Monday, May 02, 2022

2022.05.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 6:3

Read Acts 6:3

Questions from the Scripture text: What do the apostles tell the people to seek (Acts 6:3)? How many? Of what three qualities? What would the apostles appoint them to do? 

The purpose of the diaconate is to free up the ministry of the Word. The work of the diaconate is to oversee whatever earthly/temporal necessities would otherwise get in the way of that ministry. But this requires answering complaints, addressing needs, leading the congregation in sacrifice, handling money. And deacon is a new leadership position in the church that has Christ as its High Priest in the age of the Holy Spirit. So what kind of men must they be to do this work and hold this office?

Men. The apostles use a male-specific word. There are no qualified women, because “man” is a qualification. 

Of good reputation. Literally “of good witness.” The character of such men testifies to them, and those who genuinely know them testify about them. 

Full of the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? First and foremost, it means that the deacon is a man who believes in the message that the Spirit has been proclaiming since Pentecost: that Jesus is Yahweh from Joel 2:28–32, Who became the Christ, Who pours out His Spirit, and upon Whose Name all that call will be saved. If the deacon is to do his work for the sake of this preaching, he must hold to and believe this preaching. Two of the great evangelists in the forthcoming chapters are from among the seven men chosen in this passage.

The Spirit produced a devotion to public worship (Acts 2:42, Acts 5:42a) and family worship (Acts 2:46, Acts 5:42b). Men who have this Spirit will long for consistency, excellence, and fruitfulness of both. The Spirit produced the love for the brethren that produced the sharing that the deacons would oversee (Acts 2:44–45, Acts 4:34). 

But surely, as the apostles taught in public and in every house, they taught about the difference that the Spirit makes in the believer's life. The New Testament gives this part of the apostolic message most famously in Galatians 5:22–26. He produces in us fruit. Not fruits, plural, but singular in verse 22. The nine aspects named here are all of a single fruit—the Spirit fruit. While the unbeliever may seem to possess one or more of these aspects, he rarely demonstrates them all superficially, and more importantly, they are neither truly his in the heart and nor especially aimed first at the Lord. Believers will have all of the fruit, and more importantly have this fruit first and foremost toward the Lord, and in increasing measure.

Love—wholehearted desire for the good of the object, first and foremost the desire that God would receive His due glory, and then one’s neighbor as oneself. Joy—especially flowing from love for God, because of delight in the absolute confidence that He will, indeed, receive that due glory. Peace—the resting that this God bends all things toward that glory and our good.

And how does one whose heart is ruled by love, joy, and peace act toward others? With patience—necessary, because others are sinners, and love/joy/peace means bearing long with their sin. And with kindness—that countenance, and word choice, and tone, and manner that communicates a desire for others’ good; kindness is an outward manner that displays love. And goodness—actions that aim to fulfill this desire for the good of others. And faithfulness—saying what you mean, keeping your promises, fulfilling your obligations; never needing to compromise, because your wellbeing can’t be improved beyond that perfect good that the Lord is already doing you.

Finally, how does one whose heart is ruled by love, joy, and peace act toward himself? Primarily by distrusting our heart, actually. Distrusting our heart’s opinion of ourselves, and distrusting our heart’s emotions desires. 

Gentleness, in many ways, is distrusting our heart’s overinflated view of ourselves. The word translated ‘gentleness’, is actually meekness. Meekness toward God: submissiveness to obey God’s Word and submissiveness to accept His providence. And meekness toward man: recognizing that any good we have is a gift, esteeming others better than ourselves, and preferring their interests to our own.

And self-control acts upon a distrust of our heart’s emotions and desires. It begins with the recognition that our feelings are not to be trusted, and that even when our desires aren’t wrong (as they often are), they constantly tend toward disproportion. So, self-control is really Scripture-control by Spirit-control. It measures feelings and desires against the Bible, and acts not according to the impulses of our hearts but according to the revealed will of God.

But there is something more that must be done if these fruit are going to appear and thrive and grow. Their counterparts must be executed. In order to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), we must crucify the flesh (Galatians 5:24).

Since all believers have the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:9) and are led by the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:14), all men should be aspiring to the qualifications of the office of deacon! 

Full of wisdom. The Spirit doesn’t just give character and knowledge but skill in employing that knowledge. This is not unlike the “able men” aspect of Exodus 18:21 (where “fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” correspond to what we’ve already seen above). Stephen himself is going to use this word to describe Joseph’s favor and ability in the presence of Pharaoh (cf. Acts 7:10). A deacon must be a man whom the Spirit has not only given spiritual graces but also skill and proficiency in earthly matters as well. He’s full of wisdom. 

What an encouragement that the Spirit is producing such men! And women. And boys. And girls. Not all to the same extent as a man whom the church would recognize as called to be a deacon. But still, it’s the same Spirit doing the same work! We ought to be recognizing and acknowledging His graces in all our brothers and sisters. And when one begins to stand out, we should be preparing to recognize them as a deacon. When God gives us such officers, we should not think, “I could never be like that,” but “thanks be to the same Spirit Who made them like that, that He has now also given such men to us to lead us as He grows us to be like that, too.”

What men do you know who have all of these qualifications? How has the Lord been growing you in similar ways? What is one way (hint: this passage is all about it) that God has provided to help you grow more?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving us Your Spirit to convince us of Christ and grow us in His grace. And thank You for giving Your church men in whom You have done an exemplary work of grace. Forgive us for so often being content not to grow either individually or as a church, and not seeking more fervently to have such officers and avail ourselves of them. So, work in us by Your Spirit, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

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

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