Acts 6 - Outline of Acts (Book Notes menu page)
1. 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.
2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples [unto them], and said,
It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
3 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.
4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
5 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:
6 Whom they set before the apostles:
and when they had prayed, they laid [their] hands on them.
7 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.
...there arose a murmuring...-
As the church grew rapidly, its unity was again threatened by a growing undercurrent of complaining about perceived inequality of treatment between two groups of believers. Whereas, up until now, they had all been of one mind, holding all things in common (Acts 4:32), some were becoming concerned that they were not getting their fair share.
     The selfishness, of our fleshly nature, is a tool that Satan uses skillfully, whenever he can, to break the unity of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit had intervened to prevent the disunity which could have resulted from the selfishness of Ananias and Sapphira. But Satan is always seeking to interrupt God's working in and through His people. Jam 4:5-6; 5:9; Eph 4:30-32; 1Cor 10:10
...of the Grecians against the Hebrews...-
Up to this time, the church had not expanded beyond Jerusalem. All of the believers were Jews. The division was between believers from two factions of the Jewish community. The word translated 'Grecians' {GK=hellenistes} refers to 'Hellenists,' which were Jews who had been living in the disapora in gentile lands. They had adopted the Greek language and certain aspects of Greek culture. This group, which included some who had come to the Temple for the feasts (Acts 2:8-11), was a minority in Jerusalem. The 'Hebrews' were permanent residents of Jerusalem and the land of Israel. [Note: In the book of Acts, the GK word 'hellenistes' is also used to refer to Gentiles, who were of Greek background. The context determines whether Hellenistic Jews or Gentiles are in view.]
...because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.-
Among the believers were widows who had no means of supporting themselves. Therefore, the church cared for them, providing for their needs (Acts 2:45; 4:35; 1Tim 5:3,4,16). The Hellenistic believers felt that this distribution of support favored the local widows, and that their widows were not receiving a comparable level of support.
...the apostles... said... It is not reason {ie., fitting} that we should leave the word God...-
Satan seeks to distract those whom the Lord has appointed as the spiritual leaders of the church (eg., Pastors and Teachers) from the 'one thing needful,' so that they become encumbered with temporal issues (eg., Luk 10:41,42; 2Tim 2:4).
The apostles carefully guarded the priorities of their ministry, in order to devote full attention to:
...wherefore... look ye out among you... men... whom we may appoint over this business {ie., needful task}...
The men appointed to this work would later be called 'deacons' {GK=diakonos, which means 'servants'}. A form of this word appears in v.2 (where the word 'serve' is the GK word 'diakoneo').
     The deacons would handle the mundane and material matters of the church. Yet, to be eligible for this office, they had to meet high spiritual qualifications. The phrase "look you out from among you" means that the church was to 'carefully examine' suitable candidates from within the body of believers. These men must be:
  • of honest report - ie., They must be widely recognized as of unquestionable integrity.
  • full of the Holy Ghost - The Holy Spirit dwells within all believers, but He is able to fill and use those whose hearts are purged of sin and prepared with the Word. Eph 5:18-20; 2Tim 2:19-21
  • full of wisdom - ie., the wisdom which is from God 1Cor 1:30; 2:5-7; Jam 3:17,18
    We get a glimpse of the wisdom granted to Stephen, in v.10.
    Also see the qualifications of deacons in 1Tim 3:8-13.
These qualities are essential for defusing conflict and maintaining unity within the body of Christ, which the Lord is assembling with members from very diverse backgrounds. men...-
All of these men had Greek names, suggesting that all or most of them were Hellenistic Jews. At least one was a proselyte (convert to Judaism) from the gentile world. The Hellenistic Jewish believers could be assured that their concerns would be handled fairly.
     In the next two chapters of Acts, we are given insight into the lives and ministries of Stephen and Philip. However, none of the other five men are mentioned again in scripture.
...the apostles... laid their hands on them.-
This was a symbolic act, which identified these men as co-laborers with the apostles. The picture is similar to that of the OT sacrifices, where a man symbolically placed his sins upon the sacrificial animal. Here, the apostles, who were burdened with the care of God's flock, placed a portion of their authority and responsibility upon these men. This action indicated that these men held the office of deacon. It did not convey any special spiritual power to them. Rather, they had to meet the qualifications for the office, prior to being chosen and appointed (v.3). However, the laying on of hands also served to impress each man with his responsibility to fulfill the work which had been committed to him (eg., 1Tim 4:14).
...the word of God increased... the disciples multiplied... greatly-
With the appointment of the deacons, the proclamation of the Word, by the apostles, was not diminished by distracting duties. The "increase" of the Word was the fruit which it was bringing forth, as it accomplished the purpose for which God gave it (Isa 55:10,11).
     Whereas new believers had been "added to the church" at the beginning (Acts 2:47), now they were being "multiplied greatly {ie., exceedingly}," and included a great number (or large crowd) of priests. The GK text suggests that the priests did not convert enmass or as a movement, but the number grew as individual priests embraced 'the faith' (concerning Jesus the Messiah, Acts 4:10-12).
8. And Stephen, full of faith and power,
did great wonders and miracles among the people.
9 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.
10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
11 Then they suborned men, which said,
We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and [against] God.
12 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,
13 And set up false witnesses, which said,
This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place,
and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him,
saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
...Stephen, full of faith and power...
Although the role of a deacon is to tend to temporal matters, those who use the office well are prepared for further ministry (1Tim 3:13). Stephen soon moved beyond 'serving tables' to proclaiming the Word. The irresistable power of his ministry attracted the wrath of the unbelieving rulers.
...the synagogue of the Libertines... Cyrenians... Alexandrians... of Cilicia... of Asia.-
This synagogue was an assembly of men from various parts of the gentile world who followed the Jewish religion. Some of the countries, from which they came, are mentioned by name. 'Libertines' is a Latin word, referring to freed slaves. (This probably refers to descendants of Jews, who had been dispersed in prior captivities, and sold to gentile masters. Having won their freedom, their children had returned to their homeland.) The participants at this synagogue were Hellenistic Jews (like those of v.1, whom the deacons were called to assist, except that these had not, yet, received Jesus as the Christ).
...they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke...-
The irresistible Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The irresistable wisdom, that which the Spirit gives (v.3).
...then they suborned men... and stirred up the people... and brought him to the council...-
Unable to counter Stephen's message, his enemies instigated unrest through the testimony of paid false witnesses. Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin and charged. The two accusations presented were based on misunderstandings of the Gospel message.
The accusations were that Stephen spoke blasphemous {ie., injurious, evil, malicious} words...
  1. against this holy place (ie., the Temple)... Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place.-
  2. against the law... [Jesus of Nazareth] shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us.-
...all... in the council... saw his face as... of an angel.-
In the eyes of the rulers, Stephen was guilty of the capital crime of 'blasphemy.' Lev 24:16
Yet, as they looked intently at him, they became aware that Stephen's face was glowing with a glory like that which rested on Moses, when the Law was given. The Lord was giving the nation, yet another sign that they should give heed to His messenger. (The word 'angel' {GK=angelos} means 'messenger'.) See Ex 34:29-35; 2Cor 3:7-8,13-18
The trial of Stephen, before the Sanhedrin, continues in the next chapter.

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