Although democracy has various forms and shapes in different countries, yet in essence … and taken from an online dictionary, it means … “’Government by the people’. In practice this means majority rule where the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by the people through periodical ‘free elections’ to form a ‘democratic government’”.
You might have heard terms such as a socialist democracy, a western democracy or an African democracy. Irrespective which shape it is, the above definition applies. We practice this principle in many areas of life, society, business … and anywhere voting is done within a democratic state.
Yesterday we saw that the Early Church chose a few men from the Body to form a diaconal office (serving tables). That was done democratically … but the appointment was not yet complete. Being the Church of God there needs to be the approval of God because His Church … or better put, His Kingdom is a Theocracy. Theocracy means God’s Rule. He is seated upon the Throne of Glory from where He reigns supremely over all creation … and in our case, our planet with specific focus on His Church. This means that He who has given His Church the Bible and the Spirit, therein gives His mind, will and desire. Life, behavior, morality and ethics required by His citizenship are found within His Word and His Spirit is the “power” enabling belief in and adoption of His Constitution (Bible). Although there was a democratic selection of men, there needed to be a Theocratic approval. We read on:
Ac 6:6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
As democracy takes various shapes, look at some of the workings of Theocracy.
1) Those chosen for diaconal duty were presented to the apostles. Jesus had appointed the apostles to establish and lead the Early Church. That is the way God works. He appoints His chosen people to lead. Then those the people chose were presented to the apostles. Perhaps what is not said in the text is that the apostles would have scrutinized these men, their salvation, integrity, credibility and suitability to do the work. The apostles stated that they:
Ac 6:3 choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom
Still, they would need to exercise their oversight role before the final appointment. This is true and needed in the Church today. The spiritual leaders are responsible for the Church. This means that even though they do not do the diaconal ministry they are responsible for those who do. This is what the apostles did and this is what the elders of a church ought to do. In approving of those chosen by a congregation would mean they support the candidates’ conversion, integrity, pursuit of holiness and spiritual giftedness to fulfil the roles they are chosen for. Church elders, which would include the teaching elders need to be supported in prayer for their task, unseen by most.
2) Those chosen for diaconal duty were supported by the apostles.
Ac 6:6 prayed and laid their hands on them.
Notice the presence of the participants.
(1) There are the apostles who presented
(2) the individuals
(3) to God in the presence
(4) of the congregation.
(a) They prayed for them and
(b) They laid hands on them. There is nothing magical in this although the prayer and hands go together.
(i) The prayer is to God for His blessing and empowerment to do the ministry. Always remember that even though the diaconal work may not be directly related to the spiritual side of the Gospel, it is supportive and the Gospel needs it … therefore it has a spiritual basis and needs spiritual people to fulfil it.
(ii) The laying on of hands was at least twofold. The first was that the apostles approved of these men they were presenting to God and the second was that the people saw the apostles’ acceptance of these men. Again, this is God working through the apostles … Theocracy. Within many Churches today there are those who oppose this leader or that leader. In these cases the tension and even hatred can be felt. We need all Church leaders to accept each other and each other’s roles and ministry within the Church. We may not bring the tactics of the evil one into the Church.
3) The results of harmony within the Church. Before we look at verse 7 … please read:
Ps 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
Elders, deacons and the congregation are “brothers in Christ”. Where there is willing unity there are God’s blessings. Notice three things Luke writes about for our benefit:
Ac 6:7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
(1) The Word of God spread. This would be the Gospel supported by teachings from the Old Testament. We need to pray that God’s Gospel spreads in our society. Withdraw the Word and the Gospel from society and the morality decreases with all shapes of wickedness taking over.
(2) There was rapid growth amongst the disciples (Church). You need to see the sequence here … when the Church leadership and members live together in unity and harmony, the Gospel will spread far and wide and many souls will hear effectively and be saved! What the Church needs to ask and answer is … “Do we want to see rapid growth in our Church?” Today we see rapid growth in other religions. The only way to stop this is the Spread the Gospel!
(3) Many priests were saved. This is extraordinary on two fronts. The first is that priests being converted to Jesus would be put into serious jeopardy. They would be immediate outcasts. The second is that they understood the meaning of the Cross. Jesus was the promised Messiah and His blood sacrifice made the animal sacrifices obsolete.
Thank You Father that when we live and serve in unity the Gospel prospers. Amen.