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Growing Pains

Text: Acts 6:1-7


As we dive into chapter 6, we are introduced to Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church. The first half of the chapter records a division that emerged in the early church and the establishment of deacons in order to solve that problem. Stephen was one of those first deacons.

The second half of the chapter focuses on Stephen’s evangelistic ministry and the opposition that begins to mount against him. This opposition will ultimately lead to his martyrdom at the end of chapter 7.

1.    Multiplication of disciples

Vs. 1, ““And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied“What a wonderful thing to see the multiplication of disciples. When disciples are being multiplied you know that the church is healthy. 

Our measurement of success should never be how many people we have attending church, but rather how many disciples are being made for the cause of Christ. 

II Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

Discipleship is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ.

In a commencement speech, Admiral William McRaven provoked graduates from the University of Texas with this exhortation: “If every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another 10 people—just 10—then in six generations this class will have changed the lives of the entire population of the world, eight billion people.”

The admiral’s words are a great challenge, not only for college graduates but for us and our church! To change the world, we don’t need record attendance, but rather a group of disciples who are committed to teaching others, who will go teach others. 

So first we see a multiplication of disciples, and secondly, we see the addition of leadership. 

2.    Addition of leadership

Vs. 2-5a, “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. 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. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude:”

They were met with a problem. Because the church was growing, the problems in the church were growing also. We could call these growing pains.

The apostles felt the need to give themselves to the Word of God but the people felt like there were some who were being neglected. 

When the Bible says, “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables”, they were simply saying that they were going to keep the priority where it needed to be. It doesn’t mean that serving tables was beneath them. 

Serving tables was important, the widows were important, but the apostles sensibly decided that since they could not do everything, they would concentrate on what they had been called to do—minister the Word.

So, the solution that they presented in this meeting was to “look out among them and find seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, that they could appoint over this business.”

But I want you to see that they had some qualifications. We mentioned before that serving tables was important, and so they put some qualifications to this ministry:

First, he had to be a goodman. That was of paramount importance. He had to be a man who commanded the love and respect of others because of his personal integrity and unblemished character, a man who avoided evil and who devoted himself to the well-being of others. 

Second, he had to be a godlyman “full of the Holy Ghost,” 

Third, he had to be a giftedman, “full of … wisdom.” Not all good men and not all godly men are wise. He had to be a man who made sensible decisions.

God wants His church to be served by such men. No man has any right to any church office, however humble, if he is not qualified for that office by these three criteria.

Why was it important to find men that met these qualifications? Vs 4 gives us that answer. “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” 

If they didn’t have men they could count on in these positions, then they would suffer in what God had called them to do. 

This should be a message for all of us, as our church grows and issues arise, we seek the Lord for a sensible and unified solution to the problem at hand and then look for people who are good, godly and gifted to meet those needs.

3.    Multiplication of disciples.

Vs. 7, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”

How this must have infuriated the Sanhedrin! The evidence of unity in the church made it possible for the Holy Spirit to pour out even greater blessing. Luke does not simply say that the disciples in Jerusalem multiplied; he says that they multiplied greatly.

The final verse of our text shows us how God blesses churches that care about church order, about unity, and about the centrality of Scripture. 

We should not miss Luke’s point. As the deacons served the church and the church maintained its unity, the apostles were able to focus on God’s word and prayer. As a result, “word of God increased” and God continued to bring sinners into his kingdom.

Remarkably, even some of the priests – those who had been most hostile to the apostles and to the gospel – were saved as well.

Disciples were multiplied, leadership was added, and then multiplication took place again. This morning let us take heed of the example of the early church.