Can You Be So Emptied of Yourself to be So Full of God?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament narrative of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ which is the Church as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the seventh and eighth chapters of this New Testament book. ”And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the work of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, And Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:1-7).

            “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia, and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel” (Acts 6:1-15).

            WHEN THE NUMBER OF THE DISCIPLES WAS MULTIPLIED! AND THE WORD OF GOD INCREASED! AND THE NUMBER OF THE DISCIPLES MULTIPLIED IN JERUSALEM GREATLY! A GREAT COMPANY OF PRIESTS WERE OBEDIENT TO THE FAITH! [AND THE SAME DAY THERE WERE ADDED UNTO THEM ABOUT THREE THOUSAND SOULS] AND THE LORD ADDED TO THE CHURCH DAILY SUCH AS SHOULD BE SAVED! MANY OF THEM WHICH HEARD THE WORD BELIEVED! THE NUMBER OF THE MEN WAS ABOUT FIVE THOUSNAD!

            FULL OF THE HOLY GHOST AND WISDOM! FULL OF FAITH AND OF THE HOLY GHOST! FULL OF FAITH AND POWER! DID GREAT WONDERS AND MIRACLES AMONG THE PEOPLE!

            When you come to the seventh and eighth chapter you will find the New Testament narrative concerning and regarding the early Church transitioning beyond simply the opposition and persecution of the apostles by the Sanhedrin, the scribes, the chief priests, the elders of Israel, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the like. As you come to the seventh chapter you will find Stephen standing before the council having been falsely accused of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God. This is actually quite interesting when you think about and consider what took place, for when you read concerning Stephen you will find that He was a man who was full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. Not only do you and not only will you read concerning Stephen that he was a man full of faith and full of the Holy Ghost, but you will also find that Stephen was full of faith and power. FULL! FULL OF FAITH! FULL OF THE HOLY GHOST! FULL OF POWER! FULL OF FAITH AND OF THE HOLY GHOST! FULL OF FAITH AND POWER! It is absolutely necessary that we pay close and careful attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for the words found here bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth concerning Stephen that not only was he a man who was full, but he was a man full of substance. Pause for a moment and ask yourself whether or not this would and whether or not this could be said of you. Stop and consider whether or not it can be said of you that you are and that you have been full—and not full of wine, nor full of meat, nor full of any of the worldly desires and pleasures, but rather than you are essentially full of God. Perhaps the single greatest truth that is found within this narrative is not merely the words which were used to speak concerning Stephen, but that Stephen was full—and not only full, but full of God. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that in order for us to be full, and in order for us to be full of God we must needs be emptied of ourselves. We cannot think, nor can we expect to be full of God while we are still full of ourselves and have not been emptied. We cannot and must not think and consider—even for a brief moment—that we can be full of God while we haven’t yet been, and aren’t willing to be emptied of ourselves.

            I absolutely love what the Scripture speaks of Stephen, for within the sixth chapter we find it written concerning the seven which were ultimately chosen that they ought to be full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. Not only this, but when we read concerning Stephen we find that of Stephen it was written that he was a man who was full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. Not only this, but we also find it written concerning Stephen that He was full of faith and power. FULL OF THE HOLY GHOST AND WISDOM! FULL OF FAITH AND OF THE HOLY GHOST! FULL OF FAITH AND POWER! THE INTRINSIC LINK BETWEEN THE HOLY GHOST AND WISDOM AND FAITH! THE INTRINSIC LINK BETWEEN FAITH THE HOLY GHOST AND FAITH AND POWER! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found written and recorded within this passage of Scripture, for it is a tremendous challenge to us who are the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ and what can be said of us. I find it truly captivating to read concerning Stephen—not only that he was a man full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, and not only that He was a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, but also that He was a man who was full of faith and power. We ought not to miss and lose sight of that which is presented before us within this text, for what we find within this text is a truly tremendous and powerful statement concerning Stephen’s being full—and not only his being full, but also his being full of God. Oh I sit here today and I can’t help but be incredibly challenged within my own heart and within my own spirit concerning whether or not I have truly been emptied of myself that I might be filled with and full of God. We ought not think, we ought not believe nor even think that we can be full of God if we have not been emptied of ourselves. Stop and think about how you can fill something that is already full—and not only full, but full of so much other stuff. How can one truly be full of God until and unless they have first been emptied of themselves and of all those things which would seek to keep them from being filled with and full of God. We must not overlook and miss out on this truly awesome and powerful reality, for when we read concerning Stephen we find that he was not only a man who was full, but also that he was a man who was full of God.

            Oh how many of us within our church buildings and within our Christian circles can say that we are full of God and completely emptied of ourselves? It’s worth noting that it wasn’t written of Stephen that he was a man of wisdom, nor that he was a man of the Holy Ghost, but that he was a man “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” Concerning Stephen it wasn’t written that he was a man of faith, nor was it written that He was a man of the Holy Ghost, but rather than He was a man “full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.” Not only this, but it wasn’t written of Stephen that he was a man of faith and a man of power, but rather that he was a man “Full of faith and power.” Please do not quickly miss and lose sight of this word “full,” for this word “full” was used three times within this text—not only concerning the seven deacons who were appointed by the apostles and the early Church, but also concerning Stephen. Twice concerning Stephen alone the word “full” was being used, and we ought not and must not ignore and overlook this truly beautiful and breathtaking reality, for it’s absolutely amazing what a single four-letter word can do to transform the narrative concerning a man. I am absolutely and completely captivated with and by the awesome and powerful truth that Scripture didn’t speak of Stephen that he was merely a man of faith and a man of the Holy Ghost, nor did it speak of Stephen that he was merely a man of faith and of power. Scripture never holds any punches, and Scripture never holds anything back, so when it uses the word “full” to speak of Stephen’s experience with God then it literally means that Stephen was full of God—and not only full of God, but full of something and someone greater than and much bigger than himself. It would have been absolutely and incredibly impossible for Stephen to be full of God if he was full of himself, and if Stephen was not and had not been emptied of himself as an individual. It would have been absolutely and incredibly impossible for Stephen to be full of God without and apart from Stephen being emptied of himself. Oh that we would recognize and understand the great and tremendous need that we have within our lives as the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ to be completely and utterly emptied of ourselves and emptied of all those things that would keep and prevent us from being filled with and being full of God.

            FULL OF GOD! FULL OF THE NATURE OF GOD! FULL OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD! The more I read and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that what we read about Stephen in the Scripture is a tremendous testimony of not merely being a man of something, but also a man of someone. It’s easy to read this text and think about the narrative of Stephen presenting and painting him as a man of faith, or as a man of wisdom, or as a man of power, however, it is something else entirely to refer to Stephen as a man of someone—meaning a man of God and of His nature and character. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and powerful truth, for the words which we find here in this passage bring us face to face with the reality that Stephen was more than simply a man of faith, and more than simply a man of wisdom, and more than simply a man of power. It was true that Stephen did indeed and did in fact walk in wisdom, and walk in power, and walk in faith, however, it was something entirely and altogether different to actually be a man who was full of these manifestations and demonstrations of the Holy Spirit. There is not a doubt in my mind that at the very heart and core of Stephen’s being a man full of faith, and being a man full of wisdom, and a man full of power he was a man full of the Holy Spirit. It was his being full of the Holy Ghost that simultaneously proceeded to fill him with these other three characteristics and attributes of the divine Being. Oh I cannot help but be confronted with and by the fact that Stephen was a man who was completely emptied of himself in order that he might be completely full of God. It is not by accident, by chance, or by coincidence that Scripture uses the word “full” to describe Stephen and his relationship to faith, his relationship to power, his relationship to wisdom, and even his relationship to the Holy Ghost. Oh it is very easy to speak of someone as being a man of faith, however, it is something else entirely and altogether different to look upon someone else and refer to them as a man or woman who is full of faith. It is one thing to look upon another individual and see them as a man or woman of power, however, it is something else to look upon them and see them as a man or woman full of power. This same reality goes for wisdom and of the Holy Ghost, for this small four letter word makes all the difference in your experience with the Holy Ghost, and the testimony you have among men within the earth.

            Oh we must needs recognize the powerful language that is found within these passages of Scripture and understand that what was needed during this time—in addition to the ministry of the apostles who preached and taught the word of God—was men who were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. Please do not miss and lose sight of this, for it would be very easy to read this passage and think about and consider that the only thing that was needed was simply the apostles, and that was it. The truth of the matter, however, is that in order for the early Church to continue being that which it was called, ordained and appointed to be was for men who were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom to rise up among them in their midst. Of course we know and understand that the apostles would indeed be present among them in their midst, however, there was an additional need during those days and at that time for others who were willing to step up and come alongside the ministry among the early Church. Although the apostles were fulfilling that which they themselves were called to do there was a need for others to begin to rise up and step into that for which they were called to do. What we must needs recognize and understand is that the apostles were indeed fulfilling that for which they were called, and that for which they had been appointed by the Lord, but in order for the body to truly become that which it was conceived and created to do there would need to be others who would begin to step into that for which they had been raised up. It wasn’t enough for the apostles to simply carry out their assignment and their work without others beginning to rise up and step into that which they themselves had been called, ordained and appointed by the living God. If there is one thing I truly love and appreciate when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that what we are witnessing is the beginning of others within the spiritual body of Christ beginning to rise up and enter into that which they had been called, ordained and appointed. What we find with the ordaining and appointing of the seven deacons in the Church was others who in addition to the apostles would rise up and step into that for which they had been called to do. The apostles would continue fulfilling their own assignment given them by the Lord Jesus, however, what we must needs recognize and understand is that the need before them was too great for them to handle alone. There were twelve apostles who were essentially responsible for leading the early Church there in the city of Jerusalem, and during those days and times it would experience growth from one-hundred and twenty, to three-thousand, and upwards of five-thousand individuals.

            Pause for a moment and think about twelve men—even twelve men who walked with Jesus, and who were now endowed and filled with the Holy Spirit—being responsible for five thousand souls which were part of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ. What’s interesting to note is that this number of five thousand wouldn’t be the first time it was used in Scripture, for within the gospels we find how Jesus fed five thousand men plus women and children with seven loaves of bread and two fish. Not only this, but we also read how Jesus would also feed four thousand in the same manner. It’s worth noting that within this passage we find the spiritual body of Christ growing to upwards of five thousand souls, and the reason for the deacons being ordained and appointed being due to certain of the Grecian widows not being cared for, and otherwise neglected. When we come to the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the spiritual body of Christ growing to at least a minimum of five thousand souls—perhaps even more in number than this number would even suggest. The words which are found within this chapter is actually a stark contrast to how the disciples were ordained and appointed by Jesus in the feeding of both the five thousand the four thousand, as on both occasions Jesus would bless and break the loaves of bread and the fishes and would have the disciples essentially “wait tables.” The twelve apostles called the multitude of the disciples unto them and declared unto them how it was not reason for them to leave the work of God, and serve tables. Because it was not reason or meet for them to leave the work of God to serve tables they were to look among themselves seven men who were of honest report, who were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, and whom they would be able to appoint unto this business. Please do not miss and lose sight of this awesome and powerful truth and reality for it draws and calls us to acknowledge the emergence of seven men within and among the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ to rise up among them to assist with this work of caring for the widows—perhaps even the orphans as well.

            WHEN TWELVE BECOMES NINETEEN! I sit here right now and can’t help but think about the fact that while the LORD would daily add unto the Church such as should be saved, and would essentially multiply the number of disciples and followers during those days, it would be the Church itself that would serve in the process of addition. It would be during the initial days of the early Church that the twelve apostles would be those who would be given to the work of ministering among the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus the Christ, and yet there would come a point in time when the work would become too great and too much for the apostles to handle among themselves. Pause and think about this absolutely tremendous and powerful truth and reality that the work of the Lord among the spiritual body of Christ would be so exponential and so incredible that eventually it would become bigger than the apostles themselves would be able to handle. While the LORD was multiplying the disciples and followers among and within the early Church of Jesus the Christ the Church itself would engage in the act and process of addition as they would add seven men of honest report who were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom whom they could appoint and ordain over this work. What I so love about this is the fact that during those days—because the work would be so much greater than the apostles would handle themselves there would need to be the appointment of seven men which would be chosen from among them whom they could appoint and ordain to work in this ministry within and among the widows. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth and reality, for what we find here is essentially the beginning of others among and within the early Church of Jesus the Christ being called upon to step and enter into that for which they were called, and that for which they were raised up. It would be during this time—this time when the work would become much bigger and much greater than the apostles—that these seven men would be called upon to step into the work and ministry appointed and ordained unto and of them by the living God. We must needs recognize and understand that these seven men who were be appointed by the early Church were chosen from among them, thus indicating that the resources they needed were present among themselves.

            THERE’S NO NEED TO LOOK ELSEWHERE! THERE’S NO NEED TO LOOK OUTSIDE YOURSELVES! THAT WHICH YOU NEED IS FOUND RIGHT THERE WITH AND AMONG YOU! WHY DO YOU LOOK ON THE OUTSIDE FOR THAT WHICH IS FOUND PRESENT ON THE INSIDE? Oh how much I absolutely love and appreciate that which is found within this passage of Scripture, for not only was the work so much greater than the apostles, but also when it came time to anoint and appoint seven men who would step and enter into this work the early Church and spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ would choose from among themselves seven men who would be able to step into this work. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for it reveals something truly powerful as when the time came for seven men to be chosen and raised up for the specific purpose of serving the widows—perhaps even the orphans and the poor which were among them—they would be raised up from among themselves. They would not need to look outside of themselves for that which would help with the ministry of the orphans and widows, for there were seven men whom the Lord would raise up and set aside specifically for this purpose. I am sure that these men did not think they would be ordained, appointed, called and chosen to assist in the work of the ministry of the spiritual body of Christ which was the Church, and yet because the work was so much greater and so much bigger than the twelve apostles their appointment would take place within and among the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ. Stop and truly take the time to think about and consider this, for it reveals something that is absolutely vital and crucial within and among us as the body of Christ in these Last Days—namely, the opportunity that was given unto these seven men to rise up and step into that for which they were called and that for which they were appointed.

            If there is one thing I find absolutely captivating within this passage it’s that when we come to the third chapter we find the apostles beginning to step into that for which they were called and appointed by the Lord Jesus the Christ, and yet when we come to the sixth chapter we find this reality extending beyond the disciples which would become apostles of the Lord Jesus the Christ. In the third chapter of this New Testament book we find the disciples beginning to step into that for which they were called, ordained and appointed by the Lord Jesus the Christ, and in the sixth chapter we find seven additional men stepping into that for which they were called and that for which they were appointed. Scripture is entirely and unclear as to whether or not these men were perhaps among those who were present in the upper room and were numbered the one-hundred and twenty and/or whether or not these seven men were numbered among the upwards of five hundred to whom the resurrected Jesus Christ showed Himself alive after emerging from the grave very much alive. We don’t know whether or not these men walked with and followed Jesus among all the disciples who followed and walked with Jesus during those three and a half years Jesus walked upon the face of the earth, and yet what we do know from the sixth chapter is the time came for these men to rise up and step into that for which they were called. We do know that Nicolas—one of the seven—was a proselyte of Antioch and was chosen among the seven to enter into this ministry and work within the body of Christ. Oh how much I absolutely love and appreciate that which is found within these chapters, for what is found within them is a powerful picture and manifestation of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ expanding beyond simply the apostles who were engaged in the work to now seven additional men who would be appointed to serve among the widows. What’s more, is I would dare say that if these men served among the widows during those days of the early Church, so also would these men serve among the orphans and the poor among them. We dare not and must not think that what these men were called to was somehow inferior to that which the apostles had been called, ordained and appointed to, for Scripture reveals how the LORD has another people—a people which are oftentimes forgotten among us within our generation.

            GOD’S FORGOTTTEN PEOPLE AND THE APPOINTMENT OF THE SEVEN! If you read and study the Scripture you will find that in addition to the children and nation of Israel, and in addition to the body and bride of Jesus Christ there is another group of people who had the attention, the heart and mind of the living and eternal God. The more we read and the more we study Scripture the more we must recognize and understand that there is indeed a people found within the entirety of Scripture who are at the very forefront of the heart and mind of God—a people who the LORD has commanded His people to look after and care for. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize that even as early as the children of Israel in the wilderness the living and eternal God commanded and instructed His people to look after and to care for the orphans and the widows, and to look after and care for the poor. It would have been very easy to look after and neglect the orphans and the widows among the people of Israel during those days after they entered into the land which had been given them by the LORD, and yet the LORD specifically instructed them to not neglect and to not despise the poor among them. The Lord specifically instructed them not to neglect the orphans and the widows which were present among them, but to diligently look after and care for them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for what we find within and throughout Scripture is this powerful and clarion call given unto the children of Israel—and not only unto the children of Israel, but also unto the spiritual Israel which is the spiritual body of Christ and the Church of Jesus the Christ—to look after and care for the orphans and the widows. What we find and what we read in the sixth chapter is not somehow a task and assignment that was inferior to that which the apostles were doing, for the LORD takes care for and care of widows very seriously. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and powerful truth, for the LORD takes very seriously the care, the concern and the love for the orphans, and the widows and the poor. You cannot read the Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the powerful truth that the LORD does indeed have this people who would otherwise be forgotten, despised, marginalized and overlooked by many throughout history. That task, that assignment and that mission which these seven were called to was not something that was somehow beneath the work and ministry of the kingdom and of the Lord Jesus the Christ, for throughout the gospels you will find the Lord Jesus consistently interacting with widows, and with the poor, and with those who would otherwise be despised, rejected, ignored, vilified and marginalized within earth.

            GOD’S FORGOTTEN PEOPLE AND STEPPING INTO THE MINSITRY OF THE BODY! GOD’S FORGOTTEN PEOPLE AND OTHERS RISING UP TO THE OCCASION OF THE NEED THAT IS PRESENT AMONG THEM WITHIN THE BODY! GOD’S FORGOTTEN PEOPLE AND THE NEED FOR MEN AND WOMEN TO STEP INTO THAT PLACE OF NEED! I sit here thinking about and considering the awesome and powerful truth of what is found and contained within the sixth chapter and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and beautiful reality that within this chapter we not only find a powerful and profound invitation to look after and care for this forgotten people which are very much in the heart of the living God, but also an invitation given unto seven men to begin stepping into that for which they had been called. There is not a doubt in my mind that these seven men were called, chosen, ordained and appointed even before this particular occasion, for they were prepared for this very moment within time and this very moment within the history of the body of Christ. What’s more, is I absolutely love that which is found in this text, for what is presented here brings us face to face with the awesome reality that one of the core and fundamental responsibilities and assignments of the early Church and spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ is to look after, to care for, and to tend to the orphans, the widows and the poor among us. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this—particularly and especially when we read the words which are found in the final verses of the second chapter, as well as the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this New Testament book. It is in the second chapter we find the following words: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47). In the fourth chapter we find the following words: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great grace was upon them all. NEITHER WAS THRE ANY AMONG THEM THAT LACKED: FOR AS MANY AS WERE POSSESSORS OF LANDS OF HOUESS SOLD THEM, AND BROUGHT THE PRICES OF THE THINGS THAT WERE SOLD, AND LAID THEM DOWN AT THE APOSTLES’ FEET: AND DISTRIBUTION WAS MADE UNTO EVERY MAN ACCORDING AS HE HAD NEED. AND JOSES, WHO BY THE APOSTLES WAS SURNAMED BARNABAS, (WHICH IS, BEING INTERPRETED, THE SON OF CONSOLATION,) A LEVITE, AND OF THE COUNTRY OF CYPRUS, HAVING LAND, SOLD IT, AND BROUGHT THE MONEY, AND LAID IT AT THE APOSTLES’ FEET” (Acts 4:32-36).

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the awesome truth that is found in the sixth chapter and I can’t help but find within it what I would dare say is essentially another manifestation and demonstration of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ in the midst of the earth. The more I read and consider these words the more I am brought face to face with the truth that when we speak about the assignment the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ has within and upon the earth the more I am brought face to face with the truth that while there is a great need for the demonstration of power in the earth there is also a mighty and tremendous need for a ministry of compassion. I fully and completely believe that for the Church to truly be the spiritual body of Christ and walk in the earth as the Word which was made flesh and dwelt among us did there is indeed a great demonstration and manifestation of the power of the Spirit in the ministry we engage in. With that being said, however, I am convinced that there is sometimes—yea, perhaps even oftentimes—something that is often overlooked. There is not a doubt in my mind that there is something that isn’t given as much consideration as the demonstration and manifestation of power—something which I am convinced is intrinsically linked and connected to the demonstration of the power of the Spirit, but is at times manifested without and apart from that power. We read the words which are found within this chapter we do in fact read concerning the seven who were chosen and appointed and how they were men who were of honorable report and men who were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. We read of Stephen how he was not only a man who was full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, but was also a man who was full of faith and power. We know that Stephen did great wonders and miracles among the people, and yet what we oftentimes fail to realize and recognize when reading the words which are found in this chapter is that this chapter isn’t necessarily one that is centered upon the demonstration of power but rather the manifestation of compassion among the body of Christ—and not only among the body of Christ, but I would even dare say among all those in need among us and outside and apart from us.

            As you read the words written and recorded within this passage of Scripture you will encounter and come face to face with the absolutely powerful truth that at the very heart of this chapter is the widows which were present among the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ, and the apparent neglect of the widows in the daily ministration. Essentially there is this element and aspect of neglect and forgetting which was present during the days of the early Church, and whether or not it was willful, deliberate and intentional is entirely and altogether unclear. I would dare say that based on what we find and read in the final verses of the second chapter, as well as what we read in the final verses of the fourth chapter that which we read in this chapter is not deliberate and intentional neglect of the Grecian widows which were present among the early Church. If there is one thing I can’t help but realize and recognize when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the ministry within and the ministry among the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ had quite possibly become too great for the twelve apostles to handle alone and by themselves. Despite the fact that Jesus from the right hand of the Father had sent the person, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and despite the fact that the twelve apostles were indeed filled with the Holy Spirit, the work which was before them was truly and indeed much greater than they themselves. If there is one thing the text reveals it’s that even with the person and presence of the Holy Spirit the work which is before us bigger than one particular individual, and is bigger than even twelve men who were appointed by Jesus Himself, and who were filled with the Holy Spirit. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly spectacular truth, for it brings us face to face with the reality that there are times when the work and the ministry which is before us is much greater than what we can indeed handle in and of ourselves. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth, for it has the awesome and powerful ability to radically transform how we view and how we do ministry.

            I am sitting here this morning on what is and has been commonly known as Veterans Day—a day when America celebrates and honors all those who have served this country in the armed forces throughout the years since the founding of the nation. Today is a day when we celebrate and honor all those who have served this nation in conflict, in battles, in wars, and the like. If there is one thing I can’t help but think about and consider when reading these words, however, it’s that the mission and the assignment was much greater and much larger than any one soldier. If you look at any war this nation has entered into, if you look at any battle this nation has fought, and if you look at any conflict this nation has needed to engage itself in—the mission was much greater than one single individual and person. What’s more, is that there was no war, nor was there any battle that was won solely based on one single person who single handedly determined the outcome of the war. Of course we know and understand that there were certain men who rose to the occasion and led other men in a mission and assignment that would help determine the outcome of the war and/or the battle, however, there has never been a single war, nor has there ever been a single battle that has been won by a single man on the battlefield. It is true that one man can lead other men, however, I cannot think of a single example when one man single handedly won a battle or even the war solely by himself. It is with this in mind I cannot help but think about what we find and read within the New Testament book of Acts, and how although within and surrounding the very first miracle we witness and experience within the book does indeed center around the apostles Peter and John, we eventually and ultimately reach the point and the place where the ministry within and the ministry among the body of Christ is so much greater than one single individual. What’s more, is that I would even dare say that the ministry within and the ministry of the body is so much greater than even twelve individuals—even if those individuals are the apostles of Jesus the Christ and have been anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit. If there is one thing the sixth chapter demonstrates and reveals unto us it’s that the work within the body of Christ had become much greater and much larger than even the apostles themselves could handle by themselves, and when it came to the daily ministration there were those among them who were neglected.

The opening verses of the sixth chapter wonderfully and powerfully paints the picture that the Grecian widows which were present among the body of Christ were neglected, and I cannot help but encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that what we are reading is a tremendous reality concerning the work which had truly and indeed become greater than what the twelve apostles could themselves handle. We know within this text that the twelve apostles sought to continue in teaching and preaching the word of God among the people, and in order to ensure that there was proper care which would take place within and among the body there would need to be seven men chosen and appointed from among them who could be appointed over this ministry of compassion. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for it brings us face to face with the undeniable truth that not only had the work and the ministry become so much greater than the twelve apostles—perhaps even the one-hundred and twenty who were present within the upper room—had even thought or imagined. Almost overnight the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ on the earth the church had increased and multiplied exponentially, as it would grow from one-hundred and twenty to upwards of five thousand disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. With that being said there was bound to be the need for others to rise up in the midst of the need—others who would step into that for which they had been called, chosen, ordained and appointed. Although Stephen, Philip and the other seven deacons perhaps were not among those appointed and ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ as we find and read in the New Testament book of Acts—the appointment and ordaining of the twelve disciples, as well as the appointment and ordaining of the other seventy whom Christ sent out—we must needs recognize and realize that these seven men would receive a great calling and a great challenge within and among the body. Not only this, but these seven men weren’t necessarily chosen from among the early Church to demonstrate signs, wonders and miracles—although I am absolutely and entirely sure that there would definitely need to be that presence within and among the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ. We know that Stephen was a man who was full of faith and power, and one who did great signs and wonders among them, however, what we must needs realize when reading this passage of Scripture is that the greatest need before the early Church was the ministry of compassion. If you journey to the final verse of the opening chapter of the epistle James you will find the following words which were written: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which is found within this text, for what James writes must be understood among us as the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ in the earth within this generation. James writes in this verse how pure religion which is undefiled before God and the Father is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. Now I fully realize that there is a second part to this—namely, keeping oneself unspotted from the world—however I would like to choose to dwell solely on this visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, for what we find in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is the Grecians believers within the body of Christ saw that their widows were being neglected in the daily ministration within the body of Christ. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this truly captivating reality and truth, for what we find within us in the text is not only the demonstration that the work and ministry being greater than twelve men could fulfill and accomplish during those days, but also there was a great need for compassion—and not only compassion, but compassion among the widows which were being neglected in the daily ministration. Essentially that which we find within this passage of Scripture is a powerful statement and declaration that these widows were not being cared for and were not being looked after—not only the way the Grecians themselves believed needed to happen, but perhaps even as it was written and recorded within Scripture. This is important for us to note and understand, for one of the greatest needs which is present among us as the spiritual body of Christ it is the ministry of compassion among those who are present within and among us. We must needs recognize and understand this, for when these seven men were chosen—these seven men who were of honorable report and who were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom—they were chosen to engage themselves in the ministry of compassion which was present within and among the body of Christ during those days. We must needs recognize and truly understand that the greatest need which was present before the body of Christ during these days was not the need for signs, nor the need for wonders, nor even the need for miracles, but rather the need for compassion and the need for care among the body of Christ.

I have to admit that as I am writing these words there have been countless times throughout my lifetime when a great emphasis has been placed solely and specifically on signs, on wonders and on miracles needed among us, and we have placed all of our focus on this demonstration and manifestation among us. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand, however, is that in order for us to truly be the spiritual body of Jesus within the earth, and in order for us to truly be those who step into and fulfill that which He began and carried out during those three and a half years He walked among us in the earth we must needs be men and women who are willing to walk in the ministry of compassion and care among those who are in need and among those who are afflicted. Even when you turn and direct your attention back to the first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah you will find it written by the prophet according to the word of the LORD that we are to “learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” RELIEVE THE OPPRESSED! JUDGE THE FATHERLESS! PLEAD FOR THE WIDOW! THE OPPRESSED! THE FATHERLESS! THE WIDOW! Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this awesome truth, for while there is indeed a great and tremendous need for signs, for wonders and miracles, there is also a great—perhaps not just as great a need for compassion and care as there is for the demonstration and manifestation of power. Not only this, but if we turn and direct our attention to the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the words of Jesus the Christ, and how there would be those who would be separated on His right hand and those who would be separated on His left hand. The fundamental distinction and difference between these individuals is not based on those who performed signed, those who performed wonders, and those who performed miracles, but rather it is based on the demonstration of care and compassion within the earth. Not only is the fundamental difference between these two the ministry of care and compassion, but also that ministry of care and compassion which was directed toward Jesus the Christ. That which we find and that which we read in this passage of Scripture is not only a powerful picture of how a distinction and dividing line was drawn between those who did in fact engage themselves in the ministry of care and compassion, but a powerful picture of how that care and compassion was about more than just those whom they interacted with in the physical and natural realm, but about that care and compassion which was demonstrated toward Jesus Himself. What’s more, is that directly linked to this particular text is the words which Jesus the Christ spoke concerning those who performed great signs, great wonders, and great miracles in the midst of the earth and yet could in fact hear the Lord declare unto them, “Depart from me ye worker of iniquity; I never knew you.”

Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must recognize and understand is that in that great day when the sheep and the goats will be separated in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, they won’t be separated based on the signs, the wonders and the miracles which they performed, nor would they be separated based on the number of signs, wonders and miracles they performed. It would be very easy to think and consider how this might be the case, and yet as you read the text you will find that the fundamental and profound difference between the sheep and the goats which would be separated before Jesus the Christ in that great day was based solely and entirely on their demonstration and manifestation of care and compassion within the earth. It’s interesting to note that it is possible to perform and engage in great signs, wonders and miracles in the earth and still hear the Lord command you to depart from Him—not only because you were a worker of iniquity, but also because He never knew you. What’s more, is that it is possible to hear those words instructing and commanding us to depart from the person and presence of Jesus the Christ because we neglected the ministry of care and compassion that was so critically and vitally needed within the earth during the generation in which we lived, moved and walked upon the earth. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this truly astounding truth and reality, for what we find within this text in the New Testament book of Acts is not an appointment unto signs, unto wonders and unto miracles, but an appointment unto grace, an appointment unto compassion and an appointment unto care. Oh it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we come face to face with this and allow it to truly penetrate the depths of our heart, our souls, and our spirits. The more I read the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that what is before us is not only an appointment unto compassion and care, but also a powerful demonstration and manifestation that the work of the body of Christ had become much greater than what was anticipated and expected. As a direct result of the tremendous growth and increase within the spiritual body of Christ there was neglect which took place—and not only neglect, but neglect of widows among them. A complaint was raised concerning the neglect of these widows in the daily ministration, and the solution and answer was the appointment of seven among them who were men of honourable report, and men who were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. Oh one thing we must needs recognize and understand that just as much as the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Ghost is needed for signs, wonders and miracles, it is also needed for care and compassion.

We tend to think and consider that the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit is needed solely for teaching and preaching, and solely for the demonstration and manifestation of signs, wonders and miracles, and yet we completely neglect and fail to understand and recognize that the presence and person of the Holy Spirit is needed just as much for care and compassion as it is for signs and wonders. There would be those among us who would like to think and consider that the power of the Holy Spirit is needed solely for teaching and preaching, and is not necessary for the ministry of care and compassion, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not true, nor is it at all the case among us within the earth. There would be those among us who would like to think that the power of the Holy Spirit is needed solely for signs, wonders and miracles, and is not at all needed for the demonstration and manifestation of care and compassion. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is nothing further from the truth and nothing that is more damaging, destructive and dangerous than thinking and believing that the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit is needed solely for signs, wonders and miracles. In fact, what we must needs realize and recognize is that the fruit which the apostle Paul wrote about was just as much a work and product of the Holy Spirit as the gifts of the Holy Spirit were. We would like to devote a great deal of time, effort and energy on to thinking and believing that the gifts are the only product of the Holy Spirit, and we fail to recognize and understand that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is just as much as product that is needed among us within the earth. I have to admit that one of the things I absolutely love about what is found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is how when they were choosing, when they were ordaining, and when they were appointing seven men from among them—they not only chose men who were of honorable report, but they also chose from among them seven men who were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. Pause for a  moment and think about just how incredibly powerful this is when you truly consider it in light of the totality of Scripture and what is presented before and unto us from the opening book of Genesis. You cannot read the entirety of the canon of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely awesome and powerful truth that one of the single greatest needs present among us is that of care and compassion—and not only care and compassion, for relieving the oppressed, judging the fatherless, and caring for the widows.

One of the single greatest things I realize and recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture is when you think about and consider how these seven men were chosen because they were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. WE must needs recognize and understand that the Holy Ghost and wisdom is just as necessary and critical for the ministry of care and compassion as it is for signs, wonders and miracles. These seven men were chosen from among and within the body of Christ that they might step into something that was much greater and something much bigger than themselves. There would be those who would think that what these men were called to was somehow inferior and beneath that for which the apostles themselves were ordained and appointed to, and yet the truth of the matter is that what these men were called and appointed to was just as vital, was just as necessary and was just as critical as that which the apostles were ordained and appointed to do. The words and language of “serving tables” was mentioned in the text which is before us, however, one thing we must needs recognize and understand is that serving tables is sometimes just as necessary and just as vital as healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out unclean spirits, cleansing the lepers, and the like. We tend to think and forget about the absolute necessity for the ministry of care and compassion among us within the body of Christ, and we tend to think and consider that signs, wonders and miracles is the only thing that is necessary among us and the only thing that makes a difference. Perhaps one of the greatest things I love about the text which is before us in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is the fact that not only was Stephen among seven who were chosen to help with the care of widows—perhaps even with the care of the poor, the oppressed, the afflicted and the needy among the body of Christ—but he also was a man who was full of faith and power, and one who did many great signs and wonders among the people. There is within the narrative and life of Stephen—not only a powerful picture of one who was appointed for the ministry of care and compassion, but also a picture of one who was used to engage in signs and wonders among the body of Christ. What an absolutely wonderful and powerful picture it is to think about and consider that within this text we see a truly wonderful and remarkable picture of one who was appointed for the ministry of care and compassion, and yet one who was also used in signs and wonders.

CAN YOU BE ENTRUSTED WITH SIGNS AND WONDERS? I sit here today thinking about and considering the text which is before us, and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that while it was indeed true that Stephen was a man full of faith and power and performed great signs and wonders within and among the body of Christ, I would dare say that what qualified and positioned him to be used in this particular manner was his willingness to engage fully and completely in the ministry of care and compassion. Oh how many among us are asking to be used in the demonstration and manifestation of power with signs, wonders and miracles and yet we can’t even be entrusted with the ministry of care and compassion? How many of us can’t even handle the task and assignment of ministering among the orphans, the widows, the oppressed, the afflicted, and the needy among us, and yet we somehow think and expect the Lord will entrust us with the demonstration of signs, wonders and miracles? There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find and what we read within this text is a powerful picture of one who could indeed and could in fact be entrusted with the ministry of care and compassion, and as a direct result of his being able to be entrusted with the ministry of care and compassion he would and could be entrusted with signs, with wonders and with miracles. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly astonishing and remarkable reality, for it brings us face to face with something that is so absolutely critical and vital within the body of Christ—namely, that there are many of us who are wondering how and why we aren’t being used in the demonstration and manifestation of power with signs, wonders and miracles, and yet we fail to realize and understand is that we simply can’t be entrusted with signs, wonders and miracles. Would it shock and surprise you to think and consider that one of the greatest litmus tests, and one of the greatest gauges for whether or not you can handle signs, wonders and miracles is whether or not you are able to handle the ministry of care and compassion? Would it shock and surprise you to think that one of the greatest means and methods of determining whether or not you can be entrusted with signs, with wonders and with miracles is whether or not you can be entrusted with relieving the oppressed, judging the fatherless, and caring for the widows?

Oh we must needs pay close and careful attention to that which is found within this text, for what is presented before and unto us is a powerful picture that more often than not what positions and qualifies us to be able to be used in the demonstration and manifestation of signs, wonders and miracles is our ability to be entrusted with the ministry of care and compassion. We would like to think that it is all about signs, it is all about wonders, and it is all about miracles, and we fail to realize the absolute necessity before and among us to be those who can be entrusted with and trusted to engage in the ministry of care and compassion. There are men and women among us who are waiting to be used in the demonstration of signs, wonders and miracles, and yet that which the Lord Jesus Christ is waiting for is their faithfulness in being used in the ministry of care and compassion. Oh we must needs recognize and truly understand and come to terms with this, for it is something which helps us to understand and recognize the absolutely powerful and incredible need that is before us within this generation. There is an absolutely great and powerful need present before, among and within us for men and women who are able to be entrusted with care and compassion—those men and women who are able to be entrusted with the ministry of the oppressed, the ministry of the fatherless and the ministry of the widows. WE dare not, we cannot and must not miss the point and choose to focus solely on the side of signs, wonders and miracles that we completely and utterly neglect the ministry that is needed within and among the poor, the needy, the afflicted and the oppressed among us. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how one of the greatest tests of whether or not we are truly able to handle the ministry of care and compassion among those who are in need among us. There are many among us who are asking themselves—even asking God the Father Himself—how and why they aren’t being used in the demonstration and manifestation of power with signs, wonders and miracles, and yet the living and eternal God is emphatically declaring unto them that they cannot be entrusted with signs, with wonders and with miracles because they can’t be trusted with care and compassion. Until and unless they show themselves faithful in and with the ministry of care and compassion they dare not, they ought not, and they must not think they can somehow receive from the Lord the ability to be used in the demonstration and manifestation of signs, wonders and miracles.

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to not only ask you whether or not you are willing to be so emptied of yourself that you can be full of God, but also whether or not you can indeed be entrusted with the ministry of signs, wonders and miracles. There is not a doubt in my mind that what is presented before us in this text is not only a powerful picture of the need to be so emptied of ourselves that we can be filled with and full of God, but also a powerful picture of our need to be entrusted with the ministry of care and compassion before we even think we can somehow engage ourselves in the demonstration of signs, wonders and miracles. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this absolutely wonderful and powerful truth and reality, for until and unless we are willing to truthfully and honestly examine ourselves and come to terms with these realities within our lives we ought not and must not think—even for a moment—that we can expect to be used in the demonstration and manifestation of signs, wonders and miracles if we can’t even care for the fatherless and the widows among us. How dare we think—even for a moment—that we can somehow be entrusted with the demonstration of signs, wonders and miracles if we can’t even plead for the afflicted, the oppressed and the needy among us. How dare we think and believe that we can somehow shirk our responsibility to look after and care for the afflicted, the oppressed, the poor and the needy among us, and that we can somehow be entrusted with signs, with wonders and with miracles. WE ought not think that we can and/or should expect this manifestation and demonstration within our lives if, unless and until we can indeed be entrusted with the care, the concern and the compassion for orphans, for widows, for the oppressed, for the afflicted, for the poor and for the needy among us. Oh that we would truly be willing to examine ourselves and ask whether or not we can indeed and can in fact be entrusted with such great power as signs wonders and miracles if we can’t even be entrusted with the ministry of care and compassion among those who so desperately need it. Oh that we would begin looking for those opportunities to engage ourselves in this ministry of care and compassion, and that we would truly recognize and understand that there is a great and powerful need among us to be men and women who can indeed be entrusted with care and compassion as we look after and care for the poor, the afflicted, the oppressed and the needy among us.

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