Summary: It was inevitable that with the unprecedented growth the church of Jerusalem experienced, conflict and problems would arise. But the disciples acted speedily, and in the process established the principle of shared ministry, which brought even more growth.
Problems and Prosperity
June 14, 2015
TEXT: Turn please in your Bibles to Acts 6.
In our study of Acts we’ve seen how the church in Jerusalem grew from a small band of followers in the upper room to a large army of believers in a very short time.
Look at the progression of growth: Acts 2:41 tells us that 3000 were added to the church; Acts 4:4 tells us that 5000 men believed (apparently too many to count all their wives and kids as well); and Acts 5:14 simply tells us that “multitudes” of both men and women were added, the number being so great, they apparently just stopped counting.
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.
So let’s look at Acts 6 and see 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.”
There was a dissension arose between the “Grecians” and the “Hebrews.” Who were the Grecians and the Hebrews?
• The GRECIANS Jews whose ancestors had lived in different areas of Asia Minor following their captivity by the Greeks during the Greek Empire. Many later returned to live in Israel, the land of their ancestors, and when they did, they brought with them Greek education, culture and customs. They generally preferred to speak Greek—the universal language of that day—over Aramaic or Hebrew since they had grown up speaking Greek. Also, many of them had intermarried with the local people in the lands from which they came, so their spouses and offspring often were not always pure ethnic Jews—a big no-no in Jewish culture.
• The HEBREWS were those whose ancestors had been able to evade their captors and remain in Israel during the captivity by the Greeks. Most spoke the common language Aramaic, and some spoke Hebrew. Their customs had not been influenced by other cultures, and they especially scorned Greek culture because of its pagan influence. They prided themselves as being “pure and undefiled” Jews, and despised those who had intermarried with non-Jewish peoples.
Through the years there had been conflict and rivalry between these two groups. But among the Christians, these two groups were trying to put their differences and prejudices aside and to become one in Christ.
They’d done well up till then, but now some 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. In those days, before welfare and pensions, a widow with no immediate family was in a very precarious position, with no means of livelihood. Whether there was actual discrimination, or simply unintentional neglect due to the overwhelming numbers, is not known for sure.
Whatever the case, the apostles took SWIFT ACTION. – Look at 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.”
Their response was to IMMEDIATELY correct the problem! They didn’t just ignore the problem and hope it would go away. Folks, it’s never helpful to ignore a problem! Decisiveness to tackle our problems head on without delay is the wisest course.
So what was their solution? In effect, they instituted the office of the deacon in the local church. And that leads us to an important principle of the Word of God…
II. THAT IS THE PRINCIPLE OF SHARED SERVICE – Verse 3
Up to this time the burdens of ministry were concentrated in the hands of the apostles. But folks, God’s plan is the SHARED distribution of responsibilities and ministries.
God gives wonderful gifts and talents to His children. These special gifts and abilities need to 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 the pastors of the church will be IMPOVERISHED and never reach its full potential for God.
Look with me at a very important passage of Scripture along these lines – Ephesians 4:11-15 – “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”