“Whom We Will Appoint To This Duty”
1. We’re looking into a passage in which there occurs what someone jokingly called “the greatest miracle in the NT.”
a. There was murmuring in the church – no miracle!
b. A solution was proposed which “pleased the whole gathering” – that’s the miracle.
c. The action taken allowed the word of God to continue to increase.
2. The incident described here provides us with valuable insight into some practical things the church needs as it does its work.
a. That’s why we’re looking into it: this is the second part of a process we started two months ago.
b. We examined “Those who serve well as deacons” and concluded with the words we’ve just sung (“Make Me A Servant…”).
c. Now we’re ready to ask some of our brothers to honor the spirit of those lines by serving.
1. As the church does its work, it needs to be able to address the needs and opportunities that may arise. (v. 1)
a. A complaint arose.
i. Muttering … low and suppressed discourse … the expression of secret and sullen discontent, murmuring.”
ii. When the disciples were increasing in number
iii. Hellenists grumbled against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected.
b. The enemy was at work.
i. He had used hypocrisy from within and pressure from without; now he was ready to use dissension.
ii. He was attacking two of the congregation’s strengths – growth and loving care.
iii. This was a threatening moment: everything could have come undone.
c. But it was also a moment of opportunity.
i. Neglect could be corrected.
ii. Responsibility could be spread and shared.
iii. If they were able to address this opportunity, the love and service of the congregation could be greater than ever. We can find some parallels with us.
2. As the church does its work, it needs for its workers with special responsibilities to stay at their tasks. (v. 2,4)
a. Be careful to understand what the twelve were saying.
i. Not that one work was more important.
ii. In fact, they had been dealing with the distribution – the money had been laid at their feet.
iii. But they had a particular responsibility – a priority – the ministry of the word and prayer.
b. Their intention to respect that priority defined their options in responding to the complaint.
i. Could not just ignore it. That would endanger the mission.
ii. Could not merely take men by the hand to go with them.
iii. Couldn’t just tell the people to do whatever they wanted.
c. But they could define the work and the kind of persons it would take to do it, involve the people in identifying such individuals, entrust that duty to them, then devote themselves to the tasks the Lord had given them. They could put some duties in more hands.
3. As the church does its work, it needs to accept its own part in resolving the complaints it makes and correcting the neglect it recognizes. (v. 3, 5a)
a. None of the disciples were scolded for having identified an area where something needed to be done better, but neither were any of them allowed to simply call attention to the problem.
b. The Twelve asked those who said they saw some neglect to also take ownership in the solution to the problem: to quit the “they” and to act as “we”.
c. It’s almost as if the apostles set parameters and then said “If you think you can do it better, have at it!”
d. But it’s more than that. There is an expression of trust here which demands “involved good will.”
e. It’s one of the things about our congregation over the last few months that I’ve been most thankful for. The Lord has given us people who recognize opportunities.
4. As the church does its work, it needs to agree on the people who are properly equipped to attend to the right duties. (v. 5b, 6)
a. The whole gathering was involved in the choosing.
i. We’re not told how they chose, only that they chose.
ii. They had the qualifications to look for, and good will.
iii. The names (Greek) suggest amazing grace and trust – the Hebrew speaking members may have been entrusting this work to those who had felt the neglect.
b. The apostles were given the chance to show approval.
i. The seven were set before them, as if to recognize their authority and wisdom.
ii. They prayed because they knew the Lord had to approve.
iii. And they laid hands on them, an action which could bless, or set apart to a task, or even impart a gift.
c. Maybe you can see that we have been trying to pursue a process similar to that.
5. As the church does its work, it needs for there to be no agenda other than for the word of God to increase. (v. 7)
a. This is what the Twelve were concerned about (v. 4), and what they called everybody back to.
b. It was the measure of whether the complaint had been properly addressed.
c. It was not about – it cannot be about – personalities or popularity or power. It was, and is, about seeing people helped so that God’s word can prosper. It’s not that these men were the only servants. It’s that they were set apart to be servants of servants.
William Law made a lasting impact upon 18th century England with his book, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. In it, Law urges this Christian that every day should be viewed as a day of humility. And how does he suggest that we do this? By learning to serve others. Law understood that it is with the discipline of service that one gains humility. If we want humility, he urges us to “give in to all the weaknesses and infirmities of your fellow-man, cover their frailties, love their excellences, encouraging their virtues, relieve their wants, rejoice in their prosperities, be compassionate in their distress, receive their friendship, overlook their unkindness, forgive their malice, be a servant of servants, and agree to do the lowest offices to the lowest of mankind.”
6. That’s the duty to which we are appointing some of our brothers.
a. Other brothers have served and blessed our congregation, but those who are continuing as our deacons are ….
b. The six brothers who are to be appointed to this duty today are …
c. (To the men standing) If it is your will to devote yourselves to the task of being “servants of servants” as this congregation’s deacons, will you answer with the “amen” in the name of the Lord.
d. Prayer by Fred in behalf of our elders (with the church standing).