The church continued to thrive and grow despite the threat and persecution of the Jewish authorities. God worked mightily with the apostles. But as the congregation of believers grew in size, it became increasingly challenging for the apostles to take care of all the matters in the church. As a result, a complaint arose from among the believers concerning the matter of daily distribution. At this point, the apostles took immediate action to address this issue. By delegating the task of distribution to the seven men chosen by the congregation, the apostles were able to resolve the problem at hand and continue to focus on their mission. This important decision opened the way to further rapid expansion of the church.
Did You Know...?
1. Hebrews (6:1) were Aramaic speaking Jews native to Palestine.
2. Hellenists (6:1) were Greek speaking Jews usually born outside Palestine.
3. According to the Talmud, Hellenists were frequently categorized by the native-born of Jerusalem as second-class Israelites. [ref]
- Problem Faced by A Rapidly Growing Church (6:1)
- Solution to the Problem (6:2-4)
- Ordination of the Seven Men and the Outcome (6:5-7)
What problem was the growing church in Jerusalem encountering?Hide Answer
The Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution (of food and other necessities). These widows depended on the church to care for their livelihood.
Why did this problem arise?Hide Answer
As the number of disciples greatly multiplied, the congregation was growing too rapidly for the existing church structure to cope. Linguistic and cultural differences probably also played a part in creating this problem.
How had the daily distribution been handled prior to this complaint?Hide Answer
Believers brought their offerings and laid them at the apostles’ feet. The apostles, in turn, distributed daily necessities to everyone according to his needs (Acts 4:34,35).
What lesson can the church today learn from the problem that confronted the apostolic church?Hide Answer
Church growth is a good thing and should be the goal of every congregation. However, when the church is expanding, it is also the time for us to be very sensitive to the growing needs of the church. When caring for a large congregation, it is very easy to overlook the needs of some members. Hence, we need to pay special attention to the minority groups in the church, such as members of smaller ethnic groups, the elderly, immigrants, and visitors.
What potential problems do you think might have resulted if this issue had remained unresolved?Hide Answer
When groups of members are unhappy with each other, the unity of the church is severely undermined. If the church did not address this problem immediately, it would have adversely affected the fellowship of believers as well as impede the growth of the church. Worse yet, the group that felt neglected could easily have split from the church.
What are some things the church today needs to be aware of when a congregation consists of groups of different cultures and languages?Hide Answer
1. Avoid forming small circles based on ethnicity, thereby implicitly excluding members of other ethnic groups. Every member should make an effort to reach out to everyone else. Even when there is a language barrier, simple gestures of love, such as extending a helping hand, sharing some good thing, or just a smile, would go a long way.
2. Take extra care to make sure that no member is neglected because of his culture or language. For example, when there are believers who speak different languages, all sermons, titles, and announcements should be translated. During fellowship meals, the food should be acceptable to members of different cultures. When making decisions, the church should do its best to consider the needs of everyone and listen to everyone’s suggestion.
How did the apostles solve the problem?Hide Answer
They decided to recruit qualified workers to handle this particular area of church work. So they proposed to the congregation to select seven men from among them.
What was the congregation’s response to the apostles’ proposal?Hide Answer
They were pleased (5).
What were the criteria of the seven men to be chosen?Hide Answer
They must be of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
Why were these spiritual qualifications necessary, even though their work seemed to be unrelated to meeting the members’ spiritual needs? Explain how these qualifications would help in their service.Hide Answer
In all areas of sacred work, spiritual qualifications should precede other qualifications. The purpose of all church work is to build up the believers. A person with good skills but lacks good conduct and spiritual wisdom may bring more harm than good because his service may not edify the believers.
The men chosen to serve must be of good reputation so that outsiders would not speak evil of the name of Christ and that members would not stumble in faith because of them. They needed to be full of the Holy Spirit so that they would do things in accordance with God’s will and have the power to accomplish their tasks. They also needed to have wisdom in order to know how to solve problems and handle various situations in a manner that pleases God.
What can we learn from the apostles in in terms of? a. Their reaction to the complaint b. The delegation of workHide Answer
a. 1. They were not unresponsive or slow to react. They addressed a problem quickly before it deteriorated. The church today needs to be keen to the current as well as potential problems that confront the church and take timely actions to solve the problems.
2. They were not defensive. They acknowledged that they were inadequate in meeting the growing needs of the church and took measures to recruit more workers. Today, we may have tried very hard to serve, but the needs of the members we are serving may have outgrown our capacities. Instead of taking it personally and becoming upset with their complaints, we need to see our own inadequacies and bring up the issue to the church for a satisfactory solution.
3. They did not ignore the voices of the minority. Even though it was easy to overlook the needs of the minority and only care for the majority, the apostles heard the complaint of the minority and addressed their complaint. In the same way, we need to pay special attention to the weaker members of the body of Christ.
b. The apostles did not try to do everything themselves. They knew their mission, and were therefore willing to delegate the work to other qualified workers. As the church grows in size, it is necessary to recruit more workers to cope with the increased work load. If only a few try to do most of the work, some areas of the work would bound to be neglected.
The apostles had a clear focus on their primary mission, which was prayer and ministry of the word. They did not allow other duties to take time and energy away from their mission. On the other hand, they also did not ignore taking care of the material needs of the believers, for they understood that poor administration in the church could adversely affect the faith of the believers and the unity of the church. In the same way, the church today ought to have a clear distribution of work so that the gospel may continue to go forth and the believers can remain sound in faith and united in spirit.
Is your local church as a whole focused on prayer and the ministry of the word? Are there certain problems that are diverting the attention of the church from its primary tasks? What can the church do to address this problem?
The names of the seven deacons were Greek. This suggests that they were Hellenists. What does this tell us about the congregation who selected them?Hide Answer
This indicates to us that the congregation looked out for the special needs of this group, and they were caring enough to make sure that their needs were adequately met. Since the complaint came from the Hellenists, it seemed best to them to select workers who could speak their language and understand their culture to handle this sensitive issue.
What happened after the men were chosen?Hide Answer
The multitude set them before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them (6).
What does the careful selection and solemn appointment process teach us about choosing workers in the church?Hide Answer
Even such a seemingly minor task as the distribution of food required much care because every kind of service could have a great impact on the church. Therefore, the church ought to take every aspect of church work as well as the choosing of workers very seriously. The workers that are appointed to serve must also recognize that they have been entrusted with a solemn duty.
What happened to the church after the seven men had been appointed?Hide Answer
The word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith (7).
What does this teach us?Hide Answer
There is an important connection between addressing the internal problems of the church and the spreading of the gospel. In addition, having a good distribution of workload also contributes to the growth of the church.