November 17 (Daily reading: Acts 4-6) The miraculous events in the early chapters of Acts culminated in a great spiritual awakening. People “from every nation under heaven” (2:5) heard the preaching of the gospel. About three thousand believed in Christ and were baptized (2:41). After God used Peter and John to heal a man crippled from birth, their numbers grew to about five thousand men (4:4). They preached about Jesus: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).
Such rapid growth gave rise to dissension over the distribution of food to the Greek-speaking widows and those who spoke Hebrew (Acts 6:1-6). Yes, Satan was already hard at work in the “International Believer’s Fellowship” of Jerusalem! (They were not yet called Christians). The apostles asked the people to choose “seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” These men would have the responsibility of serving tables. This would allow the apostles to continue the service of “prayer and the ministry of the word.”
The Greek word for service is “diakonia,” from which our word deacon is taken. It can be rendered “service,” or “ministry.” The word “serve” (tables), describing the ministry of the seven, is “diakonein.” The word, “ministry” (of prayer and the word), is “diakonia.” This is a clear teaching coming to us from the early church concerning the exercise of gifts. The words for serving tables and for the ministry of the word both come from diakonia. Both were a ministry of the Holy Spirit. Serving tables, and praying and teaching, were of equal standing, all done by the gifting of the Holy Spirit. If we operate differently in the church today, we do so by man’s modus operandi and not by God’s!
– Al Gary