Read 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.
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.
Today we read about a disagreement the early church had. While the text says Hellenist Jews and Hebrew Jews, it’s important to note that both sides were believers–Jewish converts to Christianity. And even though they had the “main thing” in common, an issue still arose: the Hellenistic Jewish widows were being forgotten in the daily distribution of food. What is amazing to note here is the way this conflict was handled. When the problem was brought up, instead of blaming others or giving excuses, the apostles wisely decided to delegate this task. In doing so, they were able to bring in an additional seven ministers to share the load, rather than keeping all the work for themselves. Because of how this conflict was handled, verse 7 says that the word of God continued to increase, the number of disciples multiplied, and even Jewish priests began to believe and were brought to faith in Jesus.
Can you believe that? A conflict brought people to faith in Jesus because of how well it was handled! A situation which had the potential to bring chaos, discord, and disunity actually brought peace, harmony, and unity to a diverse group of believers. The enemy loves to stir up trouble. The place he loves to work the most is in the church, and the people he loves to target the most are believers. What we see here is the enemy’s plans being thwarted because people who were full of the Spirit listened to each other, worked through the conflict, and found a way to solve it–together. At Harris Creek, and even in your Life Group, there will be people you disagree with and conflict so large you think it can’t be solved. When that moment comes, remember this story and how God was glorified by the way this conflict was handled. If He can do that with the chaos of this story, what can He do through the conflict you face today?
How do you normally approach conflict? How has God changed the way you disagree with people?
How is Stephen described in this chapter? Do you share any of the same qualities that he is described as having? (Pay attention to Stephen. His story continues in the next chapter.)
If God can use conflict to make His name famous, He can even use the chaotic events of the coronavirus to spread His name and His fame. How are you seeing good brought out of this situation? How is God working through this crazy mess to bring unity from discord?
Did You Know?
The Hebrew Jews were the Jews mostly from Judea who were more likely to embrace Jewish traditions; the Hellenist Jews were from all over the Roman Empire and were more likely to fit in with Greek culture. AKA: the Hebrews were more “traditional/conservative” and the Hellenists were more “liberal,” and they each thought the other was too extreme in their beliefs, even though both sides were Christians. Sound familiar to any sort of disagreements we might have with other believers today?!
Think About It.
During His last “free” hours on earth, Jesus prayed for His current disciples and then future believers (like us). The theme of His prayer was unity. Read John 17 and pray His prayer over yourself, your Life Group, and this church now.