Dear Brother McC.
For the benefit of S. E. K. and others we insert the remainder of your letter.
Once more we thank you in the Name of the Lord Jesus.
Sincerely in Him,
The word “deacon” is from “diakonas.” To ascertain the meaning of the word we may observe how it is translated in our New Testament. In such passages as John 2:5; Rom. 13:4; Matt. 23:11; Rom. 16:1; it is translated “servant.” In 1 Cor. 3:5, Col. 1:7, 1 Thess. 3:2, Rom. 15:8, it is translated “minister.” From these Scriptures we learn that deaconship like oversight, branches out in two directions: it serves the saints in the material things of the assembly and it serves them in spiritual things. While there is a general service for all saints there is a particular service that is distinguished in such Scriptures as: 1 Tim. 3:8; Phil. 1:1; Eph. 3:7; Rom. 16:1. Thus there is a deaconship within a deaconship—a special service in the midst of the general service of all the saints.
The church has the right to appoint its servants to serve it in looking after its material things (Acts 6:3). The Risen Head of the Church alone has the right to appoint the servants who serve the church in spiritual things (Eph. 3:7). This double aspect of deaconship is seen in Acts 6:4, the deaconship of the Word would be retained by the apostles. Deaconship cannot therefore be limited to material things. That is only one aspect of it, the other aspect is seen in the exercise of spiritual gifts with which the Lord has enriched the Church. Thus Paul describes the exercise both of the preaching and teaching gifts as deaconship (1 Cor. 3:5; Eph. 3:7-9).
Concerning the qualifications of these responsible ministers of God, a period of testing must elapse before such responsibility is entrusted, “Let these first be proved” (1 Tim. 3:10) ; “but as we were allowed (tested) of God to be put in trust with the Gospel” (1 Thess. 2:4). Men who move in and out of God’s assemblies must be men of principle and character as well as men of gift. The assemblies must not tolerate anyone who fails to carry the dignity that God’s standards demand. When Paul wanted to associate a young man with him in the work he looked for three things; Timothy was well reported of by the brethren (Acts 16:1-3); that meant he was a man of character, he was a man with a knowledge of the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:14,15), he was not an ignoramus. Moreover, he was a man of spiritual gift. It is to be noted that the wives of deacons must have qualifications too (1 Tim. 3:11). The wife of a man very often either makes or breaks him.
Priesthood, like oversight and deaconship, branches out in two directions: as a holy priesthood we enter in, and as a royal priesthood we go out to show forth God’s praises to men (1 Peter 2:5,9).
The burden of intercession is placed upon God’s holy priesthood (1 Tim. 2) and as God’s royal priesthood they carry the compassion of Christ to the ignorant, and to those who are out of the way. Since all believers are priests, this responsibility falls upon all of us. God has made us a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6). The possessions of the priesthood are described in the three “havings” of Hebrews 10: we have a sanctuary (V 19); we have a Great High Priest, in union with Whom we mingle our praises and intercession (V 21) ; we have a double fitness through the work of Christ and the work of the Spirit to enter the sanctuary (V 22). In the light of these priestly possessions, the Spirit gives His threefold exhortation in verses 22-24, which is an appeal to the three lovely virtues of the new man: faith, hope, and love: let us draw near in faith, let us hold fast in hope, let us consider one another in love. God’s priesthood has a solid foundation in the Living Stone; its temple is a spiritual edifice composed of living stones. In that temple there is an altar, Christ, upon whom the sacrifices of the priests are to be offered, sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. We mention at least four of these: a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17); our bodies yielded in full surrender (Rom. 12:1) ; our praises flowing unceasingly (Heb. 13:1), and our means given unstintingly (Phil. 4:18, Heb. 13:16).
To recognize any priesthood other than the priesthood of all believers is to deny vital truth. Since all believers are priests, it is obvious that any distinctive dress or title aimed at setting up a priestly caste from the rest of the Church is both superfluous and unscriptural.
“Jesus Himself drew near and went with them” (Luke 24:15). So often our Lord is not able to draw near to us, because our conversation is not about Him. The more we speak of Christ, His conscious presence will be enjoyed.