Church Problems & Priorities
Sermon Text: Acts 6:1-7
Sermon Theme: As problems arise within the church, we have to maintain biblical priorities and share the ministry needs.
Hitherto the disciples had been of one accord; this often had been noticed to their honor; but now they were multiplied, they began to murmur. The word of God was enough to take up all the thoughts, cares, and time of the apostles. The persons chosen to serve tables must be duly qualified. They must be filled with gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, necessary to rightly managing this trust; men of truth, and hating covetousness. All who are employed in the service of the church, ought to be commended to the Divine grace by the prayers of the church. They blessed them in the name of the Lord. The word and grace of God are greatly magnified, when those are wrought upon by it, who were least likely.
(From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
- Is the church to have no structure or full corporation structure or in between? One extreme, argues that the church should reject formal organization or structure and just flow with the Spirit. Whatever is organized, they insist, cannot be from God. Others would structure the church like a Fortune 500 corporation, complete with detailed organizational charts, job descriptions, boards, committees, and subcommittees. They then hope that the Holy Spirit will operate within the rigid framework they have constructed. They will reject any bold, new proposals because “We’ve never done it that way before.” We must not underestimate the strength of the nature and power of the Spirit. Both extremes are wrong; the church is neither a highly contrived corporation nor a loose commune, but an organism. It has both a natural unity and an operative life principle, since all members are connected to its living Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet just as living organisms require structure and organization to function, so does the church. Organization is never an end in itself but only a means to facilitate what the Lord is doing in His church. Biblical church organization always responds to needs and to what the Spirit is already doing. Let us not organize a program and then expect the Holy Spirit to get involved in it — this is putting the cart before the horse.
- How do we restore harmony to the church when dissension occurs over a practical issue? Note the prompt, wise, and magnanimous action of the apostles in Acts 6:1-6. They did not wait for the murmuring to become a pronounced disaffection. They did not rebuke the murmurers, nor try to justify themselves. They simply asked that the work might be put in the hands of others who could properly attend to it. Were many in the place of the apostles they would have stood upon their dignity, and ignored the complaint; and the low murmuring of Acts 6:1 would have grown into loud and fierce denunciation in Acts 6:5. But kindness, straightforwardness, and discretion at once surmounted the difficulty. Evil had always better be grappled with in its incipient stage. A small injustice is more easily remedied than a great one, and the unity of the church family makes the duty more imperative. Thus we are taught that the Church is a living organism. It was not launched upon society with all its organization perfected. It is foolish to endeavor to give the Church a rigid, cast-iron shape for all countries and ages. The exigencies of time and place are to determine its outward form. But we must not forget the promise that the “Spirit of Truth” should guide the Church into all the truth of government not less than the truth of doctrine.
- How difficult is it, even when men’s hearts are in the right place and in a good state, to prevent jealousies and misunderstandings among a large body of people? How an open and common-sense policy, under the blessing of God, may meet and allay this sort of thing; when men will calmly look at it, and observe that something must be done, and endeavor in an open and honest spirit to do it. But, we must have room for all who have a mind to work; but none for idlers. The Church needs a division of labor to prevent schism. A Church active and consecrated will keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Work for Christ is never to be thought of in a mean spirit. It should be associated with what is best and highest in Christian life, and be done ever “as under the great Taskmaster’s eye.” The Church must declined to treat even its secular work as wholly unspiritual, and lifted it out of the atmosphere of mere business into that of worship. There are no merely secular duties in the Church. Church matters are not merely matters of political system. There is nothing done in Christ’s Church — whether the opening of a door, the lighting of a lamp, or the preaching of the everlasting gospel — that is not to be done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There is no part of our work in any section that is not holy unto the Lord.
- Are you taking on some of the workload of our Church so our Pastors can have an emphasis on prayer and the Word of God? We cannot have our Pastors so involved in the administrative details of our Church that they have little time left for intercession and study. For pastors are given to the church “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Their calling is to mature the saints so they can do the work of the ministry. By neglecting that calling, they doom their congregations to languish in spiritual infancy. Programs are no substitute for the power of God and His Word. Those whom God has called to the ministry of prayer and the Word must make it their priority. For of what advantage are the foods of bodily nourishment when the soul is hungry?
- What lays at your murmuring and jealousies? Are you working to remove your jealousies since jealousies always distorts facts to suit its own morbid fancies? Christianized human nature is long before it shakes itself free from petty ambitions and other ignoble sentiments. Sectarianisms and divisions of Churches have often arisen from matters of the smallest importance. Watch the beginnings of the church where dissensions were created by wrong feelings much more than by the maintenance of great principles and sacred interests. But few will bear looking at from the Savior’s Cross or in the light of the Savior’s throne. For no one in the Lord’s Church body should be treated like second-class citizens and considered by us as “outsiders” because they are new to the church, maybe act a little differently, talk in a different way, or live in a different environment. We need to be united in helping and supporting each other as we are being transformed from our human nature into His image.
- Are you making distinctions of esteem or importance between the different ministries? We must have the idea that ministry is ministry whether it consists of teaching God’s Word or taking care of widows. We tend to look at a passage like this and make distinctions of importance between taking care of widows and teaching God’s truth. Luke does not seem to make such distinction, nor does it appear that was what the Twelve intended. Yes, teaching and prayer claimed priority, but not all disciples were involved in that. God calls different people to different kinds of ministries, and the key lies not in spelling out some level of importance, but being faithful to the call. For each Christian is given gifts by God and we should focus on using them to glorify Him: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:4-8).
- What happens to the Church body if your are not willing to serve as God has called and gifted you? “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body, ’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you;’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
1) WISDOM AS WELL AS FAITH (By Chrysostom): For indeed great wisdom is needed in such ministries. Do not think, just because he was not entrusted with the word, that such a person does not need wisdom; on the contrary, he is in great need of it. [From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture]
2) WHO AND WHAT IS THAT MAN WHO IS FULL OF FAITH AND OF THE HOLY GHOST? Faith which believes the promise respecting the gift of the Holy Ghost, which relies upon His presence and help, which looks to Him continually, leans on His assistance confidently, is necessary to an individual’s being full of the Holy Ghost: “full of faith” and “full of the Holy Ghost” are inseparably united: they twine together, they grow up each into their fullness together. The Holy Ghost is the author of faith: it is by His gift and operation that the faith of believers “groweth exceedingly.” He reveals the truth “from faith to faith.” And faith opens wider and wider the door of the heart for His reception; and faith, acting upon the promises, draws a larger and a larger indwelling of that blessed visitant. It is almost needless to say that the expression “being full of the Holy Ghost” must mean being under the influence of the Holy Ghost — His influence exerted over the whole man, in all his powers, under all circumstances, at all times. It is by the Holy Ghost that he is guided. He is continually under the Spirit’s teaching. That blessed Spirit is acting, with all his trials, by them to sanctify him. The influence of the Holy Ghost is upon the man in all that he thinks or does: this is the “being full of the Holy Ghost.” Hence Christians are said to walk in the Spirit, to pray in the Spirit, to live in the Spirit. We go on now to the effects produced — those which others see visible in our disposition and conduct. The indwelling of the Spirit must be manifest to ourselves. In true Christians — for it is of them that we are now especially speaking — one of the chief and most evident of the operations of the Holy Ghost, where His influence is richly imparted, is the shedding abroad a love to God and a love to all real Christians. In close connection with love is hope, a confiding trust in God. “And, because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). With these, and perhaps springing out of these in a measure, love and hope, are conjoined joy and peace, the work of the Holy Ghost. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace” (Galatians 5:22), says the apostle: “joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thessalonians 1:6), he says again. There are also exhibitions of Christian excellence — these come from the Spirit: there are works done by Christians — these are originated by the Spirit. Scripture is very clear and definite in its language. We must observe it where it is so marked and positive in its expression: it does not speak of goodness, charity, temperance, etc., as our own virtues, which we are to follow; but it calls them “fruits of the Spirit.” “But the fruit of the Spirit,” says St. Paul, “is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” These, if really Christian graces, come from the Spirit’s operation. He commences them; He nurtures them; He gives them their growth; He will bring them out to their full completion in another world. I would observe, too, that all these fruits of the Spirit must be sought by the Christian. Our Savior denounces the breaking one of His least commandments. These graces of the Holy Ghost differ, in many respects, from those excellencies which the unchanged heart of man can exhibit. We may notice one of these graces in St. Stephen, that man “full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.” Christian graces have their opposites, but both appear. Where the Spirit of God works it will be so. See in St. Stephen the lion and the lamb united: he is the lion in courage, as he meets his persecutors, as he stands up valiant for the truth: he is the lamb in meekness, as he kneels down and prays for his murderers, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” [J. E. Dalton, BD]
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