The Ministry of Deacons


The Ministry of Deacons

Book of Acts Chapters 6 and 7

One of the greatest statements in our lesson today is that Satan will change his tactics according to where he sees weaknesses in the Church.

The greatest weakness in the Church as I see it today, is that the modern Church has begun to reject the infallible truth of God and has begun to accept the world’s interpretation of the Word of God.

As Christians, we know that we will not be able to have a good understanding of God’s Word without the Holy Spirit living within us!

If lying and hypocrisy are allowed to live within the Church, the Church will cease to be “the pillar and ground for the truth”!

1Ti 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
1Ti 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

The truth of the Word of God is that “it is the mystery of Godliness”, and this truth is rejected by the world we live in today.

We must clearly understand that God will not allow these things to go on indefinitely.

Remember God’s plan moves right along as we see all these things unfold before our eyes.

We must never forget the command of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

As the Church begins to grow in Jerusalem, God will take this command and the errors that Satan is bringing upon the Church, and He will cause some changes in the direction of the Christian Church in Jerusalem.

Remember the Church in Jerusalem had not been obedient up to this time. Spreading the Gospel was only done locally.

These are all things the Church of today is to learn so these same mistakes are not made again.

The Book of Acts teaches us about the beginning of the Church, and we are never so far advanced that we cannot learn from the Book of Acts and all the Word of God.

Remember what God has said: 2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

God has said what He means, and God means what He says!

We are not to interpret the Scripture!

We pick up our lesson with the Church begins to grow:

*Act 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Here we see that the Church began to grow in numbers, but is this a true measurement?

Church growth should not be measured by the amount of people who attend nor by the number of people who join the Church as we will see.

Church growth must be measured by those who have accepted the complete Word of God and live their lives accordingly.

Only then can these certain ones become witnesses to the truth of God and therefore witnesses and missionaries to the world.

As missionaries and witnesses who speak the truth of God.

We are all to be missionaries in the place where God has allowed us to live!

“It is our job to just speak the truth of God and God will do all the work from that point on.

Isa 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and “it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it”.

We need to have this clear understanding of the Word of God and just be obedient witnesses and allow God to do what God does which is.

“God can save anybody, anywhere, at any time”!

Act_2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Moving on, we see that there were some problems that comes when the people of the Church do not accept the complete Word of God.

Do not be fooled “murmuring” means problems.

We see here the clash of two distinct cultures.

Hebrew women: We should understand that men and women are on equal ground when it comes God and salvation.

In the Hebrew culture the men were the bread winners, and the women took care of the household and even then, they would contribute in every way possible in caring for their families.

It was the Hebrew family that was to take care of these mothers when her husband died and many times this did not take place.

God had given clear commands on this issue.

This became something that the Church took upon themselves to do.

As the Church grew from being for the most part Jews of Hebrew descent, it began to absorb mothers who were Jews of Greek descent.

We should understand the conquests of Alexander the Great had changed the culture of the entire world.

These changed people were known as Hellenists.

Alexander the Great encouraged his soldiers to take wives from the lands that were conquered and with the other things that he did, Greek culture was spreading like a wildfire around the known world at that time.

Even the Romans had adapted the Greek culture in many ways.

Governments always believe they know better than the average person.

Along with these things, philosophy and intellectual pursuits were the rage amongst these conquered peoples.

It is easy to see the clash that was bound to happen between these widows.

The Hebrews were more accustomed to the ways of Jerusalem, and the ways of the Law, than the Greeks and this would cause a conflict.

The Apostles tried to take care of these matters and it was hurting them in the pulpit.

Peter produced the answer.

So is born the “Deacon”.

*Act 6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
Act 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
Act 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

The word or title Deacon means to minister or to serve as a minister.

This is not a Minister in what many refer to a Pastor or Preacher but knowing the Word of God was certainly a requirement.

This is not to say the Pastor is not minister also because God has called the pastor or Preacher to do as he is led.

The Deacon should be able to manage day by day matters and the more serious events they can bring to the Pastor.

The Pastor is in charge of the things of the Church.

In this instance the subject was the care of widows.

The Apostles addressed these same issues.

If we want to help our Pastors, then we need to shoulder the majority of the visitations of our Church and our elected Deacons and committee people should shoulder this responsibility as they are able.

The Deacons need to study this passage.

They are not to be rulers as they are to be more like a waitress as Peter has described them.

We see that number seven and we should realize the seven is a perfect number so it could take more than seven in some churches, and it could take less than seven in some churches, but it should never be less than three in my opinion.

What were the keys to choosing these men?

“Honesty, full of the Holy Ghost, the wisdom of God”.

The wisdom of God is knowledge of the Scriptures

They must be appointed by the Body of Christ!

There must be proof of their faith!

Their job was to take the minor things off the shoulders of the Pastors and Preachers.

If a problem needed to go to the Preacher, then it should go these Deacons first.

The preaching of the Word of God is far too important to not give our Preachers time to prepare!

The Church then then be made aware of these things before they occur!

*Act 6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
Act 6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

We should notice a few things here. This Church in Jerusalem has met as a group in unity. The biggest part of these are Jews who left Judaism to become Christian.

Some were so bedded in Judaism that they thought Christianity was just a growth from Judaism, but this was never true.

To be Christian is to love and trust the Lord Jesus Christ and the Christian Church stands alone in this world as teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ the only means to ever get to Heaven.

It takes a personal relationship with Jesus to get to Heaven!

There are so many who reject this truth at their own peril!

This is not something we should brag upon; it is just the truth of God and the truth of the Word of God!

This Church acted out of love and humility.

No one spoke up at this time because of hurt feelings.

The Apostles had not denied that this was a problem, and it was the Apostles who brought forth the remedy provided by the Holy Spirit and this was the first qualification for such men, “to be noticeably filled with the Holy Spirit”‘

A Church cannot survive in this world if it is not a Holy Ghost (Spirit) filled Church!

It was the Grecian believers who seemed to be having the problem and God begins training the Church to manage all the problems that would come against the Church until the end of what we call time.

Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth”.

It was persecution that was in the near future for this Church, and it was time to prepare.

Problems in the Church can only be solved when the Church works as one unit led by the Holy Spirit!

The Church must be rooted in love for each other with the love of God!

Our Pastors must be given the time to prepare a message they have received of God, or “they will try to give us a message they have made up themselves” and that Church will fail.

It was the Church that chose these men not the Apostles!

Stephen was the first of these men chosen. Why? He was a man full of faith and full of the Holy Ghost (Spirit)!

Notice also it appears that Stephen was a Hellenist himself as were all these new Deacons that are mentioned.

In fact all these men had met the qualifications set down by the Apostles and these qualifications should still be the same today as any church chooses its officers and Deacons.

We had met Philip earlier, but this is not Philip the Apostle but Philip the evangelist.

Act 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

Philip was a great preacher and spoke boldly as persecution of the Church began.

The Holy Spirit traveled with Philip as He does with al Christians but there are no miracles performed by the evangelist of today.

They bring with them the promise of salvation a healing of the soul.

It is Jehovah who is the source of all miracles, and He allowed some men to take credit for these things during the time of the early Church

Act 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
Act 8:6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

There are no men in the modern Church who can actually perform such miracles today, no matter what some claim!

Next came Prochorus who we know nothing more about. Tradition says he could have become the Bishop of Nicomedia.

Next came Nicanor. We also know nothing more of this man. Tradition says he died in the early persecution of the Church.

We should also keep in mind that there are many men and women who are working in the background of every church, not ever seeking recognition but who keep the Church moving in the right direction.

Next came Timon. Timon is also a Greek name. In reality all these seven men may themselves have been Hellenists.

Parmenas another man that the Bible offers no more information.

Last comes Nicolas which the Bible adds was a Gentile who had converted to Judaism and now having heard the truth became a Christian also forsaking Judaism.

After these men were chosen, they were then presented to the Apostles who ordained them for the work that was given to them.

Notice this ordination was done in view of the Church because it was an official ceremony!

The Church set these men apart.
The Church prayed for each of them and the work they had been chosen to do.
The Apostles, the Preachers, laid their hands upon them in ordination.

The “laying of the hands” was a significant symbol for God’s blessing!

Mat 19:13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
Mat 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

For healing: Mar 5:23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
Mar 5:24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.

For imparting the Holy Spirit: Act 8:17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
Act 8:18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
Act 8:19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

We still see the laying of the hands in ordaining and commissioning men to the ministry!

What were the results?

*Act 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

1) The Word of God increased as never before because those who preached the Word of God were not hindered trying to solve every little issue that came up in the Church but concentrated on the message of God.

2) The Church grew not just in numbers but also in knowledge of the truth of God which is far more important.
In many mega churches today the “Good News” of the Word of God is rarely mentioned. Witnessing the truth of God is not even mentioned.

3) Many new Preachers and Pastors were reached for the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. These things are the job of the Church and will always be the job of the Church. So many churches have forgotten this today!

We do not need seminaries training our preachers, this is God’s job!

Seminaries have ruined too many men of God today!

Gal 2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Gal 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

At the death of Stephen persecution came to the Church!

It is at this time that God reminded the Church to be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

We must observe these things as commands.

We understand that the Lord Jesus Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, but we see something amazing in this passage as the Lord stands up in honor of His martyr Stephen!

Stephen preached a sermon exposing the truth to the people of Jerusalem and Judaism.

When they had heard the truth, it brought conviction.

*Act 7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

1) They had heard that their father Abraham was called of God before he was circumcised, before the Law was given to Moses, and before the Temple was built, which they had so high regard for.
.
2) They heard that Moses and Joseph had not been treated very well by their own fathers they so bragged about. There was not devotion in their hearts, there was only persecution because of the truth.

3) They were reminded how their fathers behaved in the wilderness after receiving the Law they so bragged about keeping.

4) They were reminded how their fathers had fallen into idolatry over and over again. Just because Solomon had built the Temple they so bragged about, the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be bound to any temple nor to any building or place upon this earth. We can build immaculate places to worship the Lord, but we are fools to believe we can trap the Lord Jesus within walls nor to any religion.

5) They were reminded that it was their own fathers that persecuted and slew the very Prophets of God and it was they who were the betrayers and the murderers of the men God had sent to teach them the truth.

6) They were reminded that it was they, themselves that could not keep the Laws they so cherished!

The results: They were cut to the heart. Sometimes the truth will cut you to the heart. They were filled with anguish. They felt great pain. They became uneasy.
They became full of anger and indignation and Stephen became the object of their wrath. They began to show their hatred for the truth, and they were the bigots not Stephen.

How did Stephen react to their hatred?

*Act 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
Act 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Stephen may have been aware of what was going on around him, but his focus was upon the glory of God.

Joh_17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

You see when we rebel against God the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can become disturbed and tormented and it is then that we must make a choice.

Do we accept or reject the truth of Jesus Christ? When we accept the truth of the Lord Jesus then and only then can we be delivered from this sin filled world!

Once we know the Lord Jesus as our Savior, where else could we look but to Heaven!

This world shows no heartfelt sympathy to us. The Lord Jesus Christ came to this place called earth and bled and died for our sins just so we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

When we know the Lord, and this earth casts us out, then we know Heaven waits to receive us.

This is the truth of peace in our lives!

In the Book of Isaiah Chapter 6:1 through 13 we can see how this glory of Heaven is described, but Stephen sees this and something even more spectacular.

Rev 21:23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

The Lord of Glory stands to His feet. The same Lord who had been rejected by this world stood up to receive His child with open arms.

1Co_2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

While those who were stoning Stephen to death were seeing victory.

While those who were just spectators saw an atrocity, one way or the other.

Stephen saw deliverance!

You see God is always present when one of His children is caused to suffer by this world!

Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Stephen was a man always filled with the Holy Spirit and he clearly understood what that meant while rocks and stones hit his weak body.

1Ti 1:16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

We can believe that what Stephen saw we will see just before we make this same trip to Heaven.

Those in the graves whose soul is already in Heaven will get to see the glory of God as they speed toward Heaven.

Glory, Glory, Glory, Lord God almighty.

What those who knew Stephen saw was a great testimony left behind for all the world to see.

Those who hated Stephen’s testimony saw something else but there would be one sinner who would never forget this day.

*Act 7:57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
Act 7:58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

Law abiding citizens became murderers this day and the ultra-religious smiled as these were taking place.

We should know that the Holy Ghost is always busy.

We must know that all persecution is rebellion against God!

Those who lead in the persecution of Christians and those that follow them are acting against the Lord and not against that believer!

Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Rom 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Rom 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Rom 1:31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Rom 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

They became murderers free to roam this earth because this earth was on their side!

This is the world we live in today and it is only going to get worse until the Lord returns.

This is the first time that Saul of Tarsus is mentioned in the Bible and this event makes an impression upon him.

*Act 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Act 7:60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

The soul of Stephen went to Heaven, his body is buried somewhere in Jerusalem awaiting the call of the Lord.

We must remember as Christians we will suffer the trials of persecution, some much more terrible than others.

Remember Stephen called out for the Lord’s help, Stephen certainly felt the pain.

What we witness is the “grace” and the “strength” to endure these trials and many did become martyrs and there may be many more before the Lord returns in the clouds and calls us out of here.

The Lord wants us all to be with Him right now:

Joh 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
Joh 14:2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
Joh 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Stephen was depending on the Lord Jesus as he says “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”.

Why? Because he knew this truth.

2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
2Co 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

Then Stephen shows that loving caring spirit for all as he says, “lay not this sin to their charge”.

The truth is that death brings life to all those who love the Lord, and we should have no fear of death.

Just recently I tried to make my doctor understand this as I rejected my last Chemo treatment.

What did Stephen then do?

He fell asleep in Christ and all his pain was over and the Lord met him in Heaven and then returned to His throne awaiting the next saint of God.

Amen

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