Acts 6:1-7

Sermon preached on September 28, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I sometimes do a little cooking and baking. When I first started doing it when I was younger, I was surprised at how a little thing will change everything. Like if you forget to put the yeast in when you're making bread—you're bread doesn't turn out at all. You're only talking about a couple of teaspoons of stuff compared to the 6 or 8 cups of flour and everything else. You can get every other ingredient right, and if you leave the yeast out—you're bread won't rise.

Another thing, how much difference can there be between baking soda and baking powder? They look exactly the same. They almost have the same name—they both start with the word, 'baking'. And yet if you confuse them and put baking soda in a recipe that calls for baking powder—whatever you're baking is not going to turn out right.

Small things, seemingly little details, can make a huge difference. We see this in our text. How important is the diaconate to the growth of the church? This morning we're ordaining Tom Newman to be a deacon. As we do that I want to consider Acts 6 which shows us

how essential a properly functioning diaconate is to the growth of the church.

We only have to look at verses 1 and 7 to see this. Notice how the chapter begins. It says,

"In those days when the
number of disciples was increasing…"

Then it goes on to describe the situation that came up in that some of the Grecian Jews were being neglected in the daily food distribution. The problem was solved by the apostles getting the church to elect deacons to oversee the distribution of food so that the problem was taken care of in a satisfactory way. After it was taken care of, verse 7 says,

"So the word of God spread.
The number of disciples in Jerusalem
increased rapidly, and a large number of
priests became obedient to the faith."

The early church was like a rocket taking off. Everything was going well. The Word was preached, the Spirit was opening the hearts of people and the church was growing. But then this problem with the Grecian widows came up. Whatever happened, it wasn't fair. It could have been that some sort of favoritism was involved. Or it could have been that it was just an oversight. But at any rate, it was a serious problem.

It reminds me of the launch of Apollo 12. Apollo 12 lifted off for the moon around 11:23 a.m. on Friday, November 14, 1969. Pete Conrad, Alan Bean and Richard Gordon were heading to what they hoped would be the second manned landing on the moon. But 36 seconds after liftoff, Apollo 12 was hit by lightning. Alan Bean said that so many warning and caution lights lit up that he had no idea what to do. It was nothing like they had ever seen in training. Then, 16 seconds later, Apollo 12 was struck by lighting again. Incredibly, commander Pete Conrad did not abort the mission and eject himself and the other two astronauts from the rocket. But they were in great danger and Conrad is certainly thinking about aborting. Something was seriously wrong with the electrical system. In Mission Control flight director Gerry Griffin couldn't believe what was happening. This was his first mission as flight director and he was certain that he would have to give the order to abort the flight. But before he did so he called for information from John Aaron, the flight controller in charge of the electrical system. But Aaron didn't respond. Griffin called again and asked,

"What do you see?"

But the problem for Aaron was that aside from the warning lights on his console, Aaron didn't see any telemetry from the spacecraft. All he saw on his screen was an indecipherable pattern of numbers. But he had seen this about a year earlier on a practice run and he knew how to fix it. Apollo 12's fuel cells had been knocked offline. He immediately gave the command to the flight director,

"Flight, try S-C-E to Aux."

That command switched the SCE to backup power. The flight director had no idea what that command was. Nor did the Capcom who relayed it to the astronauts. Pete Conrad had no idea either. But Alan Bean knew where the switch was and as soon as he flicked the switch, the telemetry reappeared. The mission was saved. Thanks to John Aaron, and his call, Apollo 12's crew was able to go on and land on the moon. John Aaron was a key ingredient in the success of the Apollo 12 moon mission.

The deacons of the church are like that. They have a crucial role in the church. When God gave the office of deacon to the church He bestowed a great blessing on the church. They were a blessing to the church in at least two ways.

First of all, the deacons were a blessing to the church in that

the Grecian widows were taken care of and the unity of the church was persevered.

Before the deacons started to function the Grecian widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. This was a great fault. James 1:27 says,

"Religion that God our Father
accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows
in their distress and to keep oneself
from being polluted by the world."

The deacons were elected to correct this situation.

There's a great truth here that we must not miss. It is this:

God is concerned about every aspect of your being.

God isn't just concerned about your soul. He's concerned about your whole being. He's concerned about your body, your emotions, your health, about you when you're hungry, when you're thirsty. In Matthew 15:32 we read how Jesus feed 4000 people. Just before He fed them Jesus called His disciples and said,

"I have compassion for these people;
they have already been with me
three days and have nothing to eat.
I do not want to send them away hungry,
or they may collapse on the way."

Jesus was concerned about their physical well being. We see the same principle in the Old Testament when Abraham sent Hagar and young Ishmael away. They soon ran out of water. Hagar put the boy under one of the bushes and went off and sat down nearby, because she couldn't bear to watch the boy die. But God heard the boy crying. He was concerned about his physical well being. Then God sent an angel to Hagar to tell her that he would make her son into a great nation. He then brought Hagar to a well of water so both she and the boy were saved.

When Jesus was dying on the cross, he said to John about his mother Mary, (John 19:27)

"Here is your mother."

He wanted John to take care of his mother. He was not just concerned about saving her soul but was also concerned about her day to day needs.

Indeed, such care is a necessity for a Christian. If you don't help needy people, it's a sign that you're not a Christian. In James 2:14–16 the apostle wrote,

"What good is it, my brothers,
if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?
Can such faith save him?
Suppose a brother or sister is
without clothes and daily food.
If one of you says to him,
'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,'
but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?"

In Matthew 25:35–40 Jesus taught the same principle. Jesus said that on the last day the King will say to those on his right hand,

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth,
whatever you did for one of
the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Our God is concerned about the whole man. He is concerned not only with our spiritual condition, but also with our physical condition. That's why the deacon had to take care of the Grecian widows.

God's redemption is going to encompass our whole being—body and soul. Our bodies are going to be changed and made perfect. His redemption is going to be cosmic. We are going to dwell in a new heaven and a new earth.

Christianity isn't exclusively about getting our souls saved. God is going to redeem our whole being.

There are two lessons for us from this:

First of all this means that

you should be greatly comforted.

God cares for you. He cares for you as a person. If things are troubling you—He is concerned about it. Remember what Peter told us in 1 Peter 5:7,

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

And in Psalm 56:8 the Psalmist said

"Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record?"

Our tears are all recorded by God.

The second lesson from this is that if you're a Christian

all of us is that we need to be concerned about more than loving other people's souls.

Our love for others must be well rounded. In addition to having concern for people's spiritual well-being, you need to be concerned about their whole being.

The deacons perform an invaluable service in the church in that they care for the needy. You are to support them in their work. In your personal life you are to imitate their example in ministering to the needy. Remember Job's words in Job 31, his final speech? He defended his righteousness by appealing to how he treated the poor.

The second way that the deacons were a great blessing to the church was because

by their work, they were able to free up the apostles so that the apostles could concentrate on prayer and the work of ministry.

Verse 2 tells us that the Twelve gathered 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."

This is an important principle that we should not miss. Yet many congregations don't take it heart. Some congregations have the idea that the pastor should do everything. After all, he's the one that gets paid money. I had a friend once tell me that his father was a pastor and because he was good at fixing things, the church came to expect him to be the church's handyman.

That's never happened to me and that's a good thing because although I'm rather good at taking things apart—it's another story when it comes to putting them back together.

Who is to do the work of the church? All Christians are to be involved. That's why God has given every Christian at least one spiritual gift.

But in doing the work of the church there is a division of labor. There is to be a division of labor in the church. Everyone has a job to do. The job of the apostles and those who are called to teach is the ministry of the Word.

In his commentary on Acts John Stott mentions three great strategies that Satan uses against the church. One of them is distraction. He suggests that here Satan,

"sought to deflect the apostles from their priority responsibilities of prayer and preaching by preoccupying them with social administration, which was not their calling. If he had been successful in this, an untaught church would have been exposed to every wind of false doctrine."

The teachers of the church should focus almost exclusively on the ministry of the Word. In 2 Timothy 4 Paul gave the charge to Timothy to,

"Preach the Word…"

In 1 Timothy 4:13 he said to Timothy,

"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading
of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching."

Pastors must not be distracted from their main work. The deacons are specifically appointed so that the pastors, teachers and evangelists will not have to do certain work in the church.

The deacon's have a wonderful calling and a great duty. If they do their work properly, they are a great blessing to the church. They take care of the needy and show the love of Christ to them. They assist the ministry of the Word—for they free the teachers so that they can focus on prayer and teaching.