THE DIACONATE IN THE BIBLE


Before the Diaconate as it is commonly understood today, became settled in traditional Christianity, the Greek term Διάκονος, simply meant “Helper, Waiter, or Servant”.

It has been assumed that this ministry appeared officially as an occupation the moment the Apostles consecrated the seven table waiters in Acts 6:1-6; however, the term διάκονος does not appear here, at all. But it is most probable, due to the nature of the function and the fact that it was the first time they selected people for that labour, even though the name it is not explicitly used there.

The word was used for the first time in the NT, in Paul’s epistle to Romans, speaking about Phoebe (Romans 16:1), but mentioned only as part of a longer conversation, which indicates that by the year 58 CE, the term and the function was well known. Soon after, the term is used in the epistle to the Philippians 1:1, together with the Elders, as an established class of local leaders, which also indicates that even prior to the letter to the Romans and Acts, this “Diaconate” had already specific implications as a form of an official ministry within the Churches. 

By the time Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, the existence of the Diaconate, as a Church ministry, in liaison with the Elders is clearly stated (1Timothy 3:8-13).

WHAT IS THE DIACONATE

What we can gather from the Bible, explicit and implicit information, is that the Diaconate is an official class of Church servants, whose existence, by nature and name, it is to support the Presbytery, in the tasks they have to perform their duty as Shepherds of the people of God.

These duties are all manual help that the Presbytery could request in service of the people of God, plus also in the celebration of the sacraments, if we take into account that it was Philip, the one who baptized the Ethiopian (Acts 8), the same person that was chosen to help at the tables in Acts 6, which according to the narrative, it seems more probable.

The fact that they also constitute a special body, it is plain in the letters of Paul to Timothy, when they are mentioned as a special group alongside the Elders, are required to have similar qualities as them, proving to be examples to follow for the whole community.

By extension, due to the mention of Phoebe (Romans 16:1), and “women” (Γυναῖκας), as part of the group of Deacons (1Timothy 3:8-13), it is assumed that women are most welcome and suited to this type of Ministry, that ideally, it is supposed to be permanent.

Omar Flores.


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