The Work of Elders and Deacons (Benjamin Keach)

Consider the words of 17th century Baptist, Benjamin Keach (1640-1740), on Elders and Deacons:

The Work of Elders

1. The Elder’s or Pastor’s work is to study the word, to show himself approved. “A workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” 2 Tim. 2:15. And that he may also give to every one his portion of meat in season.

2. He is to strive to plant more fresh, and choice plants in the vineyard, and also to strengthen and cherish such plants as were before planted.

3. He must be very laborious and constant in preaching the word. “Let the elders that rule well, be accounted worthy of double honour, especially that labour in the word and doctrine,” 1 Tim. 5:17. Again he saith, “Meditate on these things, give thyself wholly to them,” &c. 1 Tim. 4:15. “Preach the word, be instant in season, and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine,” 2 Tim. 4:2. They ought to be disentangled from all worldly affairs, and be very painful labourers in the vineyard.

5. They must watch it also, to prevent the evil seeds of error from springing up therein, and to give warning of approaching dangers, and to see no servant of Christ neglects his work, duties, or business; or if any plants seem to wither, they must strive to recover them if possible.

6. They must know as much as in them lies the state of the vineyard, and of all that are planted therein, and water them continually with comfortable and consolating doctrine. Thus Apollos was said to water those that Paul planted,* and if any rotten plants or branches be discovered, they are (after all due means be used) to see they are cut off by the axe of excommunication.

The Work of a Deacon

1. The Deacon’s work is to take care of tables, viz. (1.) To see the Lord’s table be provided for. (2.) To see the poor’s table be provided for, and, (3.) the minister or pastor’s table also.

2. They are to take special care to see that the aged widows who are poor, are not neglected; and also that none of the poor are idle, and so put the church to an unnecessary charge; and are also to know the state of all the poor.

3. Moreover, the deacons are to be helps in government. Some think Paul calls the deacons elders, when he speaks of “elders, that rule well,” 1 Tim. 5:17, (as our annotators observe) though others judge he means ministers who are aged, and not able to preach the word, yet capable to help in ruling or governing the church; but some others think there were men ordained elders, that were not gifted to preach, but to be helpful in discipline, or in the government of the church; but we read neither of their qualifications, or how to be chosen (nor of their peculiar work, distinct from pastors, nor any such elders chosen in any particular church in the apostles’ days) can see no ground for any such an office, or officers in the church.

4. Deacons should see to the poor, that are sick, lame, or past their labour, and such that are out of employment, being reduced to straits. The deacons are the fathers of Christ’s poor, and therefore should be tender-hearted men.

5. They also should see that there is an equality in contributing to the necessary charges of the church, and to stir up and exhort the rich, and all that are able, to a free and cheerful contributing on all occasions.

Benjamin Keach, An Exposition of the Parables and Express Similitudes of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (London: Aylott and Co., 1858), 512–513.

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