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by Wayne Blank
The first church deacons:
"Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
The qualifications of a deacon:
"Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for gain; they must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons. The women likewise must be serious, no slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husband of one wife, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 3:8-13 RSV)
Whether a wife of a deacon was automatically a deaconess is not certain - the qualifications applied equally to a deaconess as a deacon (see 1 Timothy 3:8-13 above). It is known from the writings of early church history after the close of the New Testament time that deaconesses served prominently by caring for needy fellow believers, visiting the sick, and assisting in the baptism of female converts. Phoebe is perhaps the best-known deaconess in the Bible record.
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well" (Romans 16:1-2 RSV)
Fact Finder: What prominent Pharisee, who later became a Christian apostle, witnessed the stoning to death of the deacon Stephen?