Sunday Sermon: ‘Real Needs, Real Solutions, Real Church’ (I WILL Series #8)

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Today’s service is focusing primarily upon two men in our church who are going to become a part of our deacon ministry. To tie this in with this week’s chapter in our book, ‘Avoiding the Trap of Churchianity’, I have decided to entitle my message – ‘Real Ministry to Real People in a Real Church.’ Turn with me to Acts 6.

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.

I. Real Needs 

The first thing I want to call your attention to is that even the early church had its problems. Just being a Christian or just joining the church doesn’t automatically immune us from problems. Real people have real problems. What was the problem in the early church?

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.

A. Real People 

Who were the Grecian and Hebrew widows? It might surprise you to know that both groups were Jews. Those living inside of the borders of Israel were sometimes referred to as Hebrews while those living outside of the borders of Israel were referred to as Grecians. The reason they were called Grecians or Hellenists was because the culture they lived in was more Greek than Jewish.

You might ask, ‘Why were these Grecian widows now living in Jerusalem?’ Perhaps you will remember that on the Day of Pentecost, Jews from everywhere were in Jerusalem celebrating the feast. (see Acts 2:9-11) Most likely, once many of the Jews converted to Christianity, they never returned to their homes. They stayed in Jerusalem and became a part of the growing Christian community.

B. Real Problem 

Real people often have real problems. Real Christians sometimes have problems and therefore real churches sometimes have problems. What was the problem in the church at Jerusalem? Actually it was three-fold:

1. The Grecian Widows’ Needs Were Not Being Met

The Grecian widows accused the apostles of paying more attention to the Hebrew widows than to them. We don’t know if this was a legitimate complaint or just jealousy. Nevertheless, their being disgruntled had the potential of causing some big problems.

2. There Was Murmuring in the Church

Verse 1 says that they were ‘murmuring.’ What is murmuring? Murmuring is more than just being upset. Murmuring is complaining under our breath. It’s anger brewing under the surface.

Sometimes this is referred to as someone who is ‘Passive Aggressive.’ Rather than speaking openly about their problem, passive aggressive people often complain in the corners. The book of Proverbs refers to such people as those who sometimes ‘sow discord among the brethren.’ (see Proverbs 6:16-19)

3. The Apostles Were Limited in Their Abilities to Meet the Needs

There’s a third aspect to this problem and one we might overlook. The apostles weren’t able to meet all the needs.

I don’t think that the apostles were intentionally being negligent in their duties. They just were able to cover all the basis. We read earlier in the book of Acts –

Acts 4:34 …for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

“Laying their offerings at the apostles’ feet” is a figurative way of saying that the apostles were entrusted with the duty of distributing the special love offerings.

Therefore, if you put Acts 4 alongside of Acts 6, you realize that the apostles where probably still responsible for doing everything; preaching and teaching, praying over the needs of the people, and caring for the widows. And scripture says that they weren’t getting it done.

II. Real Solutions

Acts 6:2 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.

A. Choose Men From the People Who Can Help You

I always learn a lot whenever I prepare a sermon. This week I learned how the apostles came up with this concept.

Way back in the book of Exodus, Moses had a problem similar to the apostles. He was trying to single-handedly care for the entire nation of Israel, which problem numbered to over a million people.

One day his father in law, Jethro, paid Moses a visit. When Jethro saw Moses trying to do it all himself, he asked Moses – ‘What in the world are you doing?’ (see Exodus 18) ‘You’re not only going to burn yourself out, you’re not going to meet all the needs of all the people.’ Then Jethro said something amazing –

“Select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as leaders over various groups of the people…”  (see Exodus 18:21)

What the apostles said to the early church is almost verbatim of what Jethro told Moses. ‘Choose qualified men who can help you.’

B. The Development of the Office of Deacon

The biblical concept of deacons reaches back to the time of Moses and the nation of Israel.

What is a deacon? Although Acts 6 never directly calls these seven men ‘deacons’, most agree that they were at least the prototypes.

As many of you know, the term deacon means ‘servant.’ Sometimes it’s used to refer to someone who waits on tables. Most often the Greek word for deacon is translated in our Bible as ‘ministry.’

It’s very important for us to understand how this particular word was used in Acts 6.

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.

The Grecian widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food, or if you will – the daily ministry of serving people and caring for their needs.

Secondly, the apostles believed that a decision must be made as to whether they would serve tables, or serve the Word.

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.

Here’s what the apostles were saying:

1. We agree that there are needs that need to be met.

2. However, we are not able to do it all by ourselves. We will have to focus either upon serving physical food or spiritual food.

3. We believe that God would have the church to:

a. Select godly men to whom we can assign this ministry.

b. So that we can continue to devote our time and energy to prayer and the ministry of God’s Word.

III. Real Church

Acts 6:5 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:       

Let me pause for just a moment and make a few comments about these men. All their names are Grecian, indicating that they all were aware of the immediate problem. Secondly, we find some of these men such as Stephen and Philip, later in the book of Acts serving the Lord in other ways. They were gifted speakers and evangelists. I found it also interesting to learn that the name ‘Prochorus’ means: leader of the chorus. Was Prochorus the choir director? It seems that the church selected a variety of men who were strong, honorable, caring and most importantly – godly. Some were men who stood out in the crowd and others were quiet and worked behind the scenes.

Acts 6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

I think that it is also very important that we note that the apostles’ suggestion ‘pleased’ the entire church. It brought unity again to the church. We as the body of Christ must always be striving for unity.

A. The Development of Ministry

Although the church began on the Day of Pentecost, it took years for it to grow and develop. Acts 6 reveals how the church took a huge step of development by calling these seven men to assist the apostles. By the time we get to the writings of Paul, we see how it had developed into an official group of men referred to as deacons.

But there’s more to ministry than just the deacons. We learn from the book of 1 Corinthians that the Holy Spirit gives a spiritual gift to every believer for the purpose of ministering to the body of Christ. (see 1 Corinthians 12) Paul tells us in the book of Romans that there is one particular spiritual gift known as the ‘gift of serving’; or to be more technical – the gift of a diakonos.

B. The Development of the Church

What happens when the church operates the way the Lord has designed it? Let’s take one more look at our passage in Acts.

Acts 6:7 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.

1. Spiritual Growth

First we see that there was spiritual growth in the church. As the apostles were able to give more attention to prayer and study of the Word, there was an increase in:

a. Their ability to understand the Word

A good Sunday School lesson or sermon takes a lot of studying. Sometimes you can study for several hours just to make sure what you’re going to say in one sentence is correct.

b. Their ability to teach and preach the Word

The more they understood the Word, the better they were able to explain the Word. The people grew in their knowledge of God’s Word.

c. Their opportunities to spread the gospel

2. Numerical Growth

Acts 6:7 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.

The Bible says – “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) The more the Word went out, the more people were drawn to Christ. Luke closes this passage with one very interesting tid-bit. “…and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” As the apostles grew in their knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, (Old Testament), many of the priests began to realize that Jesus was indeed the Messiah as prophesied in the Old Testament.

APPLICATION

I thank God for a group of men here at Twin Oaks whom we not only call our deacons, but whom also we call our friends. Both they and their wives are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I thank God for a godly young man such as Pastor Bruce who helps me in more ways that he realizes. He, too, is my friend and he is constantly trying to support and encourage me. God sent him here to help me become a better pastor.

I thank God for all the servants at Twin Oaks. On this special day when we ordain these men as deacons, I pray that we all will recommit ourselves to the service of the body of Christ.

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