Summary: The prototype of today’s deacons is found in our passage. It is an account of men being set aside by the Holy Spirit and the Jerusalem Church to resolve a fellowship problem.
ACTS 6: 1-7
THE POTENTIAL OF PROBLEMS
The prototype of today’s deacons is found in our passage for this evening. It is an account of men being set aside by the Holy Spirit and the Jerusalem Church to resolve a fellowship problem. The Church had been expanding in a wonderful way, but growth caused problems. To prepare the way for the further expansion of the church organism, a conflict arises within it.
Christian unity and fellowship was being threatened as one group within the church felt themselves neglected and mistreated. The Church needed more organization to respond to the need of what the Holy Spirit was bringing about in the congregation. In response to the need seven godly men were appointed and ordained. They were to resolve the potential problem which threatened the early Church.
I. Dissension in the Church; 1.
II. The Apostles Decision; 2-4.
III. The Congregations Approval; 5-6.
IV. The resulting Growth; 7.
Verse 1 show a problem God used to help organize and strengthen His church. "Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being over looked in the daily serving of food.
Now at this time refers to the previous thought (verse 42 of chapter 5). Read. The number of disciples were increasing because everyday the church was teaching and preaching Jesus not only in the Temple but from house to house. Due to the increasing number of disciples or saved persons the Apostles who were serving as pastors had less and less contact with the total church program. Satan, seeing his opportunity, began to cause dissension within the church. A church wrecked by internal conflict finds its message lost in the conflict, and its energy dissipated. A church focused inward, on itself, will find it difficult to reach out to a lost world. Before the church could evangelize the Gentile, they would need to deal with any divisiveness within its ranks. This need caused the church to reorganize its structure.
A problem developed between the native Jews and the Hellenistic Jews. The Hellenistic Jews were those of the Diaspora, those Jews that had been exiled out into the Greco-Roman world due to the military conquests of Palestine and never return or had only returned of late. Their native language was Greek where as the Palestinian or native Hebrews’ was Aramaic or Hebrew. The Hellenistic Jews had remained loyal to Judaism yet had absorbed some of the Greek culture that surrounded them. These differences made them suspect to the Palestinian Jews. Some of the racial and cultural hostility carried over into the church where the Hellenist were a minority.
As often happens, matters came to a head over a seemingly insignificant issue. The leaders were too busy and needs were being overlooked. The Hellenistic Jews complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. Widows are often specified in Scripture (Deut. 14:29; 16:11, 24:19-21; 1Tim. 5:3:77) as worthy of special compassion, both divine and human. They head the list of a whole class of helpless sufferers. They were being overlooked, not implying ill-will but because the pastors were attending to other needs.
As we read verse 1, did you note that the murmuring that arose in the church came in the midst of wonderful church growth? This is not the last time that Satan has sought to interrupt a thriving church with internal strife. Our enemy is alive and well. He is going about seeking to distract God’s people from their mission. On some occasions he has used external forces to turn the church. Most frequently though he has sought to disrupt from within by creating factions, sowing seeds of bitterness, and inciting strife. Something need to be done.
II. THE APOSTLES DECISION (2-4).
Let’s look at verse 2 to see how the Apostles dealt with the problem. "So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the Word of God in order to serve tables.
The complaint of the Hellenistic Jews eventually came to the apostles. The apostles show us a key to leadership and that is listening to God and to God’s people. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brothers is learning to listen to them. It is [because of] God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear." It is in listening that you understand and can find acceptable solutions and settle real issues.