Sunday Sermon: ‘Ekklesia – Servants’

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Of the many things that could be said of the early church, one thing that stands out is their unity and love for each other.

  • Ac 1:14  These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…
  • Ac 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
  • Ac 2:46  And they, continuing daily with one accord…
  • Ac 4:24  And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord…
  • Ac 4:32  And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul…
  • Ac 5:12 …and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.

There are several reasons why the early church clung so tightly to each other. Let me mention just three:

  • Pilgrims – On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 men, plus their wives and children, became a part of the church. Many of these men and women had traveled to Jerusalem from other regions in order to celebrate the Passover. Receiving Christ as their Savior had radically changed their lives and there was an intense desire to be with fellow believers. In addition to this, having come from Jewish backgrounds, many of them would not be rejected by their friends and family. In a sense we might call these new believers – ‘pilgrims.’ In a sense, every Christian is a pilgrim. Both the book of Hebrews and 1 Peter refers to believers as – ‘strangers and pilgrims’ here on this earth. A lot of you who follow Christ are like a stranger and pilgrim to your family and former friends. Therefore, fellowship in the church is very important to you.
  • Persecution – Religious persecution is when someone is attack for their faith. Shortly after the early began, both Jews and Romans began to persecute them. Many of them were arrested, beaten and even killed. When Christians are being persecuted, they pray more, they study more and they worship with a greater intensity.
  • Poverty – As we continue to study the book of Acts, we find that care giving within the church family became a huge part of the ministry.

In Acts 6 we learn about a major turning point in the church’s ability to care for its members.

Acts 6
1  And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
2  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
3  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
4  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
5  And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
6  Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
7  And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

I. The Setting

A. Growth of the Church

Scripture says that the Lord was adding to the church ‘daily.’ (Acts 2:47) By the time we get to Acts 6, the number of believers exceeded well over 10,000. Even though there was a great deal of excitement, I’m sure that at times the apostles must have felt overwhelmed. It was all happening so quickly and everyone was looking to them for guidance; both spiritually and practically. In the midst of this explosive growth a problem arose. Certain groups within the church began to feel neglected.

B. Grumbling in the Church

1  And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

The daily ministration was a distribution of food and funds to help care for those in need. ‘The Grecians’ is a reference to Jews who lived outside of Jerusalem and Judea. They spoke Greek as their primary language and no doubt their lifestyle reflected much of the Roman and Greek culture in which they had been raised. Many of these believers had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and after their conversion they didn’t return home. Now, with no family, friends or means of supporting themselves, they looked to the church for help.

II. The Solution

2  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
3  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
4  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

The Apostles did not say that the widow’s needs were not important, but that they themselves could not properly minister the Word and serve tables at the same time. The key to understanding this passage is to note one particular word that is used three times. Although it is translated three different ways, all three come from the same Greek word and that word is the primary focus of our service today.

The words – ‘ daily ministration‘, ‘serve tables’ and ‘ministry of the word’ – all come from the same Greek word – {diakonos}. It is the word from which we get the English word ‘Deacon.’ The Online Bible Greek Lexicon defines a deacon as – {one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use}. The apostles could not properly serve both the spiritual needs and the physical needs of the believers at the same time. Therefore men were to be selected who could assist the apostles by serving the physical needs and thus allow the apostles to remain focused on the spiritual needs. These seven men represent the first deacons in the church.

III. The Selection

3  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

The apostles did not dump this duty off on these seven men. Rather it says that the seven men worked with the apostles and under their leadership.

Four words might be used to help describe these seven men:

  • Involvement     Becoming a deacon did not make them a servant. It was not – ‘Give me a title and position and I’ll serve.’ They were already servants and everyone knew it.
  • Integrity These men had to be trustworthy to properly handle these resources.They had to be above reproach when it came to matters of trust and confidentiality.
  • Inspired They had to be men who were living under the control and guidance of the Holy Spirit. ‘Full of the Holy Ghost’ means to live under His control.
  • Insight They had to be wise. It takes a lot of wisdom to know who, when and how when it comes to meeting needs. These men had to have great insight to know how to properly care for those in need.

IV. The Success

Scripture reveals that the apostles made a very wise decision in establishing the biblical office of deacon. Notice the results –

7  And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

As these seven men gave oversight to the daily distribution of food and other needed items, the apostles focused on teaching the people the Word of God. The phrase ‘And the word of God increased’ means that the apostles knowledge of the word increased as well did their ministry of it to the people and even the lost. It is worth noting that the apostles’ teaching ministry became so powerful that even many of the priests from the temple became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament and thus they also joined themselves to the church.
IV. Serving in the Church

Scripture teaches us that there is the biblical office of Deacon. But in a sense, every member of the church is to be a deacon or deaconess. The early church did not invent the word ‘diakonos’, it was already used in everyday living. Anytime someone took it upon themselves to care for or minister to another, they were performing the duties of a diakonos. Jesus said this about His followers – “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (diakonos) (Matthew 23:11)

Being a part of the church is about being a servant to the church. I praise God for all of the servants at Twin Oaks Baptist Church.


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