“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 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.””
When we look carefully at the Book of Acts we see clear evidence of the hand of God upon His Church. The fact is that the Gospel is God’s plan of redemption, decided on before the creation of anything and worked out in amazing detail within the events of history. It should not surprise us that the whole plan is worked out in such amazing detail. God would not have sent His Son into our world and then left the outcome of His work to chance. When we look at the sixth chapter of Acts we discover another one of those events which had the potential to wreck the whole Church. Satan’s attacks against the Gospel seem to come at those points where we are weakest. Such attacks look to our eyes as if they are overwhelming in scope and power. They always become the one thing that when overcome with Biblical Wisdom advances the Gospel’s impact in this world.
Such was the case with the cross. What looked to be the victory Satan was seeking was the very thing that led to the triumph of the Lamb of God over death. Here in Acts six we see an attack which had been centuries in the making. It concerned the friction between the Jews of the Diaspora and the Jews of Judea. Ever since God had sent His people off into the exile there had been those who had been scattered throughout the world. When others came home, many of these did not. They had become immersed into the culture of their new cities. Their language was Greek, the international language of the world. Their culture was Greek. Their ethnicity and faith was however still Hebrew. Many of their widows had adopted the practice of moving to Jerusalem in their latter years in order that they might die and be buried in Jerusalem. These widows were often impoverished needing the assistance of the synagogues for survival. When they heard the Gospel and turned to Christ they were cut off from their source of assistance and therefore they needed the help which the Church was giving through the Apostles. Problem was that the numbers were growing, the Church was being successful, and therefore the Apostles were being overwhelmed. In this environment it is quite possible that some of these widows were falling through the cracks and that this lead to the type of grumbling and complaining that could have destroyed the New Testament Church. This issue was even more pressing because it was falling on long held cultural divisions in the makeup of the church.
Here is the potential for disaster. It is also the path forward which God has set out for His Gospel. The Twelve called together the disciples, note the term used here for the first time in the Book of Acts. A disciple is a person who is committed to a lifelong path of learning from a teacher. The Church is a fellowship of those who are learning from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Twelve exercise Biblical Wisdom here. They seem to be applying the lesson learned from Moses’ commissioning of Joshua to lead the people of Israel in Numbers 27:15-23. Many scholars have pointed to the connections between these two passages. That teaching is blended with an absolute faith that God’s purpose in grace was being fulfilled right before their eyes. Perhaps they reflected on the message of the Book of Daniel which describes in great detail the centuries through which they were living. God’s plan to scatter and then gather His people in the exile surely was a part of what they were experiencing.
Therefore they decide on a plan that involves the Grecian Jews selecting a task force of seven men. This was a typical number for the synagogues to choose for a task. This vital ministry would be turned over to these seven and the Apostles would continue in the calling they had received from the Lord. The consequence was even greater blessing for the Gospel. God’s Wisdom was revealed in a powerful and liberating way.
The lesson for us today is that all of our stresses and crisis’ are part of God’s great plan to bring us face to face with the Gospel. He is constantly putting us in circumstances where we see this clearly. Are we willing to patiently trust Him as we seek to walk into His plan for our lives? This is what we see the New Testament Church doing. Will we?