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The Scriptorium

Keeping Focused

The unity of the faith at work. Acts 6.1-4

Kingdom Sign and Outpost: Acts 6 and 7 (1)

Pray Psalm 133.1.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!

Sing Psalm 133.1, 3.
(Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara: Children of the Heavenly Father)
O behold, how sweet, how pleasant, when the brethren dwell together;
all in unity abiding find God’s blessing there presiding.

Read Acts 6.1-4.

Preparation

1. What was – or was not – happening in the church in Jerusalem?

2.  How did “the twelve” respond?

Meditation
As we have seen, those first Christians were an extraordinary group of men and women – eager to learn, quick to share, bold, devout, prayerful. They stood out from their peers, and enjoyed the admiration of all the people (2.47).

But these first Christians were still people, and therefore still capable of messing things up. I don’t see any indication of sin in this situation involving the widows; a “complaint” need not be construed as implying intentional wrongdoing or even anger, resentment, or the like. The widows who were being overlooked were simply victims of poor management or a distribution system that needed updating in light of the growing ranks of disciples. It’s certainly understandable how this could have come about, given the rapid growth of the believing community. There was a problem, and it needed to be fixed. The peace of the community was disrupted, and it needed to be restored (Eph. 4.3).

To their credit, the people knew to come to the apostles rather than allow the situation to fester and create bad feelings. And the apostles, to their credit, understood that not every problem was their problem. The shepherds of the church are appointed for the oversight of the souls of the people (Heb. 13.17). The “tools of the trade” for this high calling are prayer, the Word of God, and the personal example of the minister (cf. 1 Pet. 5.1-3). “Serving tables” would have given the apostles the opportunity to employ the last of these tools, but doing so in this situation, in their estimation, would have compromised the other two. They rightly recommended an alternative course of action. They laid out the qualifications this work would require, and left it to the people to choose those who would serve them.

The purpose of leaders is to lead, and the effectiveness of leaders is tried whenever crises or challenges arise. This is now the third challenge the apostles have had to deal with since the church in Jerusalem began to get organized in Acts 2. In each case, the Spirit empowered them with courage and wisdom to persevere in the ongoing work of Jesus Christ. The key is to keep focused on that work and not allow anything to sidetrack the progress of the Kingdom.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
It seems the issues that are arising in the early church are precedent-setters for us today.

From Ananias and Sapphira we learned that each person is responsible before God for their own behavior.
He lied. She lied. They both died.

From this situation with the Hellenists we learn that those with the complaint, need to step up and take care of the problem themselves. They were the ones who saw that there was a problem with the widows of their group being overlooked in the daily distribution. They were the ones who brought it to the disciple’s attention.

Today, we might blame the government, or expect some new law to be enacted to take care of the equity issue. Or some already overworked member of the church would be tapped to take care of the trouble.

But wisely, then, they chose people from the Hellenist group to fulfill the needs of their own observation and complaint. And wisely, they suggested the qualifications that these problem-solvers should have:
1. A good reputation.
2. A soul full of the Holy Spirit.
3. A life full of wisdom.

This new position took on a very reputable demeanor by choosing men of great character. Every work within the church is an honorable and important work. These men were the first deacons. And they established the tradition honorably and well.

Deacons must be “reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless” (1 Tim. 3.8-10).

The first church needed to keep focused. Because centuries of Christians were following in their wake. “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3.13).

Each one of us, who belong to Christ, has a job to do in our own Personal Mission Field. We learn from this situation that if we see a problem, we should try and implement a solution.

But most importantly, we should have a good reputation, and be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2.10).

For reflection

1. What do we learn from this situation about dealing with issues that arise in the local church?

2. Why was it necessary that the men chosen to meet this need have the qualities outlined by the apostles?

3. Why do we need to nurture such qualities? What needs do you expect to meet today?

The issue here was not blame, but rather what could be done to remedy the apparent injustice. The apostles knew that the problem of supporting the needy required attention. Though the apostles were sensitive enough to recognize the problem, they were also careful to recognize the priorities that are placed on church leaders by God. They could not leave what God had called them to do—declaring and teaching the word of God and establishing the church in prayer. Earl Radmacher (1931-2014), NKJV Study Bible Note on Acts 6.2

Pray Psalm 133.2, 3.
Pray that God will unite His churches in love, and that the unity of churches may strengthen our witness, according to the promise of Jesus in John 17.21.

Sing Psalm 133.2, 3.
(Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara: Children of the Heavenly Father)
Like the precious oil of blessing flowing down on Aaron’s vestment,
God’s anointing rests forever where His people dwell together.

Like the dew of Hermon’s fountain falling down on Zion’s mountain,
so the blessing of the Savior dwells where unity finds favor.

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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