The Imbalance That God Uses
Text: Acts 6
Proposition: God uses imbalance to spread the Gospel to the corners of the world that might never be reached otherwise.
Introduction: Balance is a wonderful thing, it enables us to walk, to think and to experience health. Any time your body or mind is out of balance the effects can be chaotic. Serotonin levels in the brain when out of balance cause all kinds of interruption in the way our minds process information. If your inner ear isn’t functioning as it should balance will seem impossible. But then there’re other kinds of balance, like your bank account, the use of your time and even the way relationships are meant to work. I suppose in a similar way a church, which is called the body of Christ, also has balance concerns. A church out of balance can stumble, crash into things, drop things and ultimately be at risk of destruction. You know that Satan loves to take advantage of any kind of imbalance especially when it presents itself in the church and yet sometimes imbalance is the very thing that God uses to move a church forward! There’s an example of this in the passage we are going to look at this morning. Like most issues of balance it starts out in a small way. Here’s the scene, the church in the first months was growing very rapidly, sometimes thousands of people were becoming believers in Christ in a single day. The previous chapters described how the church was trying to care for the physical needs of the people. They embraced their responsibility to care for the poor, they saw their responsibility to do this as a direct expression of their faith. To that end they created a way of caring for those who couldn’t provide for themselves. That sounds like balance to me, physical actions balanced with spiritual faith. The thing is that everyone who was part of this early church wasn’t born and raised in Jerusalem. There were many Jews who had moved to Jerusalem from other places, they were raised in a Greek culture. The term that is used is Hellenists, people who spoke Greek more than Aramaic, who read the Scriptures in a Greek translation called the Septuagint, who looked different, dressed different and spoke differently.  These were Jews that had grown up outside of Jerusalem in places where Greek culture prevailed, not Hebrew culture. Now they were coming to faith in Jesus Christ alongside of those Jews who were Aramaic speaking, Hebrews of the land of Israel. Imbalance began to develop in the early church and it wasn’t even a year old.  Here’s the catch, this was an imbalance which God intended to use to move the church forward in ways it would not have done otherwise. Turn with me to Acts 6 and see how God uses imbalance.
I. God Uses Imbalance To Overcome the Resistance to Change.
There’s an adage that says, “Change Occurs as the Need Becomes Apparent”.  The apparent need in the early church was for better administration. The Hellenist widows were being overlooked in the food distribution whether from issues of language or culture or just a simple ongoing mistake. So the need is made apparent to the apostles who at this point were becoming a bottle neck to the growth of the church. By that I mean everything had to pass by them and the result was not only a loss of efficiency but also a greater and greater restriction on how well the church could grow and rightly reflect the character of Christ. This diversification of ministry to address the growing needs of the body came about from imbalance. I don’t doubt that Satan would have liked this to develop into a power play where the apostles would hang onto control or where the Hellenists would resent the Aramaic Jews and split off from them or that the ministry of food distribution would stop altogether and this expression of their faith would be amputated. When imbalance comes as the result of God’s blessing everyone will be called to change in some way. The change may be the way that we expand our areas of commitment or involvement, it may be how we find better ways of taking care of the needs of those around us, but whatever the change looks like it will be because the need has become very apparent and God will use that to help us grow.
II. God Uses Imbalance to Raise Up Leadership.
The Apostles realize the validity to these complaints and tell the church to choose seven men to the new role of giving oversight to this task. The church nominates seven men, perhaps one for each day of the week, and then the Apostles appoint them by laying their hands on them and calling them to this new work. But check out the qualifications required in verse 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”. They had to have a good testimony to the whole congregation and community. They had to be full of the Holy Spirit, meaning an openness to be directed by the Holy Spirit through their conscience, the Word and the church. They also had to be men of wisdom,  a godly wisdom that knew how to put to use the knowledge God was leading them in. This leadership would not have been established unless imbalance had exposed the need for it. And look at who these seven are! “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”.  They are all Greek names, men who were well thought of and able to care for the people. There was even a proselyte,  a Gentile convert to Judaism who had been circumcised in order to become a proselyte and now had become a Christian in the early church. God uses imbalance to raise up leadership. Their spiritual qualifications point to more than just administrative capability, these men were men who wanted to be used of God, to serve wherever God would use them. Every church has been given godly leadership, some of them are evident and some of them are yet to be called out. They are there because God has put them there and because God intends to use them in the development of the body and because the body needs them. There will be times of imbalance in our church and God can use those times to raise up leadership. Be ready.
III. When God Raises Up Leadership He Will Allow Imbalance to Test It.
Have a look at verse 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.” When a church handles imbalance in a godly way the Word of God spreads, disciples grow and the unreachable are reached. These seven men, this new leadership, are used to encourage and lead the Greek wing of the church. Yet soon they were tested by a group who referred to themselves as the Synagogue of the Freedmen. They were Greek converts to Judaism, people who had previously been slaves but now as freed persons they had come to Jerusalem. They had a great respect for the Temple, they highly valued the sacrificial system and the Law of Moses was supreme in authority. These were people who in their new freedom and new identity had become rigid in their faith. They challenge Stephen in the things that he was preaching, things like the supremacy of Christ over the Temple as the place of forgiveness of sins, the elevation of the teachings of Christ as they succeeded the teachings of Moses, the way of faith and grace in salvation as opposed to Law and works. You could say that they perfectly understood what Stephen was preaching as he explained it in such a Spirit inspired way that it was irrefutable. In a day and age of inclusive thought and godlessness the message of Christ will be very apparent to those who hear it. They will understand perfectly what it is you are saying because it stands directly against the self ‘isms’ of today. It is the blood of Jesus that atones for all our sin, He is the sacrifice and not we in our efforts. It is the body of Jesus that came to this earth via a virgin birth, a soul and body born that was both God and man, a life lived that was perfect and able to completely and vicariously pay for all. His Death and His Resurrection and His Ascension and His Second Coming set in action the events that will change the world in a way that fiction writers could never imagine. The Cross of Christ was perhaps the greatest example of imbalance that the world has ever known and God used that to move the church into existence, to birth His kingdom, to overcome mortality and to defeat death, sin and Satan. This is what all leadership in His kingdom has been called to proclaim and as they do they will be tested. Stephen was tested and it created a great imbalance yet again. Up to this point the church had experienced great favor among the peoples of Jerusalem such that the chief priests had to back off. That is about to change and a great imbalance called persecution is about to occur. Strangely enough it was perfect, God timed and God designed. The original mandate had been for the disciples to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and the outermost parts of the earth. Up till now it had just been Jerusalem and the mega church was about to become the micro church. God uses imbalance to bring the Gospel to the corners of the world, He uses imbalance in us.
The Imbalance That God UsesText: Acts 6Proposition: God uses imbalance to spread the Gospel to the corners of the world that might never be reached otherwise.Introduction: Balance is a wonderful thing, it enables us to walk, to think and to experience health. Any time your body or mind is out of balance the effects can be chaotic. Serotonin levels in the brain when out of balance cause all kinds of interruption in the way our minds process information. If your inner ear isn’t functioning as it should balance will seem impossible. But then there’re other kinds of balance, like your bank account, the use of your time and even the way relationships are meant to work. I suppose in a similar way a church, which is called the body of Christ, also has balance concerns. A church out of balance can stumble, crash into things, drop things and ultimately be at risk of destruction. You know that Satan loves to take advantage of any kind of imbalance especially when it presents itself in the church and yet sometimes imbalance is the very thing that God uses to move a church forward! There’s an example of this in the passage we are going to look at this morning. Like most issues of balance it starts out in a small way. Here’s the scene, the church in the first months was growing very rapidly, sometimes thousands of people were becoming believers in Christ in a single day. The previous chapters described how the church was trying to care for the physical needs of the people. They embraced their responsibility to care for the poor, they saw their responsibility to do this as a direct expression of their faith. To that end they created a way of caring for those who couldn’t provide for themselves. That sounds like balance to me, physical actions balanced with spiritual faith. The thing is that everyone who was part of this early church wasn’t born and raised in Jerusalem. There were many Jews who had moved to Jerusalem from other places, they were raised in a Greek culture. The term that is used is Hellenists, people who spoke Greek more than Aramaic, who read the Scriptures in a Greek translation called the Septuagint, who looked different, dressed different and spoke differently.  These were Jews that had grown up outside of Jerusalem in places where Greek culture prevailed, not Hebrew culture. Now they were coming to faith in Jesus Christ alongside of those Jews who were Aramaic speaking, Hebrews of the land of Israel. Imbalance began to develop in the early church and it wasn’t even a year old.  Here’s the catch, this was an imbalance which God intended to use to move the church forward in ways it would not have done otherwise. Turn with me to Acts 6 and see how God uses imbalance.I. God Uses Imbalance To Overcome the Resistance to Change. There’s an adage that says, “Change Occurs as the Need Becomes Apparent”.  The apparent need in the early church was for better administration. The Hellenist widows were being overlooked in the food distribution whether from issues of language or culture or just a simple ongoing mistake. So the need is made apparent to the apostles who at this point were becoming a bottle neck to the growth of the church. By that I mean everything had to pass by them and the result was not only a loss of efficiency but also a greater and greater restriction on how well the church could grow and rightly reflect the character of Christ. This diversification of ministry to address the growing needs of the body came about from imbalance. I don’t doubt that Satan would have liked this to develop into a power play where the apostles would hang onto control or where the Hellenists would resent the Aramaic Jews and split off from them or that the ministry of food distribution would stop altogether and this expression of their faith would be amputated. When imbalance comes as the result of God’s blessing everyone will be called to change in some way. The change may be the way that we expand our areas of commitment or involvement, it may be how we find better ways of taking care of the needs of those around us, but whatever the change looks like it will be because the need has become very apparent and God will use that to help us grow. II. God Uses Imbalance to Raise Up Leadership. The Apostles realize the validity to these complaints and tell the church to choose seven men to the new role of giving oversight to this task. The church nominates seven men, perhaps one for each day of the week, and then the Apostles appoint them by laying their hands on them and calling them to this new work. But check out the qualifications required in verse 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”. They had to have a good testimony to the whole congregation and community. They had to be full of the Holy Spirit, meaning an openness to be directed by the Holy Spirit through their conscience, the Word and the church. They also had to be men of wisdom,  a godly wisdom that knew how to put to use the knowledge God was leading them in. This leadership would not have been established unless imbalance had exposed the need for it. And look at who these seven are! “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”.  They are all Greek names, men who were well thought of and able to care for the people. There was even a proselyte,  a Gentile convert to Judaism who had been circumcised in order to become a proselyte and now had become a Christian in the early church. God uses imbalance to raise up leadership. Their spiritual qualifications point to more than just administrative capability, these men were men who wanted to be used of God, to serve wherever God would use them. Every church has been given godly leadership, some of them are evident and some of them are yet to be called out. They are there because God has put them there and because God intends to use them in the development of the body and because the body needs them. There will be times of imbalance in our church and God can use those times to raise up leadership. Be ready. III. When God Raises Up Leadership He Will Allow Imbalance to Test It.Have a look at verse 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.” When a church handles imbalance in a godly way the Word of God spreads, disciples grow and the unreachable are reached. These seven men, this new leadership, are used to encourage and lead the Greek wing of the church. Yet soon they were tested by a group who referred to themselves as the Synagogue of the Freedmen. They were Greek converts to Judaism, people who had previously been slaves but now as freed persons they had come to Jerusalem. They had a great respect for the Temple, they highly valued the sacrificial system and the Law of Moses was supreme in authority. These were people who in their new freedom and new identity had become rigid in their faith. They challenge Stephen in the things that he was preaching, things like the supremacy of Christ over the Temple as the place of forgiveness of sins, the elevation of the teachings of Christ as they succeeded the teachings of Moses, the way of faith and grace in salvation as opposed to Law and works. You could say that they perfectly understood what Stephen was preaching as he explained it in such a Spirit inspired way that it was irrefutable. In a day and age of inclusive thought and godlessness the message of Christ will be very apparent to those who hear it. They will understand perfectly what it is you are saying because it stands directly against the self ‘isms’ of today. It is the blood of Jesus that atones for all our sin, He is the sacrifice and not we in our efforts. It is the body of Jesus that came to this earth via a virgin birth, a soul and body born that was both God and man, a life lived that was perfect and able to completely and vicariously pay for all. His Death and His Resurrection and His Ascension and His Second Coming set in action the events that will change the world in a way that fiction writers could never imagine. The Cross of Christ was perhaps the greatest example of imbalance that the world has ever known and God used that to move the church into existence, to birth His kingdom, to overcome mortality and to defeat death, sin and Satan. This is what all leadership in His kingdom has been called to proclaim and as they do they will be tested. Stephen was tested and it created a great imbalance yet again. Up to this point the church had experienced great favor among the peoples of Jerusalem such that the chief priests had to back off. That is about to change and a great imbalance called persecution is about to occur. Strangely enough it was perfect, God timed and God designed. The original mandate had been for the disciples to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and the outermost parts of the earth. Up till now it had just been Jerusalem and the mega church was about to become the micro church. God uses imbalance to bring the Gospel to the corners of the world, He uses imbalance in us.

 

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