“Deacon” is the title of an office, and in the Greek language, also a description of that office’s duties: to serve.
In 1 Timothy 3, we have the qualifications of overseer/elder in verses 1-7. Then, in verse 8, we are told the qualifications for Deacons, who “likewise must be ….”
- Dignified (1 Timothy)
- Not double tongued (1 Timothy)
- Not addicted to much wine (1 Timothy)
- Not greedy for dishonest gain (1 Timothy)
- They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Timothy)
- They must be tested first, then can serve if they prove themselves blameless (1 Timothy)
- They are the husband of one wife
- They manage their children and households well
- Their wives must be:
- Not slanderers
- Must be sober minded
- Must be faithful in all things
Those who serve well in this office “gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 3:13.
While not defined or labeled as Deacons, the 7 men selected in Acts 6 to oversee the daily distribution to widows were all men. The twelve apostles appointed them as it “is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” The men picked were to be “of good repute, full of the spirit and of wisdom.” Acts 6:2-6.
Controversy over “Deaconesses”
Many create controversy over 1 Timothy 3:11, in saying that females are able to serve as deaconesses. If that was the case, then verse 12 would make absolutely zero sense, as the next qualification of a deacon is to be a married man. Likewise comes from the Greek “hosautos,” meaning “in like manner.” A Deacon’s wife is to share certain traits of the Deacon himself.
It is important to note that in 1 Timothy 3:8, “diakonous,” a noun, is used to describe the position. When the qualification for women is noted, the term used is “gynaikas,” a feminine noun, which has been consistently translated as bride, wife, wives, and woman. I say this to demonstrate the logic of the passage: 1) qualifications for a deacon, 2) “similarly” the wife must be…, and 3) back to the requirements for the Deacon himself, with the qualification of being a husband, etc.
In Romans 16:1, Phoebe is to be welcomed. She is described as a “servant” in the English language. Some translations, though, refer to her as a deacon, as the word “diakonon” is used to describe her. As mentioned earlier, “diakonos” is both an office, and a description of the job: to serve. While the term “diakonon” is used to describe Phoebe, this term is not used in the portion of scripture that details the qualifications of a Deacon. With Phoebe, we simply have a description that she was a servant.
Prisca and Aquila are not described as deacons, but as fellow workers “synergous.” Philippians 4:3 discusses two females, who had labored alongside Paul. They are not referred to as deaconesses, either in English or in the Greek. Women obviously served in some ministry in the Bible. However, they did not serve as part of the leadership of the church. That is not to say they can’t lead by the example of their conduct (See Titus).