WHEN CHRIST’S CHURCH ALMOST LOST ITS FOCUS
Dorn Ridge Church of Christ and York Manor Nursing Home
August 24, 2014
1.) This morning we are continuing to look at the Church in the book of Acts.
A.) I want us to see a time when the church faced a situation that could have greatly hindered its ministry in the community, yet when faced with decision, they made the right choice.
2.) It was a time when the benevolent ministry of the church had failed, and through that time the church had to have a right perspective in their priorities.
3.) Today as we get into the Word of God, I to focus less on the problem that occurred, and see the wisdom of the Apostles and the church in putting the ministry of the Word of God and Prayer at the highest place of priority in dealing with the situation.
I. SOMETIMES CHURCH WORK CAN HINDER THE WORK OF CHRIST.
1.) It is possible for the day to day to take priority over the eternal.
A.) At times churches, and church boards can get so caught up in the everyday needs and ministry of the church that major on them to the point of ignoring eternal values.
aa.) Rather it is the cost of a light bulb, or the colour of carpet, or even something as great as a ministry of the church, our primary focus must ultimately be on the spiritual development that Jesus Christ desires for the Church, and through the church into the world.
aaa.) We cannot allow even a ministry within the church to deter us from this goal.
ab.) For the entire history of the church it has always been a challenge for the church to continually “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
ac.) If we are not careful even church work and ministry can keep us from accomplishing the work of the Church.
B.) Perhaps we think early church was different than today’s church, and believe they always got everything right.
ba.) The book of Acts as well as the epistles and Revelation show us that nothing could be further from the truth.
bb.) The early church had the same temptations and problems we face today.
bc.) The truth is Satan found out many centuries ago that by
getting us to focus sights on something other than giving priority to the Word of God, and prayer, he can weaken our effectiveness for Christ.
bca.) In Acts 6, we see that even a valuable ministry of the church can replace the ultimate goal of developing spiritual growth in the people of God, and bringing the truth of God to a world in need of Jesus Christ.
2.) The problem in the early church’s benevolent fund could have redirected the entire focus of the early church.
A.) That is the scene we see here in Acts 6.
aa.) The first three words of verse six makes the statement: “in those days.”
ab.)That Luke’s way of telling us there has been lapse the earlier chapters of the book of Acts.
aba.) We may not be able to accurately discern the lapse of time, but I would guess it to be about 6-7 years since the start of the church.
B.) It would seem that right from its inception the church had been involved in a benevolent ministry to those in need.
ba.) This was a day before pension plans, unemployment insurance, and life insurance policies or other means of helping those in financial need.
baa.) Often, the church was the only group to step in and help those in need.
bb.) In a society such as that, one of the first groups in difficulty were always the widows and orphans.
bba.) Often, the death of the man of the family meant his widow and orphaned children would be left completely destitute.
bbb.) The church in Jerusalem ministered to such people, but this ministry had developed a problem.
3.) The church in Jerusalem had a problem with prejudice.
A.) That issue could have altered the direction and focus of ministry in the early church.
A.) We would like to say that in the church there is never such a thing as prejudice, but we all know that even within the church of Jesus Christ sinful nature can come to play.
B.) The problem was not racial prejudice but rather you spoke Hebrew or Greek?
C.) The church still consisted of an entirely Jewish audience.
ca.) But even with an entire Jewish audience, there was still prejudice.
cb.) Acts 6:1
cba.) The Hebraic Jews would have lived in the city limits of Jerusalem and spoke the Hebrew language.
cbb.) The Grecian Jews were those who PEIers would describe as “from away”.
cbc.) They were true Jews, and perhaps even living in Jerusalem, but by some were considered to be inferior or not as spiritual because of speaking in Greek instead of Hebrew.
cbd.) Rather this was a conscious decision or not the Greek speaking widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.
cc.) That brings me to my second point that:
II. THE WORK OF CHRIST MUST BE DETERMINED BY THE PRIORITY OF THE SPIRITUAL MORE THAN THE PHYSICAL.
1.) The easiest solution the church could have been for the Apostles to look after this ministry of the church.
A.) Certainly the Apostles would be fair, and true to the work and ministry of the church.
B.) This might have even been the easiest and most natural solution for everyone involved, including the Apostles.
ba.) Sometimes it is easier for a leader to do the work himself than to delegate it to someone else.
bb.) Although this is true God is more effectively glorified when the church develops a priesthood of all believers.
2.) Fortunately, the Apostles had the wisdom and spiritual insight to share this ministry with others in the church.
A.) We could ask the question, was this ministry beneath the apostles?
aa.) Certainly the answer to that question is a resounding NO!
ab.) It was not that this ministry was beneath the apostles, but rather their ultimate goal had to be the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
B.)The church appointed seven men to carry out this ministry of the church.
ba.) Though the term is not used in this text, this meets the Biblical definition of deacons.
bb.) Acts 6:3
bc.) Some churches have looked at this passage of Scripture and felt the church today had to have seven deacons.
bca.) But the only reason for this particular number was that it the number the church felt it would take to effectively carry out this ministry of the church.
C.) These were to be men full of the Holy Spirit and prayer.
ca.) Any ministry in the church requires people who have been redeemed, and whose lives have been changed by the Holy Spirit of God.
cb.) The church is different from any other organization that so it needs people who have been transformed by the grace of God.
cd.) The men who were chosen each had Greek names instead of Hebrew names.
ca.) Acts 6: 5
caa.) This is not so obvious to us in our translations, but in the original language it was very obvious from the names that the church specifically chose Greek Jewish Christians to carry out this ministry.
ce.) The church had done their best to resolve this issue in a way that glorified God.
cea.) These men were even set apart to their ministry by the laying on hands, and praying for them.
3.) The Apostles knew they had to focus on a ministry of the Word of God and Prayer.
A.) Acts 6:2-4
B.) As I had stated earlier, the apostles could have done ministry themselves, but felt it was far more important to focus their own efforts on the Word of God, and prayer.
ba.) Others could minister in these physical ministries of the church.
bc.) Just as Jethro had advised Moses to use others to assist in ministry, so also the Apostles encouraged the church in a priesthood of all believers, that God might be glorified.
bd.) I want you to see what happened because of that decision:
III. BY PUTTING THE WORD OF GOD AND PRAYER FIRST, THE CHURCH GREW.
-- Acts 6:7
1.) The word of God spread.
A.) What a powerful statement that is.
B.) The apostles did not allow the problems and circumstances within the church to take their focus off of the Word of God and prayer.
ba.) We can learn from the early church.
bb.) They knew the ministry to the widows was important, and not to be neglected.
baa.) Yet as important of a ministry as it was, it could not become greater than ministry of the Word of God and of prayer.
bb.) I believe Scripture shows that God honoured the importance they had given to the Word of God and Prayer.
bc.) It is so amazing what can take place when the church gives priority to the spiritual side of our lives, while also ministering to the physical needs.
2.) The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.
A.) Acts 6:7b.
B.) “The number of disciples increased…”
ba.) That is the picture we rejoice to see in the church of Jesus Christ.
bb.) After a span of six or seven years since the church had started it could have been easy for the excitement and growth of the church to have waned.
be.) This was not the case!
bea.) The Apostles had dealt with a problem in the church by honouring God’s priorities for the Word of God and prayer.
C.) “The number of disciples increased rapidly”
ca.) Note that! It grew rapidly!
cb.) It is one thing to say there is growth, but it is perhaps now 6-7 years after the start of the church.
cba.) At a time when some apathy and satisfaction could have come to play the Church remained focussed on the principles and values of God.
cc.) The early church did not lose their vim and vigour because of keeping their directed to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
D.) Because of the priority given to the Word of God and to Prayer, the church again goes into a major growth spurt.
da.) We are no longer given numbers for the size of the church.
db.) Earlier in the book of Acts somebody was counting heads and taking a tally of the church.
dba.) A few years before this the church had started with 3,000 people. Then it went to 5,000.
dbb.) Now after 6-7 years the church was still continuing to grow.
dbc.) The Church of Jesus Christ was still alive, vibrant, and growing.
.01) The tally sheets had long since been thrown away, and nobody knew the exact number in the church, but they knew the church was even if they had lost count of the numbers.
3.) A large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
A.) This statement that a large number of the priests became obedient to the faith is no small statement.
aa.) It had been the Jewish people that had been coming to Jesus Christ.
ab.) Among the Jewish leaders, most would have been against Christ and the church.
aba.) Like Saul of Tarsus, the Jewish leadership tried to hinder people coming to Christ.
B.) So when Luke gives us this detail it is a statement of immense
ba.) In the Jewish realms that would have been looked spiritually in the same category as a major earthquake in the physical world around us.
bb.) This is one of those places I would love to have a few more verses to elaborate upheaval that took place in the Jewish faith when these leaders came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
C.) But God in His wisdom, knew that detail was of little importance to the message of Christ so had chosen to not give us that knowledge.
D.) Regardless of what happened, the important was the decision of the apostles and the Church chose to focus on the Word of God and prayer.
da.) Because of seeking first the Kingdom of God, God’s kingdom on this earth greatly increased.
E.) Praise God that this problem that could have negatively altered the direction of the church, was dealt with in a way that honoured God and exalted God’s own priorities for the body of Christ.
1.) As I close today may we like the Church of old Keep Jesus Christ, The Word of God, and prayer in highest priority in our lives.
2.) May we never let anything (even church work) take our focus off of the work of the Church.
3.) May we always “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
A.) If we will do that God will bless the church and the Kingdom of God will prosper and grow and God will be glorified.
4.) Let us leave here today with the determination to elevate the Word of God and prayer to such a level, that God’s presence and power will be at work in the Church of Jesus Christ.