There is also the deep honor given to the deacons in this early scene. They are not primarily called to preach the word—though, interestingly, the protomartyr Stephen has the longest speech in the entire NT! But the work of helps and serving is ministry, too, and it requires wisdom and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Our faith is not a dualistic philosophy. It does not tell us that what affects the body is on a human level, but only what affects the soul and spirit is imbued with God’s power. No, these seven—and notice the holy number here—are selected for three things: their wisdom, their being indwelt by God’s Spirit, and the “witness of others” regarding their character. Three things come together—the witness of the Spirit, the witness of their own wise beings, and the witness of other Christians. And then, to this is added the laying on of hands, that is, the witness of the apostles. All this verification is given for those who will serve others on a practical level.
And there is one final thing to notice. Our passage begins and ends by speaking about the multiplication of the believers. The problem that they experienced was catalyzed by the rapid growth of the Church—would that we had similar problems everywhere today! But then, once the dispute is adequately addressed, we hear that the Church continues to multiply. Indeed, we hear that a large number of Christ’s original enemies from the Sanhedrin, the priests, become obedient to the faith, and join the early Church. What was it that attracted them to the early believers in Jerusalem? Of course, it must have been the new quality of life that they saw among these believers, just as Nicodemus was won over by Jesus’ instruction concerning a new birth from above. But, I suspect, it was also because the early Church was practical, and had all its ducks in a row. The priestly group put a great premium upon orderly life, and the way that things were done. Here was a winsome body of believers that was both teaming with life, and could manage its affairs—it had both the prophetic AND the priestly charism. It had soul AND body. And so it reached out to many, even to those who had been suspicious of the One who had come among them as Prophet, Priest, and King. Here were His very own, witnessing about Him as they multiplied, as they learned how to engage in ministry of every kind, and as they grew into maturity. May this also be true of us.
Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem!
The glory of the Lord has shone on you!
Exult now, and be glad, O Zion!
Be radiant, O pure Theotokos, in the Resurrection of your Son!
Read it all.