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1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Hellenists were Greek speaking believers
These were still Jewish people, not Gentiles
Many Jews had come from other places were they had been dispersed etc.
The local Jews, of Israel, were Hebrews - did not speak Greek
1st conflict among believers
We can see here that from the beginning of the Church it was important to provide for the needs of the weak
Widows were generally not able to provide for themselves
This was not a welfare benefit that was automatic entitlement
instead it was based on genuine need and inability to provide for oneself
People who were able to take care of their families were expected to do so
1 tim 5.
3 Honor widows who are really widows. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. 5 Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.
“really widows” in other words, widows who really don’t have family to provide for them
It is too bad that so many people no longer feel the need to provide for their aged parents and grandparents
(share my own grandparents story, and Uncle Tom’s example)
So many people now feel it is the government’s responsibility or someone else’s
but the bible teaches that a person who won’t take care of his own family is worse than an unbeliever
8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Isaiah also warns against those who hide from their own flesh
So we can see from the example of the early Church that charity toward those in need is a well established Christian Principle
People didn’t need a law to require them to give - they did so out of their love
First, people took care of their own families
then those who were able took care of those who had no families to take care of them (either by fact or circumstance)
But those who were able were expected to provide for themselves
this free gift was not unconditional as it often is today
So often these days people who are unwilling, yet able are teated with the same charity as those who are unable
10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
Widows were neglected
Widows were neglected
The dispute arose because the Greek speaking widows were being neglected in the distribution
this was not an intentional slight
Instead, the people serving did not notice the needs of those that they were less familiar with
they were not able to communicate well, and so it was hard to ask and answer also
And, there also appeared to be a shortage of people available to serve -
So the people in need were being missed
This same thing can happen, and does happen today
It is so easy for there to be people right among us with needs being unmet
sometimes physical needs like food and supplies
often spiritual needs like prayer and hearing of the Word
Thank God for those among us who are eager to join in the work (Steve example)
Very often we are waiting for the Pastor or someone in charge to notice the needs and supply them, while the Pastor is already serving other needs… and so people are neglected, not deliberately, but it happens
And so often, the wheel that squeaks gets the oil, while humble people with even greater needs suffer lack
2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.
They called the whole group together - this is everyone’s responsibility
everything that gets done or not done - is all our jobs
We are all in this together - The welfare of this church is as much your responsibility as it is mine
And that is true wherever you attend -
“It is not Desirable that we should leave the Word of God to serve tables”
This does not imply that serving tables is less noble
They were acknowledging that while these physical needs are important, the Word must be preached
we can get so bogged down with supplying the Physical needs of the ministry, that the Word suffers
This is a very common problem today
Most Pastors these days have to work other jobs to provide for the their own families
and So many of them also have to work to provide for the Church -
Sometimes this can take from the time that could be devoted to the Word
Seek out from Among You...
Seek out from Among You...
Their solution was that they should find 7 men among themselves
Normal, ordinary people, just like you
who would recognize their responsibility to join in serving and ministering to the needs
People who would “take responsibility”
Once appointed, they would make sure that no one had to come and find them, and the widows were not neglected
It is very important to note here that these couldn’t be just anyone
They needed to be qualified
They were to be “full of the Holy Spirit”
Full of wisdom
To have a good reputation
To often today we think that talent trumps holiness - it does not
It often seems necessary to fill positions with people who are unworthy because no one else is willing to serve
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. 7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
These men were appointed with prayer and with the laying on of hands
If we took our decisions that seriously today, I wonder what results would come
Is the problem lack of seeking Holy people, or lack of willingness in Holy people?
These people were appointed to serve table, by prayer and laying on of hands - before the church
And then the Word of God Spread
And then the Word of God Spread
How amazing it is that when we put His ways first, God’s Word is spread
the gospel will never lose its power
The number of disciples continued to be “multiplied greatly”
Many of the priests were obedient to the faith -
So even though the Jewish leaders opposed them, there were many of the regular priests who were believers
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
Remember Stephen - appointed to wait on tables
this was just an ordinary young man- like us
but the bible says he was full of faith and power! Doing great signs among the people
God is able to use you in the same way today
that is the pattern we see in Acts - Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, through the Holy Spirit
All believers have the Holy Spirit in them - if they will believe it
They were not able to resist the wisdom and Spirit by which Stephen spoke
If we are willing to be His witnesses, the enemy is still not able to overcome us
If God be for us, who can be against us
11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.
They secretly got people to lie about Stephen
Jesus told us these things would happen - and He said to rejoice!
We have seen these same type of things happen in these days
But when they called him in. his face was as an angel
He was looking to God
We must always also look to Jesus - especially in trials