Evening on Texas highway.
Friday, 25 March 2022
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; Acts 6:3
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The apostles just noted that it was not good that they had left the word of God in order to serve tables. To avoid this in the future, their decision is given, beginning with, “Therefore, brethren.” Despite having a different calling, it is a calling among the others. All are brethren, and all have duties to be performed. The high calling of attending to the word necessitated that the apostles should not get overburdened with these other things, but they still acknowledge that they are all brethren in the same common cause. With this thought conveyed, they next say, “seek out from among you.”
This is a wise course of action to take. First, it allows the decision to be rendered by those who were in the middle of the problem. Deciding among themselves who was to be selected would ensure it would be men competent to do what will be necessary as there is a vested interest in the matter at hand.
Secondly, as this matter dealt with the daily distribution, certainly meaning money or that which was purchased with the money entrusted by others, it would take any hint of suspicion off the apostles that they were purposefully selecting those of whom they could profit off through kickbacks or the like. It is an arrangement that will allow a close and fair level of control over that which is entrusted to them. Those selected are to be “seven men of good reputation.”
Rather than this translation, the Greek is a present participle. It more precisely reads, “seven men who are well attested.” The meaning is basically the same, but rather than a description of the men, it is a favorable view by others that is being conveyed. The approval of others being necessary to ensure that both sides of this division will be satisfied with the choice. Otherwise, one side may say, “they have a good reputation,” while the other side may not even know who the men are. Next, they are to be “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.”
It is of note that various texts do not include the word “Holy.” If it belongs, the meaning is obvious. If it does not, then it could simply be referring to having an energetic spirit within the individual, such as, “filled with spirit and wisdom.” The former is probable, but as one is filled passively by the Spirit after salvation, it would indicate those who were living in accord with proper values and in a way suitable for their filling. This, in turn, would demonstrate its own form of wisdom that made them sound and reliable choices for the positions they were selected to. It is such as these, “whom we may appoint over this business.”
As noted, it was the duty of the apostles to attend to the word of God. It is the duty of these men to oversee the daily distribution. Each category within the early church was being defined based on the qualifications of the individual and it was to those duties that they were to be attentive. If a change in the person’s assignment was forthcoming, it would need to be accompanied by a confirmation of that change by the approval of those above the person. This is a logical and orderly way of ensuring people stay in the proper lanes.
Likewise, the pastoral epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus) further define the responsibilities and the safeguards for such men who are accepted into the various leadership positions within the church. To stray from these guidelines is a sure path to problems within the church.
Life application: The structure of the church, who may be given various responsibilities, and what to do about problems that may arise concerning those men are carefully detailed in Scripture, especially in the pastoral epistles. This account in Acts tells how the early church was set up, and it provides a historical record of what was done at times, but there is really nothing prescriptive in what is said.
In other words, there is a wise way of selecting the men who were chosen, and a church would be foolish to not select men who were well attested to, full of the Holy Spirit, and filled with wisdom. And yet, nothing is said elsewhere that there would have to be seven men chosen for every such incident in church history. As such, the verse here has to be evaluated as a historical record that is not prescriptive in nature, even though it carries with it wisdom in the selection process.
For the exact parameters concerning the selection of elders and deacons, the pastoral epistles are to be evaluated and strictly adhered to. If this is not done, people who are unqualified to hold positions within the church will eventually be brought in, the church will suffer, and eventually, the church will lose its way, apostatizing from sound doctrine. It is the inevitable outcome of straying from the parameters defined in Scripture. As Paul says elsewhere, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).
Heavenly Father, give us wise and discerning minds concerning the churches we attend or think about attending. Is it structured in accord with Your word? Do the leaders of the church meet the limited, but unchanging guidelines set forth there? If the church can’t get the simple basics of what You have laid down in Your word right, will they truly teach proper doctrine elsewhere? Help us to not enter into a church that is not aligned with Your will as is detailed in Your word. Amen.