Summary: This sermon briefly examines the qualifications and duties of elders and deacons serving the congregation.
It is our great joy today to ordain and install one man, who has been duly elected by the members of this congregation, into the office of Deacon.
The church is a living community of people redeemed by Jesus Christ. No one is more visible to the watching world than those who are in leadership over the church. They are the ones the world will point to as examples of what Christians represent.
We’ve seen in past years how some highly visible but disreputable men can tarnish the reputation of the entire church. Who can say whether some of these people are even genuine believers? Satan commonly sows weeds (false believers) among the wheat (true believers; cf. Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43).
Therefore it is important to carefully evaluate someone’s life before he can be put in a position of Christian leadership.
This evaluation has been done, and today I want to make a few comments about elders, deacons, and the congregation.
Acts 14:21-23 records the ordination of elders in the early church:
21 When they [i.e., Paul and Barnabas] had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
How does God reveal to the church who the elders should be so that the church can ordain them? This passage suggests that prayer and fasting are part of it.
But in the end, the church must determine whom God desires to serve as leaders based on a set of biblical qualifications that are clearly delineated in the word of God.
Elders are not primarily chosen on the basis of their knowledge of the business world, their financial ability, their prominence, or even their innate ability as leaders.
They are chosen because God has called and prepared them for leadership in the church. The men whom God selects will meet the biblical qualifications.
And what are the biblical qualifications of an elder? 1 Timothy 3:1-7 lists what is required of an elder:
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
What, then, are the duties required of an elder? Acts 20 gives us a look at the elders in Ephesus. In verse 28 Paul says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” An elder who rules the church must evaluate not only his own life, but also the spiritual needs of his flock.
Our Book of Church Order (8-3) specifies the duties of an elder in the following words:
It belongs to the office of elder, both severally and jointly, to watch diligently over the flock committed to their charge, that no corruption of doctrine or morals enter therein. They must exercise government and discipline, and take oversight not only of the spiritual interests of the particular church, but also the church generally when called thereunto. They should visit the people at their homes, especially the sick. They should instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourner, nourish and guard the children of the church. They should set a worthy example to the flock entrusted to their care by their zeal to evangelize the unconverted and make disciples. All those duties which private Christians are bound to discharge by the law of love are especially incumbent upon them by divine vocation, and are to be discharged as official duties. They should pray with and for the people, being careful and diligent in seeking the fruit of the preached Word among the flock.
These, then, are the qualifications and duties of an elder.
Acts 6:1-7 introduces us to a group who many believe to be the first deacons. Though these men are never specifically called deacons, they are certainly an appropriate model for deacons. Apparently, it was some time after this that the office of a deacon was officially recognized in the church. Acts 6:1-7 says: