How a church deals with life’s challenges and how believers within a congregation interact with each other can be great markers for how close they really are to God. In Acts 6, the early church faced some ethnic/racial issues. In the midst of exponential growth of its members and its ministry to care for the widows, the Greeks accused the Hebrews of neglecting their Greek widows while Hebrew widows got everything they needed (Acts 6:1). So they took their dispute to the apostles.
The apostles were so in tune with the Holy Spirit that their answer came quickly. They came up with a general framework and left it up to the church members to work out the minute details because there was a sense they knew the congregation could handle it. Their framework was that the apostles’ focus would be to spread God’s word and devotion to prayer. The other church members’ focus should be to carry out the daily operations within the church to see to it that all widows were being treated fairly by picking out from among themselves seven deacons with this criteria– they should be “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom…” (Acts 6:3).
After the members did their part, they then presented their choices to the apostles, who did the ministry of laying on of hands with prayer over the seven men. We know this was in line with God because of what Acts 6:7 says about both the increase of God’s word and church growth that resulted.
This incident reflects what Paul says in 2 Timothy is the seal of God’s foundation for a church. In the midst of Timothy’s challenges, Paul said, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,” 2 Timothy 2:19.
God’s seal is displayed in two things here:
- The Lord knoweth them that are his. He dwells in us and we dwell in him in both an individual relationship and a corporate relationship as part of the body of Christ. As such, Jehovah will do things to prove we are “labourers together with God” (1 Corinthians 3:9), spreading the gospel not “in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance,” 1 Thessalonians 1:5.
- Let every one who claims to be a Christian, saying they are in Christ as a believer, depart from iniquity. Having a relationship with Christ means a person shows by their actions in private and public that they desire to abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
Paul explained to Timothy that this seal would play out in the midst of several challenges highlighted in 2 Timothy 2:15-26, such as studying to show thyself approved; shunning profane and vain babblings (which can include anything from spouting false doctrines to using foul language); fleeing youthful lusts; embracing righteousness, faith, charity, and peace along with and in the midst of other true believers; and knowing when foolish and ignorant questions are raised with the purpose of churning up strife.
When a church does the things Paul pointed out to Timothy and carried out like the Jerusalem church did in Acts 6, then we know that congregation has God’s seal on it as mentioned by Paul here.
Harry A. Gaylord