Qualifications, Duties, and Ordination of Deacons
THE "Philadelphia Confession," from which have been quoted the forms of ordination, has thus a clear statement of the only other office of a gospel church. Before quoting it let it be noticed:
The great ingathering in the church at Jeruslaem, followed immediately by persecution, brought many of the poor into it. They were doubtless made poorer by their union with the church.
There was, therefore, a general destitution among them. "They which had possessions sold them and parted them to all, and had all things in common, as every man had need." But unequal distribution, as a matter of course, occurred in ministering to such a multitude. Hence Peter (as the spokesman for the apostles) proposed that men should be chosen for this business, so as not to interfere with the ministry of the word by the apostles. Peter's address was to the assembled brethren (that is, to the whole church), that of those men who have companied with us all the time, "that the Lord
Jesus went in and out before us, must one be ordained," chosen, set apart. "And they," the church-members, "appointed or nominated two of them, and they gave forth their lots." They cast their ballots, or voted, and Matthias was chosen. This was the act of the church. No apostle inteferred.
"He was numbered with the eleven apostles."
The same is true of the deacon, as we shall see. It is the church that appoints, by vote, its officers. "Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business" (Acts 6:3).
Baptists have ever denied the clerical function of deacons, and they should promptly rebuke any such warrented encroachments.
Paul's statement of the qualifications of a deacon, includes his domestic life, as does also his statement of a bishop's qualifications.
"Let the deacon be the husband of one wife." This it is thought by many to refer to polygamy, and that though a member might have two living wives, a bishop or deacon must have only noe. Baptists hold that these instructions are literal, and that they apply to all times; that no polygamist
was received into those apostolic churches, and that it means what itsays. A deacon should be a married man.
The Ordination of Deacons It is as plain as the starlight, that when the church at Jerusalem chose their deacons., the apostles ordained them, set them apart. "Whom they set before the apostles: and wheh they prayed, they laid their hands upon them" (Acts 6:6). Baptists generall7y adhere to this gospel precedent. It is neglected or omitted in some parts of the United States; but where this is the case, generally othe gospel usages are also omitted.
The waymarks of the Baptists show a sacred adherence to every precept and example in the gospel, and the solemn setting apart of deacons as one of these is clearly stated.
Gospel example is followed throughout the South and Southwest.1
The Qualifications of deacons 1. The deacons were to serve tables, that is, attend to the business matters or temporal affairs of the church.
1 Of the offices of a trustee, secretary, and treasurer there is no need of remarks, further than that the law makes it necessary that church property be held by trustees chosen by the church or church authority; that a secretary is necessary to record the acts of the church, and keep its minutes; that a treasurer is necessary to record and distribute the funds of the church.
2. They were to be godly men, and of course tried men.
They were to be men of good report - of standing and character, both in and out of the church.
They were to be men of sense, wisdom, business men.
Their Duties 1. Their business was and is to "serve tables," that is to attend to the table of the poor. "The poor," said the Lord Jesus, "ye have with you always," so "remember the poor" is a special apostolic injunction. Deacons are especially for that, and deacons very frequently think that they are for everything in the church but this.
2. Their business was and is to provide for the table, the needs of the minister or bishop of the church. He sows to them spiritual things, he should reap of their carnal things. But he is not to be the reaper, the collector, or gleaner. Deacons are for this very thing - to glean the carnal things for the pastor's support. The deacon who has not this business on his heart, and who is not active or wise in its discharge, ought to give up the office.
3. The business of a deacon is to attend to the Lord's table - to provide the elements for the ordinance, and wait upon the people who are gathered as a church to celebrate the Lord's death.
4. His duty is to superintend the ordinance of
baptism; likewise assist the pastor and candidates, for the proper administration, that all may be done decenlty and in order. (Minutes of Philadelphia Association).
But in our estimation he has no spiritual authority or superintendence in matters of church government. He is not one of the pastor's "cabinet." He has no right to assume, because of his office, either as an individual deacon or as one of the "Board of Deacons," to examine the fitness of persons to become members of the church; to decide who shall be expelled or to petition the pastor to resign. Indeed, all acts of deacons, as such, beyond the strictly temporal affiars of the congregation are unscriptural, presumptuous, and dangerous to the peace of the church. =============
[Samuel H. Ford, Baptist Waymarks, ABPS, 1903. Typed from the original document by Linda Duvall; the document was provided by Pastor Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. - jrd]
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