Devotions on Acts 6:1-7–Priesthood of Believers
April 24-30, 2017
Monday, April 24, 2017–Priesthood of Believers
“When the dis disciples were increasing in number” (Acts 6:1a).
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.” Most of us agree that his observation is accurate. Some changes we like, such as the changes from winter to spring and from night to day. For the most part, however, we do not like change. Change forces us out of the comfortable ruts of our lives and brings with it the unknown and an uncertain future.
The early church was growing and the growth brought change with it. Rather than fight the change, the fledgling community embraced it. They were able to accomplish this by living in the reality that God was present with them. They also took seriously the command of Jesus to “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35).
As disciples of Jesus, change is a constant part of our lives. Following the example of these saints who have gone before us, we can embrace change, also. We can rest in the truth that God is in the middle of the change and, even in the midst of change, we can love one another.
Holy Spirit, move within us so that our witness shines brightly in the midst of change. Amen.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017–Priesthood of Believers
“The Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected” (Acts 6:1b).
Old habits die hard. Jewish social norms demanded separation from non-Jews (Gentiles). The teaching that the Jews were God’s chosen people and the Gentiles were not had been passed down from generation to generation for millennia. Jewish Christians brought these preconceived notions with them when they formed the early church. The problem was that many of their fellow Christians were Gentiles.
In the beginning of the church, the Jewish Christians held the power. This power was demonstrated in distributing assistance to widows and to others in need. Given their previous teaching, it was natural for them to show favoritism and make sure Jewish widows and other needy Jews received more generous assistance than the others. The Hellenists brought this sin to the attention of their brothers in the faith. Past teachings had to be examined in light of the teachings of Jesus.
We are challenged to look at our old perspectives, beliefs and habits through the lens of Jesus’ words and ministry. When we do this, we will undoubtedly realize the need to change. Confessing our sins, changing our words and behavior, we step forward into new lives. Our new lives have positive effects upon others and upon the world in which we live.
Forbid us Lord, from clinging so tightly to the old that we cannot embrace the new. Amen.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017–Priesthood of Believers
“It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables” (Acts 6:2).
Connie was a soft touch. She couldn’t say, “No,” to her pastor or to other members of the congregation where she worshiped. As a result, her calendar was bursting with meetings and activities. Connie became exhausted, on edge and bitter at the nagging thought that she was being used. She wanted to use her talents and abilities to serve the Lord, but Connie had lost the personal satisfaction of doing that.
Many of us can identify with Connie. We say, “Yes,” too many times. We may need to take a lesson from the apostles and say, “No.” The apostles understood the ministry to which they had been called by the Lord. They declined all other service opportunities, in order to focus on what they had been called to do. Like the apostles, the Lord doesn’t call us to do everything. We have been created with certain gifts and talents for specific ministries. Discerning the guidance of the Holy Spirit and limiting ourselves to those ministries, helps us prevent burnout and bitterness.
Holy Spirit, with all of the possibilities to serve, enable us to discern what you want us to do and to focus on serving you in those activities. Amen.
Thursday, April 27, 2017–Priesthood of Believers
“Select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3).
It has been said, “God loves and accepts us where we are, but the Holy Spirit moves within us to make us all that we can be.” The men who were selected to serve as the first deacons were examples of this. In the short months following their conversions, the Holy Spirit had filled them, given them wisdom and they had earned the respect of their brothers and sisters in Christ. They were examples of what Paul meant when he wrote to the Corinthians, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Before the Holy Spirit moves through us, in order to touch the lives of others and to change the world, the Holy Spirit moves in us. Each day in our walk with the Lord, we are being recreated.
Have your own way, Lord, have your own way. You are the potter and we are the clay. Amen.
Friday, April 28, 2017–Priesthood of Believers
“And they chose Stephen … together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicannor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus” (Acts 6:5).
In the early 1970’s, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America begin to ordain women. It was a hard go for those first women. Congregations were used to male pastors and had been told for centuries that women could not be pastors. Little by little congregations began to accept women pastors and the church has been blessed. In 2009 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America approved the ordination of gay pastors living in committed same sex relationships. Acceptance has not been instantaneous. In fact, some congregations left the denomination because of the decision and their particular Biblical perspective. Slowly the gifts and talents of these pastors are being recognized and the church is being blessed.
The early Jewish Christians did a remarkable thing. Being in a position of power, they could have made sure that members of their group were chosen to be the first deacons. They would have been able to respond to a need, while at the same time retaining their power. The early Christians chose not to do this. Instead, all of the men, whom the church chose to be deacons, were from the Hellenist community.
Part of change is expanding our circle of acceptance and trust. All of us have groups from which we have separated ourselves, because they are different from us. Like the Holy Spirit did in the early church, we are being invited to change, to yield power, and to expand our acceptance and trust of others.
Lord, enable us to accept and to celebrate our diversity, realizing that we are more alike than we are different. Amen.
Saturday, April 29, 2017–Priesthood of Believers
“They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6).
There were no second class jobs in the early church. Waiting on tables and making sure that all of the widows, orphans and others in need were cared for, might seem like a lowly task. The apostles didn’t think so, though. They commissioned the first deacons by laying their hands on them and praying for them. The apostles understood that the tasks of these men were as important as their tasks of praying and reflecting on the teachings of Jesus.
The Reformation brought with it the emphasis on the “Priesthood of All Believers.” This was a renewed emphasis on the truth that all Christians serve God in whatever vocation in which we have been called to serve and whatever task we have been given. It is an energizing realization that God has called us to whatever we are doing. We worship and serve God in the activities of our daily lives. Our witness is to all those with whom we come in contact throughout the day.
Use us, Lord, to share your love and grace and to spread your kingdom today. Amen.
Sunday, April 30, 2017–Priesthood of Believers
“The numbers of disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem” (Acts 6:7).
Emails and flyers selling the latest programs to spark congregational growth bombard congregations. These range from mass mailings, to slick advertising campaigns to social media blitzes. Church growth gurus tells congregations that they need to have the loud bands, entertaining youth ministries, and attractive sport programs in order to grow. These offerings may be helpful, yet the early church did not have any of these and the early church experienced dynamic growth—a growth that transformed the world.
What the early church did have was people who sincerely wanted to follow “The Way,” the teachings of Jesus. They were people who loved one another. The early Christian communities cared for the widows, orphans and those in need. They shared God’s love and grace to everyone around them. To people who lived in a broken world—a world of oppression, strife, sickness and death, these were attractive fellowships. They were oases in the middle of the desert of life.
Acceptance, love and grace still touch the lives and meet the needs of people who live in our broken world. Our lives have been touched and transformed by these expressions of God’s being. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we are privileged and empowered to share God’s acceptance, love and grace with others so that they too might be a part of God’s kingdom.
Lord, may your kingdom come—in one life at a time. Amen.