7 May 2011

Acts 6:1-7

"The word of God continued to spread: the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem" (v. 7)


Luke (the author of Acts as well as the Gospel that bears his name) turns away from the conflict between the Sanhedrin and the Apostles to introduce two groups within the Jerusalem church. They were the 'Grecian' Jews (Greek, Hellenistai, or Hellenists) and 'Hebraic' Jews. We may be surprised that subgroups exist within the first church but they did. To try and explain it simply, the Hellenistic Jews in the church probably attended Greek-speaking synagogues before they became Christians, and the Hebraic Christians attended synagogues in which Aramaic was used. This illustrates how the gospel (good news) is all embracing.

It was an exciting time in the history of the Church but the growth in numbers brought with it a problem - there was a complaint! The Hellenistic widows of the Jerusalem church said they were "being neglected in the daily distribution of food" (v. 1). The welfare of widows in that culture was highly important: the Scriptures show a deep concern in God's heart for them (see Exodus 22:22;Deuteronomy 10:18). Assuming that they were unable to earn their own living and had no relatives to support them (1 Timothy 5:3-16), the church accepted responsibility and a daily distribution of food (not unlike a soup kitchen today) but the immigrant widows were not getting an equal share.

The solution is interesting as the 12 did not impose something but gathered all the disciples together in order to share the problem. They didn't want to be distracted from their primary task "in order to wait on tables" (v. 2) and there is no hint that social work is inferior to pastoral work or beneath their dignity: it was a question of calling. So they delegate the social welfare to seven men in the church (vv. 5-6).

There is a vital principal shown in this incident and it is as important for us Christians today as it was then. It is that God calls all people to ministry - God calls different people to different ministries but we can all be used, if we make ourselves available.

To Ponder

On reflection, what do you feel God is calling you to?

Traditionally this is seen as the origin of diaconal ministry - a ministry of witness and service. What do you know about diaconal ministry. (Click here to discover more.) Think of a deacon you know and thank God for them.

Bible notes author

The Revd Steve Wild

Born in Rochdale, Steve Wild is a proud Lancastrian, but is at home in his adopted Cornwall where he is chair of district. Steve has been a Methodist minister since 1983 and has served in Cornwall, Preston and Cliff College (as tutor, connexional director of evangelism and acting principal).