The Prophet, Priest, and King Ministry of the Apostles in Acts 6
If your priorities in ministry are out of whack, there is no better place for you to turn than Acts 6:1-6. The pastor’s single priority is a triune priority. We are to shepherd God's flock as prophets, priests, and kings. One priority in the three, three priorities in one.
In Acts 6, the apostles model this triune shepherding priority for us.
The apostles had an issue to deal with. The Greek widows were not receiving portions of food, and the Hebrew widows were. “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (6:1). Even in the early days of the church, we see conflict between those who participated in the Old Covenant, and those who didn’t.
As the apostles deal with this issue, they also fulfill their role as prophets, priests, and kings.
The apostles as prophets
This role is clear throughout the NT, and especially the beginning of Acts. Peter and the other apostles teach, and the young Christian community devoted themselves to their teaching (Acts 2:42).
In Acts 6, the apostles declare that their word ministry is the most important thing they do, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (6:2).
So as they confront this issue of favoritism, they do not forsake their main responsibility of teaching.
The apostles as priests
We see the apostles’ commitment to priestly ministry in two ways.
The first was to ensure that the widows were cared for by appointing men “to this duty” (6:3). Caring for widows is ministry of mercy and compassion, a priestly ministry.
But it is not as if the apostles wanted to sit in their study, sport their tweed jackets, and puff their pipes without being bothered by the flock. They were fully committed to priestly ministry themselves, too.
We see this in the second priestly ministry the apostles committed, the ministry of prayer: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (6:4).
The apostles as kings
Lastly, we see the apostles as exemplary kings in these verses.
It’s not explicit on the face the passage, but it is abundantly clear nevertheless. Take note of all the “kingly” actions the apostles take:
1. They held a congregational meeting: “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples” (6:2).
2. They delegated fixing the problem to men who are qualified: “…men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (6:3).
3. They even delegated the task of choosing the delegates! “Therefore, brothers [i.e., the full number the disciples], pick out from among you seven men…” (6:3).
4. They ordained the newly founded deaconate: “These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them” (6:6).
A apostles were prototypical prophets, priests, and kings.
A complete pastor – a shepherd – will serve as a prophet, a priest, and a king.
A prophet/priest shepherd will never lead the flock to greener pastures.
A priest/king shepherd will starve the sheep in the midst of a lot of activity.
A prophet/king shepherd will be effective and efficient, but he won’t care for the flock.
Most pastors are strong in one slot, decent in another, and weak in the third. But wherever you are weak, strive to serve your flock in that area, and let Christ be strong in your weakness.