Acts 6:1-7 Building the church of disciples

"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 overlooked in the daily serving of food.  2 And 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.   3 But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.   4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."  5 And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.  6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.  7 And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith."

1 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 overlooked in the daily serving of food.

It is good to see that the gospel message of Christianity was causing the church to grow and the number of disciples were increasing.

What is a disciple?  A disciple is, basically, a pupil, a student of a teacher.

The Jews considered themselves to be disciples of Moses (John 9:28).

Christians are disciples of Christ.  That is, we learn of Jesus.  We seek to learn from what He taught and did and we strive to be like Him.

The term 'Hebrew' is an alternate designation for the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham.

The 'Hellenistic Jews' were those Greek speaking Jewish Christians in the early church in Jerusalem.  The Hellenists probably interpreted the Torah less stringently than did the 'Hebrews,'

The Hellenistic Jews probably could not speak Aramaic which was the native tongue of Jews living in Israel.  They probably were reared outside the land and were bilingual, speaking both Greek and their native tongues (cf. 2:5-11).

Gentile proselytes to Judaism who later became Christians were also in this group.  The native Jews were also bilingual in that they spoke Aramaic and Greek (cf. 21:40).  In the Jewish world tensions existed between the Grecian Jews and the Aramaic-speaking Jews; tragically these strains were brought into the church.

It would be similar to a church where there were mixtures of ethnic cultures and one or two cultures were being favored above the others.

2 And 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 tables (trapezais) may refer to tables used for serving food or to money tables, that is, banks.  Probably it was used here to refer to the place where funds and supplies were administered for the widows.

The Twelve recognized their proper priorities in the ministry of the Word of God and prayer (cf. v. 4).

The ministry of the preaching and teaching the word of God is a ministry that is designated as being of very high priority.

  1. You should understand the importance of hearing the preaching and teaching of the word of God.
    1. It is a means of grace not that grace is infused as the Roman Catholics teach, but as a means by which God blesses us.
      1. It benefits you to hear it.
      2. It teaches you
      3. It unites you one to anohter.
      4. It reminds you all that you are each subject to the word of God.
    2. When you voluntarily sit and, by faith, listen to the word of God preached, you are voluntarily subjecting yourself to its authority.
    3. You do this because of the work of Christ on the cross.  It is because of what Jesus has done there that you can rightfully sit under godly preaching, learn from it, and apply it, and it not be wasted.
  2. Likewise, the preacher should also consider the seriousness of his calling.
    1. To preach God's word is a serious matter.
      1. It is not to be taken lightly by the preacher.
      2. The preaching of the word of God IS the word of God, said Martin Luther.

3 "But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.

4 "But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."

The apostles mentioned three qualifications for those who would be enlisted to serve: They must have a good reputation; that is, they must be full of the Spirit and they must be be full of wisdom (cf. v. 10).

Selecting seven men may go back to the tradition in Jewish communities where seven respected men managed the public business in an official council.

By choosing these seven, the Twelve could give their attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word (cf. v. 2).

  1. Each person has different gifts.
    1. As a whole, this church is sufficiently gifted to expand the kingdom of God.
    2. You each have special gifts and abilities given to you by God.
  2. But, HOW can you, individually and as a group, accomplish God's will in building the church?
    1. First, you must desire to discover your gifts.
      1. Do you even want to find out what your gift is?
        1. Music, teaching, helping, cleaning, technical stuff, arranging meetings, making phone calls, washing a vehicle, preparing a study, language translations, etc.
        2. Maybe you might see that someone around you in this church has a need.
          1. Is someone in the hospital?  Go visit him.
          2. Has someone just had a baby?  Then you could volunteer to bring a meal.
          3. Perhaps someone's car isn't working well and they don't have any money.  You could get together, raise a little money and donate it to that person.
      2. The best ministry begins right where you are, right where the need is that God has allowed you to be aware of.
        1. It doesn't matter what your gift or work is.  As long as you are doing it for the glory of God. That is why we were created, for God's glory
          1. Isaiah 43:7, "Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”
        2. Look around and see what you can do.
        3. Look around and see what the Lord is doing and join him there.
    2. Second, you should use your gifts in faith.
      1. You can only do this by keeping your eyes on the Lord.
      2. If your eyes are on Him and others see that your eyes are on Him, it won't matter if you are 'great or not' at what you do.
        1. What is important is that you are faithful to God in what you do.
    3. Use your gifts prayerfully.
      1. God has given each of you gifts.
      2. Since He gave them to you, you need to ask HIM how to use them as well as WHEN to use them.
    4. Don't do nothing -- unless that is what God calls you to do.
    5. Do something!  Have a carnival in the parking lot of a church.  Join a bible group at school.  Steal the Goodyear blimp and drop gospel message tracts from it.... :)
5 And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.

All seven men had Greek names, implying they were Hellenists.  Nicolas, the last one named, was not even a Jew but was a convert to Judaism and then to Christianity.  The early church evidently felt the problem of the unintentional neglect of Hellenistic Jewish widows would be best solved by the Hellenistic Jews; certainly they would not neglect the Aramaic-speaking widows.

The introduction of these seven (cf. 21:8) prepares readers for the ministries of Stephen and Philip, the first two men listed.  Furthermore, the reference to Greek speaking Jews looks ahead to the wider spread of the gospel outside the circle of Jerusalem and Judea.  (Nothing else is known about the other four: Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas.)

6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

Though the Christian community selected the Seven, they were commissioned by the apostles. This was done by prayer and the laying on of hands.  The practice of laying hands on others was a gesture signifying commissioning and granting of authority (cf. 8:17-19; 13:3; 19:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; Heb. 6:2).

They were, essentially, ordained into their ministry.  1 Tim. 4:14 is where Paul was addessing Timothy and he said, And do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery."

7 And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

They worked together and the gospel spread.

The number of those who were disciples of Jesus continued to grow.

Conclusion

Working together is a very important part of Christianity.  Working together means we are being disciples of Jesus, not a denomination or a theological agenda.  God has so many different jobs for us to do.  We need to be open and willing to serve one another and with one another.

One of the most important things you can do as a person and as a church is to make disciples. Discipleship is a biblical command that is not practiced as much as it needs to be.  We see it evidenced in the selection of these men to carry out the work of ministry.  They would not have been called to that position if they had not be followers of Jesus who had grown in the faith and been known by the members of their local congregation.  Being a disciple means you are work with others.  It doesn't mean you are isolated.

When disciples are made, unbelievers are displaced.  When disciples are made, the world is changed.

Disciples do not server two masters at the same time. Disciples serve God through the person of Christ -- based on what he did on the cross.

To be a disciple of Christ means that you study His words, see what He did, and then do what He said and did.

This is the work of the church, to expand the kingdom of God to His glory.

Each of you has a gift or two or more.  Each of you has a place not only in church, but also in history, an appointment by God.  You are a piece of the divine puzzle.  You are part of God's plan and method.  He wants you to be used, to be a part of His ministry to the world.

 

 

 

 
 
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