Reading for Friday, April 13: Acts 6
Well, folks, this is two days late, but better late than later, right? I apologize for being behind a bit. We’re closing on our house on Friday and I also have a major project due that day, so my comments will likely be short and sweet on these chapters this week. But I know you all will carry the load in fine fashion, as you always do!
One of the things that strikes me about Acts 6 is that conflict arises, even with apostolic leadership. As the number of disciples increases, “a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution,” (v1). Our notions of “perfect leaders” are dispelled, but these men reveal one of the marks of good leadership: delegation. Just as Moses had to learn to hand off responsibility to other capable men (Exodus 18), so too do these disciples turn over the work of food distribution to others.
I love v7: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” First point: the number of believers MULTIPLIED. That’s exponential growth. Most of the time, we’re pleased with addition; but the early church enjoys an incredibly bountiful harvest. Second point: I love the picture Luke paints for us of some of the priests. Gradually, as the disciples continue to explain the Scriptures to them, they begin to grasp what has happened. In Jesus, God has offered an ultimate sacrifice, rendering the old system null and void. I see these men taking up their roles as priests of the new covenant, joining the universal priesthood of believers that Peter will preach about (1 Pet. 2.9).
The chapter closes with Stephen in conflict with the synagogue of the Freedmen. These men claim that Stephen has blasphemed, “…for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us,” (v14). Stephen represents a threat to their power, their grip on the people. The chapter break is an unfortunate one, ending with angel-faced Stephen standing before a bloodthirsty crowd.
Does that sound familiar?