Friday, May 11, 2012


Acts 6:3, “But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of the task.”

The early church was characterized by its eagerness to show loving concern for the needs of others (Acts 2:44-45, 4:34-35). The church cared for widows by providing meals for them. In this matter “a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food” (Acts 6:1). The twelve Apostles were overwhelmed by their many responsibilities, so they purposed to delegate the task of serving meals to other well qualified men. “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables,” they explained (Acts 6:3).

They brought the matter to the congregation and said, “Select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of the task” (Acts 6:3). The naïve might suppose the qualifications to be too demanding for such a menial task, but that would be a wrong assumption. Left unresolved the complaints of the Hellenistic Jews would ultimately work against unity—therefore undermining the well-being and growth of the church. It was a task that demanded well-qualified, Spirit-led men.

These “prototypical deacons” were to be men of “good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). The term “reputation” translates the verb form of the Greek “martureo,” (i.e. witness). They were to be people that were maintaining a good and credible “witness” before others. The same term is used (in its noun form) in referring to the qualifications of an elder (1 Timothy 3:7, “He must have a good reputation with those outside the church”). The men chosen for the task were to be men that others could vouch for.

The men to be selected were to be “full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” They were to be “full of the Spirit.” We are commanded to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit’s presence is revealed in glorious Christ-like virtues (Galatians 5:22-23), of which Christ-like, sacrificial love, is the main component (Cf. Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). The “full of the Spirit” person is distinguished by his love for Jesus and love for others. His heart overflows with worship (Ephesians 5:19). To be full of the Spirit is to be full of wisdom. The Spirit imparts wisdom, that practical knowledge which equips a person to make wise decisions.

The congregation was given the task of selecting seven men, and apparently they had little difficulty in doing so. They chose “Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch” (Acts 6:5). We are given no other information-- in the immediate context—regarding their backgrounds, resumes, or accomplishments. They were apparently not chosen because of their connections, popularity, or business acumen. It was enough that they were of good reputation and filled with the Spirit.

Stephen fulfilled that role and others. He was not only “full of the Spirit and of wisdom,” (Acts 6:3) he was “full of faith” (Acts 6:5) and “full of grace and power” (Acts 6:8). He was so full of the Spirit’s presence that he overflowed. He “was performing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). That later proved problematic for him. But that’s another chapter.

What lesson can we garner from this episode in church history? An effective servant is not so because of his own qualifications or ability, but his availability to be used by the Spirit of God. Stephen was “full of it” in the positive sense. Being full of the Spirit he was well-qualified to serve in various ways. He was open to the Spirit’s leading and empowered to do things that he could have never done otherwise. “To be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16) is of preeminent relevance to the would-be servant of Christ. By this means alone are we made “servant ready” to do whatever God calls upon us to do.

Pastor Jerry

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