Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SERVANT READY (Acts Chapter 6)

Acts 6:3, “Pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.”

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 was, accordingly, caring for its widows by providing meals for them.  In this matter “a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (Acts 6:1).  The twelve Apostles, wanting to give attention to the “preaching of the word,” wisely purposed to delegate others to oversee the matter (Acts 6:2, 4).

They brought the matter to the congregation and said, “Pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (Acts 6:3).  The task demanded oversight by well qualified men.  Left unresolved or mismanaged the situation might easily have given rise to division and dissension, thereby threatening to undermine the spiritual health and growth of the church.

The men to be selected were to be men of “good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).  The term “repute” 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 be well thought of by outsiders”).  The men chosen were to be men that others could and would vouch for.

They were also to be men “full of the Spirit and of wisdom.”  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 (Cf. Ephesians 5:19f; Philippians 3:3).  To be full of the Spirit is to be full of wisdom (Cf. Ephesians 5:15-17).  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, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch” (Acts 6:5).  We are given no other information-- in the immediate context—regarding their backgrounds, resumes, accomplishments, or past experience.  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.

The soon-to-be martyred Stephen fulfilled that role and others too.  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 full of the Spirit and was “doing 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 Holy Spirit, he was well-qualified and equipped to serve God 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 a matter of preeminent relevance to any would-be servant of Christ.  By this means alone are we made “servant ready” to do whatever God calls upon us to do.

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