At a time when the church was comprised almost entirely of Jewish believers, its growing numbers brought tension between 2 groups: the Hellenistic Jews and the Hebraic Jews. Hebraic Jews kept close ties to the Promised Land, its language, and its culture. Hellenistic Jews were those who were influenced by Greek thought and language – most had been born far from Jerusalem.
What do you think some of the differences were? Do you think maybe the Hebraic Jews thought of themselves as being more “legit” than the Hellenistic Jews were?
Within the church in Jerusalem, the Hellenistic Jews began to feel slighted… complaining that their widows were being excluded from the church’s regular food distributions. The apostles, already stretched to capacity with their teaching responsibilities, appointed 7 men – Nicolas was one of them – to make sure ALL the church’s widows were cared for.
Most consider these to be the first “deacons”, but – while it seems they did the work of deacons – they are never referred to as “deacons”.
Judging by their Greek names, it seems all 7 were of Hellenistic background. You can see why this might have been important.
Such selections would have won the trust of the Hellenistic Jews within the church. But, Nicolas is given a descriptor… a “God-fearer“… a “proselyte” (convert from another ideology/faith)… a Gentile convert to Judaism, then Christianity.
Nicolas has the distinction of being the first Gentile Christian named in the New Testament.
He helped the church overcome one of its first practical hurdles.
His presence in the church, and his appointment to such an important role, was a signal that the gospel could not restricted to nationality or ethnicity.
Later, Nicolas’ home city of Antioch would become the frontline in the effort to spread the gospel among the Gentiles.
In what ways do people of your church differ from one another?
How/ why do differences cause friction?
What can you do to eliminate friction between people… even believers?
You can read the story of Nicolas in Acts 6:1-7.