The Study of the Church

by WordExplain

"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;" Romans 16:1

Are There Women Deacons in the Church?

The Greek word for "Deacon" is the word diakonos (1249). It's most basic meaning is "servant."

 It is used “(1) generally of a person who renders helpful service servant helper (Matt. 20:26; possibly Rom. 16:1; (2) as an official in the church deacon, both masculine (1 Tim. 3:8) and feminine (probably Rom. 16:1); (3) as a government official minister, agent (Rom. 13:4); (4) as one who serves a high official attendant, servant (Matt. 22:13)” (Friberg Analytical Lexicon of the New Testament).

    I personally disagree that Phoebe, the diakonos Paul commended to the church at Rome, was an official deacon of the church in Cenchrea. She was an unofficial servant, not a female, office-holding deacon. Here are my reasons:

    (1) Paul described her as one who had been a helper of many, including himself. Phoebe had a servant’s heart, and she was worthy of an appropriate reception and of assistance in Rome.

    (2) The office-holding deacons of 1 Tim. 3:8-13 were men, not women. (a) One requirement of deacons was that they were commanded to be, literally, “of-one-woman-husbands” (1 Tim. 3:12). It is impossible for a woman to meet that requirement. (b) The reference to “women” in 1 Tim. 3:11, the immediately preceding context, most likely refers to the wives of the deacons, not to female officers in the church. If it be asked why deacons’ wives were mentioned, but not elders’ wives, my response is this: Deacons’ wives could help them serve the widows, but elders’ wives could not help them shepherd (feed, guide, and guard) the flock.

    (3) The coup de grāce to the whole position that there were female deaconesses in the church is the origin of the office of deacon in the first place (Acts 6:1-6). The apostles did not wish to be side-tracked with serving tables for widows when it was their Christ-given priority to be serving the word of God. The congregation of disciples were asked to select from among themselves “seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom,” whom the apostles might put in charge of the task of overseeing the serving of widows. If ever there were an appropriate time to designate women as officers in the church to oversee the feeding of widows, it was this time. The apostles, fortunately, did not succumb to the pernicious doctrine of feminism that is so destructive today in marriages, homes, churches, and in society at large. They understood the importance of qualified male leadership.

    The dogma of feminism, endeavoring to persuade wives to act independently of their husbands, was a diabolical strategy begun by Satan in the Garden of Eden with huge success, from his point of view (Gen. 3:1-7). Our world has been the poorer ever since.

(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB 1995.)

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Published initially May 18, 2015

Updated March 7, 2022