Summary: The beauty of Christianity is that believers have been redeemed for a reason, converted to a cause, and saved to serve. This morning we’re going to take a look at the second key lifestyle ingredient of the early church they were mobilized for ministry.
Making an Impact:
Mobilizing for Ministry
These are actual excerpts from the classified sections of city newspapers.
Are you illiterate? Write today for help.
Alterations Shop. We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.
Auto Repair Service. Try us once; you’ll never go anywhere else again.
Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.
Stock up and save! Limit one per customer.
Girl wanted to assist magician in cutting-off-head illusion. Good salary and Blue Cross Insurance.
We will oil your sewing machine and adjust tension in your home for 1 dollar.
Man, honest, will take anything.
Used cars: Why go anywhere else to be cheated. Come here first.
Just as these ads were written to illicit a response, so too the church is in search of people who will respond to various needs. As we established last week, the foundation for the early church was a devotion to instruction in God’s Word. Devoted disciples look for ways to receive the Word, to research the Word, and to respond to the Word. Part of that response is to be mobilized for ministry.
The beauty of Christianity is that believers have been redeemed for a reason, converted to a cause, and saved to serve. This morning we’re going to take a look at the second key lifestyle ingredient of the early church they were mobilized for ministry. Take a look at Acts 2:45, “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” These Christ-followers were committed to each other, giving and ministering whenever they had opportunity.
But, much like what happens to us after awhile, fracture points were beginning to appear across the fabric of the early church.
How a Crisis Became an Opportunity
Flip over a few chapters to Acts 6:1-7.
This text tells the story of a sudden and unexpected controversy that threatened to rip apart the early church. How it was handled and how the crisis became an opportunity makes for a fascinating story. As I study these verses I am struck by the way the passage begins and ends.
Verse 1 tells us that the problem surfaced as the number of disciples was increasing. Verse 7 informs us that the Word of God spread rapidly as many people believed and many priests became obedient to the faith. Instead of derailing the church, this crisis propelled it to even faster growth. Surely this is a mark of God’s hand of blessing. Even the bad things work out for good.
What happens in Acts 6 takes place at the end of a period of severe persecution, from which the church emerged stronger than ever. Acts 4 tells us that it was a time of unusual spiritual unity and sharing of possessions. And it happened during a period of amazing spiritual harvest. This should not surprise us. Satan often attacks at the moment when things are finally going well.
In seven brief verses Luke describes the problem, gives the solution, and then tells us about the very positive result. When we get to the end, we discover that more people are serving the Lord, more people are being won to Christ, and the unity of the church has been restored.
“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” (Acts 6:1).
This is the first case of racial prejudice in the Christian church. It comes about primarily because the church has grown so fast that it has outstripped its leadership base. In the early days the apostles and their helpers could easily care for everyone in the congregation. As thousands joined the growing movement, it was inevitable that some people (or groups of people) would fall through the cracks.
Judaism had a system for the distribution of food to the poor. The early church in Jerusalem also shared their possessions with the needy. But, because of the increasing number of believers, the number of widows dependent on relief became disproportionately large.
The problem stemmed from the fact that although the early church was entirely Jewish, it was made up of two different groups of Jews. The Hebraic Jews were Jewish-Christian converts who spoke Hebrew (or more probably Aramaic, a dialect of Hebrew) as their main language. They had been born and raised in Israel, were native to the land, knew the customs of the synagogue intimately, and they brought their extensive culture with them when they entered the church.
By contrast, the Grecian Jews were Jewish-Christian converts who spoke Greek because they had been born and raised outside Israel. When they came to Christ, they brought their Greek-speaking culture with them. This means they probably looked a bit different and certainly acted and sounded different from the Hebrew-speaking Jewish Christians.