By Hoyt Houchen
Question: Recently in a Bible class we had a discussion as to whether a church can appoint deacons to serve where there are no elders. Will you please discuss your understanding of the Scriptures on this matter?
Reply: Scriptural authority is established by one of the three ways: (1) expressed command, (2) approved example or (3) necessary inference. There is no command, no example nor any inference in the Scriptures that would authorize a local church to exist with deacons, but not elders. This situation, therefore, would be unscriptural.
Deacons are to be selected and appointed as servants of the congregation. The word “deacon” is from the Greek word diakonos and is translated by Thayer: “one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master; a servant, attendant, minister” (Greek-English Lexicon of the N. T., p. 138). Since deacons are servants, if there were no elders, who would oversee their work? Furthermore, deacons do not have any ruling power over the congregation. Elders are the ones to rule or oversee the local church (1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17; Heb. 13:17). In view of this, deacons cannot scripturally take the place of elders. There is absolutely no scriptural authority for a local church to exist with deacons, where there are no elders.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 11, p. 324
June 7, 1984