After the birth of the church, the church has done two things until now. The first is to worship God and the second is to serve the poor such as widows. Yes. It is the blessing to meet the Creator as a creature at worship. We confess that God is our Lord and He gives us grace. In addition, the church is to serve the neighbor, especially the widows and the orphans. These are the works of the church; loving and serving our God and neighbors. In other words, the church is a community who loves God and people. The church has a good intention. It is important to keep the purity and holiness.
However, we sometimes forget what it is important because of the emergency or business.
Someone asks a question. “A telephone bell rings, a baby is crying, food in the pot is boiling, a delivery man is waiting for you at the same time. What do you do first?”
Of course, people will answer differently. There is no clear answer for this question. However, the purpose of this question is to ask what is important to you. Is it your family, is it love, is it money, is it time, or is it your job?” The importance should determine your decision.
What is important at the church is to love God and then to love our neighbor. This is the reason for the church on the earth. However, sometimes we may forget or lose a chance to do the most important thing because of business or emergency. This is not only our church’s problem, but also many others’ problem.
We will see today that the early church had the same issue. The starting members of the early church were 120 people. And then, the number of the believer at the early church increased by 3,000 and then added 5,000 members. Later the church could not count the number of the people anymore. They just said that so many people have believed in Jesus Christ. The early church became like a megachurch nowadays. More than 10,000 people became church members in a very short time. Could you imagine how busy the apostles were?
This church was amazing. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. They experienced so many amazing things such as many miracles and wonders. They experienced the living word of God. The leaders of the church were the apostles who were trained by Jesus. They were also the witness who saw the death and the resurrection of Jesus vividly. In addition, the members of the church were highly dedicated because they sold their properties voluntarily and helped the poor. The church was filled with the love. They showed their beliefs not only their words of mouth and also their life.
Yes. The early church loved God so much and also their neighbors. That is the reason why modern churches long for this church. Modern churches wants to be like the early church. This is true for us. I hope that our church is to be the early church that was filled with the word of God and the love. What we do at the church is related to the early church. We read the bible, support the missionaries in Japan and Philippines, collect the coins, and teach the people through the language school. Basically, we want to be a church who loves God and our neighbor like the early church.
However, the early church we long for also had a problem, some kind of conflict. Since the church is a place that people come together, we expect that there will be a problem or confliction.
Let’s read the verse 1.
‘In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.’
The first problem at the early church was related to regionalism. There were two groups in the church: the Grecian Jews and the Hebraic Jews. We know that people come together with their hometown, schools, and favorites. The church was not the exception. There was a confliction between the Hebraic Jews and the Grecian Jews. The Grecian Jews believed that the Hebraic Jews took care of their widows, but not the widows of the Grecian Jews. The church did a good job, but there was a complaint. Although the relief of the poor was the good work, but it seemed to break the early church. Why did it happen? They chose their favorite and ignored the others although it was not their purpose. They focused on the works, but not people. That was happened at the early church. People is more important than work. Do you agree with me?
So we should learn that when we hear a complaint, which may be a sign that that we may lost the purpose and principle. Why do you work for this?
When we works for the language school as a teacher or a volunteer, when we help the missionaries, we may have a chance to ignore people or overlook people because we may focus on the work itself, but not people. So it is important to recover the reason why we start this kind of work if we may be against the people whom we support. We need to ask ourselves with this question: why do we work for this?
The apostles worked very fast when they heard the complaints.
Let’s see ver. 2.
“So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.”
The Twelve were the Hebraic Jews. What they recognized was their faults, although it was not their intention, they acknowledged their faults and proposed the solution. Let’s read verse 3.
“Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them”
What we learn here is that they didn’t stop what they did because of the complaints. They wanted to keep the ministries. They proposed the solution for this conflict to solve the issue. We should learn this from the apostles.
What we learn here is that the work of church is not only for the ministers. The church definitely needs the help and support by many people cooperatively. The minsters can’t do everything. The ministers work together with the believers. From this confliction, the apostles recognized this and asked other leaders for this important ministry.
And also we learn here is the qualification of the church leader. Who will become a leader of the church? You may not see any designation such as deacons or elders today’s passage. But we can know that what they did is for the works of the deacons and elders nowadays.
What is the qualification of the leaders at the church? People who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. Yes. It should be our prayers. I pray for our deacons and elders who are full of the Spirit and wisdom. I pray for the believers who are full of the Spirit and wisdom. This prayer is also for me.
We can see the name of the leaders at the early church. Let’s read ver. 5.
“… They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.”
Something in common is that they were the Grecian Jews although the early church consisted of the Grecian Jews and the Hebrew Jews. They selected only the Grecian Jews as their leaders. The apostles gave all responsibility to them. This was how the church worked for the complaint. They did not consider the region, but consider their spiritual status. We can learn later that they will play important role in the early church.
The second in common was they were full of Holy Spirit and wisdom. They were men of good reputation. Why did they have good reputation? Because they did good works at the church. They served the people diligently and sincerely.
Serving others is not easy work. We can do it for a day. We may do it for a week. However, it is very hard to serve others for a long time period. They made a decision to live as a servant of the people although the principle of the world is to be served by others. Why did they make such a decision?
Because the Lord of the church asks us to serve others. This was the purpose of the Lord.
“..and whoever wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:6,7)"
We learned that the disciples tried to live like Jesus. The apostles served the people with the word of God and prayers. The selected 7 people served tables for the widows. People at the church became a servant at their position each other as Jesus as our Lord asked.
What we should learn is the church is the place for serve. We need to be a servant with each other like Jesus. And then what happened? May be we dishonored? May people run away?
No. We can see the opposite.
Let’s read ver. 7
“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”
Our church is very dedicated to the serve others. I deeply appreciate all of you. I hope that we will do good works more in future. Relief of the poor, prayers, gifts, serving lunch food for others. We are a servant like Jesus at home, at church, and at work place.
This is what the Lord showed us. This is a life that the early church showed us. They grew up in number and in spirit. The apostles and seven leaders as deacons and elders worked together for the Lord. Let’s serve each other as the Lord asked us.
Let pray together. “Lord, we learned what happened at the early church. They had a conflict at the church, but they were not separated, but become one. As the Lord showed us the life of the servant, we will live like Jesus. Lord, we ask for strength to serve God and the others.
We ask the Lord that we are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We may have a good reputation in Jesus. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.