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Called to Witness
Summer Quarter: God’s Urgent Call
Unit 3: Calls in the New Testament
Sunday School Lesson for the week of August 6, 2017
By Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell
Lesson Scripture: Acts 6:1-8
Background Scripture: Acts 1; 6; 7
Key Verse: Brothers and sisters, carefully choose seven well-respected men from among you. They must be well-respected and endowed by the Spirit with exceptional wisdom. We will put them in charge of this concern. (Acts 6:3)
Purpose: To assert the importance of establishing priorities in ministering to people with all kinds of needs.
This lesson begins with the Unit 3 series, “Calls in the New Testament” in the “Adult Bible Studies” book. It is the examination of the scriptures from the Book of Acts. The Lesson’s author states, “Acts is the second volume of a two-volume work, the Gospel of Luke – Acts. The first volume is considered to bring insight into the second volume. The author of Luke – Acts was writing for a Greco-Roman audience and is thought to be the only non-Jewish writer of the Bible.”
Background of Luke’s Authorship and Ministry
The Lesson’s author says that traditionally the writings of the Gospel of Luke and Acts are contributed to the physician, Luke. Also, that this early tradition of authorship still has no evidence to confirm or refute Luke as the author. In these scriptures (Acts 16:16-18; 20:5-15), we see that Luke serves as a co-laborer in Christ with Paul. He accompanies Paul on his missionary trips and serves faithfully with him through dangerous and adversarial ministry. However, there is no mention of Luke’s name in Acts, but the writing refers to his presence with Paul, for example, using the word “we,” and giving accounts of stories as being present in the events. In the introduction of Luke’s Gospel account, it is clear that he has no personal acquaintance of Jesus, but rather a collection of accounts from others, which gives the belief that Luke was associated with the disciples’ ministries and with persons close to Jesus. The Lesson’s author states, “There is no certainty as to when the Luke – Acts was written, but it suggested that it was written A.D. 55–73 and before A.D. 90.”
In Acts 1, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?” (Acts 1:6) The Lesson’s author views this scripture as a question that shows that Luke is interested in confirming that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Jesus gives a spiritual response to a worldly question. Jesus’ answer in Acts 1:7-8, “…It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” His response confirms that He is the Savior; Jesus knows that there is a set time and speaks for the Father. He did not share the Father’s plan with the Jews. They are not given privilege because of their religion or connection; they would have to wait like everyone else.
The Lesson’s author clarifies Luke’s writings on several things:
- Sought to trace the development of this new sacred faith from its beginning in Bethlehem to its growing prominence as a legal, bona fide, and compelling religion.
- Attempt to address the perception that Christianity was separate from the Jewish faith and arguments that Christianity was an illegal religious cult.
- The result was persecution of Christians in some areas of the Empire. Luke’s writings attempt to convey that Christianity is a universal religion.
- Sought to persuade readers that Jesus is the Savior of the entire world (Luke 2:29-32).
In Acts 6:1-8, it is apparent that in the New Testament, just as with the Old Testament prophets, the disciples are concerned about the poor and the marginalized, including women. We see that master plan of inclusiveness is in the DNA of Jesus and the disciples that are called to spread the Gospel to Jews and the Gentiles.
Verse 1: “About that time, while the number of disciples continued to increase, a complaint arose. Greek-speaking disciples accused the Aramaic-speaking disciples because their widows were being overlooked in the daily food service.”
We are called to take care of the least of these, whatever the need may be, food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education, so that no one is deprived of basic needs or the hope for a better life. The Lesson’s author uses this scripture reference as an example: “Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20). We can infer that this scripture about the poor expands beyond the material needs to the state of the mind, body and spiritual condition. The author also uses Luke’s exclusive Gospel account of the parable of the good Samaritan as a confirming story of God’s command that Christians are to love all our neighbors, defining our neighbor in broad, inclusive terms (Luke 10:29-37). We see that these scriptures’ examples of the blending of cultures are not exclusive to today’s society, but have been God’s blueprint since Biblical times. Luke, a Gentile and not a Jew, is an author in this Jewish Bible. That’s an example of inclusiveness.
Verses 3-6: The disciples are concerned about the widows being overlooked. Here again is an example of the poor not being cared for. They respond to this and choose seven others disciples to serve in different capacities to care for the marginalized. The matter of hearing from God to choose disciples to serve was apparently taken very seriously as we can surmise that the Scripture infers that many are competent to do the job, but states in Verse 3, that they are to be “endowed by the spirit…” Persons that are called to serve, including clergy, should manifest the Holy Spirit in their speech, countenance, acts, and deeds. A person’s talent, style, wealth or worldly affirmations are not substitutes for the Holy Spirit. Matthew 6:24 (New International Version) states, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Verse 8: In this lesson’s concluding scripture, we see a model of the endowment of the Holy Spirit in Stephen. The scripture states, “Stephen stands out among the believers for the way God’s grace was at work in his life and for his exceptional endowment with divine power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”
A Time to Engage
Where do we see processes, taxation, businesses, and trade affairs that allow for the rich to get richer and the poor and “widows” to be left behind and become even more marginalized?
How can we be more committed as disciples that serve God, spiritually endowed, to bring inclusiveness, justice, and equality to all people?
Lord, we thank you for the opportunity to serve. We ask for strength to be the disciples that you have called us to be even during difficult times. May we continue to be strengthened and shielded by your love and grace and serve in the endowment by the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell serves as the Associate Director for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Footnote: Adult Bible Studies Series Fall 2017