Last time we tried to make a distinction between that terms “qualifications” verses the “qualities” of a deacon. We came to understand that the scriptures revel to us that it is the “qualities” spiritual man and not the “qualifications” of a man that we are to seek out in persons that we are to be placed in the office of a deacon. And with this thought, hopefully still in our minds let’s continue to move forward with the consideration of exactly what “wages of a deacon are.” We notice that one of the first deacon’s in Acts chapter six; and the first one mentioned is a man named Stephen, whose name means “crown,” he was one of the seven who served the church at Jerusalem. After he was chosen and ordained in Acts chapter six, it was evident that the “qualities” that God had blessed him with made him well “qualified” to fill his office. And it was these “qualities” that God had given him that brought him to a death by which he was blessed to be able to give God so much glory. We find him standing and speaking to a group the Sadducees and Pharisees who found themselves utterly helpless before the force of his witness and the logic of his reasoning. He was well grounded being thoroughly acquainted with the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, in which the “council” of Jews who were also well versed, and this was in and of itself a disconcerting thing for them. Because the more that he successfully met each one of their arguments against the truth, the more their anger grew against him. Finally Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin where he preached one of the most fully recorded sermons in the New Testament.
Finally it was their madness that brought them to become a murderous mob rushing forth to take his life. For when his enemies could do nothing with his arguments or his preaching, they took matters into their own hands. And contrary to both Roman and Jewish law, they seized Stephen and without awaiting a sentence against him, he was taken as a blasphemer and stoned to death. This beloved and faithful deacon died as he had lived, as a witness to the Christ whom he had served. And with his last breath he shouts with triumph, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59), and with mercy in his words he said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60).
When we consider what happened to our Brother Stephen, does it seem to us that it worth while to serve as a deacon? This is exactly the kind of self examination that is required that the man of God who is called to be a deacon. He must be mindful that others have given their lives for their faith in Jesus; there is an endless list of martyrs whose blood was shed for the cause of Christ and His dear Kingdom.
When we consider the thought of the wages for a deacon it is always hard to even think about rewards, and this is because we all must remember that we are debtors to grace. Each one of us, like the Apostle Paul, seeing ourselves again and again as being “the chief of sinners,” especially when we consider the price that Christ paid to redeem us from our many sins. The rewards or “wages” that we receive are all determined by the grace of God. For us, even death is a profit, for we know that “to die is gain.” There can be no doubt that the purpose of all the promises of God serve to strengthen our faith and to urge us onward and upward to our fullest effort, as well as to encourage us in the midst of our struggles.
For the deacon, hard work is what is called for, their consecration is challenged, and their sacrifice is expected; but the rewards or “wages” far outweigh the effort. What “wages” does the deacon receive? In the world’s riches, there isn’t enough gold and silver that could ever pay for such faithfulness and devotion. But in the blessings of God, untold riches of grace are ever with such a one of these faithful servants of Christ.
Stephen’s faithful witness is found an end in his martyrdom. Philip, another of the seven is recorded to have served for over twenty years, and yet we understand that he was martyred at Tralles in Asia Minor. Prochorus was ordained as an elder and became the bishop (or pastor) at Philippi. And he is also believed to have been martyred at Antioch. And Parmenas, tradition says, was martyred at Philippi during the reign of Trajan.
The scriptures tell us that Nicolas was a proselyte of Antioch, which suggests that the other six were probably Jews by birth. It is said that he became the founder of the Nicolaitanes, a heretical sect in the churches of the first century which is condemned by Jesus in Revelation 2:6 and 15. But bear in mind that this is tradition, not fact. It is entirely possible that the opinions of this sect did not come directly from his preaching. But it is possible that all of these seven men, godly, dedicated, and deeply spiritual deacons, came at last to a martyr’s death. And the question that is before us is “was their deacon’s office worth such a high price?”
How much value is there in the fact that they were enabled by the Holy Ghost to meet their hour victoriously? Is it fair to say that the man who serves God faithfully as a deacon may expect, (as I’m sure that these brethren did,) that God will provide for them an extra degree of victorious grace in the trials that will come to them and as an extra joy a crown of glory? And is it not this very same grace which He gives to us today? I believe so!
The scriptures reveal that the results of the election and ordination of the seven had an almost immediate result. It is written that “The word of God increased.” I believe that it safe to say that the “word of God increased” both “quantitatively” and “qualitatively;” “quantitatively” in that there was a greater number of witnesses added to the church, and “qualitatively” as in the effectiveness of the pastor’s ministry, and all of this in keeping with the will of God concerning how that we too are to do things in the church today.
Deacons who have a desire to make their pastor a more able preacher, preaching with power and the demonstration of the spirit, have an opportunity to; by and through the grace and guidance of the Holy Ghost, to realize that as the result. According to the New Testament pattern, nothing more can be done which would have the result of the multiple blessings of Christ, than to have good and faithful deacons working at the task assigned to them by the church.
“The number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly” (Acts 6:7). And as we as God’s elect people in the Kingdom adhere to the old paths remaining true to that pattern; we will also reap the same great and wondrous harvest. I’m not saying that great multitudes of people are going to crowd into our church houses, but we ought not to be surprised at what the Lord of the harvest will bring to us in keeping with His wondrous mercy.
When these at the church at Jerusalem took up the responsibility of the office according to the scriptures the result was an ingathering of souls. And so great was the result that the words of these first seven faithful deacons that “a great company of priests were obedient to the faith” were added to the church. And can there be any doubt that the influence of godly, faithful, consecrated and dedicated men will reach into both high and low places being forth a good witness to those within the church as well as to those outside.
A man who is willing to serve faithfully as a deacon also has as his reward the fellowship with the saints of God. He has his part with these very same first seven men who in like manner were elected and served in the first church. What a blessing to have the knowledge that he is a part of an unbroken line of deacon’s going all of the way back to that first church of Jesus Christ, and to His Apostles!
As a source of support to the pastor they have a close relationship with him that is unlike any other relationship that is found in the world. Not only does he have the fellowship of a family tie but the fellowship of a divinely ordained service as a reward that is without measure! But how could there be any better wages than this?
And we read that men who “have used the office of deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree” (1 Tim. 3:13). In fact, no human “degree” that has ever been given by mortal man could be more deserved than one accorded to the man who has devoted his life to the service of God, Christ Jesus and His people.
The word “degree” in this passage in First Timothy means a “threshold” or a “step.” It is used to picture a grade of dignity and wholesome influence in the church. Not an advance in rank, as is in worldly religions, but a position in the esteem of his fellow servants in God’s house.
Before a man is elected as a deacon in the church he is like many others in the church. But as they faithfully serve, they almost visibly increase in spiritual stature. And if they humbly exercise their office faithfully they will develop in their spiritual effectiveness in the eyes of the church. This growth is caused when having put their hand to the plow and not looking backward, they are always moving forward step by step towards the “degree” that is spoken of for the deacon who faithfully serves.
Another wage that comes to the faithful deacon is a great “boldness” in the faith, which the word that is most often used to describe the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. This had to do with His bearing before those who were against Him. Nothing intimidated our Lord’s word. And the testimony of His apostles was that they too, like their Master, spoke the word of God with boldness, just like Jesus did, which came to them as a result of their fellowship with Him. And the New Testament scriptures say that deacons are to have “great boldness in the faith” (1 Tim. 3:13). This means that they are to have a confident public expression of the faith, such as would belong to a seasoned deacon who has gained a good standing and in consequence and has no temptation to be “doubletongued.”
How many churches are handicapped by timid men? These men who are elected into the office of deacon are to not be timid, but they step out and take the lead and go forth into the labor of the Kingdom of God, pulling together all of the resources within and without the church. When something like the lawn needs to be cut, they gather together the laborers to meet the task. When the roof is leaking, they don’t need to go into conference; they act and get the job taken care of. They are quick to listen to the opinions of others, and most willing to follow the plan which someone else has suggested and which others approved. Standing for, and under girding the efforts of their pastor with encouragement and the wisdom that God has richly blessed him with. This “quality” is not lightly bestowed by our Lord. It’s given to His faithful servants, the tired and experienced deacon, the man who has been willing to accept the full responsibility of his office for the delight that is found in faithfully serving His Lord Jesus Christ, for the love of His kingdom and His brethren.
I say that the wages of the deacon are immeasurable, because they are the blessings of God which flow and are innumerable. Beloved there can be no greater privilege then to be chosen of the church under the wisdom of God to be an Old Primitive Baptist deacon.
Next time we will try to take up the thought that means so much to me and to elders who serve as pastors in old Baptist Churches and that is that “quality” of a deacon who sets the ministry free.