SATANIC ATTACK BY DIVISION AND DIVERSION Trinity
Acts 6:1-7 16.6.19
If you like success stories, they don’t come much better than the one you read in the book of Acts.
In chapter 1 there are 120 followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. By the end of chapter 2 there are another 3,000, with more being added every day. Within a couple of weeks, there are 5,000. By half way through chapter 5, Luke says “more than ever, believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” (5:14)
All plain sailing? No. Satan is launching a counter-attack. In chapter 4 he has stirred up the Jewish heavies to shut down Peter and John. That doesn’t work … “they were all filled with Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (4:31).
His next counter attack is to compromise the church. He fills the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira with a plan to get a reputation for godliness, without being godly. If that works, the church will be destroyed from the inside, but it doesn’t. God removes the pretenders, and we read that “More than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” (5:14)
Round 3 comes as Peter and John are again imprisoned. This time they are under a formal order not to preach about Jesus, and are sent home with backs bleeding from the whippings they are given.
Round 3 of the Satanic counter attack also does not worked. “Every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (5:42)
6:1-7 brings us to a new counter-attack. It comes in the form of division and diversion.
If the thousands who make up the church can be made to fall out with each other, that will stop everything. How to cause that? Use something big? No, big challenges usually throw people together. Something small, then.
The music; the way the coffee is served; the colour of the new carpet; who gets put on a committee; someone didn’t get things to go his or her way. Then it’s easy to find others who have a complaint, and then form a grumble group connected more by their grumbling than anything else. And then to expand the cause to a more respectable level … church leaders don’t listen, an inner circle is favoured, and so on.
Bill tells Sam that Jack, one of the elders, didn’t talk to him in the street. Sam adds that he had never liked the way Jack seems always to have a new car. Others sign up with their complaint. Soon Jack is said to be unloving, ungenerous, and a hypocrite. “He goes or we go” becomes their theme. The same story is told again and again.
The grumble group in Acts 6 are complaining that some people in the church are not being cared for. When it is was time to distribute food to the widows in the church, some are being missed.
Those being missed are all Greek speakers. Maybe they are people who feel they aren’t really in because they don’t have as strong a Jewish background as others. Those who do not miss out are old school Jews. The implication is that some are ‘in’, and some are ‘out’. That’s a good basis for a grumble group.
Maybe some of these ladies were being missed. Sometimes things don’t work the way they should. This isn’t just being reported. It’s a complaint. People are out of sorts and the underlying problem is that there is “us” and “them”.
“We” are missing out, “we” young people, “we” ethnically different, “we” ordinary ones, or “we” who are the newcomers or the people without positions in the church.
I’m not saying this today, because this is a big problem in our church. This is just the next theme we’ve come to in our preaching. It t is a warning however, to us all that unity can be so easily broken.
Do you pray often that our unity does not break?
Are you determined never to be part of a grumble group?
Do you refuse to talk about “them” and “us”?
Do you base your closeness to others on your shared knowledge of Jesus, or on some shared complaint?
Do you work hard to put personal preferences above what is good for the whole body?
I am not saying we ought not to have personal preferences? We have hundreds of them, but I am saying that maybe we should sit on them, because there is something far more important at stake.
I am not saying we should ignore a problem in the church. We should not, because we want the whole church to flourish.
I am not saying that we erase our different backgrounds, whether they are cultural, educational or whatever? I am saying that they are not the big deal. They are not what join us together with these people or those. What we share in the Lord Jesus is the big deal.
Things began so well back in Acts chapter 1. Satan’s counter-attack is to create division. That one’s aimed at the church. The second is aimed at the leaders:
The problem of the widows being neglected is reported to the apostles. What should they do about it?
You know what I would do? I’d do an audit of what has happened. Then I’d start cooking up some extra meals, and take over the food roster. I like to be known as the guy who is humble and does ordinary things, and anyway, I’m a good fixer – who will be able to handle this as well as I can? And it will be quicker if I do it.
Just as well I wasn’t there. I’d have walked into Satan’s trap. They don’t however. Look at what they in fact do:
The apostles say “It is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (vv2a-4)
They are not saying that no one should worry about the needs of the Greek speaking widows. They are not saying that serving tables is not a good and holy task. They are saying that if they take on the food fix, they won’t be able to do what Jesus has told them to do.
Arranging the food relief program would take so much time they wouldn’t have time to do what they are called to: the work of preaching and of praying.
That matters because we know that churches grow by the preaching of the Word and by prayer. If the apostles can be diverted from doing that, the whole things comes to a crashing halt just as much as if these preachers were gagged and in prison.
Satan’s diversionary attack doesn’t work. They hold the line, and the gospel goes to Judaea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth … and though others to us. 2,000 years later, we stand where we stand as believers and as a church because they were not diverted.
No one here is an apostle. But every one of us faces choices between the good and the best:
When I sit down to read the Bible and pray, how come I can always think of an email to send or a church program to organise?
When there is a lesson to prepare for Skids or a study for your small group, why does an invitation to a party seem more attractive?
How is it that a game with your friends can seem preferable to a conversation with them about Jesus?
Why do we make plans to do our thing at the very point where we could do something that would make a big difference at church?
The email, the party, the game, the time spent relaxing, and so much else: all good things. Maybe the best right then and there.
Perhaps not, because if we were honest, we know it is a diversion from the main game. Do you think it’s not Satanic?
Back to the starving widows? What is going to happen to them? The church chooses 7 good and godly men to look after these ladies that have missed out. The whole church did it, Hellenist and Hebrew, Greek and Jewish.
The funny thing is that the men they chose all had Greek not Jewish names, so, at the least, they had Greek connections and probably Greek pedigree. What were they doing?
Why didn’t it matter that some of those appointed to fix the problem were Hebrews? To keep a 50/50 kind of balance?
The men chosen were people known for their integrity, and their spiritual mindedness, and their wisdom. With men like that on the job, everyone was going to win. A 50/50 ethnic quota, gender quota or age quota is silly when you’ve got qualities like those.
So, division is cut off at the pass. The apostles are not diverted. Satan’s counter attack is stopped in its tracks. What is the immediate result of that?
“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient ton the faith.” (6:7)
God turns Satan’s schemes so that even more people, not less, hear the Word of God preached and see it displayed. The church at Jerusalem is not reduced, but expanded. Even those who had been enemies of Jesus are now signed up with him.
Does that surprise you? It will if you have swallowed what are said to be the secrets of church growth today:
Preachers should do more good works and talk less.
Sermons should give way to what is more entertaining.
Put people in leadership who have brighter personalities and don’t be so fussed about what their lives are like.
Divide churches into homogeneous groups – the oldies at 9, those with kids at 11 and the young people at 7; the Anglos here and the Chinese there.
It should not be many months before we are meeting in our lovely new church building. By the grace of God it will signal a new stage of our usefulness in the kingdom of Jesus, if we are able to use it to shine brighter in a dark world.
Shall Satan now lay down his weapons? Or attack harder?
Is now the time to hang together more or less? No “us” and “them”, but “we together”.
Is now the time to change our priorities, and be diverted?
Or to ask our leaders to be diverted from the ministry of the Word and of prayer, by getting them to raise more money for the building, or to keep the building clean and locked?
By the grace of Jesus, let’s watch to see Satan’s plans come back to bite him, as we resist his attacks with purpose, resolving with all our strength, to refuse to be divided, or diverted.