ACTS 6:1

 

 

The Bible says in Acts 6:1, “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.” We know very well that the number of the disciples in Jerusalem was multiplied. Acts 2:41 says, “…And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 4:4 says, “Howbeit many of them which heard the Word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand 

 

In addition to all of these thousands of believers becoming a part of the early church in Jerusalem, something was going on. Many of these people became destitute probably because of persecutions, and Christians were giving a great deal of substance in order to be shared with those who were in need. Someone had to gather that substance together, divide it up, organize it, and distribute it to the many individuals who were in need of it. What we are seeing here in Acts chapter six is the apostles getting organized and coming up with a method by which this circumstance could be addressed.

 

The Bible says in Acts 6:2-4, “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. Wherefore, brethren, look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word.” You must know what is your calling. No one can do everything. Find one thing and do it well, but do not get distracted from the path that you should be on. The apostles knew what they were called to do. They were called to the ministry of the Word and to prayer.

 

When the new responsibilities came along of distributing food and possessions to the needy believers, the apostles realized that it was too much work for them to be able to do. It was important work, but the apostles realized that there are only so many hours in the day. If they tried to do everything themselves, they would not have time to fulfill what they were called to do. Somebody has to teach the Word of God, and in order to teach it, they must study it, and in order to study the Word, there must be time set aside to do so. If more pastors did fewer things in order to spend more time in the Word and in prayer, the entire congregation would be better off. If the Word of God is not given its proper place, then everything else will be out of synch. The same is true of prayer.

 

Of course, the other things must be done also. Individuals must be found who have the gifts and the calling to do those other things: the important practical things of church affairs. Some churches think they are going to get some kind of super-pastor who is going to fulfill his own responsibilities as well as those of several deacons. We know that the apostles were talking about deacons because that is the word that was used here in the phrase “serve tables.” A deacon is one who serves: a servant, a servant of the Lord, serving the congregation. Two things are mentioned here as being requirements for selecting someone to be a deacon: “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom

 

We know how important it is to be full of the Holy Spirit in doing any of the work of the Lord. It’s not enough to be a believer. You must be a believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit in order to have the responsibility of being a deacon. If you are not filled with the Spirit, then you are walking according to the flesh, and you will react to the situations that come your way in a selfish way. God is a Spirit, and those who serve Him must serve Him by the power of the Spirit and not by the arm of the flesh. I wonder how many churches today make it a requirement for any one that is a deacon to be filled with the Spirit?

 

Of course, they must be filled with the Spirit and be filled with wisdom. It’s not enough to be spiritual. You must also have some practical wisdom: some good common sense, and common sense isn’t so common. Not every believer has this kind of wisdom. A novice certainly does not. This kind of wisdom refers to someone who knows the value of a dollar, knows what tool to use for what job, knows how to talk to people and when not to talk, and knows when to say no. If you know someone like that who is full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, then you know someone who is a good candidate to be a deacon.

 

Something that is interesting to note in this passage related to the word “deacon.” We already pointed out that the word “serve” in the phrase “serve tables” comes from the same word as deacon. So does another word that is translated in this passage. When the apostles said that they would give themselves “to the ministry of the Word,” the word that is translated ministry also comes from the same word that “serve” comes from: the word deacon. A deacon is a servant, and a pastor is a servant. The pastor serves the congregation in regards to prayer and the Word of God. The deacon serves the congregation in regards to more practical matters. Both must rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide them and to give them wisdom in the fulfilling of their opportunities.

 

The Bible says in Acts 6:5-7, “And the saying pleased the whole multitude; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles, and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the Word of God increased: And the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” One more thing mentioned about one of the deacons, Stephen, is the fact that he was “full of faith.” To have faith means that you trust in Jesus instead of yourself or anything else. To have faith means that you believe God’s promises. It’s no wonder that Stephen was such a great witness and was so brave. If you have faith in Christ, you can be that way also. Stephen had the kind of faith that was seen not only when he was around other believers, but also when he was around the people of the world.

 

One more time we are told that “the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly.” Not only were a lot of people getting saved by believing in Jesus, so were a lot of the Jewish priests. The level of paranoia must have increased dramatically among the Jewish leaders, and they became more determined to stop the spread of faith in Christ through the method of violent persecution. Since the murder of Jesus, Stephen would be the first of the disciples to be murdered. Of course, many others would follow in his footsteps. We are involved in a spiritual warfare. The enemies of the gospel of Christ sometimes use the most violent of methods to stop the gospel. God wants us to be witnesses for Him in this godless world, and sometimes we will be called to pay the ultimate price for that witness. Such was the fate of Stephen.

 

Acts 6:8-15 says, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking steadfast on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel

 

Why were these people against Stephen? For one thing they recognized that Stephen was saying some things that were different from what they were accustomed to hearing. That will always be true of the gospel of Christ. The true gospel can never be a compromised message. Those who compromise the gospel to try and fit in with society, will ruin the gospel and make their delivery of it of no value. Freedom of speech is the most important freedom of the world. Take away that freedom, and you will take all the others also. The unbelievers complained, “We have heard him speak,” and “we have heard him say.” If you disagree with someone, always grant them the right to say what they want to say or else you risk being just like the ungodly people of Jerusalem.

 

They were religious people, but they were ungodly people. They were so afraid that their religious traditions would be threatened by the things that Stephen was teaching concerning Jesus. Any thing that you do out of fear will probably be the wrong thing. There is a spiritual warfare going on in the world right now, and those who are held in darkness fear the truth until the time that they are ready to come to the truth.

 

In the next chapter we have the opportunity to hear just exactly what was the message that Stephen was teaching. The Bible says in Acts 7:1-4, “Then said the high priest, Are thee things so? And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I will show thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from there when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein you now dwell     

 

First Stephen wanted to make it very clear that he was not teaching anything that was in conflict with the great truths of the Old Testament. What Stephen was teaching about Jesus Christ was a continuation and a fulfillment of the things that God had been doing in the Old Testament. Everything pointed to Christ.

 

Abraham lived in what is today the country of Iraq, and God called him. Salvation is still like that. God sees a person somewhere in the world who is ready to be touched, and God speaks to them. God told Abraham to leave his country and his kindred. That also is a very common part of salvation. When God calls you to Himself, do not be surprised if He calls you to leave someone or something. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, the Bible says in Mark 1:17-18, “And Jesus said unto them, Come you after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.” In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus also said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake; the same shall save it  

 

Stephen continued speaking about Abraham and said in Acts 7:5, “And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.” The important point that is being made here about Abraham is the fact that at this point in the life of Abraham, the only thing that Abraham had received from God was a promise. Abraham believed the promise, and Abraham became a just man before God for that very reason. “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Abraham did no work to become justified. Abraham had weaknesses and failures just like any other human, but Abraham believed and that is what made the difference.

 

You can become justified in the same way if you believe the promise that forgiveness of sins and eternal life is in Jesus Christ the Son of God. 

 

 

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Copyright; 2003 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved