In Acts 6, where deacons were first appointed to their office in the church, their primary task at the time was to serve tables. There was a partiality problem and help was needed by faithful men to solve it.
The “deacons”, which simply means “servants”, were given the task of making sure that all the widows were treated fairly. The only requirements that the men needed was two-fold: “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). This means they had to have a good reputation, and they had to be men who were filled with the Spirit of God.
Although they did not have a requirement of being able to preach, we see that two of them did. Stephen preached shortly after his election as a deacon, and we are told that he was a powerful preacher. In Acts 6:10, we are told: “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.”
Philip also preached. God sent him down to a city called Samaria, where he “preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did” (Acts 6:5,6).
In verse 12, we see the results of his preaching: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Philip was indeed a powerful preacher.
In Acts 8:26, God sends this deacon to Gaza, where he meets with the Ethiopian eunuch. He preaches to him and this Jewish proselyte gets saved and baptized (vss. 36-39). Afterwards, God sends Philip away, and he preaches some more: “Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:40).
The Scriptures are very plain that deacons can preach. Their main task, however, is to help the pastor to have more time in the Word and in prayer, according to Acts 6:4: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” It should also be noted that the Bible only records two of the seven men as having preached – so it is not a primary requirement, but a valuable one if they should be so gifted.
It needs to be remembered that the task called for men who could meet the need to the glory of God. Although there were only two requirements at that time for deacons, further qualifications were given under the inspiration of God to Paul in I Timothy 3:8-13. These newer qualifications were given in order to meet present and future needs the church would encounter.
When a church is without a pastor, a deacon may fill the pulpit when a preacher is not available. However, as seen in Acts 6, it appears that not every deacon has that ability, and if they don’t, they certainly would be wise to get someone who can, and the aim should be to get a godly pastor as soon as possible. Remember, too, that poor preaching is apt to drive people away and hurt the church.
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