"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" – John 3:16
Reading from ESV bible
1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.
2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.
3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.
6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
The book Acts was written by Luke to be Jesus’ ‘witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth‘ (Acts 1:8). The first twelve chapters revolve around Peter and the beginnings of the Church in Palestine. The remaining sixteen chapters are about Paul and the expansion of the church from Antioch to Rome. The main purposes of the book appear to be:
1. Verse 1 introduces the two groups within the Jerusalem church: the Gracian Jews (Hellenists) or Hebraic Jews. The Hebraic Jews are those who speak mainly Amaraic and were born in Jerusalem or Galilee. The Hellenists are those who speak mainly Greek and formerly lived outside Judea and Galilee but had settled in the homeland Jerusalem. Because of the differences in language and culture, it is very likely that they were disliked and alienated by the natives.
The particular problem arising in this verse is that the Hellenistic widows of the Jerusalem church are being neglected in the daily distribution of food. However this may be a part of a larger conflict between two groups of different cultural backgrounds, which threatened the unity of the church. It is possible that the Hebrews was in charge of the church and responsible for distributing the food. The Greek-speaking widows weren’t able to communicate their needs. They were the ones who were most in need but the church was neglecting them.
2. When the twelve apostles were aware of the problem, they summed the congregation to resolve it. They were very clear that the primary mission of the church is to preach the words of God and they wouldn’t want to get distracted.
3. However serving the community is certainly important and has to be managed well. As a result, they asked the congregation to select seven men of good attribute, full of Spirit and wisdom, to be appointed to this duty.
4. This delegation would allow the twelve apostles to focus on their praying and preaching.
5. The chosen men are Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus. Stephen will become an important figure in Luke’s story. His activities in the next chapter link the Jerusalem church to the Christian movement beyond Judea. Out of the remaining six, only Philip plays a further role in Luke’s account. He became a prophet-evangelist who did signs and miracles and was empowered by the Spirit to preach the gospel. Nicolaus, the last mention, is a convert to Judaism from paganism.
6. The seven chosen men were then taken to the apostles who officially placed them in office by giving a community prayer and laying their hands on them. The laying of hands is mentioned in a variety of contexts in the Old Testament and symbolises a conferring of office and responsibility.
7. The account ends with a summary of the state of the church’s growth in Jerusalem. The church in Jerusalem expanded. The word of God continued to increase, the number of the disciples multiplied greatly, and many priests were converted and became a part of the church.
This is such a great passage for the start of the year as it is very important for the church to be reminded of its primary mission, i.e. preaching the words of God. Relationships have to be reciprocal. We talk to God through prayers and God talk to us through the bible. We can’t have a relationship with God if we don’t open the bible and listen to what he says. I have been very blessed to be able to be a part of a great church community which is centred on the words of God.
The other thing which really makes me ponder is how I can serve God in this coming year. God gives people different gifts to serve him in different ways. It is important not to serve God only on Sunday when we are at church, but we should constantly think of him and seek to serve him daily though what we do, who we interact with, and how we interact with others. I pray to God that he will guide me this year and help me make the most of my time to serve him.