Summary: This expository sermon series is adapted from Max Lucado's book, Out Live Your Life, and credit for most the series belong to him. Outlines are original. In Acts 6, the early church identifies Their Problem, Their Project, and Their Priorities. Custom Pow
Made to Make a Difference: Acts 6
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 7/24/2011
This series is inspired by and portions adapted from Max Lucado’s Out Live Your Life.
Nearly two millennia ago on the opposite side of the planet, 120 ordinary men and women—tax gatherers, fishermen, and house wives—turned the world upside down and it hasn’t been the same since. Their story is the story of a movement that stretched from the dirt roads of Palestine to the imperial courts of Rome, the jungles of Africa, and the Great Wall of China—the Jesus movement, otherwise known as Christianity.
These last few weeks, we’ve explored the stories of the early church as told in the first few chapters of Acts. In chapter 1, we saw that the early church believed that Jesus was risen, ruling, and retuning. By chapter 3, they taught us to share the work, see the wound, and serve the weak. In chapter 5, they set an example of doing good authentically, abundantly, and adventurously. As we slide into chapter six today, we’ll see the early church continuing to overcome obstacles, tackling problems, and making a difference for time and for eternity.
The Jerusalem church was continuing to grow and, like Kirk Cameron, they experienced some growing pains. Let me read the first four verses of Acts 6 for you, so we can all see what’s going on here:
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” (Act 6:1-4 NLT)
There are three parts to this story, each part providing us with some valuable lessons. The first part of the story is the problem.
• THE PROBLEM
The apostles were faced with a two-fold problem. While they could have easily ignored the problem and just hoped it would go away, they didn’t; rather they met these challenges head-on in a way they knew would be pleasing to God.
The first problem was the problem of poverty.
Rapid church growth brought needy people. And among the needy people were widows. Now, some people are poor simply because they’re lazy. They need to off their butts and get a job. That wasn’t the case with first century widows. They had no source of income. When they buried their husbands, they buried their financial security. There was no such thing as life insurance, pension plans, or Social Security. According to the culture of their day, the extended family was supposed to provide support. But Jews who became Christians were often disowned by their extended families, so the widows of the church were left with only one place to turn—the church. And the church responded to the problem with a daily distribution of food, clothing and money.
Poverty has plagued society for thousands of years. Even Jesus once said, “You will always have the poor among you” (Matthew 26:11 NLT). But Jesus had a heart for the poor. Early in his ministry, Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth. He went to worship at the synagogue where they invited him to read Scripture, and he accepted. The Scripture he chose to read was this: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come” (Luke 4:18-19 via Isaiah 61:1).
Jesus had a target audience—the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind and oppressed. Jesus made the poor his priority. Some of his most memorable miracles involved feeding the hungry. When orphans cry, he sees. When the hungry pray, he hears. And when widows in Jerusalem are neglected, he takes notice.
The second part of the problem was the problem of prejudice.
When the food was being distributed, some houses were being skipped. Apparently, the food pantry director was separating requests into two stacks: locals and immigrants. The Hebrew widows were being taken care of, but the Greek widows weren’t. These women didn’t grow up in Judea or Galilee. They hailed from the distant lands of Greece, Rome, and Syria. If they spoke Hebrew at all, it was with an accent.
In Jewish minds there had long been two classes of people—Jews and everybody else (Gentiles). They discriminated against Greeks. They hated Samaritans. And sadly, some of that bigotry and prejudice carried over when they became Christians.