Vol.XI No.X Pg.7
December 1974

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Dear Bro. Turner:

Does the Bible teach that the deacons are in charge of church funds and/or all material things?


For an opener, let us avoid an artificial distinction in "physical" and "spiritual" works of the church. Whatever God has authorized saints to perform collectively, it is for His glory, and there will likely be some overlap in the use of "physical" materials so that "spiritual" ends may be accomplished. This is not to say there is no difference in physical and spiritual needs. ACT.6:1-7 makes a contrast of "to serve (diakonein) tables" and "service (diakonia) of the word;" indicating that the apostles, in the reception and preservation of the word, served their peculiar function — a more important need.

Neither the twelve nor the seven are called "deacons" here, though all served. "Apostle" means one sent, and is applied to other than the twelve; and "deacon" means one who serves, and is applied without reference to some official title. Men seem determined to put "office" into places God did not put it. Marshall translates vs. 3, "office" in place of "business" — but the word is translated "need" nearly every other place in the NT The Greek has no word for "office" in 1TI.3:1, nor in vs. 10. Literally, these say, "If anyone aspires to oversight" and "let them serve." It is the work that is under consideration, not an office. Apparently we do not want to "work" or "serve" — we want an "office" with a "title:" something over which we can "have charge".

The funds used in meeting the need of the Jerusalem saints was "laid at the apostles feet" (ACT. 4:35-37); which is to say it was put at their disposal. When someone was needed to "serve tables" the apostles named the qualifications (which would equip for both "physical" and "spiritual" work) and appointed them. If anyone "had charge" here, it seems to have been the apostles. Funds to relieve later needs of brethren in Judea (ACT.11:27-30) were sent "to the elders" rather than to deacons. And when Paul brought "alms" to Jerusalem (ACT. 24:17; 1 COR. 16:3) we are not told of the specific receivers, but he presented himself to James and the elders (ACT.21:17-19) and declared what God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

Some think that when the apostles "appointed" the seven they "ordained" or "passed the authority" on to them. This concept has a faulty foundation. The priesthood of the church is entered at the same time and by the same process — upon becoming saints (1 PE. 2:5, 9). The scriptures teach no clergy-laity distinctions (MAT.23:8); no succession of office in the Lords church. (Matthias was selected a special "eye-witness" (ACT.1:21-f) and could have no "successors" in the years ahead.) Authority (in the sense usually used by those having official concepts) remains with Christ — deity has never abdicated to man (JAM.4:12)I think we had better leave "oversight" where God left it (ACT. 20:28; 1 TH. 5:12; 1 TI .3:5; 1 PE. 5:2-3); and all of us should concentrate upon "serving" according to our capacity.