Summary: A sermon on the role of deacons and their responsibilities.
Deacons: Shared Service in the Local Church
September 7, 2014
TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Acts 6
Today we’re going to jump ahead three or four chapters in our study through Acts to introduce our deacon selection process. By the time of Acts 6, the early church in Jerusalem had grown from a small band of followers in the upper room to a large army of believers in a very short time.
The progression of growth is remarkable and unparalleled: There were 3,000 added to the church in Acts 2:41; 5,000 men added in Acts 4:4 (not counting women and young people, for apparently by this time it was becoming too complicated to count them all, so they just counted the men); and in Acts 5:14, Luke simply says, “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.”
It’s only natural that in the midst of such growth problems and tensions should arise. In our text today in Acts 6, we’ll see the church in Jerusalem as it began to experience some growing pains, as all living, growing congregations inevitably do, and how their solution resulted in what most Bible scholars believed were the first deacons.
So turn to Acts 6 and let’s look at what happened:
I. WE SEE FIRST A PROBLEM AND ITS SOLUTION IN VERSES 1-3
A problem arose in the church of Jerusalem – verse 1 – “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”
A dissension arose between the “Grecians” and the “Hebrews.” The Grecians were Jews whose ancestors had been part of the Jewish dispersion by the various conquerors down through Israel’s history, who had returned to Jerusalem, while the Hebrews were descendants of those who had never left.
The HEBREWS were the purebloods devoted to historic Judaism and Jewish practices; strictly adhered to the Law of Moses; spoke Aramaic or Hebrew; and despised Gentiles, Greeks and Romans in particular.
The GRECIANS were often the descendants of marriage outside of the Jewish race or the Jewish faith, or were themselves married to non-Jews; preferred Greek over Aramaic or Hebrew; and were generally more sophisticated and urbane and comfortable with other cultures.
Down through the years there had been continual conflict and rivalry between these two groups, but among the Christians, these two groups were trying to put their differences and prejudices aside and become one in Christ. They had done well up till now, but now dormant mistrust began to resurface. The Grecians felt their widows were being discriminated against in the daily administration of food for widows who had no family to provide for them, the only form of sustenance available to them in a male-dominated world. Was there really discrimination, or were folks just overlooked because of the masses at a time when the church had no organizational structure yet?
No one knows for sure, but regardless, the apostles acted swiftly. – Verses 2-3 – “Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”
What was their solution? In effect, they instituted the office of the deacon in the first local church. And that leads us to our second point, an important principle in the Bible…
II. THAT IS…THE PRINCIPLE OF SHARED SERVICE
Up to this time the burdens of ministry were concentrated in the hands of the apostles. But God’s plan is the SHARED distribution of responsibilities and ministries. God gives gifts and talents to His children, which should be used and developed. The church that encourages its MEMBERS to use their gifts WILL BE ENRICHED; the church that leaves all the work of the ministry in the hands of its pastors will be impoverished and never reach its full potential.
Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:11-12 that God has gifted the church with leaders who facilitate the church to “perfect” or mature the saints so THEY can do the work of ministry. – Then Paul goes on to say in verses 13-14 that shared responsibility produces unity, faith, knowledge, spiritual maturity, and spiritual grounding.
This means that if you’re a part of a body, you’re an important body part that needs to be serving and functioning according to your gifts and abilities. It’s also what being a deacon is all about.
Time does not permit us to unpack this passage fully today because we want to go over in a moment to 1 Timothy 3 and see what Paul teaches were the biblical qualifications for a deacon, but let me close our study of Acts 6:1-7 with a couple of quick observations: