Text: Acts 6:1-7.
Delivered on: August 31, 2008. Streetsboro.
It is as inevitable as death and taxes.
It is as inevitable as the sun coming up in the morning.
What am I talking about? “There arose a complaint…” Acts 6:1.
Notice that in Acts 6:1, we read that the number of the disciples was multiplying.
Their numbers weren’t just growing, they were multiplying.
The church was flourishing under the leadership of the apostles.
Even under these circumstances, brethren will find something to complain about.
Sometimes (as in this case) the complaint deals with a valid concern.
Other times (as is often the case today) the complaint is over something trivial and unimportant.
Regardless of the nature of the complaint, it needs to be handled.
The leadership qualities that are exhibited by the Apostles here in Acts 6 are truly amazing.
What is the best way to resolve complaints?
Let us notice how they handled it.
There are times in all of our lives when these lessons will come in handy.
Whether you’re an elder.
Or a member of just about any group where there are more than two people working together.
You can use these lessons.
Notice the text. Acts 6:1-7. Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. 7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
THE COMPLAINT. Acts 6:1. Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
Hebrews and Hellenists. Who are they?
At this point in the history of the church, the gospel had not yet gone to the gentiles.
The Hebrews were the Jewish people from the area of Palestine.
The Hellenists would have been Greek speaking Jews from other parts of the world.
Remember that when the church was established, there were Jews from all parts of the world present. Acts 2:5. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
So, in a sense, this group of people may have been viewed as outsiders.
The Hellenists had a legitimate complaint.
Their widows were being neglected (or overlooked) in the daily distribution.
It is very likely that many of these Hellenists were homeless and the widows especially would be with the means to provide for themselves.
God has always shown great concern for widows and other people who are unable to take care of themselves.
Exodus 22:21-24. “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; 24 and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
1 Timothy 5:3. Honor widows who are really widows.
James 1:27. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
THE APOSTLES ACCEPTED CRITICISM.
The apostles were the leaders of the church in Jerusalem.
They were the ambassadors of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:20. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
They were ultimately the ones responsible for making sure that no widows were overlooked.
As a result, this complaint could have been viewed as a criticism of their leadership.
Notice what we are not told about their reaction…
We are not told that they got angry.
They did not rebuke the ones who brought the complaint to them.
How do we respond when people come to us with a complaint?
Do we get angry?
Romans 12:17-18. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Proverbs 15:1. A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
THE APOSTLES DID NOT IGNORE THE PROBLEM.
There was a real problem in the church.
Either by intent or by accident, some widows were not being given the help that they needed and that the church was required to give.
What if the apostles had taken no action?
What if they had the mentality that many have today and thought, “Let’s leave it alone and the problem will go away by itself eventually.”
When people do this, the problem will sometimes go away but other problems remain.
Like hurt feelings by the ones who were wronged.
Like the negative image the church may have gotten in the eyes of the world.
In some instances, a problem left unchecked can spread through the church and poison it. 1 Corinthians 5:6-7. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
Do we sometimes ignore problems in the hope that they will just go away by themselves?
If we do, the problem may eventually go away.
But all involved will remember that when the problem was there, nothing was done to correct it.
James 4:17. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Matthew 7:12. Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
THE APOSTLES HAD A PLAN OF ACTION.
They called an assembly.
The problem involved basically the whole church.
Therefore, they got the whole church involved in the solution.
They allowed the members to have some control over the solution.
They didn’t stand back and dictate, “This is how it is going to be.”
They delegated authority.
Good leaders delegate authority.
Good leaders don’t micro-manage.
The apostles knew that the most important task they had was prayer and the ministry of the word. Acts 6:4.
This is not to say that they thought the problem before them was insignificant.
If there were no other way to solve this problem than for them to handle it themselves, surely they would have done so.
However, there was a better solution that allowed them to continue their critical work.
They allowed the church to choose seven men who would serve to facilitate the daily distribution fairly.
They realized that every member has a role to play. 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
The apostles were using time management.
We must realize that every time we say “yes” to something, we must say “no” to something else.
They retained the ultimate authority for themselves.
Acts 6:3. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
A good leader does not micro-manage, but a good leader also maintains oversight.
The reason that they are leaders is theoretically because they have more wisdom and experience than those under them.
Therefore, they need to keep an eye on things without smothering the process.
Prayer played a definite part.
Notice how important prayer was to the apostles.
Acts 6:4. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Acts 6:6. Whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
A good leader leans on God and seeks His wisdom. James 1:5. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Notice the wonderful results. Acts 6:7. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
God was glorified.
Matthew 5:16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
One has to wonder how things would have turned out if the problem had just been ignored.