56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:56-59)
In yesterday’s reading, we read the story of the first church conflict. The Hellenists (Jews from a Greek background) complained to the Hebrews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The twelve apostles convene the first church business meeting, and say, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (Acts 6:2).
This had always sounded a little arrogant to me, until I became a pastor myself. Then I began to realize firsthand how the tyranny of the urgent can often bog me down and keep me from focusing on the one thing that I was called by the church to do: preach the word.
The apostles proposed a solution: Choose seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty (Acts 6:3). And that’s just what they did. Significantly, all seven men that were chosen have Greek names, so they were probably Hellenistic Jews themselves. These seven men became the first deacons. As a result of their appointment, the widows were taken care of, and the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly.
The first two men listed were Stephen and Philip, and we read about their stories today. Stephen became the first martyr, and Philip became the first missionary. Through these two men, the promise of Acts 1:8 began to be fulfilled:
You will be my witnesses… The word for witness is marturia. Jesus told the disciples that they would be His martyrs, and Stephen was the first.
…In Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Through Philip, the gospel first came to Samaria (Acts 8:5). Then, through that same Philip, the gospel spread from Palestine to Ethiopia (Acts 8:26-40).
Neither man ever said, “Hey, I’m just a busboy. I’m just a waiter. You need someone to preach a sermon? That would be Peter. You want someone to take the gospel to Samaria, pick one of the apostles. But not us. We’re just deacons.”
The Holy Spirit has a funny way of expanding job descriptions, doesn’t He? Under His leadership, no one is ever “just” something. Peter, Andrew, James and John might have started out as just fishermen, but they didn’t stay that way. Matthew started off as just a tax collector, but he didn’t stay that way.
The Holy Spirit wants you to be more than just a stay at home mom. More than just an accountant. More than just a police officer. In obedience, will you allow Him to expand your job description today?