Acts 6:1-7 – Early Church Problems, Effective Solutions
Acts 3 – 5 focuses mainly on sermons and the movement of the disciples. We don’t see a return to operational issues of the church until chap 6. In chap 6, the grecian jews brought up an operational problem. Their widows were being overlooked in the distribution of food. There are several things taking place here: 1) The daily operations of the church includes feeding people, 2) Widows are being overlooked in this process, but only Grecian widows, 3) There is animosity towards the Hebraic Jews from the Grecian Jews. These issues are leading to unrest in the body. I’m sure that the enemy was hard at work, undoing what God had done in the church to that point. So what is the take away here? Make sure you feed the Grecian widows?
In vs 2 – 3, one of the disciples gives the solution to the problem. The author didn’t say which disciple, but I believe, because they were so unified in their decision, it was impossible to tell who came up with the idea originally. This is likely one of the earliest lessons in how the Holy Spirit can unify the leadership of the church.
This passage also serves to introduce Stephen, who will be a key player in Paul’s life. In the scripture following this passage we learn more about Stephen and his short ministry before he was stoned. His speech/sermon to the sanhedrin that inflamed them so much they decided to stone him is included in chap 7. It would have been simple to just introduce Stephen here in chap 6, but instead, the author speaks to the problem the church was experiencing. This was on purpose, to show us it wasn’t all just hunkey dorey in the early days of the church.
What lessons can we draw from the events listed in Acts 6:1-7, besides not failing to feed the Grecian widows?
1) The church is supposed to care for widows and orphans. This instruction is listed many places throughout the New Testament, but also in the Old Testament. Remember that the early church only had the instructions of Jesus and the Scriptures written up to that point.
– Deut 15:7-11 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother” (vs 7).
– Ps 82:3 “Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.”
2) When the members of the church identify with their culture instead of Christ, problems arise. Notice that it specifically says “there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists [Grecians]” (vs 1). The groups had maintained their identity in their culture, rather than shedding the things of this world and taking on an identity in Christ. This is an excellent lesson in how worldly culture can lead to a crisis of identity.
3) When a need arises in the church, the leadership appoints godly men to handle it. Would Stephen have stepped up to the plate if the disciples hadn’t appointed him? Maybe. Or perhaps, the confidence placed in him by the disciples was just what he needed to step into the role that God had for him to fulfill. In today’s church we wait for someone to volunteer to take on a ministry, and unless that ministry is as a Pastor, Deacon, or Missionary, they are not commissioned or anointed. The New Testament church commissioned everyone who took a role in leadership in the church, and this is the first example. We see the result of this action in vs 7, “Then 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.”
What was leadership’s role in the conflict resolution process in the early church? First, they had to recognize the importance of the problem that was occurring, but it was not as important as the vision that God had given for the church. Second, they had to agree on the right men for the job. Then, they anointed those men to their position, and carried on about their purpose. Once the issue was handed off, it was left alone. The disciples didn’t get involved in how the solution was formulated or implemented. They knew they had chosen the right men to handle the problem, and then they did what so many church leaders fail to do today: they let the men do the job they were appointed to do. A conductor cannot come down from the podium and play the violin because he’s mastered the instrument. If he does, the rest of the orchestra cannot see him and chaos ensues.