- Sermon Notes
Equipping the Saints
In Acts chapter 6, the church is increasing in number, the disciples are continuing every day in the temple and from house to house teaching and preaching Jesus as the Messiah.
The church has faced opposition from the Jewish leaders twice. The disciples were arrested, ordered not to teach any longer in the name of Jesus, but the disciples responded, “We must obey God rather than men.”
The church at this point was living communally and everyone was sharing everything in common. They took their meals together, many sold their property or houses and contributed the proceeds to the community of those living together.
In this chapter, troubles arise from within the church. There are rumblings of discontent. A complaint arose because the Jews that were speaking Greek accused the Jews that were speaking Hebrew of overlooking their widows in the daily serving of food.
This is probably a shock to you. You’re probably having a hard time imagining that the church would actually have an internal dispute. People are unhappy because the food isn’t being distributed fairly? Shocking.
Of course I’m being sarcastic, it’s more likely that you’re saying, “Now that’s the church I’ve come to know and love. It’s starting to look more familiar now.” And you would be right. Of course that sort of thing is still happening today.
Why is it that people get bent out of shape over things that don’t matter? Once again it’s the human factor. We’ve all heard stories of churches that split over the color of the carpet or the paint color on the building.
I’ll never forget the guy who left our church because I wore a tie while preaching. This was way back when the church was just getting started. Fortunately, he came back two years later and humbly apologized. I’ll also never forget the lady who went off on me because we painted the ceiling black.
That reminds me of the story of a guy who was stranded on a deserted island. When the rescuers finally arrived they noticed three buildings, so they asked him what they were for…
The church in Corinth was having a dispute because those who were moving in the spiritual gifts were acting superior to the others. Paul wrote to them and said, “Let me show you a more excellent way.” The more excellent way he showed them was the way of love. That’s 1 Corinthians 13.
The disciples respond to this problem by asking that men be chosen who can help in ministering the food. This really becomes an example of the church learning to serve, of organizing the church with the wisdom of the Lord.
I. In the Church, Everyone Helps
- A church can be compared to a family and in our family, everyone helps, everyone contributes something.
- In verse 2 we understand the need for other people besides the disciples to rise up and help serving tables.
- The word he uses for “serving” is the word from which we get “deacon.” They are serving in the church, but they are ministering to the Lord.
- The disciples said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables… We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” In other words, the church needs to be fed the word of God.
- It’s exciting to think about the church being built up through the teaching of the word of God. I can imagine the disciples going through the Old Testament with a completely new perspective now that they understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of it. Jesus explained the things concerning Himself in all the scriptures, starting from Moses, to two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus.
- They also had all the words that Jesus Himself taught. What a vast treasure God has given the church on which to be built and edified.
Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and make disciples of all the nations… Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
Ezekiel 34:15, “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God.
- Over and over in scripture God uses food as a picture of being nourished by the word of God.
Illus - In fact, I like to think of a pastor who teaches the word to be like a chef. He takes the word and makes a meal to nourish the soul. There’s meat and vegetables and milk… and a little dessert.
- But it takes preparation to prepare a meal. It needs to be covered in prayer and given with the heart of God.
- Although many people think a pastor works only one day a week. However, with four services a week and soon to be six, most people realize that’s a bit of a stretch.
- With the church growing exponentially, the disciples realized that others needed to rise up and help with the serving and leading of the daily tasks.
- This was similar to when Moses was leading the people of Israel in the desert and was trying to solve all the problems himself. His father-in-law, Jethro, suggested that 70 leaders be raised up.
Exodus 18:17-18, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out… for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.”
- You can imagine how poorly things would work if I did try to do everything myself. You come in the door and I’m there as a greeter, and then come into the sanctuary and I’m there as an usher, and then I check in the children…
Illus - Although I do remember one particular Sunday when the church met at TVJA. No one showed up to help haul all the sound equipment, chairs and dividers, so I did it all myself and in the process ended up smashing my toe. That’s when I did some grumbling of my own; that’s also when I felt God’s correction.
“What is it Lord, do I not serve enough?” I felt God’s answer, “This is not about whether you know how to serve; this is about whether you know how to lead.”
- That morning during the service I asked everyone to forgive me for robbing them of their blessing. I then passed out clipboards and set up four teams.
Ephesians 4:7, 11-12, To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gifts… And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
- “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service,” Paul said, that is the same word used in Acts chapter 6. In other words, the entire church must be equipped for the work of service; building up the body of Christ.
- That being said, it is important for the leaders to set an example of serving; to have a servant’s heart.
Matthew 20:25-27, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them… It is not this way among you, whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the servant of all.”
Illus - But as we see from Acts 6, there are many ways to serve. Preparing a message to feed the church is serving, just like preparing the meals in the kitchen.
My problem is that I actually love getting involved with everything and I have to really discipline myself to stay focused on studying and preparing. I really wish I could be a barista at Koine Coffee and prepare meals in the kitchen and be a greeter and be an usher. I also admit that sometimes I can be a little too helpful. For example…
II. Keep Growing and Become Mature
- The disciples told them to select seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.
- In many ways, this describes the Christian who is growing in their faith and becoming mature in Christ. This is what Paul was saying any Ephesians 4.
Ephesians 4:12-13, Building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Hebrews 6:1, Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity,
- In other words, we should all have the spiritual goal of becoming mature in Christ.
A. Have a good reputation
- Everyone has a reputation, the question is whether it’s good or bad. Having a good reputation doesn’t mean that everyone agrees with you, but it does mean that they respect you.
Proverbs 22:1, A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.
- A good reputation comes from taking the principles of God’s word and applying them in every situation, whether it’s work or marriage or parenting or your finances; the principles of God’s word are to be lived.
- Some people see the principles of God’s word as a theory only; when it comes to real life, however, they use what they learned from the world.
- An example would be how you handle a problem.
- These men in Acts 6 are being asked to solve a conflict. There are people grumbling in the church and they needed people that could actually make it better.
Illus – Pastor Matthew often tells the story about when he first started on staff and I said, “I want to be able to send you into a conflict and know that you will make it better.” That’s who they were looking for as well.
- In verse 5 it says that Stephen was a man full of faith. A person full of faith believes that God’s word is effective and will stay the course knowing that God is true to His word and that fruit will come in time.
- These men not only had a good reputation, they were full of the Holy Spirit. How can you see that in a person’s life?
- One of the best ways is to look for the fruit of a person’s life. After all, Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit.
- The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the character of God and these are the things that come into our lives as we yield to the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23, The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
- The fruit of the Spirit is part of growing in maturity; fruit doesn’t ripen all at once, it comes from abiding on the vine, it comes from our relationship to Christ.
- In other words, meaning filled by the Holy Spirit is something you desire and ask God to do so that your life can be used for His glory.
Romans 12:11, Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
C. Be filled with wisdom
- “Find people who have a good reputation, that are full of the Spirit and of wisdom,” the disciples said.
- In verse 9-10 some men rise up and argued with Stephen, but they could not cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
- Wisdom is something you can obtain. In fact, God tells us that obtaining wisdom should be one of our highest priorities in life.
Proverbs 4:7, 13 “The beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.… Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.”
- Foolishness can only see what’s happening at the moment; wisdom sees that what happens today will affect tomorrow. Wisdom sees the danger in sin and the value of spiritual things.
- Wisdom will also tell you where to get more.
Colossians 2:3, In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Acts 6:1-7 NASB