Acts 6:1-7 (cont.)
2. The Solution
a) The apostles maintained their committment to their primary calling.
The apostles were very clear about their calling: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” Later they add, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The apostles are not asking permission. They are instructing the congregation that their primary tasks are preaching and prayer.
Wisely, the church agreed that the apostles must give the bulk of their attention to the ministries of prayer and the Word of God. There is no hint here that the apostles regarded meeting the physical needs of the community as somehow beneath them. It was, rather, a question of calling and priorities. The apostles were not at liberty to quit the primary task that God had called them to.
Commenting on these verses the great Puritan Matthew Henry writes:
“The apostles engage to addict themselves wholly to their work as ministers…What is the great business of gospel ministers—to give themselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word; they must still be either fitting and furnishing themselves for those services, or employing themselves in them; either publicly or privately…They must be God’s mouth to the people in the ministry of the word, and the people’s mouth to God in prayer. In order to the conviction and conversion of sinners, and the edification and consolation of saints, we must not only offer up our prayers for them, but we must minister the word to them, seconding our prayers with our endeavours, in the use of appointed means. Nor must we only minister the word to them, but we must pray for them, that it may be effectual; for God’s grace can do all without our preaching, but our preaching can do nothing without God’s grace.”
b) The church entrusted responsibility to godly men.
I don’t necessarily see the birth of the office of deacon in this text. The word diakonoi is used but I think in the more generic sense of “ministry” rather than office. I think that something very practical is going on. Seven men are selected on the basis of their godly character to oversee the meeting of some very specific needs.This is not a popularity contest. Look at how Luke describes these men: “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” It was not good business sense that made these men qualified. It was evident godliness.
These seven men are brought before the apostles who lay hands upon them and pray over them. This isn’t business. There is a weightiness and solemnity to the whole thing which bespeaks the seriousness of their ministry.
c) The church displayed cultural sensitivity.
The apostles did not select the men. The church did the choosing and they chose well. All seven of these men had Greek names. The church seemed to understand that there was an issue of trust. It is not only possible but likely that the Greek widows were being intentionally neglected. After all, these were saved sinners after all just like you and me. So by placing Greek men in this position of responsibility the church was demonstrating sensitivity to the “minority party” within the congregation.