Seven Lessons from Acts 6

Today’s text follows a straightforward formula: Luke introduces a problem in the life of the early church, and the presents the solution. The problem is that the Hellenic, or Greek-speaking widows were being neglected by the Hebrew leaders when it came time for the food and money to be shared. The solution that Luke records is that the Church appoints seven spirit-filled Greek-speaking men to ensure fair distribution of the Church’s material resources. When this happens, the Word increases, and more disciples become obedient to the faith. From this account of problem and solution, there are seven lessons I want us to see in the text. The first lesson is to note the reality of conflict in the church – v.1. We tend to think that this kind of problem only happens in other churches, churches that you read about in the newspaper, but the reality is that serious conflict and sinful behavior can show up in any congregation. The problem comes when we are blindsided by this, and our faith is shaken. Instead, we should learn from God’s Word that conflict will arise, and that our task is to seek to overcome it by the Spirit, as the Apostles do here. The second lesson concerns the importance of resisting mission creep – v.2. When this situation came to the Apostles, they knew that if they took it upon themselves not just to help find a solution, but to be the solution, they would be overwhelmed, and prevented from doing their main task. We should see that doing good works is not enough; make sure you are doing your good works, and trusting that when new needs arise, God will raise up new workers like He does here in Acts. The third lesson is about the different tasks of shepherds and servants – v.2-4. We see in this passage a clear difference in the kind of work God calls elders to do, and what He intends deacons to do. One is concerning with preaching and prayer, needs of the mind and heart, and the other deals with physical needs related to administration and care for the body. If this isn’t happening, then God calls you to encourage, exhort, and rebuke them, and in some cases, to pursue structural changes in the life of the church to ensure that the body is working properly. Lesson four concerns the spiritual task of deacons – v.3, cf. v.5. It is a mistake to think that the elders do spiritual work, and the deacons do mindless manual labor. God specifically requires that these servants be filled with the Spirit and wisdom for their task. This is because people are a unity composed of a body and a soul inextricably tied together by God, and so caring for people takes spiritual wisdom. The fifth lesson highlights the different roles of the congregation and apostles in choosing leaders– v.3-6. In the government of the Church, both the congregation and the elders have significant roles to play. The apostles tell the congregation: “You select, we appoint.” The role of the congregation is to choose the men they want to lead them, and the role of the leaders is to officially appoint them to that role. Lesson six describes how servants are appointed: through prayer and the laying on of hands – v.6. It is the role of the elders to appoint the selected men to office. We call this ordination, and it is done in a public service of prayer and the laying on of hands. Laying on hands is not a sacrament, but it is an official action of the church, and it really changes things, conferring on the men being ordained a new status, and real authority to act on the Church’s behalf. The seventh lesson is this: when the church is increasingly organized, she is increasingly fruitful – v.7. So as we see from today’s text, when God’s people applied godly wisdom to their conflicts and set apart spirit-filled men to serve the Church, God blessed their faithful efforts, and the Church continued to grow and flourish, a much stronger Church for having gone through the struggle. The apostles were freed up to preach, and the Word of the Lord increased, as did the number of disciples. God uses the faithful work of these Spirit-filled servants to grow His Church.
Posted on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 by CJ Bowen