And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews…
I. THE MURMURING IN THE CHURCH.
1. When it arose. With multiplying numbers, new dangers arose. It was more difficult to keep the unity for which the believers had been distinguished. Many a Church that has withstood adversity has been wrecked by prosperity.
2. How it arose. By the jealousy of the Grecians. If that was not stopped, there was a great disaster before the Church. How it came about that the Grecian widows were neglected, the record does not say. It may have been unintentional oversight, or the result of a feeling against the Greeks as being foreigners. It is worthy of note that the first two dangers to the early Church, hypocrisy and schism, arose from the distribution of its charities.
II. THE HARMONY OF THE CHURCH. How was it restored? By the prompt, wise, and magnanimous action of the apostles. They did not wait for the "murmuring" to become a pronounced disaffection. They did not rebuke the murmurers, nor try to justify themselves. They simply asked that the work might be put in the hands of others who could properly attend to it.
1. They made a protest against doing the work at all. They were chosen of Christ to be His witnesses — not to dole out alms. The lower work was encroaching upon the higher. They were liable to be so much engaged in caring for the bodies that they could do nothing for the souls of men.
2. They showed to whom the work should be committed. They directed the disciples to look out seven men among them.
(1) "Of good report" — so that, to begin with, they would receive the approval of every one. The apostles went upon the principle of never putting a doubtful man into aa important office.
(2) "Full of the Spirit" — so that their godliness might be apparent. Men full of the Spirit would not be likely to do injustice through partiality — or become defaulters.
(3) "And of wisdom" — so that the funds would be wisely disbursed. The Church that has a charity fund has to look out that pauperism is not encouraged, that dead-beats are not supported, and that the really needy are generously cared for.
3. They declared what their own work should be. The world was famishing for the gospel more than the disciples for bread. Others could give the bread, but the apostles were chosen especially to give the gospel. First they would get from God, and then they would give to men. There is no giving without first getting. No water can be poured from an unfilled pitcher.
III. THE GROWTH OF THE CHURCH.
1. The choice of the seven. The seven were chosen in accordance with the recommendation of the apostles. Their Greek names show how generously the Church acted in giving "the daily ministration" largely into the hands of the element from which the murmurs had arisen. That made it impossible for Grecian Jews any longer to complain. The suggestion of the apostles "pleased the whole multitude"; for they saw that it not only would do away with dissensions, but would result in the greater efficiency of the apostles. The seven finally were inducted into office with as much solemnity as though they were to preach the Word instead of to serve tables! In those days no work for Christ, it would seem, was unworthy of a consecration.
2. The increase of the disciples. That, naturally, was the result of the increase of power resulting from the new state of things. The Church was a greater power, because in it there no longer was any division. The apostles were a greater power; for now there was no obstacle to giving their whole strength to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Notable among the accessions was the great company of priests that became "obedient to the faith." The new faith demanded of them so much that in their case obedience meant a great deal more than with others.
IV. THE WITNESS FOR THE CHURCH. Among the chosen seven there was one especially prominent from the first, Stephen. Observe that he was a witness for the Church —
1. In his endowments. He was "full of faith and the Holy Spirit" — "full of grace and power." The mere fact that a man is so endowed is a great testimony for the Church.
2. In the exhibitions of his power. He "wrought great wonders and signs among the people." He showed apostolic power, though he was not an apostle. The layman may be as full of the Holy Spirit and of the power of the Spirit as the minister.
3. In his encounters with adversaries. "They were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake." They were cunning, but he was wise. They were learned, but he was inspired.
4. In his appearance before the council.
(M. C. Hazard.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.