In our study of Acts chapter six, we see the need for the division of labor in the early church. We see that the growth has made it impossible for the Apostles to do all of the ministry. We also see the continued jealousy of those who do not have the Holy Spirit.
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
At first glance, this passage may seem very negative as it talks about conflict between groups of God's people but there are a couple of really positive things in it as well. First, is that the number of disciples was growing. Out of the persecution that we looked at in the last chapter, faithful followers of Jesus kept sharing the good news and people accepted it. The second positive thing in this verse is that the "church" was daily providing food for the widows. That is what caused the grumbling between the two groups but even so the church was taking care of the widows as Jesus had instructed.
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.'
Are you working in a ministry that God has placed on your heart or are you just laboring in an area where the church needs workers? There is a difference as we see in this passage. Instead of taking over the distribution of food to solve the problem, the apostles told the disciples that it would not be right for them to neglect the ministry that God had given them. God does not expect you to do everything only to be obedient in His will.
'Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to then and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.'
The apostles turned responsibility for taking care of the "food pantry" over to seven of the disciples. This allowed them to concentrate on their ministry which was prayer and ministry of the word. There is a big difference between serving and doing the ministry that God has prepared for you. Serving where it is needed is not wrong but it should not interfere with doing the ministry that God has designed for you.
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
So, the conflict was resolved and trustworthy men were put in charge of the food distribution. This freed up the apostles to allow them to spread the gospel.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Because the chosen seven were doing their ministry, the apostles were free to share the word of God. Then, as this verse says, the number of disciples grew rapidly. Today, we have the same problem in many local churches as was occurring in Jerusalem. You have many "priests" getting caught up in the running of the church and forgetting about sharing the word. God has a plan for each and every one of us. When all the parts of the body of the church are functioning as designed, rapid growth in the number of disciples will occur just as it did in Jerusalem.
Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)- Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
As it happens, even today, when we try to follow Christ opposition will arise. People will not be happy about it and they will try to grumble against you but we can find comfort in the last line of this passage. This line tells us that those who tried to argue with Stephen found themselves arguing with the Holy Spirit (God). That, my friends, is an argument that ends the same every time. God wins! We have that same Spirit and it can work through us just as it did through Stephen.
Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, 'We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.'
You wouldn't think that there would be a lot of opposition to feeding the widows and the poor but here we see people make up lies about Stephen. Jesus told us that, if we followed Him, there would be persecution. The same is true for us today. If everything is going along smoothly, you should check to see how closely you are following Jesus.
So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, 'This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.' All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
If you are serving the Lord, you will run into opposition. As we see in this passage, people will do whatever is necessary to discredit you (and Jesus). These people were worshiping a building and a set of laws but in many cases the same things go on in the "churches" today. Usually, those who oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ do not let the facts get in their way.