As we read through the book of Acts, in chapter 6, we see the brand new church of Jesus Christ growing. As this growth occurs, some new problems arise as a result and we see division start to split this once unified congregation into ethnic rivalries. This was, of course, disconcerting to the apostles, so they decided to appoint seven overseers to administrate these issues as they arose and serve the people as the Spirit of God led them. Everyone agreed with this idea and seven Godly men were chosen by the disciples and brought before the apostles. Acts 6:1-7 says,
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. 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. 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. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The 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. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. 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.
The result of the ministry by these appointed servants of God was an increase in the spread of the Gospel to the point that even the religious leaders of the day, the priests in the Jewish synagogue “were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
After the strife within the early church was contained and rectified, we witness something amazing happen. Verses 8-15 recount the story of one of the seven appointed servants, Stephen, performing great wonders and signs among the people. His wisdom and the Presence of the Holy Spirit were so convincing and powerful, the religious leaders couldn’t refute him. Acts 6:10 says,
But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
Many Parts, One Purpose
When Paul went into great detail about the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, he wished to explain to the Corinthian Christians the plan and purpose of God in the distribution of His gifts and callings. There was evidently some confusion within this church about what the gifts were and what their purpose was within the church’s ministry to each other and the world. Paul took great care in explaining the Lord’s plan of promoting unity within the diversity of the gifts of the Spirit in verses 4-11:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
Paul recognized our human tendency to place greater value on the “more showy” gifts of the Spirit, such as prophecy and words of wisdom and knowledge, and to dismiss as less important the more “common” or “less showy” gifts of the Spirit. He goes on to encourage us to resist this human tendency and realize that all of the gifts of the Spirit are given according to God’s will, not the level of maturity or righteousness of the receiver of the gift. All of the gifts are to be shared and exercised for the common good of all. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 says,
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
We can also see through this passage that placing more value on some gifts over others can lead to pride in the church. Some may say, “My gift is superior and I have no need of yours,” and others may stop sharing their gift because they truly believe what they have to offer is inferior to the gifts and callings of others. Paul spoke to this throughout chapters 12-14 in 1 Corinthians and deeply wanted the Corinthian church, and us, to understand that we all need each other to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for His church on this earth.
The Anointing Follows Humility
Going back to the passage in Acts 6, let’s look at the Presence and Power of God displayed through His servant Stephen. The Apostles made the decision to devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” in verse 4 rather than “neglect the word of God in order to serve tables” (vs 3). Honestly, it seems reasonable for the Apostles to spend their time and talents on more important things than “waiting tables” as they called it. It makes sense that these apostles, pastors, and leaders would spend their efforts on honing their exegetical skills and hermeneutics so that they could refute the religious teachers and priests of the day and glean fresh revelation from the Word of God for the people they led. However, it seems the Holy Spirit has a lesson in all of this for us. The very next paragraph in Acts 6 shows the Power and Wisdom of God flowing through, not one of these Apostles that sequestered themselves from serving God’s people, but from one of the servants humbling himself in that very service: Stephen.
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 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. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
It seems that the Holy Spirit anointed Stephen to walk in the very things the Apostles were striving for.
A Personal Lesson
My husband and I were blessed with a 2-week cruise to Hawaii a few years ago. We left Los Angelos right before Christmas and cruised all the way to the islands, then visited four or five of them and cruised back. It was wonderful! A surprising blessing was all of the strong Christian leaders we met along the way, and the permission by the cruise line to hold daily Bible studies and weekly church services for any other passengers that wished to celebrate with us. Many people came to the services and many were saved during that cruise. Those of us that led were incredibly blessed to see the Hand of God moving in our midst!
During the planning stages of our Christmas service on this cruise, those of us musically inclined started practicing to lead the Christmas carols that would make the service a special celebration of the birth of Christ. Three other singers and myself were given the task of leading the audience in these carols with microphones, I remember during our first practice, the Lord told me the anointing would be with me as I started harmonizing and adding my voice to the choir’s efforts to praise our Jesus. As I began to sing with the other ladies, the anointing did indeed fall and the Presence of the Lord was beautiful and uplifting and we joined together in worship of our King.
What happened next was both troubling and confusing to me. After the song, everyone there recognized the Spirit of God has been in our praises and turned to me to start leading all of the songs, as if it was from me or my will. I was uncomfortable with that, but I complied because I genuinely wanted to see God move and trusted this was what needed to happen for that to occur. Not surprisingly, the anointing didn’t fall again in that way and I spent the next years wondering how I had sinned or failed God with that opportunity. God recently revealed to me that the Anointing flowing through my voice works best in chorus with others.
God’s Will For His People
As Christians in earthen vessels, we can judge how God wants to move by who He is moving through at the moment. We, just like the nation of Israel, can then seek to elevate that one or few to a place of leadership over all when, in fact, God wants us to all work together to flow in His Anointing, Power, and Presence. God doesn’t want superstars lifted above their brothers, He wants us all to be counted worthy of being used by God. We are all anointed by His Spirit to perform His will in this world. When I started leading the praise and worship, lifted above the rest, the Anointing lifted off of the worship. It was not because of anything I had done, but because God’s will is for His people to work together, united in Spirit and purpose. It wasn’t all about me, it was about God using all of us to lift up the Son so that He may draw all men unto Himself!
Our human tendency is to promote those we see are being used by God, especially when we sense God’s anointing. The religious/natural response in us to what God is doing through other people is to reject the people (how could God be using them?), to control the people (how can I get them to do what benefits me?), or to promote them (up front and center).
A Better Way
Right in the middle of Paul’s explanation of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, is 1 Corinthians 13—the LOVE chapter. In it, Paul explains how the fruit of the spirit–LOVE–causes all of these gifts to be productive and useful. If we will allow the love of God to flow through us as we exercise the gifts of the Spirit, we will use these gifts effectively and powerfully. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says,
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
God has a will for how His gifts will be expressed through us. We need to ask God how we can all work together to accomplish His will. He doesn’t want Lone Rangers, He wants a unified body, whose head is Christ!
If we will all believe we are anointed by God to fulfill His purpose on this earth, then seek to work together for His glory instead of our own–each of us contributing what God has given us for the good of the church–there will be power and victory released in every area the church goes! The gates of Hell cannot prevail against this church!
The church isn’t supposed to be an audience in life. We are all the key players, the doctors and nurses doing the work of saving lives. We are the firefighters taking the water of the Word into all the world to extinguish the flames of the evil one. We are the restaurant staff, serving hot plates of God’s goodness to the hungry people of the world. Some of us may seat people, some may ask for requests, some prepare the dishes, some clean up after it’s over, but every single one of us is equally important and equally unimportant before the Lord. HE is our head, HE has preeminence in all things. HE holds us all together and it is for HIS glory that we were created and for HIM that we live and have our being. We are ALL merely HIS servants.
It’s not all about you—but that’s a good thing.