God's Word for Today
God's Word for Today
November 12, 2011
Acts 6 and 7 tell of the ministry and execution of Stephen, a Holy Spirit-filled believer who was honored or crowned by the Lord. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). There are two words for “crown” in the New Testament: diadema, which means “a royal crown” and gives us the English word “diadem”; and stephanos, the “victor’s crown,” which is the name Stephen. You can inherit a diadema, but the only way to get a stephanos is to earn it, competing in Olympic games.
He was faithful both in life and in death and is a good example for us to follow. Stephen was a servant in the church.
The early church took its responsibility to help support widows seriously because they often had no other support; but they also expected these widows to serve the church faithfully, Paul describes this in 1 Timothy 5:3-16. The church was growing larger and larger and this was making it difficult for the Apostles to minister to everybody. The Greek-speaking Jews who had come in from Greece and other nations, probably did not speak Hebrew, but the Jews who already lived in Israel spoke Greek and Hebrew. The Greek speakers that were widows were not getting food, and the Hebrew speaking Jews were. This situation could have divided the church. But, the Apostles handled the problem with great wisdom and did not give Satan our Enemy a way to destroy the fellowship.
When a church faces a serious problem, leaders and the members need to examine the ministry and discover what changes must be made. The Apostles studied the situation and concluded that they were to blame: they were so busy serving tables that they were neglecting prayer and the ministry of the Word of God. They had created their own problem because they were trying to do too much. Even today, some pastors are so busy with work that other people could or should do that they fail to spend enough time in study and in prayer. Then the preaching and teaching are not as good as they could be and the church may suffer problems.
Every ministry in the church is important. But it is a matter of priorities; the Apostles were doing jobs that others could do just as well. A famous pastor from many years ago, D.L. Moody used to say that it was better to put ten men to work than to try to do the work of ten men. Church problems also give us an opportunity to exercise our faith, not only faith in the Lord, but also faith in each other. The leaders suggested a solution, and all the members agreed with it. The assembly selected seven qualified men, and the Apostles set them apart for ministry. The church was not afraid to adjust their structure in order to make room for a growing ministry. The Apostles were not afraid to share their authority and ministry with others. This is what we want to do all across Southern Thailand, to not have only well educated pastors and missionaries leading churches but regular Christians who have regular jobs in the community leading home Bible studies with just some little bit of training and help.
Problems also give us the opportunity to love. The Apostles selected seven men to be servants, to serve the tables. They delegated responsibility and authority. They got others involved in the ministry work. They chose people who were Greek speaking to meet these people’s needs. When we solve church problems, we must think of others and not of ourselves only.
We commonly call these seven men of Acts 6 “deacons” because the Greek noun diakonos is used in Acts 6:1 which means servant, and the verb diakoneo which means to serve is used in Acts 6:2. The qualifications for church deacons are given in 1 Timothy 3:8-13
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