The First 7 Christian Deacons
Acts 6:1-15 New American Standard Bible The Awakening Continues! The increasing Population of the Jesus people revealed new functions of how the King directs the developing His Kingdom. The Remarkable Witness of Stephen, the first deacon and martyr.
1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 3 “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 10 But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. 13 They put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; 14for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” 15 And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.
By Way of review let’s keep in mind the timeline of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
By Acts Chapter 6 the New Community is approaching 10,000 people strong.
There have been remarkable miracles, signs, wonders and super natural events that Jesus does to confirm the preaching of the Good News. House to house is the norm. They share meals and Communion, hear the Apostles’ share their witness from the days of walking with Jesus and His teachings. They also share their lives and livelihood. As daily distribution is made by the servers or waiters it becomes apparent to the Apostles that the widows were being overlooked. Peter and the Apostles needed to follow the leading of the Lord in the message, ministry and mission of the Gospel, providing orientation for new believers and in fanning the flames of daily Communion and prayers. So they met the need by having everyone consider the best 7 for the job so that no one’s needs got overlooked. Their first pick was young, passionate Stephen. He acted most like the Apostles. They became the first Deacons or the Church. Deacon means servant or waiter. Their primary job was to make sure everyone was being cared for properly.
The First Seven Deacons (May have been part of the 120 in the Upper Room on Pentecost.)
These were men filled with the Holy Spirit and all members of the first 70 sent by Jesus in Luke 10.
The meaning of their names:
This is an unusual group when you think that most were members of the original 70 that Jesus selected and from whom the 12 were chosen. These 7 went on to replicate the kinds of lives that we see in the 12. Many of the 70 were of high regard as well. (See the list that anchors this post.) We see that the presence of Jesus in the midst of the church rules His Kingdom with the same care and esteem for the overlooked as He does for the Apostles. The Apostles lay hands on “The Seven” to set them apart for the work of the ministry. Caring for the widows and the orphans is as important as sharing the Gospel. The Gospel’s relevance is that Jesus began His ministry casting out demons and healing the leper. The texture of the Kingdom of god is in the fabric of those with the greatest need. Jesus said and demonstrated that He didn’t come for those who have no need of a physician but for those who do. Those who wanted to follow Him were detached from the cares of this life by His love. It was so powerful that those who believed hung on his every word and followed every footstep.
Now He was resident ‘in the midst’ wherever two or more were gathered in His name. He was back on earth in the flesh and blood He provided all who would respond to his invitation to sit at His Table. He wants every believer to be dependent upon Him. He is provider, protector and the one who prospers and authenticates the witness of any believer by confirming His presence in everyday activities and relationships. CommunionFire fueled the Communion-centric lifestyle of the increasing membership of the Jesus people in the early church.
Even Jewish priests were responding giving up their Judaism to be embraced by the King and his Kingdom indicated in the Law and spoken of by the Prophets. They were becoming obedient to the faith! This is a glimpse The Church community in Jerusalem was an everyday event that revealed Jesus at every turn. His presence was even more profound and His voice stronger than at any time He did the bidding of his Father and spoke his Word in his earthly body. In Heaven at the right hand of the Father He is seen and heard through the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in super natural signs, wonders, healing, deliverance and the miraculous.
When there is a full on awakening and the Holy Spirit is moving like a mighty wind in the lives of god’s people extraordinary events take place and extraordinary people emerge. As Stephen cared for the widows and served God’s people He grew in grace and power. We see this in CommunionFire. Paul reports that transformation of believers happens to those who encounter the Lord’s glory in Communion and by it they are transformed from glory to glory. Consider what the Apostle John reports in chapter One of his Gospel:
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Word (Logos) became flesh and made His dwelling among us. After the Ascension He sent the Holy Spirit and Jesus is “in the midst” physically through the blessed bread of His broken Flesh and blessed wine of His precious Blood in Communion. The meal is His reminder that He is here and will never leave. We eat and drink of Him until He returns. When He takes, blesses and gives us the bread torn and shared He opens our eyes removing the veil of our natural vision to let us see super naturally. He Holy Spirit conveys His presence and He shares with us in a technology we don’t understand. He can be both at the father’s right hand and sharing His presence with us at His Table. King David said, “I see the Lord always before me. You face Lord, do I look for. In your presence is life forever more.” We drink from the cup of the New Covenant and in the drinking our ears open to hear His voice. (See Psalm 29). This was the same for St. Stephen the first martyr. His relationship with Jesus was so intimate that he was described like John described Jesus.
“Stephen full of grace and power was performing great wonders and signs among the people.” Stephen was a in communion-with-Jesus every day who walked in the Spirit, was led by the Spirit and prayed in the Spirit constantly. He walked in the overflow of the light of Jesus from Communion. When he showed up Jesus confirmed his presence in the miraculous. When He spoke those he spoke to, heard the voice of Jesus. Representatives from around the world at the synagogue in Jerusalem came and argued with him but they couldn’t cope with the wisdom and the Spirit that came from him. Just like Jesus they conspired to bring persecution to Stephen. “The new wave of Pharisees” some who were there for the judgment, persecution, torture and Crucifixion of Jesus may have been among them. “They” stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes and literally confronted him and dragged him away to “the Council”. They paraded false witnesses to testify that Stephen spoke against the temple, the Law and that Jesus will destroy the temple and the altar and the customs that Moses handed down to us. Once again the demon of jealousy was outraged and spread the influence of lies and deception to try and diffuse the light of Christ seen upon and coming from Stephen.
Then the power of Jesus was so powerful that they stopped and gazed at Stephen. All of them saw his face shine like and angel. It was the supernatural presence of Jesus being revealed in the only supernatural manifestation they could relate to: an angel! Stephen looked ‘other worldly’! Those who had seen Jesus before knew full well that this was a manifestation of Jesus through Stephen.
Phase one of the persecution of Stephen ended as Jesus ‘knocked the teeth out of the lions’ mouths’. The beloved face Stephen encountered in Communion every day was now mirrored in his face. The light of glory that bathed Stephen in Communion stayed with him and was revealed in the face of His accusers. Clearly something very unusual was going on in the life of Stephen. Perhaps it was the intensity of his devotion at the Lord’s Table. As a ‘waiter’/deacon perhaps he had communion several times a day. Perhaps it was the focus and intensity had in the prayers. The early church prayed in the Spirit, prayed with the Spirit, sang in the Spirit and were constantly encountering the Lord one on one at the Table and then in their fellowship as they would exchange stories of their encounters with each other.
Whatever that special grace was, it came with the lightning and thunder of the truth of Christ’s presence. He anointed Stephen with such revelation it ignited him to become a light so bright that darkness had to flee. His cup overflowed. The goodness and mercy of Jesus was authenticated in Stephen’s witness. The entire “baby church” was growing in grace from glory to glory as they broke the bread of communion from house to house and shared their meals with gladness and singleness of heart.
Acts 4:30 continued to resonate, “By stretching forth your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of your holy child Jesus.” By stretching forth your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of your holy child Jesus. Holy child here comes from a word that means a male or female child. Jesus was just getting started. It seems the pattern was miracles, signs, wonders followed by persecution followed by individual and corporate transformation. The Church was young. If this level of awakening is child-like, what would the full measure of a mature believer look and sound like!
Galatians 4:19 “My children, I am suffering birth pains for you again until the Messiah is formed in you.”
The following hymn from Martin Luther expresses this miracle of (trans) formation. Joseph Prince says, "10,000 words in the Spirit, praying in tongues might produce 5 words to be expressed in understanding. Think of how much communion and praying in the Spirit were going on for Martin Luther to write a hymn of 15 verses! Or for the light of God's glory to be visible on the face of St. Stephen. Only He who came from heaven can return and make a way for us. His birth on earth in angels light, and star so bright and the heavens resounding with heaven's song demonstrates what happens when He is born into our hearts. From there He grows into his fullness within us.
"From Heaven Above to Earth I Come"
by Martin Luther, 1483-1546
1. "From heaven above to earth I come
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing:
2. "To you this night is born a child
Of Mary, chosen virgin mild;
This little child, of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all the earth.
3. "This is the Christ, our God and Lord,
Who in all need shall aid afford;
He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free.
4. "He will on you the gifts bestow
Prepared by God for all below,
That in His kingdom, bright and fair,
You may with us His glory share.
5. "These are the tokens ye shall mark:
The swaddling-clothes and manger dark;
There ye shall find the Infant laid
By whom the heavens and earth were made."
6. Now let us all with gladsome cheer
Go with the shepherds and draw near
To see the precious gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.
7. Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this child, so young and fair?
The blessed Christ-child lieth there.
8. Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through whom the sinful world is blest!
Thou com'st to share my misery;
What thanks shall I return to Thee?
9. Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
How weak art Thou, how poor and small,
That Thou dost choose Thine infant bed
Where humble cattle lately fed!
10. Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
It yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.
11. For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou, King, so rich and great,
As 'twere Thy heaven, art throned in state.
12. And thus, dear Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To make this truth quite plain to me,
That all the world's wealth, honor, might,
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.
13. Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
14. My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep;
I, too, must sing with joyful tongue
That sweetest ancient cradle-song:
15. Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto us His Son hath given!
While angels sing with pious mirth
A glad new year to all the earth.
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Luke 2: 1-18
Author: Martin Luther, 1535
Tune: Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1855, alt.
1st published in: "Geistliche Lieder" Leipzig, 1539
It might be good here to review:
The 12 Apostles (Matthew 10:2-4)
Jesus’ Amazing Family Tree
The Grandchildren of Anna 5 of 6 cousins/ Jewish custom: “brothers” were of the original 12, one was of the 70 and John the Baptist (Son of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth who was daughter of Grandma Anna’s sister) Jesus called the greatest of all the prophets. All 8 “brothers had the same Grandmother, Anna. Anna was married 3 times and each marriage produced one daughter. All were named Mary. The first was Mary the Mother of Jesus and thereby, the Church. By virtue of Jewish custom when Jesus was anointed King in heaven, Mary became Queen of heaven. It was the mother of the king that always became queen. The second was Mary Cleophas (4 sons) and the third Mary Zebedee (2 sons).
The 70/72 apostles/disciples sent out by Jesus in Luke 10 from who the Lord picked the original 12 Apostles (There are other lists of the 70/72 which vary a bit)