The Diaconate -- By: G. Anderson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 030:117 (Jan 1873)
Article: The Diaconate
Author: G. Anderson


The Diaconate

G. Anderson

The question has recently been raised, whether the diaconate was an office in the apostolic church. Some have contended that it was not; but rather an ecclesiastical growth of a later date, and that if we would return to apostolic simplicity the office, as it now generally exists in our churches, must be discarded. If this be so, we ought to know it, and act accordingly. Our fundamental principle is, that the Scriptures alone are our guide in all matters of faith and practice. To this principle we should unhesitatingly conform, whatever may be the result. We should not shrink from its application, even if it should overturn customs which have been most venerated by us, and should lead us to act contrary to all the teachings of our fathers. In this there will be universal agreement.

Let us then examine the Scriptures on the question at issue. In this examination we must bear in mind that the polity of the New Testament churches grew up gradually. Christ laid its foundations when he gave to his disciples the ordinances,—baptism and the Lord’s supper, — and the great law of discipline found in Matt. 18. On these foundations the apostles built, as the necessities of the churches,

gathered through their labors, demanded. We should naturally expect, therefore, to find the polity of the apostolic churches most complete in the latter part of the apostolic era. This expectation is not disappointed. The polity of the New Testament churches is most clearly outlined in Paul’s Pastoral Epistles.

Moreover, the object of these later epistles furnishes an additional reason, which does not conflict with, but re-enforces, the preceding, why the polity of the New Testament churches is more clearly presented in them than in the earlier and more weighty letters of Paul. The object which the apostle had in view, when he wrote the Pastoral Epistles, was to give to both Timothy and Titus special directions concerning the formation and government of churches, while the object in the earlier epistles was mainly to correct false notions of the gospel, and to hold in check corrupt tendencies, or to reform corrupt practices. Hence all allusions to church polity in the earlier epistles are merely incidental. Outside the Pastoral Epistles Paul never uses the term πρεσβύτερις, and writes ἐπίσκοπος only once, in the salutation of the Epistle to the Philippians. In Ephesians he speaks of presbyters, but calls them pastors and teachers. He names them again in 1 Thess. 5:12, but designates them as προι...

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