Partners in the Gospel: Deacons
Father’s Day Welcome.
- The Problem (vs. 1)
- The Priority of Preaching (vs. 2-4)
- The People (5-6)
- The Progression (7)
- The Proof of His Power 8-15)
Prepped world for the coming of the Gospel
- Roman Peace Pax Romana
- Roman Roads and infastructure
- Language – greek
- The Problem (vs. 1)
Read vs 1
The disciples are increasing in number. Really explosive growth.
- “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:41
- “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” 2:47b
- “But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” 4:4
- And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, Acts 5:14
So while this is encouraging to see, this is the result of something far more important and it is exposed through a problem. What is the problem? Well the food distribution ministry is leaving some folks out. In particular some widows. Not just any widows but the widows of the Hellenists. These were Greek Jews and possibly left out as the native Jews cared for their own. Either way not everyone received what was to be distributed to them, most likely from the generosity of the corporate body from the end of chapter 4. So this neglect in the daily distribution became the problem that exposed the reason for the growth of the early church. That reason was the word of God. So number one we have seen is the problem in vs. 1 and now in vs. 2 we see the priority of preaching and prayer on the part of the apostles.
- The Priority of Preaching (2-4)
The apostles were having to manage these daily distributions, and while they may not have had a problem with it and the joy in the generosity of the church and the needs being met, it still consumed their time. What were they to be doing? Preaching as God had told them. The communication of the Word and prayer is the priority for the church. If a church abandons this priority of the pulpit ministry, it gets derailed from its purpose. Sure there is a lot of details in the local church. There are unbelievers to engage with the gospel, we have financials to figure out, fellowships to organize, missionaries to check up on, hospital visitations, business associated with building, bills to be paid, people to talk with concerning a variety of issues, counselling to be done and the list goes on! It does not take long to see that our activities in the church can be the very thing that derails a local congregation from the centrality of the Word of God and its sufficiency for all that pertains to our lives.
The saddest thing for local churches to slip into is to separate the word of God from the work of God. The word is what drives us to the person of God and to commune with Him, to know Him that we might make Him known. To know His Word so we know how and what we ought to focus our attentions upon.
So, if the apostles were called to this priority of preaching what then is the answer to ministry involvement in the church? How does the overall job get done? The answer?
- People (5-6)
People are a gift from God. God gifts His church with people. Our call to worship this morning was from Eph. 4:11-16 and if you read their it is not primarily office but function that is alluded to. We all are given gifts in the Spirit to use for the edifying of the body of Christ. Notice that pastors or elders are not ‘doing” the ministry but rather the congregation. The extent of our “ministry” is not only the proclamation of the Word of God but our obedience to it when we leave this gathering. “Ministry” does not have to be programmatic in the sense that everything is formal, but moreover the ministry is the church’s activity in the community and to each other.
In this situation in our text we find that the people that are asked to oversee this distribution ministry day after day would be men that would serve the congregation in the physical and material needs. Otherwise known as a deacon. The word deacon simply means “servant”. So while these men are appointed it does not mean that other people do not “serve” per se but that these servants organize the service needs of the church. That is a completely different mindset to what takes place in many of our churches today. On one hand they serve as decision makers and almost elder like fashion and in some cases no more that janitors. We see biblically that this is not the case but that this service entails many things in bringing God glory and supporting the Gospel ministry.
God has gifted us with two such men Greg who has served for 3 years and now David. These men have seen a need and have been willing to serve the church in this manner. But this is not the only service that takes place in the church in fact these men in our text oversaw this but does not imply that they did that and all the work in the church but probably organized it. There could have been dozens of widows. So deacons are an integral part of the gospel ministry due to their ability to aid elders in every local congregation in keeping Kingdom priorities.
So, in our text this naturally freed the apostles from being distracted and could focus on the Word of God and its accurate delivery to the saints. This was passed along as churches were established in each place by the apostles, the set apart elders and deacons. As Paul said to Timothy,
“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Tim. 2:2
This is also why Paul communicates this to Timothy in 1 Tim 3 concerning elders and deacons. Because it is vital to the health of a local church.
Here in verse 5 we find a list of the 7 men chosen for this task. Notice these men have Greek names, which is amazing considering what the Lord is about to do in spreading the Gospel to the Greek speaking world.
- Stephen – a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,
(which we will read more about at the end of this chapter as well as in the next)
- Philip (Acts 8)
- an evangelist, he preached in Samaria we will see in (8:4-8)
- He led the Ethiopian to Christ (8:26-39)
- He preached in many cities (8:40)
- His four daughters prophesied or preached
- He had a godly home where the apostle Paul loved to come and stay (21:8)
- Prochorus – only place we hear about him
- Nicanor- only place we hear about him
- Timon- only place we hear about him
- Parmenas- only place we hear about him
- Nicolaus- a proselyte of Antioch.
Besides serving the church in this manner we know that God used these men to boldly proclaim Christ on multiple occasions. So why elders have particular responsibilities we see that on several occasions some deacons even had teaching gifts.
It is not here in our text but we know that the New Testament in various places speaks of other “servants” of the church and in many cases women. This is important to note for the very fact that women play and integral role as well in the life of the church. While not in office necessarily but in function women serve the church in many practical ways. We see it here at the Gathering from Nursery to Sunday School, Bible Study and ministry to children and youth and prayer meetings.
So, these men vs 6 were set apart by the apostles as they laid their hands upon them and prayed for them.
So we have seen the problem, priority of preaching, people as God’s gift in the life of the church and now our 4th point.
- The Progression (vs. 7)
What do I mean by progression? Read vs. 7
By appointing deacons the apostles were able to give attention back to their ministry of the Word and therefore were able to see the Word advance once again and many more were added to the number of disciples. Do you see how the Great Commission is being fulfilled? They are making disciples, baptizing and teaching them to obey God in all things. God designed the ministry of the Word to be central to the mission activity of the church. A church that loses a heart for God’s Word will soon lose its vision for being on mission.
Notice at the end of verse 7 that even some priests became obedient to the faith. The church is growing here and it is growing today, primarily because God said it would and secondly it grows and remains healthy because of a steady diet of God’s Word.
So we have seen how the Lord has refocused the church following the initial persecution through dealing with this problem of neglected widows, then prioritizing preaching, appointing people to the work of the ministry, progressing the word of God resulting in more disciples and now we see our last point.
- The Proof of His Power – through Stephen.
Stephen was doing signs (doesn’t say what kind of signs but mentions signs and wonders (vs 8)so it implies that these were supernatural miracles happening that the people recognized but he was also speaking by the power of the Spirit of God. (vs. 10)
Verse 9 tells us that these men who were most likely freed Jewish slaves from all over were the ones finding fault with Stephen and his signs, wonders, and speaking engagements. Look at what they did:
“they secretly instigated men” vs. 11
“they stirred up the people” vs. 12
“they came upon him and seized him” vs. 12
“they set up false witnesses” vs. 13
But look at verse 14. They say that “they have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” They are ultimately bothered that Stephen is a follower of Christ and that he continues His teaching. Didn’t Jesus warn His disciples about this?
“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:13
Vs. 15 tells us that all the while Stephens face shown like an angel.
Church we reflect His glory!
- Are we meeting the needs of our congregation? I can think of multiple applications here… encourage those who serve…. Thank God for our deacons, teachers, planners, small group hosts and leaders and all who serve this congregation.
- Is the Word of God a priority in your life? We seek to obey Him by making it the priority it ought to be in this church from the pulpit to Sunday School, Small groups and Bible studies. But what about you personally? How often are you in His Word, asking Him to guide you by it. We live in a growing biblically illiterate generation. Woe to us in this generation if we do not make this a priority in our lives, the lives of our families and churches.
- You are a gift to the local church. How are you serving? You are needed. What drives you? How has God gifted you? What are you passionate about for His kingdom’s sake? Would you join us in making Him known in this community? Serve Him, for He has taught us to serve in the way He has served us through His Son.
- Are you sharing the Word of God with others? Are you discipling others? Scripture doesn’t just imply this as a corporate responsibility for the church or for just pastors, elders, or deacons, but for all of us. Do not forget that you as parents have the responsibility of discipling your own children. What a glorious calling and yet much discipline for many years. So you Fathers and Mothers give yourself some space when you feel you are not reaching the nations in this season of your life……you may be sowing the seeds to send your little disciples to the nations.
- Are you reflecting Him as Stephen was? Reflect Him! That is what it means to be a Christian, a little Christ.
- Lastly, do you know Him? Perhaps this is all strange to you because you have never turned to Christ in repentance and faith, I encourage you to do so. Let’s Pray.
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