Acts 6: 1-15Written by kathleen on Feb 22, 2015 in - No Comments
Acts 6: 1-15
Chosen to serve
Notice the mathematics in the Book of Acts. In chapter 2, the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47). Here in chapter 6, the number of the disciples was multiplied. But between the addition to the church and the multiplication of the church, there was subtraction from the church when the Lord removed Ananias and Sapphira in chapter 5. Sometimes that happens to us as well. That is, things are moving along. We’re growing. We’re being added to—then suddenly we’re hit with a painful period of subtraction. If you’re in that place today, take hope. It means good things are coming. As He did in Acts, the Lord often subtracts right before He multiplies.
Here in Acts 6, as the church was multiplying, as storm clouds were forming that could have blown the whole thing apart. 1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. During the days of Alexander the Great, Greek culture and philosophy of life had permeated the then-known world. As a result, many Jews, who were known as Grecians or Hellenists, adopted Grecian ways. Other Jews, referred to as Hebrews, remained true to the old ways and traditions of Judaism. The Hebrew believers looked down on the Grecian believers as compromising, calling them “second-class” Jews.
So with the Grecians claiming that their widows were being neglected in the daily serving of food, discrimination began to set in. Consequently, there was a potential division in the church based upon who was supposedly “more spiritual” which is a problem that can surface whenever a church grows Discrimination / predigest can take place in all kinds of subtle ways in the church today, and the early church was no exception
Previously Satan’s attacks on the church have come on many different fronts such as direct opposition, intimidation, and trying to corrupt the church through hypocrisy. So far these strategies have been unsuccessful; now Satan hopes to “divide and conquer” from within by raising one group in the church against another.
“In a congregation of that size, it was inevitable that someone’s needs would be overlooked.” “It is not suggested that the oversight was deliberate . . . more probably the cause was poor administration or supervision. Satan loves to use an unintentional wrong to begin a conflict. The Hellenists were right in their hearts, and the Hebrews were right in their facts. These are the perfect conditions for a church-splitting conflict!
As the church grows it is more difficult to know everyone; therefore based on common interest; cliques begin to form, and misunderstandings become more frequent causing feeling to get hurt; separation begins and then people leave the place God has called them to. There is a biblical solution to this found in
Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.
The apostles explain that they should remain faithful to their central calling, which was prayer and to the ministry of the word. It would be wrong for them to spend their time administrating the practical needs of the widows. So they were wise in delegating these responsibilities. God has not called these apostles to be everything for the church. God has and will raise up others to serve in other ways. A pastor should not have his time consumed in tasks that are essentially serving tables. Yet there is something wrong with a pastor who considers some tasks “beneath” him. (Calvary leadership model) (Pastor is servant to the ministry team – ministry team is servant to the congregation) This didn’t mean that the apostles considered the work of cleaning up the widow’s table as beneath them. But rather this speaks of handling the practical administration of the financial and practical details relevant to caring for the widows.
Oftentimes people have said to me, “You’re the pastor what are you going to do about this situation? More often than not, I have replied, “When do you want to start? That’s the issue. If you’re aware of a problem, it could be that you’ve been called to be part of the solution. It could be the reason you feel the burden, the reason you’re aware of the situation is because God is calling you.” The ministry is a lot of work, even apart from administrative headaches. A young man said to Donald Grey Barnhouse, “I’d give the world to be able to teach the Bible like you.” Looking him straight in the eye, Dr. Barnhouse replied: Good, because that’s exactly what it will cost you
3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Why did they choose seven? Practically It may have been so that each one could oversee the needs a different day of the week. The apostles said, “The widows are in need and they are all the same. But our calling is not the distribution of food. Our calling is the distribution of the Word. Therefore, choose people whom you know to be good men, godly men, gifted men and let them take care of this matter. The apostles were far more concerned with the internal quality of the men than their outward appearance or image. To many churches have left the word to serve tables (relevancy, user friendly, social gospel, not talking about sin or Christ’s blood, sugar coating the gospel
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
Stephen was a powerful Bible teacher as we will see in chapter 7. and would become the first martyr. Philip became an evangelist and the father of four daughters who became prophetesses, and increased the boundaries of ministry. Prochorus would later become the secretary, or the assistant, to the apostle John. Following John’s death, Prochorus became the bishop of Nicodema a large and growing church before being martyred. Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas. Nothing further is known of them. Nicolas Many Bible scholars believe that, after serving faithfully for a season as a deacon started a sect known as the Nicolaitans, mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3.There are times when we lay hands on someone and then pray but these guys went about it differently. They prayed before the laying on of hands. Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he told Timothy to “Lay hands on no man suddenly” The importance of praying before the laying on of hands in order that you might hear the heart of the Lord and the witness of the Spirit before setting someone apart for ministry.
7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
This verse should be starred, circled, underlined, and highlighted by everyone involved in ministry. The secret to church growth and ministry expansion is simply to feed the flock. Healthy sheep reproduce. It’s inevitable. Because this situation was handled with wisdom and sensitivity to those who were offended, a potentially divisive issue was defused, and the gospel continued to go forth. Even a great many of the priests came to faith in Jesus.
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people
In Matthew 25:21, Jesus taught that those who are faithful in little things will be made rulers over greater things. If we desire to be used by the Lord, we must be faithful in whatever God gives us to do in the beginning days of our ministry through to the day we go home or the Lord moves us. The Bible also tells us not to despise the days of small things Zechariah 4:10 yet many people find themselves reluctant to do the seemingly insignificant tasks because they desire something greater, they feel menial service is beneath them. But the way of the Lord is that we first prove ourselves in smaller things and, as we are faithful in them, He will give us greater responsibility. The reward for faithfulness in service is greater service
Jesus came on the scene and said something radical like; “Happiness is found in losing your life by giving yourself away in serving, not in being served; it’s giving, not in getting” Matt 10:39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it
Today if you’re feeling somewhat down or empty; perhaps it’s because you’re not engaging yourself in the area of serving others. Those days when you feel like throwing in the towel, take up the towel instead. Wash someone’s feet and suddenly you’ll be refreshed
Stephen modeled this beautifully as he began by serving tables, helping feed widows—not necessarily a glorious position, or an exalted ministry. But because he was faithful, he was then elected to the office of deacon one of seven men chosen by the early church as being a man full of the Holy Ghost, full of wisdom, and full of good works.
Then two verses later, we see him doing “great wonders and miracles among the people.” Stephen went from being a table server to a deacon to a miracle-worker because he was faithful at each step.
9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
Previously, persecution against the apostles had been limited because popular opinion was with them therefore the opponents of Stephen could do nothing until they got popular opinion on their side
12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.
These who came against Stephen and argued with Stephen were outgunned by Stephen. They couldn’t beat his logic.They couldn’t resist his reasoning. They couldn’t withstand his persuasive speech. So what did they do? They hired liars who said, “We’ve heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
There he was, angel faced Stephen, sitting there and all of these false accusations being made against him accusing him of saying things that he really did not say; taking things that he had said out of context. BUT; Stephen’s face reflected neither hatred or fear but the love of God because he knew his life was in God’s hands and that Jesus never forsakes His people.
The stage is set for Stephen’s defense