Monday, April 25, 2022

2022.04.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 5:42–6:7

Read Acts 5:42–6:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the apostles doing daily (Acts 5:42)? In what two locations? What did they not stop doing? What was still happening (Acts 6:1)? What arose? Among which two types of Jews? Why—what was happening? Who summon the multitude in Acts 6:2? What do they say is not desirable to leave? Why would they have to leave it? What do they tell the people to seek (Acts 6:3)? How many? Of what three qualities? What would the apostles appoint them to do? To what two things would the apostles keep giving themselves (Acts 6:4)? How did the congregation respond (Acts 6:5a)? How many of them? Whom did they choose? How does it describe Stephen? What is specifically noted about Nicolas? What do they do with these men (Acts 6:6)? What do the apostles do with them first? Then what? What spreads as a result (Acts 6:7a)? And where do the disciples multiply, and how much (verse 7b)? And from what specific group (and how many) do they see new converts (verse 7c)? How is this conversion described?

Up to this point in the church, the work of the apostle had also included the Work of the Deacon. Wherever the apostles were, if someone knew of a need and had sold something in order to supply that need, the benefactor would come lay the money at the apostles’ feet (cf. Acts 4:34–5:2). 

But the number of disciples was multiplying (Acts 6:1), and as happens with finite people and increasing tasks, mistakes were made. The Jewish widows of Greek background and culture fell through the cracks in the daily distribution, while the Jewish widows of Hebraic background and culture were always taken care of. Perhaps, there was even grumbling that all of the apostles were of Hebraic background. 

The language of “serving tables” in Acts 6:2 doesn’t imply that the twelve were themselves purchasing the money and distributing the food. But even the oversight of this good work was not to be compared to the more necessary duties involved in maintaining that worship and discipleship that was the core ministry of the church (Acts 5:42Acts 6:4, cf. Acts 2:40–43). Overseeing such an increasingly extensive and sensitive distribution was something that others were needed to do. Acts 6:3 makes plain that this new office is an office of overseeing the ministry of the church in these temporal things. 

The qualifications of a deacon were therefore similar to the qualifications of judges in God’s church ever since Exodus 18. In Exodus 18:18 and Deuteronomy 1:9–12, the same problem had arisen. There were just too many Israelites in that newly founded church, and they had too many complaints. 

So it doesn’t surprise us that the qualifications are similar. The new deacons must be men. There is a generic word for human sometimes translated “man,” but the apostles use the male-specific word in Acts 6:3. And these men were to be of good reputation—not just men who claimed to be godly, or about whom an individual had claimed that they were godly, but men about whom the wider congregation generally acknowledged that these claims were true.

In Deuteronomy 1:13, the qualifications were “wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men.” In Exodus 18:21, the list had been “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.” The last three qualifications in that list cover the same character as “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” in our passage. The Spirit first and foremost gives knowledge of God, faith in Christ, and the justification and sanctification that come out of faith-forged union with Christ. The fear of the Lord, which the Spirit gives, is the beginning of that wisdom in Acts 6:3

The speech as a whole is gladly received (Acts 6:5a) and the instruction immediately carried out. The list in verse 5 is probably in order of prominence, as we will hear more about Stephen and Philip until the end of chapter 8, as the Spirit authenticates their diaconal ministry with Word and sign. Here, Stephen is called “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Nicolas being from Antioch implies that he has a Greek culture background, and the same is probably true of Stephen, since his “home synagogue” seems to have been the one in Acts 6:9.

What are some needful things that deacons can handle in order to free up the ministry of the Word? What sort of men should deacons be? Which men should aim to be like this?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving Your church deacons to attend to the needful things. And thank You for giving Your Spirit to work into men the character of Christ. Grant that all of the men of our church would have such a character, and that we might especially have deacons who do their work well, so that the ministry of the Word can spread—in Christ’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

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