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Full of the Spirit and Wisdom

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Dear Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

We need to elect elders and deacons for the leadership of our congregation.  These offices provide a unique leadership position.  Elders and deacons are called to service in the kingdom, to give leadership among God’s people.  Most of all it is a call to bear witness among God’s people and in our community to Jesus’ resurrection and the new life that it gives.

We learn about the task of leaders in the church by reading through the book of Acts.  We also learn about the qualities to look for in selecting leaders within the church.

First, the task of the church: The mandate is given to the apostles in Acts 1:8

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

The apostles did receive power through the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus faithfully. 

In the power of the Holy Spirit, nothing holds them back.  In Acts 5, the apostles were arrested for preaching about Jesus. They were put into jail, but they did not stay there.

During the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.  “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

In miraculous ways God enabled them to continue the ministry he had given them.  When the Sanhedrin met the next morning and couldn’t find them in the jail, they eventually found them preaching in the temple.  From there they were arrested again and the apostles were given the opportunity to bring the gospel to the ruling council of the Jews and the Teachers of the Law.

Maybe not in the Sanhedrin, but throughout Jerusalem, people listened and responded with faith.  Even priests became followers of the Way.  God used the apostles’ preaching to bring many people to faith in Jesus.  The number of believers grew and grew. 

But a problem cropped up – as problems often do.

All demographics within the church were growing, including the number of widows who needed support from the church.

n  some were widows who put their faith in Jesus

n  possibly, some were believers whose husbands passed away

Now there was an excellent tradition of helping widows in Jerusalem.  There were many synagogues in Jerusalem, each caring for the widows and orphans of their congregation, as the law of God instructed.

The disciples of Jesus continued in that tradition, in obedience to God’s command to show love and compassion on people according to their needs. 

·        In Acts 2 we find that the disciples “gave to anyone as he had need.” 

·        In Acts 4 we read, “there were no needy persons among them, for from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

As their numbers increased, a problem of distribution arose. There seemed to be some racial profiling going on in the early church.  Greek-speaking Jews, were not receiving the same level of care as those who spoke Aramaic.  Those from away didn’t receive the same support as those from Judea and Galilee.

Something needed to be done; yet the apostles didn’t want to start waiting on tables, when they were commanded to preach.  So they called a congregational meeting to find a solution.

Guided by the Holy Spirit they proposed to give this responsibility to seven men so that the mercy of God and compassion of the people could be demonstrated to anyone according to their needs.

What qualities were they looking for?

The 12 apostles said, “Choose men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.”

What does this mean?  What are we looking for in church leaders?

Full of the Spirit – we’ll talk about the gifts of the Spirit in this evening’s service.  It refers to evidence of God already using this person, giving them gifts, allowing them to bear witness to Jesus. 

Related to this is Wisdom – the ability to apply the gospel to life, discerning the right thing to do. 

·        Do they demonstrate a commitment to the task of bearing witness to Jesus’ resurrection? 

·        Do they demonstrate the joy of salvation? 

·        Can they speak about Jesus’ life, ministry and sacrifice, and the promise of life in his name? 

·        Do they proclaim Jesus as Lard in their own life, in their family, in their work, in their recreation?

These qualities were evident in Stephen.  He was one of the seven who were chosen as a deacon along with Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas.

Philip also became a well-known preacher.  After Stephen’s death, he was led by the Spirit to preach all through Judea and Samaria.  He’s probably most famous for his conversation with the Ethiopian official.

Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We see how this is demonstrated in his work.  Stephen was used powerfully by the Lord, not only to distribute food among the needy in the church, but as he went about those duties, he had opportunity to speak about the reason for the hope that he had.  His ministry is described in verse 8:

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.

The work that Stephen did caught the attention of many people, not just within the church, but also among their neighbours.  People recognized what Stephen was doing, and they sat up and paid attention. 

These wonders and miraculous signs became opportunities for Stephen to share the gospel message.  At this time the gifts of the Spirit and wisdom which the church had recognized stood Stephen in good stead.  It was for this that he needed those gifts.

By the Spirit and the wisdom that God had given him, Stephen was able to explain and defend his faith.  But it brought him into an argument with men from a synagogue or two.  Jews from Cilicia and Asia are mentioned. 

As a point of interest, Cilicia is an area that covered parts of Turkey, including the city of Tarsus.  Who do you know from Tarsus?

Perhaps Paul was one of the people debating with Stephen.  Certainly these men from the synagogues were very familiar with Scripture and able to test what Stephen was saying against God’s Word.  “But they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by which he spoke.”

Stephen did his ministry relying on his gifts from God – the gifts the church recognized when they selected him to serve.  He was faithful in the task God and the church had entrusted to him. And the opposition to his preaching gave him opportunity to proclaim the good news when he was brought before the Sanhedrin. 

They noticed something very particular about Stephen when he was brought before him.  “They saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”  This fact should have alerted them to the importance of what he was saying.

They would have known their history and how Moses’ face shone after he spoke with God.  Is this manifestation of God’s glory in Stephen’s face not evidence that he is bringing the Word of God?  Yet they did not receive it, as they had failed to receive Jesus’ good news.

Next Sunday I hope to preach on his sermon before the Sanhedrin, found in Acts 7, so we can reflect on the message he brought in his wisdom and the Spirit of the Lord.

For today, though, God’s Word calls us to two things:

1.      To reflect on the task God has given the church

a.      Proclaim Jesus’ death, resurrection, and gift of life

b.      Demonstrate God’s mercy to each person as they have need.

2.   To select leaders in our congregation who demonstrate God’s gifts of wisdom and his Spirit so that we as a congregation can faithfully fulfill our task in the power he has given.

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