Event(s): Seven are chosen to serve, Stephen is accused of blasphemy
Today’s Text: Acts 6:1-15
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 7:1-53
At first, the persecution the disciples faced was external. Now we start to see dissension attempting to rise up from within. But when handled with wisdom, order, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, the fire is put out and the issue is quickly resolved.
Acts 6:1b “against the Hebrews by the Hellenists” The “Hebrews” were believers, Christian converts, who had been born and raised in Israel. They were natives who spoke Hebrew and/or Aramaic. The Hellenists were also converts, but had lived abroad in the Greek world and had since returned to the region of Judea. They were also followers of Christ, though they had adopted Greek cultural elements and spoke mainly Greek. Historically, frequent tensions arose between these two groups of people, and now, this cultural problem was attempting to carry over into the church.
Acts 6:1c “their widows were neglected in the daily distribution” Here, we see The Church was obviously providing a daily allotment for widows who were not able to provide for themselves, which again speaks to the beautiful spirit of generosity that was operating in the church. (Think of it like a “soup kitchen” for the needy.) However, for some reason, (probably due to the language barrier and cultural differences mentioned above) the “immigrant” widows were being neglected, and it appeared the Hebrews were only taking care of their own. But as soon as the disciples learned of it, they immediately took steps to correct the problem.
Acts 6:2 “that we should leave the word of God and serve tables” To serve tables didn’t mean what we probably assume it to mean in our modern culture (like a server at a restaurant). What is implied here is that this business of distributing these allotments took place at tables. (Think of it like a registration table, or a check in table. There’s typically a list that has to be managed. The operation has to be run efficiently to ensure no one gets left out, etc.)
The disciples recognized the importance of this work, but due to the growth they had experienced (vs 1) they also knew it had reached the point where some additional management and oversight was required. However, the disciples were also careful enough to not let a need (though valid) pull them away from what they were called to do. In other words, they responded instead of reacting. We could certainly learn from this example, couldn’t we?
Acts 6:3a “seek out from among you seven men” The apostles had the authority to choose the leaders themselves. But instead, they laid out the requirements for nominating a leader, and then let the community of believers take involvement in the process. A brilliant leadership move – ensuring that the ones who brought up the issue also took a level of responsibility for the solution. Leadership is not about wielding authority; it’s about empowering people, as they had been empowered by Jesus Christ.
Acts 6:3b “of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” Notice the qualifications for these roles had nothing to do with having x years of experience in community service, or operational management. The qualifications were:
1.) Having a good reputation; because the people were more likely to trust someone who lived what they professed.
2.) Being full of the Holy Spirit, which ensured the work didn’t just become about executing a task, but was carried out with God’s love and ongoing perspective.
3.) Being full of wisdom; a trait also motivated by the Holy Spirit that would prove to be the source for the practical problem solving that was necessary.
In other words, greater value was placed on character traits, not on special talents or abilities. This is one of the hallmarks that distinguishes leadership in the kingdom, and it’s what God looks for when promoting. This serves as a great reminder to us that while developing skills and talents is important, honing a Christ like character is even more important. And when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, God can take us into places and appoint us to positions of authority we may have never dreamed of or even imagined.
Acts 6:5 “and they chose…” All seven of these men had Greek names. So it is likely that they all came from the Hellenistic group of believers.
“The selection of Hellenists no doubt was a wise and gracious gesture to the people who had initially raised the complaint concerning the widows.” –NKJV Study Bible
Acts 6:6 “they laid hands on them” Throughout the Bible we find various occasions in which the tradition of laying on of hands was used. Sometimes it was to bring healing, other times it was to receive the Holy Spirit, other times it was for ordination, etc. In this case, it was a sign of conferring authority and responsibility to this new group of leaders (1 Timothy 5:22). Though the men were qualified and had been nominated by the people, the action was preceded by prayer to ensure that most importantly God had appointed them. Stephen stood out amongst the seven, but again, we’re still dealing with the issue of jealousy from the religious leaders. We’ll talk more about Stephen later.
One of the primary ways we can be taken off course is through distraction. Distractions that may appear as legitimate needs or emergencies, but that cause us to start running around from one fire to another, leaving us exhausted, worn out, and all the while taking our attention off the priorities that deserve our greatest attention. The truth is, reacting to what goes on around us is typically rooted in fear; while responding is rooted in wisdom. One of the greatest byproducts of being filled with the Holy Spirit is that when we are faced with something unexpected, we can learn how to respond in wisdom. And the answers we need come through spending time with Him in prayer.
Think about any “fires” that may be demanding your attention right now. They may be pulling you away from other priorities and you’re feeling the stretch between those two worlds. Today, take a different approach. Psalm 94:19 says, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” So in prayer today, ask God to first calm any anxieties or stress associated with that fire. Ask for peace, and then ask Him to give you a new revelation of wisdom in how to move forward.