Acts 6

This devotional is written by Hannah Fairclough.

Acts 6

The choosing of the seven
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 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. 3 Brothers and sisters, 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 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.'

5 This proposal pleased the whole group. 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. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

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.

Stephen seized
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) - Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia - who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, 'We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.'

12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, 'This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.'

15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.


This passage is the first record of a dispute in the Christian Community - can you believe such a thing would happen? *Heavy sarcasm. The way the apostles respond tells us a lot about how we should model church and the distribution of roles in the church today. As you can imagine it's something tat we've all heard before something that we all know, but actually it's quite counter-cultural if you look at today's society.

In today's world, the emphasis is to be striving for the next step on the ambition ladder. "I'm only working in a café until I become an actor", "I'm just a house wife", "if I do this menial task/job for a while I'll get a promotion to be front and centre". And whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with ambition - being driven by status just doesn't work in the church. People are needed with all different skill sets to keep the mission going, not just preachers or worship leaders and those on the stage, but people to distribute money and keep the books, people to serve food, people to wash up, people to be good listeners to other members of the church, to lead in smaller contexts, the list goes on and on. Without everyone playing a role, it all falls apart. Paul sums it up perfectly in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, where he talks about one body being made up of many parts, with each part playing an integral role.

But, it's important to remember that this goes two ways. Those at the front need to remember that someone washing up after a meal is just as important as them preaching the gospel. Because without the person willing to serve in that way, the preacher would have to do that job and therefore have less time/energy to actually preach! And this goes the same for those doing more background tasks; a resentment that the same amount of thanks or acknowledgement is not given that role, disregards who the task should be performed for (hint, it's not for human thanks). All tasks, both big and small, are essential in the running of a church and as witness to non-believers and therefore spreading the word of God. And we see that in the passage where they say that disciples were added to their number and they grew rapidly.

This passage also shows us that we don't need to feel pigeon-holed by what roles we find ourselves filling. Stephen was appointed as one of the 7 to serve tables (which would have meant distributing the food and money) and he did so very well from what we are told, yet this didn't stop him from going on to have a very gifted preaching life as well. He may well have had this gift of preaching when he was first appointed as a table server, but crucially he doesn't let a hunger for status stand in the way of what he was called to do at that time.

Father God, thank you that you created each one of us with different skills and gifts. I pray that you would help us to use those gifts humbly, to not harbour jealousy, or think what others do is menial in comparison to us. We want to see your kingdom move on earth, please show us how we can be using the individual gifts you've given to us to serve the church and progress your Kingdom.


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