Acts 6 Sermon Outline
Swindoll “the church is like an iceberg”.
*First icebergs are enormous*.
This was certainly true of the church in Acts.
At last count there were about 5000 men in the church not counting women and children (Acts 4:4).
*Second icebergs just float along with the current*.
The early church, too, was in danger of floating aimlessly, allowing growth to knock it off course.
*A third characteristic of icebergs is that they carry a lot of debris along with them*.
In Acts 6, we see disturbing signs that this young congregation had already collected some debris and if it was not dealt with, the church would crack and break apart.
The Early church blessed by rapid growth
God was blessing His church and He was adding to their number more and more.
But with the blessings of numerical growth there often times can come the possibility for conflict and dissension.
All people are sinners and they do not leave those sins behind when they join a church.
That is true today and it was true in the times of the book of Acts.
The early church was not perfect.
But we can learn from what they went through as we go through similar problems today.
Swindoll 4 perils of rapid growth
/Uncertainty of purpose /Constant busyness, daily decisions, and ever-pressing needs can cause a church to loose its original purpose.
Why does this fellowship exist?
How does God want us to minister in the place that He has put us?
/Fuzzy priorities/ A wider ministry sparks additional demands.
Church leaders may be tempted to throw out yesterday’s priorities to put out today’s fires.
What is most important is replaced by what is most urgent.
/A tendency towards professionalism/ As churches grow, and resources and demands grow along with them, the church may begin to look to “professionals” to do all the work while the congregation takes on the role of “spectators”.
Rather than using and exercising their spiritual gifts, the members entrust all the work to the “professionals”.
/Loss of individual significance/ As churches grow, it is easy to get lost in the crowd.
A person begins to feel that no one cares about them as an individual.
These were some of the issues that the church in Acts was facing.
Whenever we see the kingdom of God advancing we know that the enemy is going to be at work.
He has many ways of trying to disrupt God’s program but one of the most effective weapons that he uses is division.
“Divide and conquer” is an old military strategy but it is an effective one.
In chapter 6 we see him at work.
*1* Now at this time while the disciples were increasing /in number, /a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic /Jews /against the /native/ Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving /of food./
Notice that the disciples are increasing.
That is a good thing.
But along with the good thing of growth there is the problem of a “complaint”.
This word was used in the LXX of the “murmuring” of the Israelites against Moses.
We are not told whether this problem arose because any malice on the part of the Hebrews against the Hellenists or vices versa.
The problem could have mainly been one of poor management on the part of those in charge of the food distribution.
One commentator felt like this problem arose because of poor administration or supervision.
But what ever the cause, there is a problem and it needs to be addressed.
What are the apostles going to do?
How are they going to handle this situation?
What can we learn from them?
How could the Apostles have responded?
Ignore the problem.
Hope that if they do nothing it would go away.
The result would have been that the problem would have gotten worse and the growth of the church would have suffered and maybe even a split would have occurred.
Done it themselves.
The Apostles could have rolled up their sleeves and tweaked their schedules to allow them to do more and address the problem themselves.
The result would have been their ministry would have suffered.
The Seven would not have been allowed to minister.
The needs of the church in preaching and teaching would not been met as well and the church would not have prospered.
The right path was the one they chose to delegate the work to capable men chosen from among the congregation.
The fellowship was pleased, the needs were met, the Seven ministered and the church grew.
John Stott, “The 12 did not impose a solution on the church but gathered all the disciples together in order to share the problem with them”.
They start by making a “Declaration of Priorities”.
2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.
“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Swindoll observes that the word “desirable” means “fit” or “pleasing”.
It was not pleasing to the Lord for the apostles to distribute the food.
Their priorities were prayer and preaching the Word.
The Apostles priorities were prayer and the word.
I think that it is interesting to note that prayer is put on an equal footing with preaching.
The two go hand in hand.
Preaching that is not first, last and throughout strengthened by prayer will not be effective.
As we looked at previously in Acts, they did everything by prayer.
They knew that they could accomplish nothing apart from the help of God.
Do we pray as they did?
Have we forgotten that apart from Him we can do nothing?
It is easy for leaders to feel that they must do it all.
And often the congregation is very happy to let them do it all.
Some leaders are unwilling to turn responsibilities over to others in the fellowship.
But the needs of the fellowship still have to be met.
How will that happen, lets look.
*The Apostles Solution*
3 “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.
What do we notice about how the Apostles handled this problem?
*First* as we have already stated they stated the priorities of the Word and prayer.
*Second* they tell the congregation to “select” from among themselves.
The word “select” means to “inspect” or “examine”.
They were not looking for 7 volunteers.
The congregation was told to thoughtfully evaluate the men of the assembly and then select 7 capable men to minister to this need.
The men chosen were to be qualified as “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Practical and Spiritual).
They were to take leadership of the task and supervise the work skillfully.
*The Ministry of the Word and the Ministry of Tables*
Many believe that this passage of Scripture sets forth the provision of the office of Deacon or Manager in the church.
Others believe that the office of deacon is not described here.
John MacArthur, “These were not deacons in terms of the later church office (1 Tim.
3:8–13), although they performed some of the same duties.
Stephen and Philip (the only ones of the 7 mentioned elsewhere in Scripture) clearly were evangelists, not deacons.
Acts later mentions elders (14:23; 20:17), but not deacons.
It seems, therefore, that a permanent order of deacons was not established at that time.
The word that Luke uses in verse 1, 2 and 4, “serve” is the word from which the word “deacon” or “manager” comes.
Sometimes the word is used as to “serve as deacons”, or to “serve” or “minister”.
Paul outlines the qualifications for deacons or managers in some detail in 1 Tim 3:8ff
Deacons likewise /must be /men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,
9 /but /holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.