Commentary by Walter Albritton

                                   October 12, 2008


The Spirit Guides Believers to Work Together in Love


Acts 6:1-15; 8:1-8


Key Verse: The word of God continued to spread; the number of disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem. – Acts 6:7


 The unity of the day of Pentecost was soon tested by conflict among the new Christians. That should surprise no one, given our “bent to sinning.” Christians though united are still not perfect. So with Charles Wesley we must continually ask the Spirit to “take away our bent to sinning” (“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”) and make us “one in ministry to all the world.”

Thankfully the Bible describes the early Christians as people much like us. Though filled with the Spirit they could still argue about how the widows were being fed. Greek-speaking Jews (the Hellenists) complained that their widows were being neglected. They had differences of opinion just as we do today in our local churches.

Wisely the twelve called everyone together and worked out a plan to solve the problem. They agreed on a division of labor. Seven men were chosen to serve the tables while the apostles were freed to focus on prayer and the ministry of the word. Everyone was pleased. Perhaps that was because everyone felt included in the decision-making.

Observe that the apostles did not assert their authority and say, “We will choose seven good men to handle the distribution of food.” Instead they asked the gathered community to choose “from among yourselves” the seven men. Then the Spirit guided them to select seven who were quickly affirmed by the entire body with prayer and the laying on of hands.

The result should get our attention! The influence of the word of God increased!  The church grew as the number of disciples multiplied! Many of the Jewish priests were converted to faith in Christ!

Perhaps, then, the key to church growth is not rocket science. When God’s people are able to work through their differences with respect and good will, allowing the Spirit to guide them, then God will grow His church! Can we not learn from this so that God can infuse new life into our churches?

Even when we manage to work together in love, conflict will work its way into our fellowship. Satan is not dead. He works constantly to divide and destroy the church. Discord rears its ugly head in response to the ministry of Stephen, one of seven men chosen to serve tables.

Sadly, those who opposed Stephen, and created the furor that led to Stephen’s death by stoning, were devout worshipers of God, leaders in one of the synagogues.

Concerned for their own traditions and filled with lust for their own power as religious leaders, they ignored the truth and embraced lies in order to eliminate Stephen. They succeeded but in so doing arranged the death of a remarkable servant of God. Those who witnessed Stephen’s death surely never forgot the look on his face as he died, “because his face became as bright as an angel’s” (NLB).

We who make up the Body of Christ today should be careful that we do not resort to lies and unethical methods in dealing with conflict with fellow believers. Conflict we will have. But we have also the Holy Spirit as our guide.

He invites us to solve our differences with forgiving love and understanding. He invites us to Christlike attitudes and decisions. He inspires us to humbly consider others better than ourselves and to do all in our power to work together in loving unity.

Many of the things we disagree about are trivial matters. God forbid that we should grieve the heart of God by having disputes about things that have no eternal significance! The Spirit continually urges each of us to say, “It is not about me and having my way; it is all about having an attitude that is pleasing to God. It is about learning to live more like the Master.”

When we do, the result is inevitable. God will cause our churches to grow and be “filled with joy and the Holy Spirit,” as the early church was.  Let it be, Lord Jesus, let it be!

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