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The Book of Acts Series

Acts, Chapter 6

John Baugh

August, 2009

 

Acts 6 (New American Standard Bible)

Acts 6

 

Significant Events in Chapter 6

 

Choosing of the Seven

1Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 3"Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4"But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

 

One thing can be said of growth. It always brings on problems. This was certainly true of the early church. Luke begins Chapter 5 of Acts with the report of problems that came up in the church as the number of disciples grew. Specifically, the problems concerned feeding the Jewish and Greek (Hellenistic) Widows. The Jews had a long tradition of caring for the less fortunate and this belief in responsibility carried on into the early church.

 

The church had a problem in that there were the Jerusalem believers, who spoke Hebrew and Aramaic and the believers from the Hellenistic nations of Palestine, who spoke Greek. In all likelihood, the native believers looked down on the foreign converts and this bias carried over into the daily care of the less fortunate, including the widows of the congregation. The result of this was that the foreign Converts were being (possibly deliberately) neglected. This led to a complaint from the Hellenistic (Greek) believers that they were not being treated the same. In verse two, Luke tells us that the specific complaint dealt with the waiting on or serving tables - most likely distribution of food at the communal meals.

 

Similar problems occur in churches today, where the spiritual and social needs of seniors must be balanced against the needs of youth, children young adults. Likewise, the singles' ministry has needs that may vary from the family ministry. Another example involves early worshipers (those who desire an 8:00 am - 9:00 am service) and traditional worshipers (who are most comfortable worshiping at 11:00 am - 12:00 am). All of these groups deserve equal treatment in God's house.

 

The apostles understood their overriding responsibility to their calling and the things Jesus had commanded. They believed that they should not become involved in the physical solution to this problem, and so they proposed another (better) solution to their taking on the responsibility of waiting tables when the church gathered.

 

Luke states their decision and its basis in reasoning as follows:

 

"It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 3"Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4"But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

 

There is no indication here that the apostles believed that serving tables was beneath them. What their statement indicates is that they had other responsibilities to the congregation that could not be neglected and there was not enough time for them to accomplish all of their ministerial responsibilities and to wait on tables at meal time. When they considered the complaint, the apostles determined that their primary responsibility was to:

 

1 - Prayer

2 - The ministry of the word

 

In light of this, the apostles asked the congregation to select seven (7) men to be responsible for the job of serving the congregation. They were to have specific traits of character:

 

1 - Of good reputation - not full of themselves - trustworthy

2 - Full of the spirit - Godley men

3 - Have wisdom - strength of mind

 

These men were to be put in charge of accomplishing the task of waiting tables. It is interesting to note that the first office holder in the new church were service positions and not spokesmen.

 

5The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 6And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

 

This understanding was acceptable to the congregation and seven men were selected. All of these men had Greek names which indicates that a sincere effort had been put forth to accommodate the complaint (some translations use the word murmuring) of the Greek believers

The church would later use the word "diakoneo" to name the office of deacon in the church. This initial office of service likely led to the later establishment of deacon an d probably the office of elder.

In order to make the selection official and to ask for God's help in accomplishing the tasks that were to be preformed, the congregation "laid hands on them", giving both official sanction and as an act of faith to ask for God's support of the decision.

 

7The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

 

Evidently, the initial problem of fairness in service was solved with this solution, because Luke tells us that the word of God kept spreading and the numbers of disciples kept increasing. It is interesting to note that there were now priests joining the congregation. This indicated that Jews from all levels of Judaism were hearing and accepting the Gospel message.


8And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 10But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God."

12And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. 13They put forward false witnesses who said, "This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; 14for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us."

15And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.

 

Stephen was accomplishing much during this time. Luke reports that he was accomplishing great wonders and signs. Apparently his accomplishments caused problems at the synagogue of the Freedmen (former slaves who had been granted freedom) where Stephen likely was worshiping. Several men in the synagogue rose up and argued with Stephen, likely arguing with his witness about Jesus and scripture. Being unable to cope with the wisdom of his position, they induced others to say that he was guilty of blasphemous speech against Moses and God.

These were serious charges and Stephen was likely arrested and brought up before the council (the Sanhedrin). IN that court, they once again testified falsely about Stephen, accusing him of speaking out against the Temple and the Law - perhaps not the commandments, but the many laws that the Jews observed. Specifically they said that Stephen stated that Jesus (a Nazarene) would destroy the Temple and alter the customs which had been handed down by Moses.

Luke says that during all of this Stephen had an unearthly calmness - "the face of an angel".

 

Stephen's story continues in Chapter seven.

 

Copyright 2009, by ToBeLikeHim Ministries

 

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