Summary: A message delivered as a charge to the church on the occasion of the ordination of new Deacons.
This passage not only speaks to the qualifications for new Deacons (v. 3 - faithful, reputable, spiritual, maturing, responsible), but to the primary purpose for Deacons in a local church. The purpose for Deacons is to guard the unity of the church.
In the Book of Acts, Satan attacks the church in many different fronts. He attempted many forms of direct opposition and intimidation, and he tried to corrupt the church from within. Here, Satan hoped to "divide and conquer" by raising one group in the church against another.
The Hebraic Jews were those inclined to embrace Jewish culture and were mostly from Judea. The Grecian Jews those more inclined to
embrace Greek culture. It is thought that many of these had come as pilgrims to Jerusalem for the Passover, and after Pentecost, simply
remained in Jerusalem as a result of their conversion.
For the most part, Hebraic Jews tended to regard Grecian Jews as unspiritual compromisers with Greek culture and Grecian Jews
regarded Hebraic Jews as holier-than-thou traditionalists. So there was already a natural suspicion between the two groups, and Satan tried to take advantage of that standing suspicion.
Apparently, some of the Grecian Jews believed that the widows among the Hebraic Jews were receiving better care.
"It is not suggested that the oversight was deliberate. More probably the cause was poor administration or supervision." - John Stott
"In a congregation of that size, it was inevitable that someone's needs would be overlooked." - John MacArthur
Satan loves to use an unintentional wrong to begin a conflict. The Grecian Jews may have been right in their hearts, and the Hebraic Jews may have been right in their facts; but these are the perfect conditions for a church-splitting conflict; and that's how Satan was trying to halt the work of God in and through the early church.
In an article called, "Nine Thoughts on Church Splits," Lifeway President, Thom Rainer speaks of observations he has been able to make regarding modern church splits. Not all of these observations fit this situation in Acts 6, but three of his observations certainly were true of this potential split in the early church
A. They typically originate from power groups in the church.
The power group may be a formal body or they could be an informal group that still wields great power in the church.
B. The negative community impact is great and enduring.
Rainer, writes, "I have done interviews of community members where a church that split is located. The merchants and residents often say, 'Oh that’s the church that fought all the time until it split.'"
C. A church that has split is likely to die.
Many of congregations hang on tenaciously. But after awhile, the cancer of the split eats away at the health of a church body. I have
conducted many church “autopsies.” The beginning of the death of these churches often took place at the point of the split.
We see Satan working in the life of the early church to get two groups to fighting so that the early church might split, thus turning what was a positive impression in Jerusalem into a negative one, and leading, not only to the death of the early church, but to the death of Christianity itself. But God intervened. And he did so through the leadership of the Apostles and the service of the first Deacons.
This brings us to the primary role of Deacons. Now, men who are ordained as Deacons are typically men who are already very busy within the life of the church. We don't set aside men as Deacons because they need to get busy serving. Typically, that's already true of them, and that's why we select them. No, Deacons are selected and set aside with one special task to perform - and protecting the unity of the local church.
This is why we trained these men in peacemaking principles. This is why our staff meets with our Deacons monthly - so they can up on what's happening in the church family and be able to explain it to folks who have questions. Unanswered questions can lead to unhappy church members, which can lead to upsetting conflict. People are down on what they're not up on. Additionally, I look to our Deacons for council and advice, which is why I run things by them and why we have a Deacon Advisory Team, consisting of our Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, and the three previous Chairmen, who council me regarding issues that could cause concerns and potential conflict in our church family, and, when necessary, act as mediators when conflict between members threatens the church fellowship.
These first Deacons obviously did their work well (read verse 7).
How can we help these men do their work well?
1. Pray for them.