Is a deacon’s work material or spiritual?
Various New Testament passages show that deacon service can be material and physical. Angels ministered to the Lord (Matthew 4:11; Mark 1:13); Martha served (Luke 10:40; John 12:2. Financial relief (same word) sent from Antioch to Jerusalem was entrusted to Barnabas and Saul who fulfilled this ministry (Acts 11:29; 12:25). Paul and Apollos, however, were ministers (1 Corinthians 3:5). Ministers wait on their ministry (Romans 12:7). In the epistles, the word usually describes a spiritual responsibility. Even Paul’s ministry to the saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25) involved an administrative responsibility for the money. In addition, the qualifications for a deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-10) are spiritual, including his “holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.” Deacon work then does not exclude physical and material responsibilities, but its emphasis is spiritual (1 Cor. 3:5; 12:5; 2 Cor. 3:3; 4:1; 5:18; Eph. 4:12; 1 Tim. 1:12; 1 Pet. 4:11).
Were the 7 men appointed in Acts 6 “deacons”?
Two words related to the word “deacon” appear in this passage. Twice the word, “the service of deacons,” is used: “neglected in the daily ministration” verse 1); “to the ministry of the Word” (verse 4). The other word, “to serve as deacons,” is in verse 2: “leave the Word of God, and serve tables.” Administering the care of widows in the assembly became an issue. To the Twelve, their deacon service with God’s Word had higher priority, so this deacon work should be entrusted to others. The qualifications for this work are all spiritual and moral (verse 3). Later, the issue in Antioch was Jews eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:12, 13). Here, although all were saved Jews, some distinction – based on whether or not they spoke the language of the Gentiles, Greek – affected the widows eating. Seven men whose names indicate that they spoke Greek met the qualifications. The Spirit guided in this doctrinal issue by beginning to remove ethnic distinctions among believers. The apostles identified themselves with the seven men (verse 6) and the transfer of deacon work took place seamlessly. These seven did deacon work, but they did not have the title, “deacons.” They did not assume an office; they had the responsibility of a work.