“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:3-4 ESV)
Luke’s account of the early church in the Book of Acts includes all the necessary details: the good, the bad, and the ugly. So far, we have seen a booming, growing church live side-by-side with an intensifying threat of persecution. He has also given us a glimpse on the inside of the church, with both the wonder of a joyful, self-sacrificing, united community and the inevitable messes that come when a group of sinners gathers together. One of those messes was cleaned out – literally – with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. But in our text for this week, Luke shows us a little more of some of the issues that rise alongside the church’s massive growth.
In Acts 6, we are reminded that the church is doing more than preaching the gospel to outsiders. They are a vibrant community that attempts to meet each other’s needs. You may recall in a previous message that the Bible tells us that “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34). The church distributed the resources of every member in order that no one would be in want.
We learn chapters 2 and 4 that the Apostles were overseeing this distribution (“laid at the Apostle’s feet”), but these are the same Apostles that are bearing the burden of engaging the wider community with the gospel, in the face of opposition. An overburdened leadership, lack of organization, and explosive growth that was too much to handle would lead to some areas of the church’s functions being neglected.
In this case, the widows of the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews) felt neglected in the daily distribution. Luke indicates that the Hebrews were being well-taken care of while this group was neglected. Not only were these women being overlooked, the fact that they were of a different culture could have led to assumptions about the Apostles’ intent and more division in the church! Something needed to be done!
Join us this Sunday as we examine this passage together and see how the office of deacon was created to meet the needs of the church and free the Apostles to preach the gospel. Whether or not you hold an official church office, we are all called to do that which deacons do – serve the church to support the ministry. None of us ought to be spectators. May the Lord use this passage to remind us that he provides for his church, and we respond to his goodness with self-sacrificing love for the brethren.