*The Blessing of Community*
Big Idea: God blesses a church that strives for unity.
A. Rodney King riots
1. On March 3, 1991, Rodney King was pulled over after leading police officers in a high-speed pursuit through the streets of south central Los Angeles.
Because King was on parole the police attempted to arrest him.
The four policemen then alleged that King resisted arrest and proceeded to taser, tackle and strike him with batons, all of which was captured on videotape.
2. A year later, in April 1992, three of the four policemen were acquitted in court of any wrongdoing.
Because Rodney King was black and the four policemen where white, riots broke out throughout L.A., and in several cities throughout the country, and lasted for four days.
3. On the last day of the riots, Rodney King appeared before television news cameras and asked the now famous question, “Can we all get along?”
B. Have you ever asked that question?
Whether it’s with a friend or because you’re part of a team, have you ever wondered why people have to disagree so much over sometimes the most trivial of things?
Even in Christianity there are tens of thousands of denominations that exist, many of them refusing to fellowship with others over some of the most trivial of things.
C. That is not what God desires.
When He brought Israel out of Egypt en masse He gave them the 10 Commandments to help them be unified.
2. He wanted them to be a single entity, standing together against the other nations.
D. We’ve been studying the Book of Acts for the last few weeks and have so far gone through five chapters of history as we’ve examined how Jesus has been building His church after His resurrection and ascension.
1. Let’s continue looking at the history of the church in Acts chapter 6, starting in verse 1.
A. Setting of Growth (1a)
1. Luke breaks with his chronological account and gives us a short commentary on the State of the Church (read Acts 6:1a).
2. Looking back on what we’ve seen so far, by and large, good things were happening.
They were continuing the work of Jesus by healing people who were lame (Acts 3:7) and sick (Acts 5:16).
They were gaining audiences with influential people and religious leaders (Acts 4:8-12; 5:29-32).
They were being filled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31).
They were growing closer together in unity as a community (Acts 4:32)
They were gaining a measure of respect from the people in Jerusalem (Acts 5:13).
They were actively and aggressively going about the work of the Great Commission (Matt.
28:19-20; Acts 5:42).
3. With that, there were also some difficulties, or crises, that this early community of believers had to overcome.
The first one came on Pentecost day when the crowd accused them of being drunk (Acts 2:13).
Immediately their reputation was threatened.
The second one came in chapter 4 when Peter and John were arrested by the religious leaders (Acts 4:1-3) and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18).
In this case, their resolve was threatened.
The third crisis came from within the community as Ananias and Sapphira were judged by God for lying.
Here, their integrity was threatened.
After this, the apostles were arrested again by the religious leaders and this time beaten for again teaching in Jesus’ name (Acts 5:28).
Verse 29 (Acts 5:29) indicates that their focus was threatened.
4. In fact, there seems to be a pattern: any time good things are happening, a threat comes along to try to destroy it.
a. It’s interesting that only once did Luke explicitly say that Satan was behind a crisis, but it’s enough that we can infer that he was actively involved in the rest of them as well.
b. Let’s ask the question: if this pattern exists in the first five chapters, does it also exist in Chapter 6?
c. We’ve already been told that something good was happening; the disciples were growing.
Does a crisis come?
It absolutely does.
B. Threat of Grumbling (1b)
The Hellenists created a complaint; a murmuring; a secret displeasure.
The Christian church at that time (remember that we’re just two to three years from Pentecost) was made up of two ethnic types of Jews.
Those born and raised in Israel were called Hebrew-speaking Jews.
2.) Those born and raised in Greece, or in Greek-influenced countries, were called Greek-speaking Jews, or Hellenists.
3.) The two groups shared the same faith, first as Jews and then as believers in Christ, but they differed in language and culture.
4.) Ethnic diversity within the church.
5.) One the one hand, this is exciting because we’re witnessing the expansion of the church beyond the borders of Jerusalem, just as Jesus said would happen.
6.) On the other hand, with this new ethnic diversity, the church is having problems.
The complaint was that the Hellenist widows were purposely being overlooked in the daily distribution of food when the Hebrew widows were not.
1.) What would happen is that food and money would be collected from the believers in the city.
2.) It would then be divided and distributed on a basis of need, with widows being at or near the top of the list.
3.) It seems that the person or people in charge of this distribution were either intentionally or unintentionally favoring the Hebrew widows over the Hellenist widows.
4.) Because of this neglect, other Hellenists took up an offense on behalf of their fellow countrywomen and began grumbling and complaining behind the scenes to other people.
2. But complaining isn’t really that big of a deal, is it?
It’s simply people disagreeing with what’s going on.
Is it really a crisis?
a. First off, complaining represents a selfish and poor attitude.
In the exodus account, the people of Israel just witnessed ten miraculous plagues and a parting of a large body of water that afforded their escape from slavery and deliverance into the Promised Land.
2.) What is their reaction?
They grumbled and complained because there was no food, no water and they weren’t immediately in the land.
They weren’t getting what they wanted (Ex.
Secondly, complaining is always against God.
1.) Moses reminded them in Ex. 16:8 that their “grumbling is not against us, but against the Lord.”
2.) Their fault was in taking God’s grace as something that they legitimately deserved, and then voicing a problem with that claim.
By complaining, they were trying to rob God of His sovereignty.
c. Third, complaining causes division.
1.) Complaining sets up an “us and them” mentality.
2.) When Moses sent the spies into the land to check it out, those who brought back a bad report caused the people to grumble against Moses, Joshua, Caleb and God and as a result that whole generation of grumblers were wiped out and not allowed into the Promised Land.
3.) A less extreme example is in John 6. Jesus miraculously feeds 5000 disciples with bread and then claims the He is the Bread of Life.
A great many grumbled at the saying and chose to divide themselves from the other disciples and leave Jesus (John 6:60-61, 66).
So we see that complaining is a big deal, and was a threat to divide the community.
C. Resolution of Getting Godly Guys (2-6)
1. Perhaps the apostles were thinking about the account of the nation of Israel dying as they wandered in the wilderness because they grumbled.
Or perhaps they remembered the split that happened because many chose to stop following Jesus.
2. Either way, they realized the seriousness of the complaining and chose to act immediately (read Acts 6:2-6).
a. First, they gathered the whole multitude of disciples together (Acts 6:2a).
At this point there were several thousand believers in Jerusalem at this time, but this was important enough that everyone needed to be a part of the solution.
Second, they understood that a division of labor was necessary in order to minister most effectively to the most people (Acts 6:2, 4).