In Isolation Thoughts 2

Sunday 19th July 2020

Music: YouTube- The Glory Road Trio

Bible Reading: Acts 6.1-7

Upsets in the Church

After all the difficulties with the authorities over the preaching about Jesus, we now come to internal disputes in the church. It gives us little comfort that through all the ages of the church right down to the current day, there have been disputes and splits between various groups within the Church. Church history has given us detailed analysis of the issues that have been involved. These issues have ranged from minor organisational matters, even the colours of the decorated building, to doctrinal  and interpretational disputes of the Bible. Although it is sad to see these disputes, they do give us some opportunity to learn and hopefully avoid them in the future.

Currently in our Society there is a great concern over equality of treatment within various sectors. This was the issue in Acts chapter 6. The dispute was between two sections of the church, the Jewish Christians and the converted Greek Christians. It would appear that the principle of caring for all the church was not being carried out fairly. The focus went even deeper as it involved the women who were widows. We need to bear in mind that at this early stage the composition of the Church was mainly Jewish. The Greeks were in the minority. If we apply normal demographics then the Greek widows were a very small minority. They felt that the distribution of food and support seemed to be going mainly to the Jewish widows and they felt they were being ignored and unfairly treated.


The dispute came to the attention of the Apostles and they were concerned as the communal support was an important element in the early Church as it was a witness to all those around them that faith in Christ changed lives. It is quite clear that the Apostles did not push it aside as unimportant. The solution finds its roots in the Jewish National history. Moses as leader was unable, due to pressure of work, to deal with all the disputes that arose from the tribes, so he appointed men  in the tribes to deal with the minor issues. The Apostles took a similar decision. They saw that their priority and gift from the Holy Spirit was to preach and teach the church. This was essential to the growth of the church, yet at the same time there was a need or concern to be met.


The Apostles passed the issue back to the church to select seven men who would be capable and able to deal with these matters. This can be seen as uniting the church not dividing it. It was a way of recognising that there were a number of different responsibilities within the church community which allowed people to use their gift to benefit the whole of the church.


The criteria for the selection of men to fill this role, bearing in mind the role of women in Jewish Society, was not to ask for volunteers or who was willing or wanted to do this role. In employment terms they produced a job description and person specification for the role. It was quite short with two criteria, firstly, they had to be full of the Holy Spirit, that is totally committed to Christ and secondly, they had to have wisdom, which indicated their ability to do the role. We see from their selection across the church community that they chose men who represented differing social and cultural aspects who they believe were suited for the role and would have wide support. The first on the list was Stephen: described as a man of faith-full of faith and the Holy Spirit. The other six were seen by implication as having the same characteristic. These seven men were brought to the apostles for their approval. Notice what they did, they prayed and blessed them which showed that they were approved for this aspect of service. Had they done the right thing? The answer is given in the following verse, the word of God spread and the church in Jerusalem increased rapidly and soon included some of the priests.

There is much to learn from this passage. Within the church there are varying roles and responsibilities. Not everyone is a preacher or teacher though they are needed. There are other roles that need to be fulfilled and Paul in some of his epistles outlines them. Each have a value within the body of the church. The challenge to us all is to use the gifts that God has given us for His service. We should ask, how can I use my gift for the Lord to benefit the whole church. Think, Pray and Act!

Music: YouTube- The Church’s One Foundation


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