When a dysfunction of the body is identified, leaders who are both equipped in creating solutions for the function of body life, as well as taking the initiative to do what is right, will move into action. In the case of the Acts 6 problem that was presented to the apostles, the apostles moved into action with solutions that revealed great wisdom on their part.
A. Consideration of the whole:
This was not a situation where mandates were made behind closed doors and handed down a chain of command to the church. We see no boards of authority in the early church. The apostles did not behave in this manner, and neither should we. As the accepted leaders at the time, the first thing the apostles did was to call “the multitude of the disciples” (At 6:2). This move on the part of the apostles called on the entire church to get involved in the solution. Boards of authority seek to steal away from the whole church the opportunity for the church to find solutions for dysfunctions that affect the whole church. The actions of the apostles teaches that it is always the responsibility of the whole church to identify and solve its own problems.
The lesson here is that when a problem affects the whole church, then the whole church must be involved in the solution. All leadership does is to create the opportunity for all the members to work together as one united body in order to find solutions for problems. Therefore, the church cannot give over to any board of authority that which the whole church should do.
B. Work of the organic body:
In the case of distribution to the widows, the apostles threw the responsibility for solving the problem back to all the members of the body in Jerusalem. They said, “Look out from among you seven men” who will take care of this business (At 6:3). There seems to be no significance to the number “seven” other than the fact that to the Jews the number was symbolic of perfection. In the selection process, this is the only decision we see the apostles making. When the seven were selected by the church, all the apostles did was announce the selection. Nothing was said about the apostles giving their approval of the seven. In other words, we see no effort by the apostles to disqualify any one of the seven. When the church put their stamp of approval on the seven men, the apostles submitted to the decision of the church.
What is significant is the fact that the 20,000 plus members of the body that we suppose were in Jerusalem at this time had to work together as one body in order to find and set forth the seven men. Boards of authority seek to usurp the opportunity of all the members who should work together as the organic body of Christ. The members of boards assume that they must guarantee the function of the church by handing down dictates to the church.
But in this case, this process was reversed. The church handed to the apostles their decision. The apostles suggested the simple guidelines for selection. But it was the church that made the final decision as to who would serve in the ministry. We assume that more than seven men fulfilled the spiritual guidelines set forth by the apostles. But it was the decision of the church to make the final selection of seven men. After they made their selection of seven men, the whole church then presented these men to the apostles for the simple task of making a public designation of who would be the seven servants.
C. Qualified administrators:
The apostles gave some general spiritual qualifications that should be characteristic of those who would be chosen. The chosen should be men who would work among all the house fellowships. They would take the lead in making decisions concerning the distribution to the widows (At 6:3). The very nature of the ministry of distribution would assume the responsibility of making decisions concerning distribution. Such would conform to the Spirit’s instructions through Paul who wrote, “I do not allow a woman … to be dominant over a man” (1 Tm 2:12). This would not restrict women from working with their husbands in the ministry, but the principle of male leadership should not be violated in reference to the leadership of the men in the distribution.
Those who were to be chosen should be of “honest report” (At 6:3). Since the men would be handling a great deal of money, this was a practical qualification in reference to the character of the men. It was a qualification that was certainly known among all the saints in Jerusalem.
Men “full of the Holy Spirit” would suggest that they formerly had hands laid on them by the apostles to receive one of the miraculous gifts of the time (See At 8:18,19). We could assume that one of these gifts was the gift of administration (See 1 Co 12:28). However, in the selection process we assume that the church would recognize those who had a natural gift of administration.
The “full of … wisdom” qualification would be the foundation upon which decisions were made in the distribution. This qualification would suggest that these men not be novice Christians, neither those who were young. Since the men would be working among all cultural groups in Jerusalem, they needed to be men who were known for their integrity and ability to make the right decisions.
The church initially went to the apostles for a possible revelation from the Holy Spirit on this matter. But this was a matter that needed no revelation from God. It was a function of the body that required only wisdom to solve. Wise Christians who are moved by the gospel can use wisdom in order to carry out the mandate of James 1:27, that the church is responsible for the widows and orphans among them. The Spirit did later give information concerning the care of widows (See 1 Tm 5:1-16). However, in this case of distribution to widows in a large metropolitan area, only wisdom was needed in order to solve the problem. God does not do for us those things we can do for ourselves if we would just use some common sense (wisdom).
[Next in series, October 1]