In this eleventh chapter of our Set-Apart Communities series, we want to talk about the selection requirements that congregational elders use to select deacons who serve the people. And it is vitally important for you to know these requirements so that you and your family can be certain you are being led in the original, first-century faith once for all delivered to the saints, and not some other similar, lookalike faith. (And there are many lookalike faiths out there).
Primarily in this chapter we are going to take a look at the relationship between the congregational elders and the deacons. And then, in another place, we will look at the relationship between the priesthood and the deacons.
What we see is that the deacons serve both the congregational elders and the people, they serve all the way around. A deacon is a very humble, very important, service-oriented position. And this is basically the first position that anyone interested in serving should begin in. Whether he would like to serve one day as a congregational elder or perhaps in the priesthood, he should first begin in the position of a deacon.
So if you and your family want to make sure that you are being led in the original first-century faith, please continue reading about the selection requirements for deacons.
Nazarene Israel believes in what is called a Semitic inspiration of the Renewed Covenant (New Testament). What that means is that we believe that the original first-century texts were written either in Hebrew, in Aramaic, or perhaps in a combination of both. And as we show on the Nazarene Israel website, some of the church fathers even testified to this fact. The problem is, we do not have those original Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts with us. And for various reasons, which we explain on the Nazarene Israel website, we do not believe that Peshitta Aramaic is the original text. Meaning, the most ancient manuscripts we have today are copies of Greek translations of the original Semitic manuscripts.
For this reason, when we go to look up the definition of what a deacon is (as you know, we love to look up definitions!), we are going to go to Strong’s Greek concordance.
Strong’s Greek Concordance: Deacon
G/NT:1249, διάκονος, diakonos (dee-ak’-on-os), probably from διάκω diakō (obsolete,
to run on errands; compare G1377); an attendant, that is, (generally) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specifically a Christian teacher and pastor (technically a deacon or deaconess): – deacon, minister, servant.
Hebrew: shamash (a servant).
According to Strong’s Greek Concordance, a deacon is someone who runs errands, or rather, an attendant or a waiter. Whether they wait on tables or whether they wait on other menial duties, they are attending to certain things.
Now we are going to differ with Strong’s in that they define a deacon as specifically a Christian teacher and pastor. We will talk about that as the presentation goes along.
Also, it technically gives a definition of a deacon or deaconess, and it translates to a deacon, a minister, or a servant. Primarily, we are going to focus upon the male role. Toward the end of this chapter we will talk more about why there are female deaconesses in the Renewed Covenant while the commands or descriptions of deacon rolls are written primarily to the men.
Another thing that we need to know is that in Hebrew, the term for a servant (deacon) was probably the term shamash. Shamash has some variant spellings, but the Encyclopaedia Britannica defines shamash with the Hebrew meaning of servant. The plural of shamash is shamashim. Do not say shamishes, plural is shamashim.
Encyclopaedia [sp] Britannica
shammash, also spelled shamash or shammas (Hebrew: “servant”), plural shammashim, shamashim, or shammasim, salaried sexton [congregational official] in a Jewish synagogue whose duties now generally include secretarial work and assistance to the cantor, or hazan….
The ninth light of the candelabrum (menorah) used on Ḥanukka is also called shammash, because its flame is used to light the other candles.
That is the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s definition that they give for today. What we are going to see as this chapter progresses is that originally in the first century, the shamash performed a wide variety of duties. Basically, whatever was needed to be done to support the faith, both supporting the congregational elders and also supporting the people, the deacons supported in those tasks.
We also take a look at the symbolism of the shamash, which is the ninth light of the candelabrum (the hanukkiah). Now, a menorah has seven branches and a hanukiah has nine branches. And the ninth candle, the center candle, is also called the shammash, or the servant candle. Because its flame is used to light the other candles. The concept behind the symbolism is that it is the shammash who helps kindle a flame among the other believers in the congregation. We see witnesses to this in Acts chapter 6, starting in verse one.
Ma’asei (Acts) 6:1-2
1 Now in those days [after Yeshua’s ascension], when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews [against the more Hebraically oriented, devout disciples] by the Hellenists [the reformed Jews], because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of Elohim and serve tables…”
[Like the advice Yitro gave to Moshe]
The twelve have just too much to do and they cannot do it all by themselves anymore. What are they going to do here? Well, the twelve talk among themselves and decide that they have to find a solution. So they summoned the multitude of disciples and directed that they should seek out from among themselves seven men of good reputation, respected men who are full of the Set-Apart Spirit and wisdom, to appoint over that business. Meanwhile, the twelve would remain continually in prayer and the ministry of the word. That is very important, if we neglect the prayer and ministry of the word, we are no longer going to have Elohim’s favor. But we also cannot neglect the third tithe ministry. We need someone to help take care of the poor, the widows, and the orphans, which are basically third tithe functions.
What we see is that the shamashim were elected to take care of the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Meaning, they waited on tables, so to speak, so that the priesthood could then focus on the prayer and the ministry of the word without distraction. So, we see that the priesthood managed the first tithe business and then the deacons (the shamashim) were appointed over the third tithe business. And then the heads of houses were appointed over the second tithe business, which is raising up their families in the way that they should go so that when they were older they would not depart from it.
As we saw that last week, while the priesthood selects the congregational elders, the congregational elders select (or perhaps recognize) their own deacons. And the deacons are like unto the Levitical Order leaders which lead over ten families, or perhaps over fifty families in a large congregation.
In the Levitical Order the division is by tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands. But in the Renewed Covenant we do not really go by exact numbers. The size of the congregation and the way it is divided is more determined by the location, because congregations are by cities. And then at the priesthood level, the division might be more by language group. But effectively, in the Melchizedekian Order, whatever the elders or the priesthood need, they are going to appoint a deacon to that position, provided the support exists. And then how exactly the congregational elders or the priesthood break those responsibilities down is up to them.
Now, the selection requirements for deacons is going to be very similar to the selection requirements for congregational elders. Because really, if we think about it, a servant is a servant. Hopefully, we are all trying to serve both Elohim and His people. But as we are told to imitate Yeshua, a deacon should be someone who both has a heart to serve, is doing his best to imitate Yeshua, and also inspires others to do so as well.
Now, unlike congregational elders who can be old, a deacon does not necessarily have to be old. He can be young. A deacon does not necessarily have to be as far along in his spiritual walk as a congregational elder is. He can be someone younger, or maybe younger in the faith, who simply wants to help build Yeshua’s kingdom in a sacrificial way. And by a sacrificial way we mean more than just paying his tithes. Just paying your tithes does not qualify you as a deacon.
Well, there is an old joke about how great it must be to work in ministry because you only work one day a week. But the reality is actually somewhat different. I have met congregational leaders (pastors, rabbis, this kind of thing) who have had lots of money and lots of time, they have time to go here and time to go there. But if you are actually doing the job the way that Yeshua and His disciples did their job, you are going to be pretty busy as a congregational elder or congregational deacon. That is why the support is necessary. To do the job correctly and to truly raise up people in the way that they should go in a discipleship fashion, you are going to have plenty to do. That is why the support need is there.
So the job description of deacon could be summarized as having a servant’s heart and acting according to it. A deacon is going to help the people with whatever their needs are. Third tithe needs for the poor, the widows and orphans, but also just to help kindle a light in the people. And also to help take the load off of the congregational elders or the priesthood if that is where they are assigned. This way, the elders and the priesthood can stay focused on first tithe matters. So again, if you are trying to help build Yeshua’s kingdom as best as you can, this can be a very, very busy position. We are talking about a servant’s heart, something that everybody needs to take to heart.
The Messiah is a great king, and He had all authority. But yet, even though He had the authority, He came down off His throne, girded Himself in a towel, and washed our feet. There is not anyone who does not like to be served. There is not anyone who does not love to be loved.
First, when we are spiritual children, we are like babes in swaddling clothes. We need to be fed, changed, taken care of. Someone needs to adjust the temperature for us, all these kinds of things. But there comes a point in our walk where we are no longer being taken care of but rather must learn how to take care of others. And this is where someone starts to be ready to become a deacon in the walk.
When a person starts to realize, ‘Hey, wait a minute. What? This is a ridiculous situation. Messiah is washing my feet? I need to get up out of my chair, I need to help Him sit on His throne, and I need to wash His feet! That is what I need to be doing! What does He want? How Can I serve Him? How can I serve His people?’
When someone develops that kind of a servant’s heart, that is when they start to be ready for the deacon roll.
We see an example of this with someone like Abigail.
Shemuel Aleph (1 Sam) 25:41
41 Then she [Abigail] arose, bowed her face to the earth, and said, “Here is your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my adon.”
That is the kind of a servant’s heart that every deacon needs to have. We need to be doing everything as unto Elohim. A deacon needs to be serving the priesthood or the congregational elders to help them stay focused on first tithe matters. Also, to be serving the poor, the widows, and the orphans, to help take care of the third tithe matters. And then to also be helping out as much as he can, giving as good of an example and as good of a witness as he can to all the people. Both in the congregation and on the outside.
In that light, let us now take a look at the requirements given from the apostle Shaul to the apostle Timothy.
TimaTheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 3:8
8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued [his yes is yes, his no is no, he is not going to say different things to different people], not given to much wine [no substance, pornography, or gambling addictions. They are going to draw close to Yahweh and be healed of such things], not greedy for money [not covetous]…
Again, this is like the advice that Yitro’s gave to Moshe in the wilderness.
It is important for deacons to not be covetous because the deacons are going to be the ones to collect the people’s tithe monies and deliver that money to the congregational elders. Then in turn, the elders can divide the money and use it to missionize their city and town. Along with this, the deacons should already be happily paying their tithes because it is an example role.
How many times do we see people say, ‘Well, once I become a deacon or once I become an elder and start collecting other people’s tithes, that is when I will start tithing!’
That is not how it is to work. Those who are in a deacon role, a congregational elder role, or especially in the priesthood role are all in example roles. Meaning, you need to be the kind of person who is already setting the example of what we are all supposed to be doing.
So that people can look and say, ‘Wow! Look at this elder. Look at this deacon. They are really setting example, they are really leading by example and setting the example for the things that we all know we all need to be doing.’
TimaTheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 3:9
9 Holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.
A deacon also needs to be holding the mystery of the faith with the pure conscience. That means they need to be walking by faith and not by sight. There are a lot of tests, trials, and challenges to our faith, especially in these end times. A deacon needs to be someone who is already spiritually mature enough to know that we need to continue to walk by faith, even when things are not necessarily going the way we want.
We mentioned this in the previous chapter, but just to comment on it again, for those of you who are looking for a deacon or a congregational elder to lead you and your family in the way that you should go. A pure conscience is not how we could properly describe someone who preaches prosperity gospel, or any kind of a Messianic disorganization (the Messianic mess), or someone who preaches perhaps with a Saturday Night Live kind of tv show. These kinds of things are not Yeshua’s example, we do not find these kinds of things in Scripture. Therefore, they do not obey Yeshua’s word, and they cannot be of Yeshua’s Spirit. A pure conscience is someone who is looking at the requirements in Scripture and doing the kinds of things that Scripture says to do. Because they are hearing with spiritual ears, and they are doing what it is that they hear and what they know in their heart to be right. That is a pure conscience.
Well, people say, ‘Take a look at verse ten!’
1 Timothy 3:10: False Version
10 But go ahead and hire anyone for the job, no matter what they teach. They do not need to tithe, and they do not need to agree with the doctrine, and they do not need to already be contributing to Yeshua’s kingdom. Just pick anyone (and be done)!
Um, no. That is not what it says! What does it really say?
TimaTheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 3:10
10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.
(Blameless means not transgressing Scripture, or the doctrine—do not transgress Scripture or the doctrine!)
So a deacon must be tested and found to be blameless, meaning that they are not transgressing Scripture. They are hearing with the Spirit as we are all commanded to do, and then they are leading by example. They are following what it is they hear in their inner ears.
A deacon does not necessarily have to have the gift of prophecy, but they need to be acting and operating according to a clean, clear conscience. It is very important.
And for just a word more on this. Sometimes you get people who want to serve as a deacon because they lost their job or perhaps because they see being a deacon as a good job. In other words, they are there for the job (or a title) rather than for an opportunity to lay down their life in a living sacrifice for Yeshua. Meaning, they are not looking to build His kingdom. And that is precisely the kind of person we want to make sure we do not hire. That is why the deacons need to be tested first. Very important.
Okay, what about the all to common false version of verse eleven?
1 Timothy 3:11: False Version
11 Let their wives be irreverent, gossips, busybodies, slanderers with an acid wit and cutting tongues–and let them depart from what Scripture says.
Sadly, that is what we see sometimes. But no, that is not what Scripture says to do. Here is what Scripture says.
TimaTheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 3:11
11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.
When there is a problem in the congregation, as there will often be things brought out, you have to have discernment. You have to have wisdom. But you also have to have the love to bring these things out in a positive, self-controlled, temperate way. You have to walk by faith and not by sight, and to be faithful in all things.
Now, just as the deacon roll is an example role, so is the role of a deacon’s wife. You cannot just have the deacon walking correctly in the faith, the deacon’s wife must also be walking correctly in the faith.
Okay, now in reference to verse twelve, we need to speak very clearly and carefully. There are a lot of strong feelings on many different sides about gender roles and ministry, but we will talk about exceptions in just a moment. But here in verse twelve we have an indication that, when Shaul writes about congregational deacons, he is primarily addressing the males
TimaTheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 3:12
12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
Just like we talked about in the last chapter, originally it was Adam and Havah. Not Adam, Havah, and Wendy.
So, sometimes a deacon can be young. Perhaps he is not yet married or perhaps he is married but him and his wife do not yet have children. Whether they do or do not have children or whether a man is or is not married, the point is that a deacon is setting a good example for others to follow. And raising his children and his own house well shows that, not only does he have love, but also that he has wisdom. He may not be as far along in his walk as a congregational elder is, but the point is that he is setting a good example for others.
TimaTheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 3:13
13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Messiah Yeshua.
In response to verse thirteen we can only say ‘Amein!’ Because done right, ministry work is going to be a living sacrifice.
Again, you meet ministers all the time that are misleading people on a broad, easy road. There is no good reward for that. But the true faith is going to be a narrow and afflicted path. And to help other people find it, that is going to bear a great reward in Messiah Yeshua.
Well, people come back, and they say, ‘Norman, you are talking about a narrow and afflicted path. What is wrong? I mean, have you not ever read First Prosperity Doctrine?’
1 Prosperity Doctrine $:$$
$$ Let the elders make however much money they want. However much they make by book and DVD sales, they are entitled to keep it.
Hmm, that is not in Scripture! No, that is just what people are practicing in the Messianic movement. Oh well, okay. So let us forget about that verse because it does not exist. But as long as we are on the subject of how much elders and deacons should be paid or supported, let us take a look at what elders are actually supposed to do.
TimaTheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 5:17-18
17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine [they are involved in the first tithe work].
18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
(Single honor is the average wage for your town. Double honor is double the average wage for your town.)
Elders and deacons will be busy.
I have met a lot of ministers out there and they are basically misleading people on a broad easy path. Either they are preaching against order, or they are preaching prosperity doctrine, or they are preaching whatever it is that they are preaching. But they are not helping people to be conformed to Yeshua’s image and likeness. That is not Yeshua’s ministry. Whether it is intentional on their part or unintentional on their part, that is a mistake. That is about the nicest way I know how to say it.
But if someone is truly doing the job then they are going to be busy. Because people need help conforming themselves to Yeshua’s image and likeness. So, if you are really truly doing the work then you are going to need the support. And this is the whole the reason for the double honor. It is not so that the congregational elders can have some fancy lifestyle, but because they are going to be busy with a lot of people. A normal, average person has time to fix their cars, do their own home repair work, and a lot of other things for themselves. But if you are going to be truly involved in Yeshua’s ministry work then you are going to be busy. You are going to be on the go. That is why a servant leader needs the support in order to do the job that Yeshua is calling them to do.
Now, if we compare this to the Levitical Order and you run the numbers and do the math, basically, the Levites received what might be called a slightly above average (above median) wage. The priests received a well above average wage and they were considered to be in the upper class, so to speak. And, in the Levitical Order, the High Priest had a very high wage.
The Levites basically correspond to the deacons, and they should have a slightly above average wage, because they are going to be busy, they are going to need the support. And that is going to constitute a living sacrifice. Then the priests correspond to the congregational elders, who are also going to be extremely busy. They are going to need a well above average wage because they are not going to have time to save for themselves by doing their own car work, their own home repairs, these kinds of things.
In the Melchizedekian Order, Yeshua modifies this somewhat, concerning the priesthood. A priest is going to have nothing. What the priesthood gets is basically room and board and an opportunity to see Yeshua’s kingdom work completed. Because that is what needs to be in their hearts. All of this takes a lot of work and sacrifice.
But what we should see is that, in order to be selected as a deacon, a deacon should be selected from those people who are already happily contributing to Yeshua’s work. They should already be happily paying their tithes and happily trying to do something to help build Yeshua’s kingdom. And if they do not have that attitude of already loving Yeshua enough to try to help build His kingdom however they can, then that is not the kind of person that you need as a deacon.
Now, if someone is truly poor and they honestly do not have money and they cannot pay their tithes, but they happen to have skills that the ministry can use, then that is a separate issue. But it has to be managed on the case-by-case basis and has to be skills that the ministry can truly use.
The point is to test the deacons and to make sure where their hearts are. Are they truly wanting to seek and serve Yeshua and help build His kingdom? Or are they just wanting a job? That is basically the question that needs to be asked when deciding who to bring on as a deacon.
Okay. Finally, we need to say one more thing. And again, we are going to need to speak very carefully and clearly so that we are not misunderstood. We are going to talk about the role of women as deacons.
Women should not be congregational deacons, per se. But there are additional deacons, and they can definitely be female.
Traditionally, there are four roles in Israel. The first three are that of the king, the priest, and the prophet. We do see female queens in the kingship role, there is no problem with that. We also see women in the prophetic role and there is no problem with that whatsoever. However, the priesthood is always historically, at least in the Levitical Order, the domain of the males. We never see a female priest anywhere in the Tanakh (the Old Testament). Then we also have a fourth type of role which is the role of a judge. A judge is a special combination of the other three.
Now, we do see Devorah the prophetess and we talk about her more in other studies. We will talk about those studies in a moment. But what we need to take a look at here is that when we are talking about the role of a deacon (or in this case a deaconess) the apostle Shaul says the following.
Romim (Romans) 16:1
1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant [diakonos] of the assembly in Cenchrea,
2 that you may receive her in Yahweh in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.
Shaul does not say that Devorah is a saint, he says to receive her in a manner worthy of the saints. Basically, apostle Shaul is not calling her a congregational elder, but he is saying that she is yet a deacon, she is an attendant, she is a helper. She is waiting on certain tasks.
Also, if we take a look at Phoebe, she is basically demonstrating the kind of heart that every deacon should have. Whether it is a congregational deacon, or a deacon or deaconess who assists in a general sense. Whatever there is that needs to be done, Phoebe’s on it. That is why Phoebe was named as a deaconess.
And then some people would continue verse three where Shaul speaks about Priscilla and Aquila.
Romim (Romans) 16:3-5a
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Messiah Yeshua,
4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the assemblies of the Gentiles.
5 Likewise greet the assembly that is in their house….
Some people would say that they are deacons, but I do not know how they get that. Because here we see that it says, ‘greet the assembly that is in their house’. This puts them more in the congregational elder role. A lot of people would make a lot out of the fact that Priscilla is listed first, before Aquila. But if you want to know more on that subject I would encourage you to read three studies. I would encourage you to read “Gender Roles in the Kingdom” in the Covenant Relationships collection. I would also recommend “Junia: Woman Apostle or Courier”. (Spoiler alert! She was a courier). And if anyone is truly interested, you can read “The Ahab and Jezebel Spirits” in Nazarene Scripture Studies volume 5.
In conclusion, a deacon in a congregational setting is primarily a man who knows how to raise up his family in love and with wisdom, so that he can also know how to raise up Elohim’s people in the spiritual family of the congregation in love and with wisdom. He has to be someone who is already setting the example. He is already trying to help build Yeshua’s kingdom and he is trying to kindle that fire in others so that Yeshua’s kingdom can truly get built.
This has been our teaching on the selection requirements for deacons, I hope it has been a help for you. Please remember that these are the selection requirements you need to look for when selecting deacons to lead you and your family in the original first-century faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Please continue reading for chapter 12.