Question & Answer Forum

What kind of assembly work is deacon service?

W.E. Vine (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words) states that “deacon servants” and “bondservants” are servile workers. From the way these words are used in Matthew 22:1-14, he further suggests that their description as “bondservants” indicates their relationship to their master, whereas “deacon servants” indicates their relationship to their work. In Matthew 22, the king’s bondservants (verses 3, 4, 6, 8, 10) represented their master, invited the guests, and received mistreatment that was actually directed against the king. In verse 13, the king gives his deacon servants the work of executing his judgement.

With that distinction in mind, we note in the epistles that administering funds (Romans 15:25, 31; 2 Corinthians 8:4, 20; 9:12), preaching the gospel (1 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Timothy 1:12), and teaching believers (Ephesians 3:7;1 Timothy 4:6; 1 Peter 4:10) are deacon work. In addition, Mark and Onesimus (2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 13) gave personal deacon care. Phebe performed some deacon work, probably personal care consistent with a sister’s role.

Deacon service in the assembly can therefore be personal. Some, like the house of Stephanus, addict themselves to serving the saints as deacons (1 Corinthians 16:15). They labored and helped the apostle with his work (verse 16). Hospitality and other “support work” in spreading the gospel is deacon work. Assembly believers who preach the gospel, minister the Word to other believers, and who open or teach in Bible Readings serve as deacons. Someone administering special funds for the assembly likewise serves as a deacon. Overseers, however, guide the assembly (Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24) in distributing funds.

D. Oliver


How are deacons recognized and acknowledged?

Paul addressed all the saints, the bishops (overseers), and deacons at the opening of his letter to the Philippians (verse 1). Perhaps the murmurings and disputings (2:14) and the friction between former servants (4:2, 3) necessitated this reminder that God entrusts deacon service to some saints. Each serves in his sphere without jealousy, not aspiring to recognition and a title, but serving with a focus on his work entrusted to him by the Lord. Deacons are known by their work.

Overseers guide the assembly to entrust particular service to those who are proving themselves (1 Timothy 3:10) by doing public deacon work (as in verse 1, the word “office” is an unsupported and unfortunate addition). This includes those responsible to preach the gospel, open Bible Readings, and minister at assembly ministry meetings. These serve as deacons. Likewise those whose full time is devoted to such work are deacons of their assembly.

Keep all officialism outside the assembly! “Deacon” is not a badge to be worn; deacon service is a responsibility to be fulfilled (Colossians 4:17).

D. Oliver


Should a sister meet with the elders to discuss doctrinal issues?

The general statement regarding sisters is, “Let them ask their husbands at home” (1 Corinthians 14:35). In some cases, the elders could all meet to teach the sister privately from the Scriptures; however, generally it would seem best to discuss the issue with the sister’s husband (where this is appropriate or possible). Shepherds, though, are responsible to shepherd all the sheep (Acts 20:28), whether male or female.

If, however, the question implies a sister’s meeting with the elders to correct them, instruct them, or direct them, this is in direct violation of Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders, and be submissive” (JND). Further, 1 Timothy 2:12, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man,” clearly opposes a sister’s teaching or directing the elders. “Entreating”them ” as a father” (1 Timothy 5:1) would be an acceptable approach. Priscilla taught Apollos, but that is not relevant to this issue, since she was in her home and acted privately and in conjunction with her husband.

If the sister has doctrinal concerns, she is responsible to resolve them with her husband or father

(in the minority of cases where neither of these is an acceptable altemative, she could receive the private help of a couple of overseers). If she and her husband agree on this doctrinal issue, he can discuss the matter with the overseers. If, on the other hand, they disagree, her submission to him would keep her from overriding his judgment. If, after seeking help from a “multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6), she feels responsible before God to express her concern, she could present to the elders a calm, respectful statement of disagreement.

D. Oliver


If a sister meets with the elders, should her head be covered?

When elders meet to receive help from the Word of God regarding their responsibilities (Acts 20:17-35) or to make decisions regarding the care and direction of the flock, a sister should not be present. It is a meeting of elders. When the elders meet with a person to shepherd him (in this case, her), to hear how the individual was saved, or to discuss that individual’s coming into the fellowship, a sister who is present is expected to talk with them. If she is not expected to be silent, she should not be expected to wear a covering. These two truths are united in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and 14:34, 35, both being in the section of 1 Corinthians that deals with assembly gatherings.

D. Oliver