April 8, 2021
by: Gabriel Tseng
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. – Acts 6:1-7

An amazing moment to be alive I would think when the church was so pure and just beginning. How fun it would have been to be caught up in the maelstrom of activity and kingdom work that was happening as the church was filled with the Holy Spirit. As Scripture teaches me, it is easy to forget it to be written by eyewitnesses among learned and uneducated folk, who eventually got their education in the Holy Spirit. The early church was so precious that God intervened and initiated everything. When we consider who leads His Church, we must not forget that it is God who is the Good Shepherd that shepherds his people. Every person may play a part, but God leads His Church and provides everything it needs. 

So it is strangely encouraging to see some subtle cracks in the fabric of the early church. Things needed to be debated and talked through. The process of growing and maturing were necessary, especially necessary in those early days as they set the tone for future generations. In just the previous passage, we find spiritual pride, hypocrisy and lying to God as profoundly important that God needed to show the Church what type of home He was building. Exciting times, but also terrifying times as God’s people and non-believers alike were seeing all that was unfolding. 

These early men realized that they were beginning to neglect certain aspects of the church ministry. With finite energy and time, it was bound to happen as faithful men served the widows and began to neglect WORD ministry. We might call it bible study or teaching in the church. Perhaps they thought to themselves, “We can’t do both things well. Other people need to help us.” Whatever the discussion may have been, it is a process to talk through and process these things together. The romanticized notion of a church without problems or needs is a myth, but God is faithful to provide for His people. Key to this is not necessarily a “giftedness” but more of a “faithfulness” as is seen with the men chosen. I’m sure they may have been good at serving and administrating the care of the widows, but what is noted is their faithfulness to God. Time in Scripture seems to happen in an instant, but identifying, asking and encouraging these faithful folks was not easy. 

To end, there is a 3rd party that are witnesses to this. Many of the priests became believers. These don’t seem to be previous disciples, but even perhaps some of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who opposed Jesus so vehemently. The witness, perhaps them seeing how they cared for the widows, how they lovingly discussed how to serve best and to uphold the importance of the ministry of the Word, perhaps that had a part to play in the Priests seeing and believing and joining that early group of misfits, fit together by the love of God. 

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