Acts 6:2-4

Acts 6:2-4…”So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.'” These seven men were the first officially appointed deacons. To be clear, elders lead ministry (teaching/preaching), deacons facilitate ministry (practical needs), the congregation does ministry (loving each other by caring for spiritual/emotional/physical needs). This is the New Testament model, and biblical clarity in the deacons’ role and function is invaluable for promoting peace and unity in our congregations.

According to the New Testament, a deacon is two things:

1) Deacons are shock-absorbers: the seven men chosen by the church in Jerusalem to care for widows, who seem to be precursors to deacons, were chosen to preserve unity at a time when botched administration was creating fissures in the church (see entire context of passage above – Acts 6:1-7).

2) And deacons are servants: their very name means servant, and their precursors in Acts 6 were chosen to handle the practical needs of the church. That way, the apostles could devote themselves to leading the church through prayer and the ministry of the Word.

Ever wonder why your church seems disorganized? In addition to the fact that we’re all sinners, and will create disorganization, chaos, and disunity because of our nature, maybe the disorder you’re seeing is because the biblical model for church is being ignored. Encourage your pastors to look to scripture and not the latest church growth fad for instruction on church structure and order. Pastors/Elders, please know that you’ll be held accountable for the quality of disciples under your care (Hebrews 13:17), and that focusing mainly on quantity could be slippery.

Acts 5:32

Acts 5:32…”We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” These things include the most important question in the history of the world: Was Jesus really raised from the dead? Christ’s resurrection is the key to whether or not Christianity is true. If He was raised from the dead, then all the OT prophecies including God’s plan of salvation through Him are miraculously consistent. If He was raised from the dead, then He does have exclusive authority over every human being; past, present, and future, including you. If He was raised from the dead, then we all will bow before Him one day, and He will judge whether or not we actually submitted to Him with our hearts. In addition to the 12 references in the NT regarding Christ’s resurrection, here is an excerpt from the first century historian, Josephus, an extra-biblical source:

Antiquities 18:63
The standard text of Josephus reads as follows:

About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him, and the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day. (All Josephus citations, are from P. L. Maier, ed./trans., Josephus –The Essential Works; Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1994).

Also, in the NT:

Jesus appeared 12 times to different group sizes ranging from just one person to 500 people.

1) Mary Magdalene (Mark 16.9-11; John 20.11-18), Peter in Jerusalem (Luke 24.34; 1 Cor. 15.5), Jesus’ brother (insider skeptic) James (1 Cor. 15.7). “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any [man]; for they were afraid” (Mark 16.8). Some of the New Testament authors explicitly claimed to be eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection (and transfiguration). Peter said, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 2.16). John also said, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched…we proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (1 John 1.1,3).

2) The other women at the tomb (Matthew 28.8-10).

3) The two travelers on the road (Mark 16.12,13; Luke 24.13-34).

4) Ten disciples behind closed doors (Mark 16.14; Luke 24.35-43; John 20.19-25).

5) All the disciples, with Thomas, excluding Judas Iscariot (John 20.26-31; 1 Cor. 15.5).

6) Seven disciples while fishing (John 21.1-14).

7) Eleven disciples on the mountain (Matthew 28.16-20).

8) A crowd of 500 “most of whom are still alive” at the time of Paul writing (1 Cor. 15.6). This may have been the same group as in Matt. 28.16: the rendezvous was “to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.” Unlike the other accounts which were unexpected and by surprise, and to gather such a large number of people, this meeting was held outdoors. The women were told to tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee as well. “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matt. 28.17) may be a reference to many present, both believers and non-believers. Paul had firsthand contact with them. So it was not a legend. He knew some of the people had died in the interim, but most were still alive. He is saying in effect they are still around to be questioned. You can talk to some of the witnesses. He never could have made this challenge if this event had not occurred.

9) “Then to all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15.7) which includes the Twelve plus all the other apostles.

10) Jesus appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24.44-49).

11) Those who watched Jesus ascend to heaven (Mark 16.19,20; Luke 24.50-53; Acts 1.3-8).

12) Least of all Paul (outsider skeptic) with others present and as though he was not living in the proper time (1 Cor. 15.8-9; Gal. 1.13-16; Acts 9.1-8, 22.9, read all of chapters 22 and 26; 13.30-37; 1 Cor. 15.10-20; Gal. 2.1-10).

Acts 5:5

Acts 5:5…”When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.” The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was that they were ambitious of being thought eminent disciples, when they were not true disciples. They were covetous of the wealth of the world, and distrustful of God and his providence. They thought they might serve both God and money, and sought to deceive the apostles. The Spirit of God in Peter discerned the principle of unbelief reigning in the heart of Ananias, and the Lord struck him down to demonstrate His hatred for false converts. For those who call themselves believers, but whose lives look no different than that of non-believers; the One who is Sovereign knows everything about you, and you will stand before Him and give an account one day. Therefore, in light of 2:Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

Acts 4:34-35

Acts 4:34-35…”For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales, and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” This type of communal selflessness is missing in our churches. Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, the seeker sensitive movement conditioned church goers to see themselves as consumers. In American Christendom especially, people go to church mainly to have their own needs met. The concept of joining a church, committing to the other members of that church, submitting to the authority of elders, and seeking to serve others doesn’t sell. Scripture provides a blueprint for our churches, and we need to return to it, particularly in the way we view our possessions. Storing up treasures on earth is futile.

Matthew 6:19-21
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Acts 4:32

Acts 4:32…”All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” Prosperity gospel preachers either don’t know this verse exists, or have removed it from their bibles. Either way, the biblical model for Christ’s church is not compatible with the idea that the “King’s Kids” are guaranteed to receive special financial blessings which they deserve. If we happen to receive undeserved financial blessings from the Lord, we are to share them with our fellow church members, particularly those in need. If we believe that anything we have been given is far more than we deserve, then we’ll be more likely to hold on lightly, and give abundantly.

Acts 4:12

Acts 4:12…”Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” The exclusivity of the gospel is offensive, because it takes authority and control away from the individual. We want to control our own destiny and define reality. However, objective reality exists regardless of our opinion of it. We can choose to believe something is not true, but be greatly deceived. All of us have experienced this, and yet some choose to deny the objective reality that they will one day stand before God and give an account for their lives. According to this verse, the only way to be saved from His wrath (which includes eternal punishment and separation from Him) is through His Son, Jesus. This is great news, because we are in desperate need of a Savior. There is a massive chasm between God and mankind because of His holiness and our sinfulness. Christ’s perfectly holy life was laid down as a sacrifice, and through His resurrection from the dead He conquered the power of sin and death. While we all will die because of sin, the sting of death is gone for the one who has been born again. Live once, die twice; live twice, die once.

Acts 3:22

Acts 3:22…”For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.” Here is a powerful address to warn the “Religious” of the dreadful consequences of their unbelief. Christ came into the world to bring a blessing with him. And he sent his Spirit to be the great blessing. Christ came to bless us, by turning us from our iniquities, and saving us from our sins. We, by nature cleave to sin; the design of Divine grace is to turn us from it, that we may not only forsake, but hate it. Let none think that they can be happy by continuing in sin, when God declares that the blessing is in being turned from all iniquity. Let none think that they understand or believe the gospel, who only seek deliverance from the punishment of sin, but do not expect happiness in being delivered from sin itself. And let none expect to be turned from their sin, except by believing in, and receiving Christ the Son of God, as their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Acts 3:19

Acts 3:19…”Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” This call to repentance was in the context of Peter’s healing of a man who had been lame from birth, which was recognized and affirmed by many as being authentic. God used miraculous signs and wonders as a way to begin the spread of Christianity. In fact Peter’s response to confusion over this power was: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” The point wasn’t that Peter was powerful, but that these visible, public miracles were a continuation of Christ’s ministry of proving that He was God. Christ had power over sickness and death, and although the world was and is still fallen and broken, He will return to restore creation. When He does, there will no longer be sickness and death, which was brought forth at the fall of creation. This will be a great and glorious day because He will reign and we’ll be with Him and see Him as He is.

Acts 3:12

Acts 3:12…”When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?'” Observe the difference in the manner of working the miracles. Our Lord always spoke as having Almighty power, and never hesitated to receive the greatest honor that was given to him on account of his Divine miracles. But, the apostles referred all to their Lord, and refused to receive any honor, except as his undeserving instruments. This shows that Jesus was one with the Father, and co-equal with Him; while the apostles knew that they were weak, sinful men, and dependent for everything on Jesus, whose power effected the cure. If we are to be used by the Lord, we must be humble in understanding our role. He saves souls, and uses us as His tools for the work. This gives us great confidence in evangelism as the work of conversion is the Lord’s.

Acts 2:42

Acts 2:42…”They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” This is what repentance and faith in Christ looks like practically. This first group of believers responded to the gospel by identifying themselves with particular leaders through submitting to them, and began to count themselves as citizens of Christ’s kingdom. These clusters of Christians assembling in unity, holiness, and dedication to God and each other is God’s model for our lives today. The church is the bride of Christ, and is therefore to be growing in holiness to be set apart from the world, so she can be presented to Christ as blameless and spotless on the day He returns. She will never be perfect this side of heaven/His return, but she should be moving in that direction. A church which looks similar to the world around her, lies about what God is really like, and is not an accurate representation of God’s intent for Christ’s bride. Do your leaders/pastors/elders ever teach you that you need to be growing in holiness? If not, in light of Hebrews 12:14, respectfully ask them why.

Hebrews 12:14
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.