SESSION 13 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

Review of the study thus far:

— Jesus’ briefing on the Holy Spirit in John 14-17

— The promise for which they were to wait

— Fulfilled in Acts 2

— Peter’s sermon, boldly speaking their sin and Christ’s resurrection, and 3,000 come to Christ

— The beggar born lame is healed, Peter speaks again of Christ’s resurrection and their sin, and 5,000 come to Christ

— Peter, John and the beggar are brought before the Sanhedrin

— Do not speak this name or do anything in this name

— Should we obey God or you? You be the judge!

—We cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard

— The bond-servants of the Lord ask for greater boldness to speak,

and God answers their prayer!

— Contrast between Barnabas, who gives all, and Ananias and Sapphira, who lie about their offering, and the consequences.

— The apostles are arrested. The angel who frees them delivers this message: Go! Stand! Speak all the words of this Life! And they did, and were arrested again!

— Sanhedrin cut to the quick, Gamaliel’s advice to let them be, for if it is of God, they may find themselves fighting against God! The Apostles, flogged and released, rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer as Jesus did.

Now, Session 13 — Acts 6:1-15

Verse 1 — There was some concern that the Hellenistic Jewish widows were being discriminated against. These would be “widows indeed,” per Paul in 1Timothy 5:3 and forward.

They are disregarded and neglected compared with the Hebrew widows, NOT receiving their daily allowance of aid, which is according to the Law handed down to Moses by the Lord —

Deuteronomy 10:18 “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”

Hellenists were Jews but born in other countries controlled by Greece. Thus, they had adopted the Greek language and culture (the world standard at that time), rather than Hebrew language and culture.

Verse 2 — So how does the church react? The Twelve call the multitude of disciples, and present their plan to them all.

It is displeasing for them to neglect the word of God (that is, proclamation of it) in order to serve tables. I believe it displeased God, because He has called them to proclaim the gospel, and tending to the widows is distracting them from their calling. No blame is assigned, but change is needed.

Oh, would that our leaders call everyone in the churches together to say they must not neglect the proclamation of the gospel, so they need help with the daily matters of the church!

Would that the congregation would respond, understanding the importance of this calling upon their leaders!

Would that the leaders not pursue TV, sports, movies, video gaming, youtube, and other distractions of these times, but rather, focus entirely on what God has called them to do!

Verse 3 — The widows must be properly served. So, put some from among yourselves to work, to make sure all widows are served equally. What are the requirements for this menial service? Someone who is popular? Someone who has a lot of money? Someone who has the gift of hospitality? Not at all! Then and now, here are the requirements:

— Seven men (women serve as we go on in the Book of Acts)

— Of good reputation (they live what they speak)

— Full of the Spirit and wisdom (the wisdom of God is in view here)

Two things to note: 1) The Lord, from whom the Twelve take their orders, requires a Christian to be filled with the Spirit to do even the most seemingly menial task;

and 2) the Twelve ask the disciples to select Spirit-filled men, which means some of the church must not yet be Spirit-filled. That explains why prejudice is shown toward the Hellenistic widows. Being filled with the Spirit rids us of prejudice, beloved.

Would that everyone in the church be filled with the Spirit, so they would meet the requirements for serving in even the most menial work, all the way up to lay leaders and board members, pastors and bishops!

Verse 4 — While the seven serve widows, the Twelve will devote themselves, “to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” They will pray, though they are full of the Holy Spirit. What do they pray? For open hearts, for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and for continual increase of their own understanding as they grow in grace and in the knowledge of God!

I tell you, many of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers of today do not have prayer lives, and confess it at conferences!

And ministry of the word? Many use their pulpits as “bully pulpits” for political, societal and other worldly discussions.

Many have memorized the Word of God, but twist it to fit the demands of their congregations and audiences. They do not follow Paul’s command to Timothy —

2Timothy 4:1   I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

1Timothy 4:1   But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons . . .

Verse 5 — The whole multitude of disciples approves, and chooses —

Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit

And six others, including a proselyte (a convert to Judaism)

Verse 6 — The Apostles pray and lay their hands on the seven, thus imparting authority to them, agreeing with the Holy Spirit that these men are called to be sent out to minister.

We will see this many times in the Book of Acts, both when being filled with the Holy Spirit as part of the Spirit’s baptism (see Paul in Acts 19:6), and for sending out (see Acts 13:3).

Verse 7 — During all of this, the word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, keeps on spreading, the number of disciples increases greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests (those of the 24 divisions in 1Chronicles 24:7 and forward, and like Zecharias in Luke 1:5) become obedient to the faith. Hallelujah!

Selah! Pause and think about it! Priests and Levites BECAME obedient to the faith. They had been disobedient, rejecting Jesus as the Christ. But now they obeyed (heeded) and believed the truth! A great many! These knew the Law, but are now convinced that Jesus has risen and is the Christ!

Verse 8 — And Stephen, full of grace (the Greek word charis, the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life) and power (dunamis, miracle-working power, the very power of God), was performing great wonders and signs among the people.

Wait! He was supposed to just serve widows. But how could he not minister to  those he met along the way? When you are filled with the Spirit, He ministers through you while you are performing your other duties!

Stephen is: 1) full of the Spirit and wisdom, per Verse 3; 2) full of faith and the Holy Spirit; and 3) full of grace and power. Wisdom, faith, grace and power are hallmarks of a Spirit-filled believer! They are FULL!

Verses 9-10 — PERSECUTION is to be expected, if you are a Spirit-filled believer. This time, it is the Synagogue of the Freedmen, and includes many who were born in Grecian-controlled parts of the known world.

They argue with Stephen (we will see the nature of the argument shortly, in Verses 11-13).

BUT . . . They are unable to “cope with,” my NAS Bible says. A poor translation! The Greek word means resist or withstand!

Jesus’ promise is fulfilled:

Luke 21:12   “But before all these things (signs of His return), they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13 “It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. 14 “So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance (literally, a mouth) and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.”

The Spirit-filled Stephen is about to have an opportunity to give testimony, and the Spirit has given and will yet give him words and wisdom which none of his opponents will be able to resist or refute! The Lord is faithful!

Verses 11-14 — So these men induce men to lie by saying Stephen has blasphemed Moses and God. As with those who persecuted Jesus, they falsely believe that he contradicts the Law of Moses, given by God.

The Synagogue of the Freedmen  stir up the people, the elders, and the scribes. They drag Stephen away and bring him before the Sanhedrin. They put forth false witnesses, saying Stephen constantly speaks against the Temple and the Law. They claim that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy the Temple and change their customs, handed down by Moses.

Verse 15 — Everyone fixes their gaze on Stephen. They gaze intently at him. What do they see?

Stephen’s face is like the face of an angel. There is a radiance, because God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are in him. He is filled with the Spirit, filled with God’s glory, His kabod, His weighty glorious presence!

It is just as the Lord spoke, through the prophet Isaiah —

Isaiah 60:1  “Arise, shine; for your light has come,

And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

2  “For behold, darkness will cover the earth

And deep darkness the peoples;

But the Lord will rise upon you

And His glory will appear upon you.

3  “Nations will come to your light

And kings to the brightness (radiance) of your rising (shining).

Is it so with you? Are you full of the Spirit and wisdom, full of faith, grace and power? That is the description of a servant of the living God, since Pentecost has come.

Do you have a mouth and wisdom which no one can resist or refute, when you are accused and persecuted for your faith?

Have you had your own personal Pentecost? Our Lord Jesus Christ commands it, because He knows you cannot serve Him unless you have been baptized and filled with His Spirit.

Cry out to Him now, and ask Him to fill you! He will do it!