Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening
Service on 1/18/2018
(edited August 2021)
Verse 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.”
This was occurring in first church, at Jerusalem, born on the Day of Pentecost. The church of the original Apostles. Those were the men who saw Christ and were mentored by Him, face to face! And, guess what, they had problems too. It’s no wonder that we have them today in our churches!
Verse 2: “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.”
There were twelve Apostles, minus one. And that was Judas Iscariot, of course, who had committed suicide after Christ was crucified. So, they had appointed a man named Matthias to replace Judas. (I said last month in our study of Acts chapter 2 that it seemed to me that the Holy Spirit actually selected the Apostle Paul to fill this 12th position among the Apostles!) But, at any rate, in our study tonight in Acts chapter 6 this issue of roles and responsibilities in the Church is being faced head-on, probably for the very first time since Jesus had ascended from the Earth.
Verses 3-6: “Wherefore, brethren, look ye 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. 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.”
So, the Apostles took a very organized and, I would have said, wise and spiritual approach to the issue of serving food to all their needy widows. They appointed these 7 “helpers” who would take over the task of serving meals to the widows under the church’s care. There was no welfare, food stamps, or social security in that day, and so the Church stepped in. The service of these helpers would free up the Apostle to study, pray and teach the Word of God on a full-time basis. Local churches in our day might hire a janitor, a secretary, or a nursery attendant in a somewhat similar way, correct?
Verse 7: “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.”
There was plenty of evidence that the Holy Spirit was, indeed, among them and at work in and through them! That very first Church was growing effectively and stretching and reaching out into the Jerusalem community.
Verse 8: “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”
Whoa, wasn’t Stephen one of those appointed to be more like a waiter, or a janitor? What was happening here? Well, apparently, the Spirit of God which indwelt Stephen must have thought otherwise. And this certainly can happen in the Church today sometimes, and we should all thank God for that. At times the movement of the Spirit of God may defy our best plans and logic, no matter how well-intended they may have been. I don’t know what kind of waiter Stephen was, but he was certainly an amazing conduit of the Lord’s power! And this man was granted a tremendous gift for teaching the Word of God. You can see that for yourself by reading Acts chapter 7 sometime, but you’d better read on here in chapter 6, first, and brace yourself a bit.
Verses 9-10: “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.”
I wonder if Stephen was shocked. He had been told to carry food and wait on tables. But the Holy Spirit had begun to produce amazing spiritual fruit in his life and ministry! However, Stephen was so Christ-like that what happened to Christ there in Jerusalem started to happen to him too. Look at this:
Verses 11-14: “Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to 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.”
I find this all to be so amazing, but still tragic at the same time. Stephen was being persecuted and punished out of fear of the Truth of God. There was no written New Testament at this time. God was using Stephen as sort of a living Bible before these people. And, praise God, Stephen did not shrink back from the role God asked him to play in their church.
Studying all this during the week has caused me to think about my own role in the Church, at large, today. Have you ever done that? Have you ever volunteered or been hired by a local church to perform tasks such as lawn care, ushering, or to be the treasurer, for instance? One time I was even paid (not too much) to be a church’s choir director. But sometimes these outward positions don’t fully settle the issue of what role the Holy Spirit may really desire for you and for me. Do you know what I mean? Should a helper who has been appointed to serve food to the poor also preach and teach God’s Word if truly led to do that at times? Or, we might say, is there ever a time for a preacher to wait on tables, if really needed?
The answer I came up with this week is YES on all counts. I’m not saying we should have chaos in the Church today or that it is wrong to attempt to plan things out ahead of time. Of course not. It’s OK to get organized, but we must NEVER forget that the POWER of the Holy Spirit is dwelling within every true believer – clergy and layperson alike! Stephen was “officially” just a helper at his church, but he definitely had POWER at that moment:
Verse 15: “And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”
Helper Stephen was about to preach a sermon that would change the history of the Church and the world. Let’s close with just the opening words of what he had to say.
“Then said the high priest, Are these 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 shall shew thee. . . .”
In the final analysis, seminaries don’t “make” preachers. Only God can do that. And the same is true of all the gifts and talents the Lord gives His people today. Should we try to organize ourselves? Sure! But we must never organize in a way that quenches the Holy Spirit.
So, what is your position in the church today? Hey, I can’t tell you. I barely know my own, but I KNOW this: if we truly seek first the Kingdom of God, then you and I will be whatever God says we are, no more and no less. And that will be regardless of any title man may give to us or take away. Let’s pray.