Summary: God set precidents through the lives of two deacons, Stephen and Philip, that remain in the church to this day.
Water Baptism Series
#3 - A Man Called Phillip - Moving in the
Miraculous & baptizing in Water
Bible Text: Selected passages from the Book of Acts chapters 6 and 8.
Philip - a deacon
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:1-7
There is a tendency in the modern western church to glamorize our greatest ministers. Though it may not be said, great preachers are seen as “stars” and many are fascinated with those whose preaching style is almost theatrical. The bigger the church, the larger the TV audience, the more success attained, all give rise to a performer/audience model of ministry.
When we open our Bibles to passages such as the one above, we see attention given to those not in positions of high profile, but to lowly deacons. The word “deacon” carries the idea of “dusty servant” and speaks of those whose ministry carried them over dry dirt roads as they carried out their service to others.
We do nothing wrong when we employ every means at our disposal to spread the gospel. Hollywood quality TV shows and personality types have successfully attracted many to Christ for which we should all give thanks. But let us be careful not to idealize such methods and run the risk of falling short in our understanding that the greatest abundance of ministry really happens in places where we often get a little dirty!
If it were not for the presence of deacons at First Church of Jerusalem, the apostles would not have been able to attend to the ministry of the Word and prayer, and would have found themselves encumbered by the many administrative tasks of a growing church. Hand in Hand, apostle and deacon, the church multiplied beyond what anyone could have imagined.
The qualifications our text sets forth for one to become a deacon are similar to those met by the apostles. They had to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. In our understanding of New Testament ministry, we need to be careful not to consider some tasks to be “spiritual” and others “menial”. Every task is important. There really is no separation between the physical and the spiritual when it comes to God. He created it all and he sanctifies it all.
As we shall see in the life of Philip the deacon, the ministry of the lesser can be just as potent as the ministry of the greater. Though the offices held were different, the Bible imposed no limitation on the faith of those in either sphere of service. The deacon worked the same miracles as the apostle. The sincere faith of the 5-year-old child in Sunday school can produce the same miracles as those of the greatest man of God. Position isn’t the issue, faith is!
Whatever self-imposed limitations you might have placed on yourself, or have been placed on you by others, are gone when the truth that God is no respecter of persons is grasped.
Two deacons: Stephen and Philip
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he
said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:4-8
Of great significance is the fact that God chose two deacons to be the first to demonstrate two very important realities brought about by the birth of the church that remain in existence to this day. The first was martyrdom and the second was that the gospel is for the whole world, even for gentiles. .
Stephen, also named as one of the seven deacons in chapter 6, was the church’s first martyr. He exemplified grace at the highest level. His prayer of forgiveness for those who falsely accused him and killed him cut against the grain of every base human passion common to man. Instead of contempt, anger and vengefulness, pouring from the heart of this dying deacon was love, compassion and hope. We stand transfixed at the death place of this lowly servant with the same awe we hold when we gaze on our dying Saviour. In his death Stephen manifested a supernatural endurance and meekness that could only come from our Lord himself.