But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. (Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7 NLT)
Here is the first apparent dispute among the believers of the early church. The Greek speaking Jews were feeling less attended to in the daily distribution of food or monies, perhaps both. In Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37, the believers had all things common(had one heart of concern about each other) and even sold their homes, lands, and possessions to help meet the needs of their fellow believers. The amount of their profit was placed in the care of the apostles (see Acts 4:34-35). Apparently, this is how the distribution was made possible. The apostles must have given the responsibility of the daily distribution to some of the congregants. It is suspected that this group of servers was predominantly Hebrew speaking Jews. This may have been the reason the Greek speaking Jews felt overlooked. The scriptures do not tell us that this was intentional. It is very possible that this occurred simply because the Greek speaking Jews were less in number. Perceptions can often cause misunderstandings. In order to remedy the situation, the apostles told the believers to select from among themselves men to oversee this issue. The apostles made it clear that their priority was to the Word of God (study and teaching) and prayer. This was wisdom. The church at this point was already multiple thousands in number. There is no way the apostles could handle that responsibility and take care of their call to pray, preach, and teach.
Here is the first selection of Deacons (servants). There were three expectations, or qualifications, for these men:
1- Of good report (reputation)
2 - Full of the Holy Spirit
3 - Demonstrated wisdom (discretion in matters)
The people were to choose seven men. It seems that they chose seven from among the Greek speaking Jews. Their names indicate a Greek derivative (see vs. 5). This could have been a good gesture on behalf of the Hebrew speaking Jews in order to lay to rest any concern of discrimination. They desired oneness. This is a great indicator of the heart of the early church.
The apostles gave their approval and blessing by laying hands on them to impart the blessing of God on these men. The result of this restored oneness was the prosperity of the Word of God and an increase in converts. Many Jewish priests were brought to faith in Jesus (maybe some of the Sanhedrin council)!
May God help us correctly oversee and manage the needs of His Church in this modern time. If we look to Him for instruction, we can, and will.
Rev. Curtis Norris