I. Godly Servants Humbly Serve, 1-4. The first thing Luke points out here is that deacons are to serve. That is the essence of the name of their title. Elders are to shepherd and Deacons are to serve. Now there are certainly some overlaps between these two offices and even with all of God’s people. We are all to be humble and watch out for one another and serve one another. However, the Lord has ordained that certain men have gifts to lead as examples in these areas. God gifts certain men to lead the way for all of us to follow.
A. God’s people are not easy to serve, 1. Nevertheless, the path is not always an easy one to follow. Solomon, in his God-given wisdom, reminds us that “where there are no oxen, the stable is clean…” (Proverbs 14:4). Here in Acts 6 we find a messy congregation. There is a problem in the flock, this diverse flock. There were two groups of Christians in this congregation: the Hellenists, the Greek-speaking Jews, and the Hebrews, the Hebrew- and Aramaic- speaking Jews. And apparently there is some neglect going on. Whether intentional or unintentional we may never know, but the fact that there was neglect reminds us that the Church is full of sinners. We forget things sometimes and neglect people at times. It wasn’t perfect then and it is not perfect now. The apostles/elders were doing double-duty and the Church was growing. They were working hard for the sake of the sheep. And what do some of the people do? They don’t just make their needs known; instead, they complain that someone is not doing their job or is at least doing it unfairly! Surely the Lord our God knows what it is like to endure such complaints from His people (Ex. 15-17; Num. 11, 14; 1 Cor. 10:10). There is a group of disgruntled Christians in the community. And they are making their complaint known (Phil. 2:14). So what will the apostles do? What will happen to the Church at this point? This would be a wonderful place for Satan to divide and conquer! Notice the three challenges that the early Church faced. They are the same that we face today: Persecution (chs. 4-5), Corruption (ch. 5), and Diversion (ch. 6). The early Church, by God’s grace and Sovereignty, persevered through the first two challenges. So now what will happen with this third challenge of diversion?
B. God’s people need mercy ministry, 1-4. Well, the apostles call a congregational meeting! They don’t just wash their hands of the situation, nor do they affirm the complaining spirit within the Church. They simply acknowledge that there is a problem. However, they are also acknowledging that there is a need to care for the poor. Mercy ministry was going on, but it could be improved. The elders needed help, for they could not carry the load all by themselves. So by calling this congregational meeting, the apostles were affirming the need for mercy ministry. The things they were doing were vital to the life of the Church. God commands His people to take care of the “orphans and widows,” the “poor and needy” in the congregation. These categories are those who are helpless and defenseless. God cares about such people; therefore, the Church is to care about such people, especially within the Church itself. This was not a second class service to be done; rather, it was so important that the whole congregation needed to come together to make some decisions about it. This was a matter of calling. The elders/apostles were to care primarily for the spiritual needs of the people, while the deacons were to care primarily for the physical needs of the people. We need Godly men to be leading us in mercy ministry. Mercy ministry is to be a hallmark of the Church because God cares for us in the same way. Meeting the physical needs of the poor is essential, but it also allows the apostles/elders to be doing their duty. Their duty is to serve in the ministry of prayer and the Word. It must have been a difficult task to be given entirely to prayer and the Word. The apostles were arrested by the authority of the high priest and the Sadducees and were thrown into prison for preaching the gospel. They were strictly told to stop preaching that message; however, Peter, on behalf of the apostles, reminded the council of their allegiance (Acts 5:30). And then Peter proceeded to proclaim the gospel to them! That didn’t sit well with the high priest or any who were gathered against the apostles (Acts 5:33). Preaching the gospel takes an emotional toll as well as a physical one. It is draining and costly. All the jokes about pastors only working one day a week are sadly true of many. However, those ministers who are truly doing their duty know how difficult it is to pray and preach and teach. Maybe we would have healthier churches if pastors would give up some of their extra-curricular activities and focus on praying and preaching!
So, the Church needs mercy ministry for two reasons. One is to relieve the physical needs of the poor and the second is to relieve the apostles/elders to care for the spiritual needs of the people. For such a task, the Church needs Godly servants who will humbly serve. Never forget that the office of Deacon is one of service. And that is no easy task. Those who are elected to this office will have both the privilege and honor to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.
Soli Deo Gloria!