Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government
FORM OF PRESBYTERIAL CHURCH-GOVERNMENT. 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.
Question 1.—Does the Scripture hold out deacons as distinct officers in the church? Answer.—Yes. 1 Tim. 3:8. That they are a distinct ordinance of Jesus Christ appears: 1.) They are found in Christ’s catalog of church officers distinct from all other officers extraordinary and ordinary—helps, 1 Cor. 12:28. The Greek word ἀντιλήμψεις[antilempseis] properly signifies “to lay hold of as in taking up some burden or weight.” Metaphorically, it is here used for deacons whose office is to help and succor the poor and the sick, to lend them an hand to lift them up &c. And this office is here distinctly laid down from all other ordinary and extraordinary offices in the text. 2.) They are distinguished from all ordinary officers counted by Paul, Rom. 12:7, 8. Under prophecythere is the teacher and pastor; under ministry, the ruling elder and the deacon. The deacon seems to be described by two words, setting down the two principal acts of his office, viz. relief of the poor and needy (“he that gives,” ὁ μεταδιδοὺς [ho metadidous]—share), and succor of the sick and afflicted (“he that shows mercy,” ὁ ἐλεῶν [ho eleon]—to show mercy). 3.) This officer was so well known and usual in the primitive churches, that when the Apostle writes to the church at Phillipi, he directs his epistle not only to the saints but to the officers, Phil. 1:1. 4.) Deacons have a divine approbation and commendation in Scripture, if they execute their deacon’s office well, 1 Tim. 3:13. 5.) Because the complaint of the widows was that they were neglected in the daily ministration, or deaconry, Acts 6:1 (τῇ διακονίᾳ τῇ καθημερινῇ [te diakonia te kathemerine]); therefore, this text must insinuate a deaconry or office of deacon. Question 2.—Is this office perpetual? Answer.—Yes. Acts 6:1-4. This appears from the following considerations: 1.) The apostle lists qualifications laid down by Christ for deacons, 1 Tim. 3:8-15; but since the qualifications are not extraordinary, they belong to those offices which are ordinary and so perpetual. 2.) The manner of the deacon’s vocation or calling unto their office is delineated in such a way that it shows this office to be ordinary and therefore perpetual. a.) They must be chosen by the church, Acts 6:3-5. b.) They must first be proved and tried by the officers of the church before they may officiate as deacons, 1 Tim. 3:10. c.) They must be appointed by the officers of the church to their office and set apart with prayer, Acts 6:3, 6. 3.) Because the occasion of their first institution of this office, Acts 6:1-3, and because the churches are never likely to lack poor and afflicted persons, there will be constant or perpetual need of this office, John 12:8. 1Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8. 21 Tim. 3:8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15; Acts 6:1,2,3,4. 3Acts 6:1,2,3,4.
Question 3.—Doesit belong not to his office to preach the word, or administer the sacraments? Answer.—Yes. Acts 6:1-4. Thus do the Papists, Prelates and others err maintaining that deacons are to preach the Word and administer the sacraments. Their first argument is that those who were chosen to be deacons were those full of the Holy Ghost, Acts 6:5, but, say they, this is not required in a man to distribute money. They are confuted in this for the following reasons: 1.) To distribute in a civil and natural way requires not a man full of the Holy Ghost, but to distribute in simplicity, and with the grace of heavenly cheerfulness, Rom. 12:8; and with the qualities of a complete deacon, 1 Tim. 3:12-14; requires the Holy Ghost. 2.) The Holy Ghost is required for sanctification, as well as for gifts of preaching, Luke 1:15; Matt. 10:20. 3.) Stephen did no more in Acts 7, in his apology, than any witnesses of Christ convened before rulers may do, 1 Pet. 3:15; yea, though it were a woman who may yet not preach, 1 Cor. 14:34. 4.) It is true that Philip did preach and baptize, Acts 8:5, 6, 12; however, Philip was an evangelist, Acts 21:8. Their next argument is that deacons must hold the mystery of the faith, therefore he must be able to preach. However, this does not follow. 1.) Paul clearly differences the deacon from the preaching elder, 1 Tim. 3:1, 2, 12, 13; and requires that the elder be apt to teach, but not the deacon. 2.) The purpose of selecting deacons was to relieve those called to preach of the ministration of tables, Acts 6:1-4; thereby we see these two offices to be differenced. 3.) Whoever may by his office teach, by his office may administer the sacraments, for Christ gives one and the same royal patent and commission for both, Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:23; John 4:1, 2; but that teaching or ministry of the word pertains not to the deacon is clear, Acts 6:4; therefore, the deacon may not teach or preach. Again, they do assert by argument that because the deacon must govern his own house well, he must be able to govern the house of God. But note, the deacon is never called a ruler; nor is the same dignity of ruling the church put upon the deacon, 1 Tim. 3:12, which is put upon the overseer, 1 Tim. 3:5. Lastly, they make much of the deacon being ordained by the laying on of hands, Acts 6:6. However, 1.) There is need that deacons be tried; they must be found blameless in conversation, not apt to teach, which is required in a teacher, 1 Tim. 3:10; for those who must work the work of the deacon, Rom. 12:8, must be approved and tried blameless, lest they defraud the poor. 2.) It is not said that deacons were ordained with fasting and prayer, as the elders chosen in every church, Acts 13:3; 14:23; but simply that they prayed and laid hands on them, Acts 6:6. Question 4.—Doesit rather belong to his office to take special care in distributing to the necessities of the poor? Answer.—Yes. Acts 6:1-4. Deacons have by Scripture their work and employment appointed them, with directions how to discharge it. This is evident because: 1.) Their work is διακονεῖν τραπέζαις [diakonein trapedzais], “to minister to tables, serve tables” (hence the name deacon is derived). 2.) Their work is to give or distribute alms, “he who gives,” Rom. 12:8. 3.) Their work is to show mercy on the distressed, sick, afflicted, &c.,called therefore, “he that shows mercy,” Rom. 12:8. 4.) Their work is to be an help, not hindrance in the church, called helps, 1 Cor. 12:28. Directions are revealed how they must discharge their work and office. They must attend and wait upon their ministration, Rom. 12:7. As the ruling elders serve the spiritual ministration, so the deacons the temporal. 5.) They must give with singleness and show mercy with cheerfulness, Rom. 12:8