Deacons Without Elders?

Deacons Without Elders? Bible Question.


“Based on your study of the Bible, is it unscriptural to have deacons without elders?”


Because the Bible is silent on this subject, my study has convinced me that having deacons in a church with no elders is not a violation of the Scriptures. The works of elders and deacons are different. The elders are overseers or shepherds of the church (1 Peter 5:1 – 3; 1 Timothy 5:17). The deacons are servants of the church, for that is what the word means. The Greek word for deacon (in verb form) is used of those seven men selected by the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6). There is no record of that church having elders at the time, although it is possible that they did.

Some conclude that a church cannot have deacons unless they have elders appointed, because they tend to think of the deacons as some kind of “junior elders”. But deacons are not “servants” of the elders – they are servants of the church. And we may as well as argue that there cannot be elders unless we have deacons! The truth is that the work of each is separate from the other, and each can do their jobs without the other. If a church has both elders and deacons, then, of course, deacons work under the oversight of the elders – as do all the other members.

But if a church has deacons, and no elders, the deacons are still deacons – not elders. They are not spiritual shepherds and they have no more “authority” than any other member. They serve the church, and in the absence of elders, their work is directed by the church and is overseen in exactly the same way all the other work is directed in that congregation – whether in a business meeting or in some other way chosen by that local church.



2 comments on “Deacons Without Elders?

  1. Brother,

    I think your understanding is indicative of an overarching Protestant problem: no regard for chronological reasoning.

    Example: The CofC teaches that the Bible produces the Church, but in reality, the [Catholic] Church produced the Bible.

    And here: you argue that deacons can exist/lead/work without elders. Recipients of holy orders are not taken, grabbed, or elected by people who were not properly chosen (ordained), so deacons don’t work without the blessing of their elders. With no elders, there are no deacons. But of course, the CofC’s “elders” are not real elders (priests / bishops), and therefore, your deacons are not real deacons either. (So I guess anything goes in the new sects!)

    Please look into A) how the Church pre-dates the Bible, and B) Holy Orders are not taken, but are given. In other words, integrate chronological reasoning into your ecclesiology instead of hoping that the Bible-only is intended to work as a code. Because at the end of the day, your [Protestant] conclusion is no more binding than any [Protestant] preacher standing on any street corner–nobody can ever know what is true because you have no final authority to decide who has the best guess of the “code’s” meaning (and so why try?). In other words, to understand proper ecclesiology as reflected in the Scriptures, look to the proper ecclesia that provided the Scriptures!


  2. Pingback: Day 348: 1 Timothy 1-6; Leadership Qualifications | Overisel Reformed Church

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