Featured Items Ritchie Christian Media

Question Box

Does the expression "a castaway" (1 Cor 9.27) indicate that the brother is no longer fit to serve and should be prevented from doing so, or does it mean that his continued service will not receive a reward? In the first case the assembly would act to judge the brother’s service, and in the second the Lord will judge at the Judgment Seat.

I think the questioner’s second idea is more in keeping with the context, but it would be helpful to make clear for readers of this Magazine that when Paul speaks of being "a castaway" he is not for one moment expressing the possibility of losing his salvation, but of losing his reward. The word means "to be disapproved" and also has the thought of "not having stood the test". Apparently it was used of coins and metals not having stood the test and hence being rejected. The Greek word was also used by the housewife for an earthen vessel that was cracked and would no longer hold water, fit only to be put on the shelf. It was not suitable for the high service for which it was intended. Every believer should make it their aim to be a suitable vessel, useful for the Lord. Paul in the context is speaking of his service in winning souls for Christ (v.22) and the need in view of this to keep his body with its desires in subjection. He would instil into the Corinthians the fear of being disapproved by God and rejected by Him from present service. He is thinking of his failure to gain the Lord’s approval at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The idea of reward for service is certainly in view in vv.24-27, but also it should be noted that self-denial or discipline is the subject of the whole passage from 9.24 to 10.11. Chapter 10 really begins with the connecting word "For", because the need for self-discipline or mastery over the body is solemnly illustrated by showing how disastrous had been the want of it in the history of Israel’s failures. Paul did not want to be as one unfitted for present service and not approved for final reward. So he imposed a rigorous discipline on his body lest sin should express itself through the members of the body. All servants should be aware that it is here that one could fail after preaching to others.

John J Stubbs

Should an assembly have a recognised "diaconate" who meet as a body? Should sisters be part of this?

The Greek word diakonos, three times transliterated "deacon" in the AV, occurs thirty times in the New Testament, other translations being "minister" and "servant". The related verb diakoneo, meaning to minister to or to serve others occurs twenty-two times.

Many have placed a restricted definition on the work of a deacon, regarding him as one occupied with the secular or administrative side of assembly work. The opening verses of Acts 6 are often quoted in support of this, but whilst the seven chosen men "served tables" (v.2), the apostles gave themselves to "the ministry of the word" (v.4). So both the seven and the twelve were fulfilling their respective ministries.

Two forms of deacon service are apparent among the Lord’s people:

a) service according to the gifts given by the Spirit (1 Cor 12)

b) service of a temporal and special nature.

As we have seen, both are set forth in Acts 6. Indeed the word is used for almost every kind of spiritual service, e.g. "Paul…and Apollos…ministers by whom ye believed" (1 Cor 3.5) – with reference to evangelists; "we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6.4) – with reference to apostolic and, by implication, to teaching ministry. However, practical service and administration are also embraced, e.g. "the daily ministration" (Acts 6.1); "and Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry" (Acts 12.25) – that of taking the "relief" to the "brethren which dwelt in Judea" (Acts 11.29).

Moreover, sisters are included, for the Greek admits of a feminine form which has been translated "deaconess". N.B. The service of sisters is distinct from that of brethren. The New Testament shows clearly what a sister may do in the Lord’s service. Thus we read of "Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea" (Rom 16.1); and then "even so must their wives (lit. the women who serve) be grave" (1 Tim 3.11).

In the present day, a situation can arise where e.g. an extension to the Gospel Hall is required or some modifications to the premises are necessary. In such an event, a group of brethren may well be given the responsibility of seeing through the project and this would necessitate them meeting from time to time to discuss progress, but this would only be for the duration of the project. They would not be meeting together in any official way as a "diaconate".

David E West


Back issues are provided here as a free resource. To support production and to receive current editions of Believer's Magazine, please subscribe...

Print Edition

Digital Edition

Copyright © 2017 John Ritchie Ltd. Home