"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied,
there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." (Acts 6:1)
It is not difficult to see in the early chapters of the Acts of the
Apostles the spiritual battle that was going on as the church at
Jerusalem sought to carry out the commission of her Lord. Before
going back to Heaven, He had told them,
"...ye shall receive power,
after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses
unto Me both is Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto
the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
So after the coming of
the Spirit in the second chapter, we see them evangelizing the city of
Jerusalem, with phenomenal success.
"And the Lord added to the church
daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).
This work continues
through chapter 3, with the Holy Spirit providing the power to convert
many as the members of the church spread the Word.
Then in chapter 4 we encounter the first evidence of Satanic
opposition. It took the form of persecution. The official council of
Jerusalem had Peter and John arrested, and decreed that the followers
of Jesus not "speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus" (4:18).
When the apostles refused to promise to end the evangelization of the
city, the council "threatened them" (verse 21) and "let them go." The
church then met the challenge by calling a prayer meeting and asking
God to grant "that with all boldness they may speak thy word" (verse
29). As far as we can tell, they did not ask for protection from the
persecution; they asked that they would not lose their nerve to
continue the evangelism in the face of persecution! The Lord answered
by filling them anew with His Spirit, and thereby granting them the
boldness they had sought (see verses 31 through 33).
In chapter 5, we discover the next kind of opposition the Enemy
mounted against the evangelistic efforts of the church. This attack
was not from the outside as the persecution was; it was from the
inside. The Devil sought to destroy the power of the church at
Jerusalem by ruining its purity (see verses 1 through 14). The
attempt to demobilize the church through defilement was met by
discipline and purging, and the record shows that what happened
resulted in renewed respect for the holiness of God and the purity of
His church. His power was preserved among them, and the evangelistic
thrust went forward with even greater effect.
"And believers were the
more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women" (5:14).
Then in chapter 6, we meet the attempt of Satan to stop the church
through discord, another attack from the inside. This attack was met
by divinely-given wisdom and love, and also by another season of
prayer (verses 1 through 6). Again the scripture records the renewed
continuation of evangelization after the winning of this battle.
the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied
in Jerusalem greatly" (verse 7).
Again and again we see the spiritual
battle rage as the disciples of the Lord seek to fulfill His command
to spread the Gospel throughout the city, and eventually throughout
the world. Again and again they meet the Devil's attacks
successfully, then continue to triumph over evil in preaching the Word
and winning the lost. The pattern we saw in the attacks from the
outside by persecution as well as the attacks from the inside by
defilement and discord, continue in the next chapters, again met
successfully by spiritual means. It is evident in the book of Acts
that the Enemy is continually fighting to demobilize the church when
it is engaging him in battle through the work of Spirit-empowered
Acts 6 gives us a special opportunity to see one avenue in which the
Enemy has been most successful in demobilizing churches in our time.
Let us look again at the attack that came in verse 1, and let us view
it in the light of the last verse of chapter 5. Acts 5:42 says,
"And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach
and preach Jesus Christ."
Then chapter 6 begins by telling how "there arose a murmuring of the
Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in
the daily ministration." The Devil was encouraging an important shift
in the direction of the church. It was:
1. A shift from the Spirit to the flesh.
The church had been
spiritual, led and dominated by the Spirit of God, but the dissention
moved a large segment of them to be carnal. We know that they had
become flesh-dominated because of what they were doing. They were
murmuring, an awful sin, condemned in both the Old Testament
scriptures and in the New (note Numbers 14 and I Corinthians 10:10).
They were dividing against each other, a sure proof of carnality (see
I Corinthians 3). Beware when a distressing situation tempts you to
yield to the flesh. It's bad enough when an individual Christian
shifts from spirituality to carnality, but it is worse when a church
makes that shift. And it is abundantly evident that many churches are
habitually driven by the sinful influences of the flesh in this day.
- 2. A shift from the world to the widows.
Without question, the church
is to meet the needs of its members. The gifts given to the various
members are ministries to supply the needs of the rest (see this in
Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12). The church is the Body of Christ,
with each member ministering to the others (see this also in Ephesians 4:11-16). But the focus of the church is not to be inward, but rather
outward. Our gifts are directed to helping our brethren, but beyond the ministry gifts we all have a command to be witnesses to the world.
When men are won to Christ through evangelism, they are brought into
the Body to have their needs met. However, the emphasis of the Body
is not the meeting of our own needs, but rather meeting the need of
the world for Christ! But many churches have been demobilized by
shifting their focus from evangelism to concerns within the
membership. Keeping everybody happy has become the big thing, more
important than pleasing the Lord. With the shift of emphasis has come
a change in the job-descriptions of the leaders. Pastors are expected
to be good at public relations and organizational skills rather than
given "to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (see Acts 6:2-4).
Deacons are expected to keep the pastors in line and active in
addressing everybody's complaints, instead of pitching in to help the
pastors as ministry partners (see this also in Acts 6). Many churches
are perceived as "doing fine" because the budget is being met, new
building projects are on schedule, the congregation is content, and a
respectable amount of numerical growth is being experienced. Yet the
commission of the Lord Jesus to tell the Gospel to every person in the
town, throughout the region, and around the world is largely ignored
and neglected. They have been demobilized.
The subtle (and often not-so-subtle) demobilization of the army of God
can, thankfully, be remedied, and Acts 6 shows us how (read it again).
We must appoint to leadership men who are full of God's Spirit and
committed to God's plan (verses 3-5). We must call for a prayer
meeting to seek the Lord's forgiveness and His renewed blessing (verse 6). We must put the church back on the track of divinely-empowered
evangelism (verse 7). As long as we treat the thing as "our church,"
we will never know the victory Jesus promised His people; but when we
remember that He called it "My church," and let Him be the real Head
of the Body and Captain of the army, we will see fulfilled the promise
that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
Has the church where you are a member become demobilized by the
Devil? Somebody has said that it is a bad sign when the people at
prayer meeting pray more about keeping saints out of Heaven than about
keeping sinners out of Hell! Let us remobilize Christ's church, and
fulfill His desire that all men may know of His love.
TO ORDER COPIES OF THE BOOK,
BACK TO NORMAL,