The early church is continuing to grow by leaps and bounds! God’s message is being spread all over the region but especially in Jerusalem. Along with the gospel are signs, wonders and acts of caring. These ALL were a part of the early church. And like any group, issues arose. We will visit one of these today and see how it was resolved.
Luke identifies a group in the early church called the Hellenists. These were Jewish Christians whose mother tongue was Greek. They came from the Diaspora who settled in Jerusalem. (I Googled it of course.) Their issue was that some of their widows were not being taken care of like the Hebrew widows were. Both groups were part of the new church but something was dividing them. Possibly a language barrier. This could have been the first “church split” but instead it was the first appointment of direct ministers, deacons if you will.
When I read this passage before I saw the apostle’s response in a less than pleasing light. I saw their reply to this complaint like they couldn’t be bothered with the day to day details. But God opened my eyes to see their reply as it should be.
The apostles had been doing everything in the church until now. They preached the gospel, healed the sick, received and distributed the money and cared for all the new converts. This was a daunting task for 12 men. Others offered help along the way and I’m sure they availed themselves of that help, but they couldn’t do it all. Something had to give! I’m certain much prayer went into this decision and it was made as a whole by those in authority.
“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (verse 2). NOT that it is beneath them but that some priorities had to be set for their service. If no one else was available to server tables I’m certain any one of the twelve would have done so with pleasure. But there were others available to help ease the burden of responsibility and to ensure that things didn’t get missed along the way.
“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (verse 3). Not just anyone would do to assume the mantle of responsibility. The apostles weren’t simply trying to get rid of a burdensome job but were trying to find someone who would care for the people with the same compassion and standard as they themselves would. The persons chosen had to be full of the Spirit. They had to have given themselves fully to Jesus. They also had to have wisdom. They needed to be able to manage the job properly and not squander the resources they would be managing. They needed to be able to show God’s love to those they were serving and do so appropriately.
Another thing that just popped for me is that there were seven of them appointed, not just one or two. This was a BIG job and required more hands. It also required accountability. There could be no repeat of “Judas and the money bag” this time. That was a hard lesson learned. I don’t know which came first; Judas dipping in or the money taking hold of his heart. It’s too easy to lose one’s way when faced with temptation without support.
Out of such a large number of disciples seven were chosen who fit the requirements. As a group and as individuals, they were set before the apostles. As Jesus had done with them, they did with these seven. They laid their hands on them and prayed. They prayed for the Spirit to work in them as they served in this new office. Compassion, wisdom, discernment, and hospitality were probably a few of the gifts they asked the Spirit to increase in their lives.
Because of the support system now in place, the apostles could continue to share their firsthand testimony and the people would have their daily needs met. This care helped the church continue to grow. It even began to include some of the priests who formerly challenged and rejected Jesus.
Father God, right now I could use some of those gifts! I’m feeling VERY frustrated by the demands on my time. Forgive me for my attitude. I wanted to rant and spell it all out here but You checked me on that too. Please help my attitude. Show me where to “delegate” and where to encourage independence too. I am feeling overwhelmed. Please give me peace and patience to walk the path before me. Thank You for my burgeoning support system. Give me the courage to ask for what I need too. I’m so used to trying to do it all on my own AND being there for everyone else’s needs.