The word ‘deacon’ in Greek is the word ‘diakonos’ and it simply means a servant and it can be translated as servant, minister, deacon, or waiter. The word deacon is used in a special way and a general way. Most translators try to use the word, ‘minister’ when diakonos is being applied to a preacher.


‘Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?’ 1 Corinthians 3:5

‘He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ 2 Corinthians 3:6

‘If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.’ 1 Timothy 4:6

In the New Testament, when it’s applied to an office in the church, it’s translated as deacon. In a special sense, men who meet the qualifications are appointed for special work in the local church.


‘In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.’ 1 Timothy 3:8-13

The church in Philippi had elders and deacons.

‘Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons’. Philippians 1:1

One who serves

Again, in the New Testament, when it’s clear that we’re talking just about servants in general, then the word servant is used. It means a servant so may apply to anyone who serves.

‘The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside.’ John 2:9

‘Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.’ John 12:26

Jesus The Servant

‘For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed.’ Romans 15:8

There is one case where the word servant is applied to a woman.

‘I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae’. Romans 16:1

There are some translations that used the word ‘deaconess’ to translate it because Phoebe was connected to the church. This has led some churches to use this text, as their proof text, to appoint deaconesses. The word ‘deaconess’ can be very misleading in English, even while being technically correct.

The word, ‘servant’ makes a better translation in English even if the language doesn’t distinguish between male and female servants.

We always have to remember that one possible translation of any Bible verse, can’t and should never overrule or contradict other passages of the Bible. Remember, since qualifications for the office of deacon rule out women, we can’t just ignore such passages.

‘Let deacons be the husbands of one wife’. 1 Timothy 3:12

Should congregations appoint deaconesses?

‘In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.’ 1 Timothy 3:11

Paul here gives some qualifications for the wives of deacons, but there are no special qualifications for a deaconess. All faithful women are servants, thus deaconesses in the general sense, just as all men are deacons in this sense.

The point is simply this, there are special qualifications for the office of deacons, but not for the office of deaconesses.