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Sunday School Lesson, Sunday, August 6, 2017 – Called to Serve

To follow along, visit your local Christian bookstore, and ask for the Bible Expositor and Illuminator

Time:  A.D. 32    Place:  Jerusalem

Golden Text:  “Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business (Acts 6:3).

Lesson Outline:  I.  A Church Problem – Acts 6:1, II.  An Apostolic Proposal – Acts 6:2-4, III.  A Congregational Choice – Acts 6:5-6, III.  A Favorable Result – Acts 6:7-8

Introduction

In the early years of Christianity, it was important that God appointed men and women to be available to spread the gospel and build up new converts. Jesus had left His work in the hands of His apostles, but the task quickly outgrew them, and it became necessary for others to share it. People were hearing the gospel and being saved.  Large numbers were coming into the church and probably some from other areas were being saved and staying in Jerusalem near the apostles. Caring for the widows was a source of tension for the Greek speaking Jews; they believed that their widows were being neglected. It appears the apostles were overseeing the distribution of food and it became a problem since they were being kept from their primary responsibility of teaching the Word and praying, they were being distracted from the best use of their time and effort. The apostles ask the believers to choose seven men from their own church members, the criteria for these men had to be men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.

Lesson Outline:  I.  A Church Problem – Acts 6:1

Acts 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.   The Hellenists were those of Jewish descent who grew up outside the of Israel.  They spoke Greek, were raised in the Hellenistic culture and used the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. The Hebrew were Palestinian Jews who spoke Aramaic and used the Hebrew Old Testament.  In Jewish law, a woman did not receive an inheritance, she was dependent on her husband or another relative.  People were hearing the gospel and being saved. Large numbers were coming into the church. Part of the work of the church had become the care of widow and the daily dispensing of food to them. Most likely this was the case because people from other areas were being saved and staying in Jerusalem near the apostles to hear their teaching.  Caring for these widows was a source of tension because the Greek speaking Jews believed that their widows were being neglected.  It appears the apostles were overseeing this distribution of food, but this also had become a problem since they were being kept from their primary responsibility of teaching the Word of God. The rapidly growing church demanded the full attention of the apostles.  They saw the need to devote themselves to teaching and prayer but the physical needs of the widows especially when there seemed to be some disparity in how the church was providing for them.

Lesson Outline:  II.  An Apostolic Proposal – Acts 6:2-4 

Acts  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.  The apostles were facing the necessity of setting the priorities.  They were not demeaning the ministry of serving tables but recognizing that this was not their primary calling.  They were called to be Christ’s witnesses and care for the spiritual needs of those who believed. Trying to do two ministries would make them ineffective in both.  Notice that the apostles asked all the believers to choose seven men from their own church members.  Rather than being distracted from their primary responsibilities, the apostles told the congregation to choose seven men from them that they could appoint over the business of distributing money or food to the needy widows.  The apostles explained that if they distributed food, they would have to abandon their primary calling, preaching and teaching God’s Words in the temple and from house to house. A better option was to appoint leaders for this specific job.

Acts 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.  The seven chosen to oversee charitable work were to be taken from among the brethren.  They were to be fellow believers, not specialists in social work from the surrounding community.  The church was to solve its problems from within, and not rely on advice from unbelievers.  The seven chosen were to be men of honorable reputation, having already proven their character by former deeds.  These men also had to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit was Christ’s gift to the body of Christ, the church to empower believers for ministry.  Jesus had enabled them to share the gospel with boldness and perform miracles. His power was just as necessary for men to carry out the task of caring for the poor. The men chosen had to be under His control.  They also needed wisdom, the ability to apply knowledge to practical needs.  They needed discretion in the handling of resources and in their relationships with those of both factions in the church.  Such wisdom came from a proper relationship with God.  Notice that the apostles asked all the believers to choose seven men they did not say they should vote for these men but just choose them and bring them forward to the apostles. The people involved in the problem were also involved in the solution.

Acts 6:4 – But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.  The choice of qualified men to over-see material needs would free the apostles to fulfill their calling.  They considered prayer ministry just as essential as preaching, for prayer unleashes God’s power to make the seed of His Word fruitful. Anyone can be taught how to preach, but if the person hasn’t given themselves to the Lord as His vessel and if prayer is not included the words they speak will not be effective to the soul or spirit to those who are listening.

Lesson Outline:  III.  Congregational Choice – Act 6:5-6

Acts 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 Parmeeenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch.  While the proposal had come from the apostles, it was the whole congregation that chose the workers.  All seven men chosen had a Greek name,  one of them Nicolas was not a Jew but a “proselyte of Antioch”, a convert to Judaism and then to Christ.  This proposal by the apostle pleased the people which demonstrated that the Lord was in the plan and with the people.  The apostles took the recommendation of the people and appointed to the work of food distribution the seven men they chose. The apostle most likely prayed for the seven and laid their hands on them, signifying that they were approved and were representing the apostles in their work.

Acts 6:6 – Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.  The apostles sealed the congregation’s choice with their blessings;  when they laid hands on them, appointing them to their task. The prayer no doubt invoked the Lord’s power and wisdom upon them; the laying on of hands symbolically conferred the authority of Christ upon them.  These new ministers were not given an official title, but they apparently did the work later identified with deacons. The word “deacon” is derived from the Greek word for “servant” or attendant.  Apostle Paul used this terms of certain church officials and described their qualifications.  They were distinct from the overseeing officials known as bishops or elders.  One of the seven chosen was Stephen, he is described as “full of faith and power”. The Lord enabled him to perform miracles and do great wonders, his testimony and life were drawing many to the faith.

Lesson Outline:  IV.  s Favorable Result – Acts 6:7-8

Acts 6:7 – And the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and a great company of the priest were obedient to the faith.  With the church displaying unity the Word of God increased and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly.  The Greek tense of “increased” and “multiplied” suggests that this growth was continual. The Word kept increasing in outreach and effectiveness because the apostles could devote their time to their ministry.  A large number of the priest were converting to the faith.  This may have seemed surprising since much of the early opposition to the church had come from the Sadducean high priestly family.  During this time there were Jerusalem eight thousand priests from lower levels who served for short period of time and many of them observing the earlier believers godliness became convinced of Jesus’ transforming power.

Acts 6:8 – And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.  One of the servers, Stephen, in addition to distributing food to the needy performed miracles among the people.  He was a man of great faith and power, the Lord enabled him to perform miracles, his testimony and life were drawing many to the faith. Just as Stephen testimony and life drew people to the faith so will ours.  We can’t be professing to be a Christian but our lifestyle is opposite of what the Bible describes as a Christian.  This lesson shows the importance of what a believer’s lifestyle present to others and the importance of spiritual criteria when choosing leadership. As well as the church responds to the needy, starting with its own.

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