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Christianity’s Close Call (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
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July 22, 2022 6:00 am

Christianity’s Close Call (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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July 22, 2022 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the book of the Acts

Core Christianity
Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
Core Christianity
Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
Core Christianity
Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
Core Christianity
Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier

That's discipleship. That's Christianity in action.

Who doesn't want this? What Christian doesn't want to see this happen? What Christian does not want to be a part of another person's life in Christ, coming to Christ? The minute you step into the church, you are a part of God's process.

It is a big deal. Otherwise, Satan and the world would not invest so much in trying to keep you out of a church. This is Cross-Reference Radio with our pastor and teacher Rick Gaston. Rick is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville. Pastor Rick is currently teaching through the Book of Acts.

Please stay with us after today's message to hear more information about Cross-Reference Radio, specifically how you can get a free copy of this teaching. But for now, let's join Pastor Rick in the Book of Acts chapter 6 as he begins his message, Christianity's Close Call. We'll take verses 1 through 7 in the Book of Acts chapter 6. Acts chapter 6 verses 1 through 7.

We will begin. So in those days when the number of disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the Twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word, and the saying, Please the multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmeas, and Nicholas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles, and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

Then the word of God spread, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were also obedient to the faith. In this chapter, as in the preceding, Satan's two master methods are deployed, again endeavoring to upset the progress of God's work. There is the outward persecution and the inward dissension.

That's what we have here, problems from within. How many of you and how many Christians are aware of how close the Bible came to becoming a secondary thing in the early church? What would have been the outcome if when the apostles were faced with serving the body meals, what would have happened if they said, Okay, whatever you need, prayers and time in the scriptures, that can wait. What would have happened to Christianity? It would have been scriptural to make scripture secondary.

Could you imagine that? It would have been put into our doctrine. Who realizes this? How many Christians are ever mindful? How many people do you know know this? I'm not saying that to say, Oh, you didn't know, but I am at the same time trying to stress this point. Christianity, as we know it from the scripture, almost wiped out what the Old Testament teaches about God's word and almost left us with a secondary Bible, works being more important than words of God.

This is a big deal. Christianity faced three death threats in the days of the apostles, three outstanding death threats to our faith, this being the first one. Later at Antioch, Judaism almost snatched Christianity into it and would have reduced it to being a sect of Judaism had Paul not stood up to Peter and Barnabas and said, Not so. That would have been a death blow to our faith. The Judaizers, who we may come across again before this session is over at the end of the session, the other death threat to our faith came by way of the Gnostics. But the apostles were there to deal with it and we have it in their writings. It's one of the reasons why John's first letter is so difficult to follow because John's audience knew he was addressing Gnosticism.

They did not have to give them a class on Gnosticism. Today, we look back 2,000 years and we have to put the puzzle together. When we realize that, okay, this is what John is dealing with, the letter makes a lot of sense. This, of course, the first of the three. Here, calling the pastors away from the essentials.

That's what was happening in this section. The apostles saw it. The people did not see it. If the apostles had waited for the people to see it, then Christianity would have suffered and would never have recovered. All three near death blows were halted by the apostles of Jesus Christ and for a reason.

The reasons are obvious, I think, once we get them out in front. But where did this come from? How did these men get this?

Where did they learn that their role was not to be overruled by social programs? Where did they learn this? Did they just make it up? Did they just perceive it?

Well, they got it from our Lord. One of the first episodes of someone trying to reduce the word of God, and this was involuntary. This was by people who loved Jesus. People who loved Jesus were trying to reduce the word of God and they didn't even know it. And one of the first ones was Martha. That story is in Luke chapter 10. I wish we had the time to dig into it a little bit more.

I'll just take excerpts from it. The Bible says Martha was distracted. These apostles were almost distracted. And of course she protested to the Lord. She confronted him.

My sister Mary is there enjoying a Bible study and I'm making all these meals by myself. You could hear the pots slamming and the cabinet doors. She wasn't happy. But she brought that on herself. No one said, hey, it would be nice to have some food, Martha.

Why don't you run in the kitchen real quick and cook something up? What was Jesus' response to Martha's complaint? That the word was primary to Mary and Martha wanted that to stop. Jesus said this to her, but one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that good part which will not be taken away from her. Now this does not give license to the abuse of Bible teaching where good works mean nothing. We just teach the word.

That would be silly. But this is an echo of Job's passion. Job in the midst of all of his pain and suffering.

He is a man that just had come to hate life. He was so confused about what God was doing. God was not confused. Job said, I have not departed from the commandment of his lips. I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

That's a pretty heavy statement. I need God's word in my life more than I need food. I'd rather die than not have God's word. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word, every word, every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And yet this is not practice.

It's widespread. Disregard for these truths are widespread in Christianity. They take fragments of the scripture that they like, I guess, and just do away with the rest. This teaching about the importance of God's word is crystal clear. It is as clear as the Ten Commandments. There's nothing about the Ten Commandments that make you scratch your head and say, I wonder what that means. Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal. Hmm. I'm not supposed to have any other gods. What does that mean?

They're all very clear. And yet this is routinely bypassed. Ever see a church where the pastor does everything but invest himself in the scripture?

Have you ever attended a church like that, especially long term? Satan knows this, but many Christians miss it. Otherwise it wouldn't be prevalent.

It wouldn't be all over the place. There are many churches in session right now and they're not preaching from the word of God. Thank God there are others that are preaching. Compassion is still expected from us as disciples of Christ. But when the church gets too involved in human needs, failure is certain. It is certain to gobble that church up and make it into something Christ never wanted it to be. The tale right here in this section of scripture is ready to wag the dog.

They're not going to have it. Far less important would have become dominant. Dictating behaviors and reversing the roles that were God given. You younger Christians, are you understanding that I'm giving you bullets? I'm giving you bullets for your weapons for Christ.

Learn these things at an early age and develop them for the rest of your life. Don't miss out on it. Don't be preoccupied with when is the service going to end.

Occupy yourself with what is this man saying to me? Because if it is coming from the scripture, it is for me. God singling you out at your age.

Saying to you by name, this is for you. This is scriptural. The apostles unconfused the church about her assignment. Because the people were now, you know, hey, we'll get to why these people were coming into the church.

Why this situation was created. We got to it back in chapter 4. We're covered again. God will use this attack, and this is an attack, through otherwise good people. Satan in his subtle ways. He uses this attack, God does, to raise up gallant servants.

Stephen and Philip, of course, being the two most prominent. This service that God brings out of this continues to this day. Now we look at verse 1.

With all of that hopefully in mind, we're not hopefully going to lose sight of any of that. Because it is critical. Christianity had a close call.

It dodged a bullet on this day. Now in those days, verse 1, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists. Because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Now as typical in the Bible, the writers alternate between events and stories.

Not being too mindful always of the timeline. This is still in the very early, probably the first year of Christianity. It goes back now after the whole thing with the apostles healing people and being put in jail and then getting out of jail.

And taking a beating for standing up to the authorities. This was an exciting and dangerous time to be a Christian in Jerusalem. It was exciting physically, it was exciting spiritually. It was dangerous physically, it was dangerous spiritually.

Not much different than now. Here, the prayer is the scripture, the accord of the believers, the growth of the church, the conflict, the persecution, the prisons, the signs and the wonders. Prayer. Prayer is interdependence. If you think prayer makes you dependent, then you're missing it. I believe very strongly in this because I can pray, but if there's no action on my part, then God says, what can I, how can I get this done now?

I am supposed to use your hands, I am supposed to use your mouth. But if it's just all on me, God, then there's a breakdown. Prayer is interdependence. Truth. Truth is preaching God's word, God's will. The facts from Him to us.

The accord, that's the unity. The growth, these things were happening, that was the fruit. Then the conflict, that was the confirmation that they were doing the right thing. That Satan was not going to take this lying down. This is what was happening in Jerusalem at this time. And in the midst of all of that, Satan says, I got a great idea. Let's get the leaders to not value what God says so much.

Let's just reduce it, just shrink it down. Let's get them to stop praying before they start studying. When the number of the disciples was multiplying, it says here in verse 1, no less than 9 times in the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts, does Luke draw our attention to the Christian's growth, to the growth of the church. That the Holy Spirit was moving in the lives of the people. And if that was happening in your community, you would draw attention to it also. A lot of folks are excited about a church that's growing.

Yes, but what is the quality? There's always going to be, hopefully, quality over quantity. You can grow a crowd a lot easier than you can grow a church that bears the qualities of scripture.

Luke mentions great growth twice in this chapter alone. Sheep, healthy sheep begetting sheep. That's discipleship, that's Christianity in action.

Who doesn't want this? What Christian doesn't want to see this happen? What Christian does not want to be a part of another person's life in Christ, coming to Christ? The minute you step into the church, you are a part of God's process.

It is a big deal. Otherwise, Satan and the world would not invest so much in trying to keep you out of a church. Of course, this presupposing it's a church that is pursuing the things that have been given to us in the scripture. But it is unrealistic to expect that the one accord that the apostles enjoyed in the early days would go uncontested. It would be unrealistic. Same with you.

You're doing great in Christianity. It would be unrealistic to suppose that you're not going to have some kind of attack come against you. It could be internal.

You could just get bored with scripture. That's a big attack. It doesn't feel like it when it's happening. But you notice it.

If you are perceptive enough, you know it's a big attack. It says here, there arose a complaint. The Greek word grumbling. Faith fertilizes.

Criticism sterilizes. The wilderness Jews, you know, the ones that came out of Egypt, didn't want to go into the promised land because they didn't believe God's word. They were sentenced to 40 years of wandering. Those Jews complained regularly. And what happened to them? They became expert grave diggers in the desert. That is what happened to them.

What a lesson is in that. Paul didn't want the Corinthians going that route. So he said to the Corinthians in chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians, he says, Nor complain, as some of them also complained and were destroyed by the destroyer. He parks it here for a minute because this is a big point.

He's moving along and making his points and he stops here. And then he says, making this pertinent to us, as long as we're in this world, Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. These things are preserved, Paul said, for we, the church, in the last days, which began with the Christ.

And now we are in the last of the last days, as signaled by all of the technology and world events. Abraham. Abraham left in Canaan, altars everywhere. If you wanted to find Abraham, you just follow the altars. It leads you right to him.

But his offspring in the wilderness, all they left were forgotten graves. You can't find one to this day, because they had become good at complaining. Now that's not entirely what's happening here with these folks. These folks have a valid complaint. But it is an opportunity for us to address something that pops up in all of us, the ease to criticize.

It's so easy. And Elijah, we're talking about Elijah, he just came very easy to Elijah, just criticizing everybody, I'm the only one, and that's that. Anyway, back to what is happening here.

Often the first evidence that Satan is about to strike is through a complaint, especially a petty one. There's no mention that these people were rebuked for their complaining about what was happening, because again, there was an injustice taking place, it was valid, and Luke leaves out any details, he filters out, you know, they don't need to hear, they need to just understand, there was a problem in the early church, and the apostles sprung into action, and the people went with them. And they got it done. That's what Luke is telling us. Problem came up, and everybody in one accord resolved it. It says against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, I'm still in verse one.

Well, who got the extra scoop of ice cream? Well, the Jerusalem Jews, the Jews from Judea, those native to Jerusalem and Judea, those that were really keeping as much distance as possible from the Roman Greco culture that was surrounding them, and they looked at other Jews who did not live in Jerusalem or Judea, came from around the world or even up in Galilee, they looked at them with suspicion, saying to themselves, they're not Jewish enough. They compromise, they're compromising our heritage. They can speak the Hebrew. They're clumsy with the Aramaic. They speak fine Greek, though. That's how they criticize them.

This happens today. Some of the Jews for Jesus are a little like this, right? Oh, you're not a Jewish Christian? Okay, you go sit over there.

It's fallen nature, and we all have to watch it. I mean, I judge people a little bit. I say, oh, you're not bald like me?

Don't do that. Nor do I rejoice when I see someone balder than me. The Hellenist Jews. These were ethnic Jews who practiced Judaism. They were just as devout in their love for Yahweh as the other ones, but they had adopted much of the habits from the Grecian culture. Aristotle was one of the teachers of Alexander the Great, and when Alexander went around conquering places, Aristotle said, hey, assimilate the people to the Grecian culture. Make the whole world Greek.

And he did. By doing this, he gave us a common language to spread the gospel. The world didn't even know God was using them. The Romans were laying down roads everywhere so Paul could come along and preach the gospel and build churches using the Grecian language and the Jewish faith as his foundation.

God always knows what he is doing. Well, these Hellenistic Jews, most of them spent much of their lives outside of Jerusalem and Judea, and it showed, and this was the problem. And so here at Pentecost, remember, the Jews came from all over and thousands of them got saved, and many of them said, we're staying here now.

We have found this new faith. We're going to stay here where the apostles are, and this created overcrowding. Many of them did not have a means of income.

Many of the widows that were accompanying them as family members could not be supported. This was the issue, and the church sprang into action, but there were dangers with it. And that's why to this day, again, the church becomes sidetracked, and she's no longer upholding God's word first and foremost, but started getting into social programs, she stops becoming a church.

And of course I'm going to return to that this morning because I think it's that important. This distribution in the church became a distraction because it was nudging the church very slowly, very deliberately, away from her assignment. We can take away social programs from a church and still have a church, but you can't take the scripture out of the church and still have one.

That's a hard lesson. You can't take away the teaching and the preaching of God's word and still call it seriously the church, the ecclesia, the Lord's. It's not for people to dictate on this. God has spoken, and if they ignore this, I would encourage you to ignore them. Ignore them back. You disagree with God's word, I disagree with you.

I don't even want to hear anymore. You may ask, well, what about love? Jesus taught, you know, love. And you go, of course he did.

But balanced, everything was balanced. Jesus said, for I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me.

And when you did it to the least of these, you did it to me. But he's speaking to individuals, not the church. Individuals make up the church, but they still remain individuals.

We're talking about the assembly. Mark, chapter 14, verse 7. Jesus said, for you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish, you may do to them good. But me, you do not always have. Well, we can say that about scripture. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of the mouth of God. Look, we have this adoration for the word of God because the Bible does. That's why.

It's not something like, well, you know, I like this one. Let's take this one. Better to put a Bible study in a soup kitchen than a soup kitchen in a Bible study. Would you disagree with that? Some don't get it. They don't understand this because they're looking at people first to define God.

Instead of looking at God to define people. Is the church supposed to fix leaky faucets too? I mean, where does it end if the church is about the people? In that way, we are about the people. What does it profit a man if his faucets aren't leaking and he goes to hell?

Well, we're keeping things in perspective. Satan wasn't standing for this. Urgent needs should be met by born again church goers first.

That is the first line. And sometimes the church can and does help. Overlooking fellow believers who are being slighted in their culture, what's happening here in Acts chapter 6, presented a very serious problem. Again, injustice could not be given a pass. People say, well, you know, these Jewish Christians are taking care of those Jewish Christians more than the others, and that's just the way it is. That would have been terrible.

That would have been another crisis in the Christian faith that would have had to have been dealt with. You've been listening to Cross Reference Radio, the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville, Virginia. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, today's teaching is available free of charge at our website. Simply visit That's We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts, right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-20 19:53:10 / 2023-03-20 20:02:58 / 10

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