Tuesday, February 7, 2012

From Acts to Revelation: Part 15 - The First Deacons


From Acts to Revelation
Part 15 – The First Deacons
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | www.PS127.org | www.TruthDigest.org


INTRODUCTION
By this time in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, they have been instructed by Christ before the ascension, obeyed His command and received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, healed the lame, arrested for preaching, released and warned not to preach or teach in the name of Jesus any more, and returned to doing what the Lord commanded them.

Now we will see that the persecution continues against them by the jealous leaders of the Sanhedrin. Sadducee and  Pharisees continue to squash the teachings of Jesus Christ, and punish any who preach in His name.

If you were arrested, imprisoned, whipped, and told not to say another word about Jesus, would you still share the Gospel?

How about if none of that stood in your way, would you share it then?

SCRIPTURE READING

Acts 6:1-7  The Choosing of the Seven Deacons
 1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.




I.       THE PROBLEM OF RACIAL TENSION AROSE IN THE CHURCH
1.      The number of Disciples (followers of Christ ~ the Church) was growing.

2.      Racial tensions grew between the Greek speaking and Hebraic Speaking Jews.
1.      The Greek Speaking Jews felt that their widows were being over-looked.

2.      What does the Bible define a widow as?
1.      The Greek word literally means, one who's husband has died.

2.      I Timothy 5:5-6 Paul defines the Widow who is truly a widow. “Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.”

3.      In other words, she lives like a Christian, not a life of pleasing the flesh in sin.

4.      I Timothy 5:4, 7-8 Paul continues describing what a true widow is, But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. … And these things command, that they may be blameless. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

3.      So the Church is to take care of “true widows”
1.      As defined in scripture as women who's husbands have died, and they continue to live lives pleasing to God, following the pattern of a spiritual life, not living in the world, and who has no children or grandchildren to take care of her.

2.      But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

3.      These are true Widows, and the Greek Jew Widows were being overlooked for support from the church.
4.      So the Apostles gathered all the believers together for a meeting.

II.   THE HOLY SPIRIT PROVIDED A SOLUTION TO THE APOSTLES
1.      It would not be right for us to neglect the ministering of the Word of God
1.      In other words, The Apostles (Elders) of the church have a Spiritual responsibility that they have been called to by God, which does not include the administrative duties that arise in the church.

2.      The Church is NOT a business!

3.      The Elder's are NOT CEO's, rather the spiritual leaders of the congregation who is part of the Body of Christ, to which Jesus Himself is the Head!

4.      The Spiritual leaders are not called to administer the finances, pay the bills, fix the toilet, clean the sanctuary, trim the hedges, cut the lawn, buy the licenses, purchase the permits, oversee construction, etc...
1.      Why? Because if they treat the church as a business, and fill their days with ministering to the administration and operation of the church, it would be easy to neglect, or FORGET, the spiritual purpose of their position because of the constant demands of attending to the worldly needs of the church.

2.      Not because they don't have time to do these things, but they are not to do them because it is easy to lose sight of their calling...and they may become business-men as opposed to spiritual leaders.

5.      What happens if they become business-men?
1.      Money coming in becomes a focus, and a goal instead of souls saved, people baptized and lives changed because of the spiritual work of the minister.

2.      The Holy Spirit guided them to have the congregation choose 7 men
1.      Why seven? Because this is the number of ordination, of perfection and God's approval.

3.      The main requirements?
1.      Men who are full of the Spirit.
1.      In other words, they are saved followers of Christ.

2.      And men with wisdom.
1.      This means wisdom of the ways of God, what is right or wrong in God's eyes, they are not to be “new” converts who do not understand the ways of the scripture.

4.      The Apostles (Elders of the church) could then focus on the Spiritual aspects of leading, as they are called by God to do.

III.  THE RESULTS PROVED GOD'S HAND
1.      When the Apostles prayed about the situation and obeyed the Holy Spirit, the results were tremendous!

2.      The whole group (All the believer's) were happy!
1.      Probably the first and last time all of the follower's of God were happy at one time!

3.      They chose seven, and these seven were confirmed by the Apostles by the laying on of hands.
1.      Just as Moses did to Joshua in Numbers 27:18-23

4.      SO
1.      THE WORD OF GOD SPREAD
2.      THE NUMBER OF DISCIPLES INCREASED RAPIDLY
3.      A LARGE NUMBER OF PRIESTS BECAME OBEDIENT TO THE FAITH

5.      The Word of God spread BECAUSE a LARGE number of priests became obedient to the faith.
1.      Who are the priests?
1.      Jesus is the High priest

2.      We are ALL of the priesthood!

3.      1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

2.      It's not the Apostles (or Elders) responsibility to fill the church building...its the direct responsibility of the believers who are the priesthood, to declare the praises of God!

3.      THIS is what saves souls, and brings people into the building so that they may hear the word of God preached.

6.      REMEMBER, Jesus said;
1.      Go into all the world with the gospel
2.      Baptize
3.      then teach them to obey all that Christ commanded

IV.THE CHURCH EXPLODED BECAUSE A LARGE NUMBER OF PRIESTS BECAME OBEDIENT TO THE FAITH
1.      It does not say ALL the priests...because we all know that not everyone is obedient to the faith.

2.      But a large number was, and because they were obedient to the faith, the Word of God spread and the number of Disciples increased rapidly!

CLOSING

We have in place, three Deacons who take care of the church building and congregational needs of the church.

We have a church secretary, and treasurer who see to some of the administrative duties of the church.

We have volunteers who help with maintenance and cleaning of the property and church building.

All of these positions are important, because they free the minds and thoughts of Elders from the worldly distractions of a church, and allow them to truly focus on the spiritual things, as well as preaching and teaching the Word of God without the influence of financial need.

Now here is the challenge...

According the the Book of Acts, and the scripture we read in 1Peter, you, the Disciples, the congregational members of the Body of Christ, are the royal priesthood of God.

This command is not from me, or this church, but from the lord Jesus Christ, that you, in your everyday life, share the truth of Christ with everyone you know and meet, telling them how He brought you from a world of darkness, to a world of light.

When you do this, you will be counted among the number of priests who are obedient to the faith!

God does not promise every church will be a mega-church with thousands of members, because that is NOT the number He counts.

However, He does promise that His Word will NOT return to Him void, and WILL accomplish what He sends it out to do.

When you share the Gospel, and the true story of your conversion, God's Word will begin a work in that person, even if you never see what that seed grows into.