The pace is unrelenting. There’s no time to be lost: the circumstances surrounding the death of Ananias and Sapphire create an atmosphere of holy awe (5:11), which is invaded by an outpouring of healings, signs and wonders (v.12-16). Again, it reminds us of the early parts of Jesus’ ministry, when the crowds flocked to him. There’s more persecution, too (v.17-42), although on this occasion, the authorities’ desire for a more draconian solution is assuaged by Gamaliel’s wisdom, who persuades them that whether God’s at work or not, there’s little point them getting involved. The apostles are still flogged for good measure, though (v.40). Finally, seven disciples are chosen to oversee the community’s practical needs (6:1-7).
Because we’ve considered growth, miracles and persecution in recent days (and certainly not to minimise these aspects of the Christian life!) we’ll concentrate today on the latter parts of the passage (6:1-7). Before we do, though, we’ll take a moment, in the light of our complaint a couple of days ago, to celebrate the fact that, finally, women are acknowledged as coming to faith (5:14)!
Here, at the beginning of chapter 6, we begin to see the impact of church growth – not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of background: it’s not just Jews, now (as in Acts 2), but Greeks, too – and it’s these who appear to be missing out (v.1). Interestingly, as we began to notice yesterday, the ‘sharing’ aspect includes a daily distribution of food. Having seen what it takes to run a foodbank, giving out merely a twice weekly distribution, this daily service must have been some undertaking! Perhaps that’s one reason it needed additional attention. Certainly, people were missing out (v.1), and the selection of Greek named individuals is an attempt to ensure there’s a restoration of some balance.
A couple of points of interest: the issue seems to be highlighted by the complaints of those marginalised, not because the apostles spotted it or because someone heard from the Holy Spirit, yet, the apostles’ response is swift and decisive. The profile of the plight of the poor can be raised in all sorts of ways; clearly, it is right to respond with grace and action regardless of how it is drawn to our attention.
Secondly, there is no lesser status in “waiting on tables” (v.2), as might be inferred from the apostles’ comments. This is simply a division of labour to ensure that both tasks receive appropriate attention. The need to be filled with the Spirit is no less real.
Father God, please show me, however you choose, where I need to attend to the plight of those around me. Amen.