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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 6 - Verse 1
Verse 1. In those days, etc. The first part of this chapter contains an account of the appointment of deacons. It may be asked, perhaps, why the apostles did not appoint these officers at the first organization of the church? To this question we may reply, that it was better to defer the appointment until an occasion should occur when it should appear to be manifestly necessary and proper. When the church was small, its alms could be distributed by the apostles themselves without difficulty; but when it was greatly increased in when its charities would be multiplied, and when the distribution might give rise to contentions, it was necessary that this matter should be entrusted to the hands of laymen, and that the ministry should be freed from all embarrassment, and all suspicions of dishonesty and unfairness in regard to pecuniary matters. It has never been found to be wise that the temporal affairs of the church should be entrusted in any considerable degree to the clergy; and they should be freed from such sources of difficulty and embarrassment.
A murmuring. A complaint—as if there had been partiality in the distribution.
Of the Grecians. There has been much diversity of opinion in regard to these persons, whether they were Jews that had lived among the Gentiles, and who spoke the Greek language, or whether they were proselytes from the Gentiles. The former is probably the correct opinion. The word here used is not that which is usually employed to designate the inhabitants of Greece, but it properly denotes those who imitate the customs and habits of the Greeks, who use the Greek language, etc. In the time when the gospel was first preached, there were two classes of Jews— those who remained in Palestine, who used the Hebrew language, etc., and who were appropriately called Hebrews; and those who were scattered among the Gentiles, who spoke the Greek language, and who used, in their synagogues, the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. These were called Hellenists, or, as it is in our translation, Grecians. See Barnes "Joh 7:36".
These were doubtless the persons mentioned here—not those who were proselyted from Gentiles, but those who were not natives of Judea, who had come up to Jerusalem to attend the great festivals of the Jews.
Dissensions would be very likely to arise between these two classes of persons. The Jews of Palestine would pride themselves much on the fact that they dwelt in the land of the patriarchs, and the land of promise; that they used the language which their fathers spoke, and in which the oracles of God were given; and that they were constantly near the temple, and regularly engaged in its solemnities. On the other hand, the Jews from other parts of the world would be suspicious, jealous, and envious of their brethren, and would be likely to charge them with partiality, or of taking advantage in their intercourse with them. These occasions of strife would not be destroyed by their conversion to Christianity, and one of them is furnished on this occasion.
Because their widows, etc. The property which had been contributed, or thrown into common stock, was understood to be designed for the equal benefit of all the poor, and particularly it would seem for the poor widows. The distribution before this seems to have been made by the apostles themselves—or possibly, as Mosheim conjectures, (Comm. de rebus Christianovum ante Constantinure, p. 139, 118,) the apostles committed the distribution of these funds to the Hebrews, and hence the Grecians are represented as murmuring against them, and not against the apostles.
In the daily ministration. In the daily distribution which was made for their wants. Comp. Ac 4:35. The property was contributed doubtless with an understanding that it should be equally and justly distributed to all classes of Christians that had need. It is clear from the Epistles that widows were objects of special attention in the primitive church, and that the first Christians regarded it as a matter of indispensable obligation to provide for their wants, 1 Ti 5:3,9,10,16; Jas 1:27.
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