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Practical Wisdom

Acts 6:5-7
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. (NIVUK)

Wisdom discerns the right conclusion and the best way to achieve it. The apostles were faced with many human needs, and the believers wanted to help one another; but it was a massive task to coordinate it all. The Greek-speaking widows had been neglected in the daily distribution of food, compared to the Jewish widows, which added to the problem (Acts 6:1). So the apostles appointed seven men with Greek names; all believers in Jesus, with a reputation for being wisely practical.

The men had been selected by the new believers; we are not sure how, but there was a consensus agreeing their suitability. They were not just able to do a practical job well, but they were full of the Holy Spirit. As we shall see later, Stephen gave an inspired speech to the religious council to explain why Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 7:1-53). Philip was also an evangelist (Acts 21:8-9). We know nothing of the other five but it is clear that the church was able to grow rapidly through their practical and spiritual ministry, and because the apostles were free to devote more time to prayer and gospel ministry (Acts 6:3-4).

The expression, 'The Word of God spread', is significant (Acts 19:20). The Word has life in itself, like a seed (Luke 8:11). Wherever it is received and passed on, it does its own work of convincing hearts and minds to surrender to Jesus. There is a sense of it spreading like a wild flower, moving location, multiplying and colonising new areas (1 Peter 1:23). Like cereal crops, the harvest of the Word is much larger than was originally planted or invested (Luke 8:8). All that was made possible because people in the church were loved and cared for, and the apostles were fulfilling their commissioned task of making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

The primary responsibility of the church is to worship God and proclaim Jesus the Saviour who died for the sins of the world, urging people to put their faith in Him. Practical care of each other is a part of our life in God's family, but only a part. Releasing God's Word into a sinful world is divinely powerful. It explains our acts of love and focusses them on the grace of Christ. With our care, people will be satisfied; but as they put their trust in Jesus, God is glorified and the church will grow where you live and work.

Sovereign Lord. Thank You for the care I have received from other believers, and also for those who have taught Your Word to me. Forgive me for either ignoring those in need or ignoring my responsibility to ensure that Your Word is shared too. Please help me to be faithful in caring and in sharing; and please help those who are particularly gifted to use their gifts well, to Your glory. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams