Discontent and Murmuring in the Early Church – Acts 6:1

1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Acts 6:1 KJV

This is the second internal challenge the early church had to overcome. The first internal challenge was with Ananias and Sapphira. The second internal challenge was a conflict between two groups within the church.

The greek word for murmuring is γογγυσμός, which has the meaning of a secret debate or a secret displeasure not openly declared. It has the sense of a smoldering discontent which, if not handled, could very easily split the church. What was happening was a constant, secret whispering that was quietly passing from person to person until everyone in the church became aware of it.

The reason for the murmuring was because the widows of the Grecian Jews were neglected. Under the Law of Moses, widows were under special protection.

29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

Deuteronomy 14:29 KJV

Sadly, under Pharisaic rule, widows were often ignored.

38 And [Jesus] said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, 39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: 40 Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.

Mark 12:38-40 KJV

And we learn from the book of James that widows became a special concern of the Jerusalem church.

27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James 1:27 KJV

However, while the church was deeply concerned about taking care of its widows, there was a prejudice in favor of the Hebrew speaking widows over the Greek speaking widows who had immigrated into Israel. The Grecian Jews felt that the Diaspora widows were being neglected and overlooked in the daily ministration.

This second internal challenge that the early church overcame was caused by money, believers, and possibly a lack of organization due to rapid church growth. We read in the rest of Acts chapter 6 the introduction of the role of deacons, which was the solution to how the early church overcame this challenge.


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