Summary: Some in the Church were complaining. The text makes it appear that their complaining was like the “buzzing of bees.” The topic was the welfare of the widows in the congregation. In that day the only help that widows received came from the Church.
Two Lessons We Must Learn
Acts 6:1-15, 7:54-60
Our study of the book of Acts makes it clear that the Church has displayed its ability to handle the opposition of an unfriendly world.
For example, last week we read that the disciples were taken before the Sanhedrin, where they were in danger of being sentenced to a long prison term or to death.
But God was there with them and even though several suggested severe punishments they were only beaten and told never to say the name of Jesus again, and then they were released.
We know that they were not discouraged by the experience, because we read, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
These Spirit-filled people had an internal nature that enabled them not only to survive the opposition from the world, but also to find a new sense of satisfaction about who they are in Christ.
The persecution they had experienced, instead of discouraging them, made them more dedicated than ever.
We can see then, that instead of removing difficulties, God is more interested in taking us through them and in that way our faith is strengthened.
This was the time when Church membership grew rapidly.
It grew, because the world saw that even in the face of difficulties that believer’s lives were filled with joy.
Outsiders watched them and listened to what they said, and the Holy Spirit used their witness to bring them to faith in Christ.
But sometimes the Church is its own worst enemy.
It is never hurt by criticism from outside, but very often it is damaged from inside the fellowship.
Internal problems can come as a result of the growth and influx of new people.
Probably, a good case in point today is the impact that child abuse by priests is having.
I personally know several who have left the Catholic Church because of how the Church has handled this problem.
There have been many other scandals in recent years which were in the news; and they have involved other denominations.
I hate to hear about these problems, because all the negative publicity hurts the Church of Jesus Christ and the work of His ministers.
At this time, let’s read our scripture for today’s Bible lesson.
1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.
3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,
6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.
10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.
13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law;
14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”
15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.
But if you know the story of Steven, you know that he preached a great sermon on this occasion, but the religious leaders had their minds made up to kill him, so we read:
54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.