In our Sunday School classes at Southern Calvert Baptist Church, we are walking through the New Testament book of Acts. We have covered some great topics so far such as:
- The Giving of the Holy Spirit
- Peter and John testifying about Christ
- Serving according to your Spiritual Gifts
The theme of the book of Acts is in chapter 1, verse 8. The Holy Spirit is going to empower followers of Jesus Christ to testify about what they have seen, heard, and experienced while walking with Jesus Christ. All 120 of the believers received the Holy Spirit and all 120 of the believers began to proclaim the mighty deeds of God. Peter stood up and preached the message of the Gospel and 3,000 people gave their lives to Jesus Christ. Immediately, 6 things began to happen on a daily basis.
- Corporate Bible Study daily
- Fellowship among the believers daily
- Taking the Lord’s Supper daily (examining relationships)
- Prayer for and with each other daily
- Worshiping the Lord Jesus daily
- Sharing the message of the Gospel with others, daily
As a result, the Lord continued to add to the number of new believers, daily. Are these 6 things a part of your daily life? Do you see others coming to Christ daily? Could there be a connection between not doing those 6 things and the lack of results?
Almost immediately, persecution followed on the heels of people proclaiming the Gospel. The believers were able to overcome because they knew their calling and lived to accomplish the will of God moment by moment, day by day. In Acts 6, the crisis that strikes comes from within, instead of persecution from without. What will happen? Will the ministry slow down or, will the believers overcome the obstacles and continue to see more and more people accept Christ? Let’s find out.
I. The Apostles’ Calling
In Acts 6, we discover the secret to successful ministry, during the 1st Century, a ministry which can be reproduced in the 21st Century.
1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, . . . (Acts 6)
The passage begins with the results. The disciples were continuing to increase in number. Why? It is due to those 6 things that the believers were doing on a daily basis.
2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. (Acts 6)
The apostles were the leaders of the church. They were successful in what they were doing because they did not neglect the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. Their priorities were in the right place. They met with the believers daily and taught corporate Bible studies. With so many new believers, they had more than enough work to keep them busy. Things that were important started to try and pull away the focus of the apostles from teaching and they had to make a choice. The apostles made the right choice. Many times, today, spiritual leaders get caught up in important things, but, they are things that keep them from dedicating the majority of their time to teaching and preaching the Word of God. The Word ends up getting neglected and, as a result, believers are not being trained to share their faith with others. The Apostles had trained up other leaders already who were capable of doing this important ministry so that the Apostles could:
4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” (Acts 6)
Some interpret this as pastor-teachers huddling up in their offices for 40 hours a week to pray and write sermons. I do not believe this is what the apostles meant, based on what we have already seen in the previous chapters of Acts. They were going to devote themselves to ministering the Word to others, spending time in prayer with them as they were teaching them the Word of God. As a result of the apostles dedicating themselves to the ministry of the Word, the following is discovered:
7 The Word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith (Acts 6)
Why did the Word keep on spreading? It was because the apostles were teaching the believers and the believers were sharing the message with the people within their spheres of influence. Even Jewish priests were coming to faith in Christ. When the leaders carry out their calling, the results are the natural by product. When believers, filled with the Holy Spirit are taught the Word of God daily, they share with others and the results are that God adds to the number of believers daily. Do you want to see this happen in your life? Are you ready to dedicate yourself the way that the 1st Century believers did?
II. The qualifications for leadership
How do you know when a person is qualified for leadership? Acts 6 gives us the answer. The first thing is that the person needs to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. He also needs to be in corporate Bible study, fellowship, prayer, and worship, as well as actively sharing his faith with others. How many would those requirements automatically eliminate from our local churches today?
5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.
8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6)
A leader needs to be full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit (being led by the Holy Spirit, in complete submission to the prompting of the Holy Spirit). A leader must be full of grace, living by it and extending it to the people around him. One of the most crucial aspects/requirements of a leader is that he must first prove himself as a servant. If a person cannot serve others or, does not want to serve others, he is not qualified to be a leader. A person in leadership is still there to serve. Many today want a leadership role but have no desire to serve. May our servant’s towel always be bigger than our ego, especially if we have been blessed with a leadership position in the church.
III. Stephen’s proclamation of the Gospel
Stephen met all of the above mentioned requirements. He is also able to teach and preach the Word of God. While serving others, he was given the opportunity to share the Word of God. Opposition arose immediately, as it always does when people teach the Word of God as It is. Those in opposition could not refute the message of the Gospel so they tried another tactic, to stop the messenger by trying to discredit him. They could find nothing to discredit Stephen about so they just made up lies about him. They accuse Stephen of preaching Jesus. I hope that when my accusers say something against me, that the worst thing that they say that I do is preach Jesus. They also accuse Stephen of speaking against the Law, the prophets, Moses, the Temple, and the traditions of the elders. Stephen gets a chance to make a defense and when he does, he preaches Christ. Stephen proclaims the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He confronts the sins of his accusers and points to the fact that people have opposed the Gospel ever since the days of Moses. Christ is the fulfillment of what Moses, the prophets, the Law, and the Temple foretold. It got to the point that the accusers could no longer debate with Stephen and they could not contradict his message so, they decided to murder the messenger. Stephen is stoned by his accusers, with a young Saul in attendance to witness this persecution of someone who proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a common reaction when a person’s sin nature is pricked by the Word of God. They lash out at the messenger. This will come first and foremost from the religious people who trust in themselves as being good and without any need of help to connect with God. The reason that sin nature needs to be pricked is so that people are made aware of the power of their sin nature and understand their need for help/salvation. In Acts 2, the people were pierced by the Word of God. That led them to repentance. In Acts 7, they were also pierced by the Word of God. That led them to act out violently and silence the messenger. These are two very common responses to hearing the message of the Gospel. Now, you might think that this negative reaction would be detrimental to the spreading of the Gospel, but, it is not. It actually causes the Gospel to spread quicker.
My dear friend, do you meet the qualifications to be a leader? God has called all of us who are followers of Jesus Christ to make disciples. Like it or not, desire it or not, all of us all called to be leaders. We need to be trained in the Word of God daily. We need to prioritize things, making sure that we do not neglect the Word of God. Are you learning to live to serve others? When was the last time you were able to share the message of the Gospel with someone? When was the last time that you were able to share your testimony with another person? These were all of the requirements for leadership in the early church. These are the same requirements today. I want to see God adding new believers daily. I am ready to do my part, are you?