I. "WHEN THE NUMBER OF DISCIPLES WERE MULTIPLIED."
A. I like that word multiplied. It is much like the word used so many times in the gospels, multitudes. That word is used 18 times in the gospels.
1. We tend to put so much emphasis in numbers today; we want to speak of the precise number that attended and the number that came forward.
2. Multitudes attended and multitudes came forward.
3. I think that it is easy to become in bondage to numbers.
a. We are prone to judge success by the numbers.
b. It seems to me that a more important emphasis should be place on the quality of the work being done rather than the numbers that attended.
c. Just one soul added to the Kingdom of Heaven is cause for the angels to rejoice.
B. "There arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Jews."
1. The Grecians here literally are the Hellenistic. It speaks of a culture, not an ethnic race.
2. The Grecian were Jews who were living after the Grecian culture.
3. The Hebrews here are the Jews who were living after Hebrew culture.
4. Alexander the Great had a great influence on the ancient world. He left pockets of Grecian culture throughout the world.
5. One of His succeeding generals ruled over Syria, and another over Egypt. Thus, for many years Israel was surrounded by the Grecian culture, and many had adapted to it.
C. The perceived problem.
1. Those who were following the Grecian culture, felt that as the church distributed the welfare to the widows that those widows who still followed the Hebrew culture were getting preferential treatment.
2. This is the second problem to arise out of the attempt of the early church to follow a form of communism.
a. The first was the hypocrisy of Annanias and his wife.
b. Later another problem arose which was much greater, that was the financial problems when the funds ran out. Paul was taking up offerings from the Gentile churches to help the poor brethren in Jerusalem.
3. They came to the apostles with their complaint.
II. THE CALL FOR A GENERAL CHURCH ASSEMBLY.
A. A schism was developing in the early church.
1. There were a lot of whisperings.
2. There was backbiting.
3. This is a dangerous condition, it could impede the ability of the Spirit to work.
4. It seems that the Spirit of God moves best in the element of love.
5. Jesus had warned the church of Ephesus that He was not so much interested in all their works as He was their love and unless they returned to their first love, He would remove His presence from the church.
6. It is tragic how many works of God have been destroyed when schisms have developed.
7. Paul said that these schisms were a mark of carnality.
8. The Psalmist said, "Oh how beautiful and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity."
9. This has been one of our greatest joys serving here at Calvary, the love and unity that the Lord has given to us, especially on the board. It is so great to work with men who prayerfully consider the issues before voting on them. Men who want God's will above their own.
B. It is important to bring the issues out into the open, expose them to the light, rather than letting them fester in darkness.
1. Later on in the fifteenth chapter when men had come from Jerusalem to the church in Antioch professing to have the authority of the church in Jerusalem and began to bring division by declaring to the Gentile believers that they could not be saved unless they were circumcised and kept the law of Moses. Paul and Barnabas brought them right back to the church in Jerusalem, and they called a council to deal with the question.
2. Paul had differences with Peter's actions, but rather than going around telling others of the inconstancies that he observed, he came directly to Peter.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
For before certain men came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they had come, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those who were of the circumcision.
And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; in so much that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
3. If you have a problem with someone, what they have done or what they are doing, there are only two that you should go to about it. The Lord and them, and preferably in that order.
C. The declaration to the church. It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and wait tables.
1. They appealed to reason. It doesn't make sense that we should leave the word of God to wait tables.
2. This does not mean that they are above waiting on tables.
a. We remember how Jesus waited on them at the last supper.
b. At that time after He had washed their feet He said:
Do you know what I have done to you?
Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am.
If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
c. Again after the request of the mother of James and John for prominent places for her boys when Jesus set up the Kingdom, we read:
Jesus called His disciples, and said unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
3. It is a matter of being faithful to the call of God on your life.
a. God had called them to be apostles and to minister to the people the word of God.
b. Some are called to serve physical food, and others are called to be spiritual food.
c. It is knowing your calling and being obedient to that calling.
4. On occasion, if the need arises, an apostle might wait on tables It is not to be, however, the daily occupation.
5. You must give top priority and first attention to what God has called you to be and do.
III. THE SOLUTION. CHOOSE FROM AMONG YOU SEVEN MEN WHO HAVE GOOD REPUTATIONS FOR HONESTY, AND ARE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND WISDOM WHOM WE MAY APPOINT OVER THIS BUSINESS.
A. These would be titled deacons which comes from the word to run errands, or wait tables.
B. It is interesting to me that even these men who were to oversee the mundane or the physical aspects of the ministry should still be men who had good reputations, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
C. The people were to choose, and then the apostles would appoint them over this ministry.
D. And we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the word.
1. These are the two most important tasks for the minister.
2. All too often the minister is pressured into getting involved in so many things, he has no time for the word of God and prayer.
3. When the church was much smaller and we had no assistant pastors, I had to do most of the personal counseling. So often when I was needing to be preparing my evening message, I would be sitting there listening to someone's tale of woe and as the hour would pass by, inwardly I would be fretting because I knew that that evening many would be coming to hear the Word of God, and I had not had the time to receive from the Lord for their needs.
a. Paul said, "That which I have received from the Lord, I also delivered unto you."
b. I would like to preface every message that I give with those words.
c. I would often think that the hours that I spent in counseling with just two are three people, are robbing the hundreds of people who would be at the service that night, because they were eating up my study time.
d. How wonderful it has been since the church has grown that we have many ministers who can carry many of the other burdens to give me more time to spend in the word and prayer.
IV. "AND THE SAYING PLEASED THE WHOLE MULTITUDE."
A. I believe that this is an example of the gift of the word of wisdom being exercised in the church to avert a split.
1. I wonder how many church splits could be avoided if only the gift of the word of wisdom was exercised more.
2. Everyone is satisfied, and the work of the ministry goes on.
a. The Apostles continue in the word and prayer, and the deacons take over the responsibility of the disbursement of the church's welfare program.
b. Everyone in their God-given place fulfilling their God- given ministry.
c. The spilt has been averted and everyone is happy.