ChristianAnswers.Net WebBible Encyclopedia
Anglicized form of the Greek word diaconos, meaning a “runner,” “messenger,” “servant”
For a long period a feeling of mutual jealousy had existed between the “Hebrews,” or Jews proper, who spoke the sacred language of Judea, and the “Hellenists,” or Jews of the Grecian speech, who had adopted the Grecian language, and read the Septuagint version of the Bible instead of the Hebrew. This jealousy early appeared in the Christian community. It was alleged by the Hellenists that their widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of alms. This spirit must be checked.
The apostles accordingly advised the disciples to look out for seven men of good report, full of the Holy Ghost, and men of practical wisdom, who should take entire charge of this distribution, leaving them free to devote themselves entirely to the spiritual functions of their office (Acts 6:1-6). This was accordingly done. Seven men were chosen, who appear from their names to have been Hellenists.
The name “deacon” is nowhere applied to them in the New Testament; they are simply called “the seven” (21:8). Their office was at first secular, but it afterwards became also spiritual; for among other qualifications they must also be “apt to teach” (1 Timothy 3:8-12). Both Philip and Stephen, who were of “the seven,” preached; they did “the work of evangelists.”