" (elder) were synonymous terms in NT times, the latter, perhaps, the title of the office and the former a description of the duties of the officer (Acts 20:28; Tit. 1:1-7; see Lightfoot's Philippians, pp.95-99). (6) Polycarp speaks about presbuteros (elders) kai diakonos (deacons) in a way that does not seem to distinguish them from mere deacons (Pol. Phil 5.2,3). (7) Although certain early Christian writers did view "bishops," "deacons," and "elders" as separate and distinct offices (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-10; Ign. Smyrn. 8.1-2), this was not universally so. Thus it is reasonable to assume that at one stage of the tradition elders may have been called "bishops and deacons," or "bishops and elders" may have been referred to as "deacons."

If there were not two groups of officers in Phil. 1:1, why then the double title, episkopoi'''''" kai diakonoi'''''"? The answer lies "in Pauline Theology and also in the particular circumstances presented by the Philippian community at the time when the letter was written, i.e. dissension, lack of humility, and self-serving attitudes (cf. Phil. 2: l-5) &endash;circumstances that perhaps had their origin among the leaders of the community. So in beginning his letter Paul "tried gentleness and persuasion&endash;and at once he started by giving a title to the leaders of the church, something he normally avoided. At the same time he reminds them that authority before all else means responsibility, and he addresses them only after 'all the saints' whose edification (as diakonoi) they have been called to serve" (Collange).

If this interpretation can be sustained, no further inquiry needs to be made into why Paul, contrary to his custom, singled out certain officers of the church for address at the beginning of his letter. It was not, then, because they had control of the treasury and were chiefly responsible for the gift of money sent to Paul, nor because Paul felt a special need of bringing his commendation of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30) to the attention of the leaders of the church, nor because the members of the church lacked due respect for these leaders, but simply because by using this stock expression, episkopoi" kai diakonoi", "overseers who serve," Paul was articulating an idea that the Philippian officials needed to learn and adopt, one that is wholly consistent with Paul's own understanding of office within the Church (Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1), and with the teaching and practice of his Lord (Mark 10:45; John 13:3-17; Phil 2:5-11).

Gerald Hawthorne, Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians, Word, Inc., Dallas, 1983, pp. 7-10. The Author is a distinguished professor and scholar at Wheaton College. Used by permission.

To Be Read Aloud

The prohibition of Laodicea (in AD 360, forbidding the Lord's Supper from being held in private homes) completed a critical cycle. The Lord's Supper had changed from evening meal to stylized ritual. The assembly had moved from dining room to sacred hall. Leadership had shifted from family members to special clergy. Now the original form of church was declared illegal.

This cycle from house church to basilica epitomizes the dialectic between original vision and later adaptation, between Scripture and Tradition. Jesus in the gospels chose people of various trades for leadership roles. He gathered the crowds on hill sides and lake shores. The later Christians needed a priestly caste of leaders conducting cult in sanctuaries. Paul wrote of the assembly of people as the temple of God; the later Christians understood the temple as a building.

Something in the human heart calls for sacred space. We want to point to a spot as the place of God's presence, just as the Israelites could point to their Holy of Holies as the place of God's glory. We want a place where we can shift religious gears and somehow put behind us the perception of divine absence.

Something in the human heart apparently also longs for sacred people to service these sanctuaries, to assure us that these are truly holy places, and even to represent us in the holy place. The Levitical priests functioned precisely in these ways. Most religions have their professional holy people. Christians quickly developed theirs.

Second century Christianity appears to have longed for the sacred institutions of the Old Testament. The identification of the Christian official as priestly is clearly a reappropriation of a Jewish heritage. The development of the sacred hall with its restricted sanctuary and rigorous rules of ritual is in fact a reappropriation of the Jewish temple.

Paul, however, told Gentile Christians that they need not become Jews when they broke from their pagan cults. These Christians were to offer their daily lives as living sacrifices. Their very gathering was their Temple.

Earliest Christianity thus involves the dialectic between two concepts of the Temple, one made of people and one made of stones. Such a theological dialectic operates like two divergent lines of force or vectors establishing an actual direction somewhere between the two. The house church of the New Testament may well represent the first vector of this dialectic.

The House Church in the Writing's of Paul, Vincent Branick. Michael Glazier Books, Wilmington, DE 1989 pp.134-136. Used by Permission.

Network News

Hello Home Church heroes and heroines. We hope that you, by now, are achieving critical mass within your group and have been able to break the immense inertia of traditionalism.

The winds of change are continually blowing across the horizon, and the Home Church alternative is gradually gaining credibility and respect. There is not a month that passes anymore that we do not hear of an association of Home Churches being formed somewhere or another newsletter coming into existence. This brings us great joy and anticipation of working together in any possible way with any Christian organization or individual.

It is needless to remind you that there is a great diversity among these groups with respect to baptism, church structure, officers, role of women, children, and liturgy. Still, we trust that every group will have something worthwhile to offer. May the Lord grant you the wisdom, meekness, and patience to help change what needs to be changed in your own sphere and to respect those who differ. Change is slow, especially if we think that everybody except us may need to change. Accept this diversity as best you are able, knowing that the Lord will eventually unify us in spirit and truth.

Well, it is time to hear from you. With this double issue, your first volume is complete. You should have pages 1-52 and an application for the HCN. If something is missing let us know. The renewal fee is still $5, despite the increase in postage. Foreign rates are the same as domestic. We sense that the foreign fields are more open to the Home Church message than the U.S. and therefore desire to make our materials as available as possible.

We have a good number of missionaries, relief workers, and those over 70 years old on our list. Please indicate your status as such in order to receive a complimentary subscription.

It has been so encouraging to hear from you. We have dozens of letters to publish but have run out of space again. We wanted to get this leadership subject &endash; or rather controversy &endash; behind us.

We continue to receive excellent materials from our subscribers. In the next issue one such work entitled The Only House Church Manual You'll Ever Need by Joseph Higginbotham will be printed in its entirety. We wouldn't want anyone to miss this. Joe is unusually gifted in communicating.

So stay in touch, brothers and sisters. Pray for the House Church Network.

Our love to everyone &endash; young and old,

David Anderson

May the Lord bless you and keep you and cause his face to shine upon you and give you peace. Amen.

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Matthew 20:26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

Matthew 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Matthew 25:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Mark 10:43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

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