The passage we’ll look at next week stretches from 6:1 to 8:1.
Conflict and persecution have hit the early church, threatening to grind it to a halt. But despite the sense of helplessness felt, God shows that he’s in control by using even persecution to continue to grow his church. And he shows us that our helplessness is often the place where the gospel can do its best work in our life.
Resolution of a significant conflict in the Jerusalem church 6:1-7
Brief but important passage brings to a climax Luke’s narrative about the growth of the church in Jerusalem.. Dissension among the believers is resolved by the appointment of a new group of leaders to meet the needs of the Greeks in the community.
The appointment of The Seven are set apart to serve tables (pastoral care) and free up The Twelve to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word (6.4)
The passage begins and ends with a record of the remarkable growth in the number of believers in Jerusalem, and the point is clearly made that this happened because the ministry of the word continued unhindered
(5:42; 6:7) This is a critical paragraph for Luke’s development of a theology about the word of God growing and multiplying (6:7, 12:24, 19:20). Each reference climaxes a section recording the resolution of some conflict or the cessation of opposition and persecution. The gospel is shown to prosper in spite of, and even because of, struggle and suffering.
Present context suggests that if action had not been taken to deal with the current issue disturbing the church, ‘growth’ of the Word may not have continued
Observations on 6:1-7[ut_togglegroup] [ut_toggle title=”6:1″] – first use of believers being called ‘disciples’ – Greco-Roman world: ‘learner’ ‘apprentice’
– disciples are now all those who are ‘obedient to the faith’ 6:7
– but even as this exciting increase in numbers was taking place, a problem was emerging
– the claim that the widows were being overlooked implies neglect in this context
– because most women spent their lives in the households that belonged to their fathers and then their husbands, they controlled little property and had little economic opportunity
– when widowed they were particularly vulnerable economically and socially
– the OT has much to say about the care of widows and Luke seems to have a particular interest in their welfare
– neglect of any group in a community where it was claimed that ‘there was no needy person among them’ would have been a problem, but this was a potentially divisive matter
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”6:2″] Apostles recognised the important, God-given responsibility for them to preach and teach about Jesus
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”6:7″] -‘word of the lord spread’ means ‘grew’ or ‘increased’. Word of God grew in the sense that its influence extended and the number who believed it grew
– in Scripture ‘the Word of God’ is viewed as a vital force, reaching into people’s lives and transforming situations according to God’s will
– Luke coins this expression which means that the church – which is the creature of the Word – grew
Stephen’s Speech & Stoning – 6:8-8:1
The testimony against Stephen in 6:12 is that Stephen is speaking against the temple & against the law found in the Old Testament
To summarise Stephen’s speech, there are two main threads we see running through it. The first is that God’s presence does not equal the temple. And the second is that God’s people have always been sinful and they still are.
1. God’s presence does not equal the temple:
7:7 God meets with Abraham’s descendants outside the land.
7:30 he meets Moses in the wilderness, outside the land.
7:44 God meets in a tent, outside the land.
7:47-49 when God eventually does come into the land, straight away he says, ‘Let’s get this straight, I don’t live in that house just because you built it for me’.
2. God’s people have always been sinful and they still are today
The shocking disrespect of Moses doesn’t come from Stephen, but from the Israelites themselves.
v. 25- It was they who failed to recognise Moses as their heaven-sent deliver
v. 27- They pushed Moses aside
v. 35 – They rejected his leadership
v. 39ff – They refused to obey him in the desert, choosing instead to turn back in their hearts toward Egypt and become idolaters
vv. 57-58 –
In 6:7 we see that many priests repented and became obedient to the faith. But here, the religious leaders and those in the crowd turn further into their own sin and kill Stephen – just like they did with Jesus
Stephen’s death was full of Christ. Both were falsely accused (6:13), both prayed that the Lord would receive their spirit (7:59) and that God would ‘not hold this sin against them’ (7:60).
What makes it so hard for us to admit we’re helpless?
Why do we find prayer so difficult?
What comfort (if any) does Stephen’s vision give to you (7:55-56)?
How does the gospel change how you view God?