World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
Seven Chosen to Serve
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” 5What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
The Arrest of Stephen
8 Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. 13They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” 15And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Ac 6:1-7. First Election of Deacons.
1. the Grecians—the Greek-speaking Jews, mostly born in the provinces.
the Hebrews—those Jews born in Palestine who used their native tongue, and were wont to look down on the "Grecians" as an inferior class.
were neglected—"overlooked" by those whom the apostles employed, and who were probably of the Hebrew class, as being the most numerous. The complaint was in all likelihood well founded, though we cannot suspect the distributors of intentional partiality. "It was really just an emulation of love, each party wishing to have their own poor taken care of in the best manner" [Olshausen].
the daily ministration—the daily distribution of alms or of food, probably the latter.
2-4. the multitude—the general body of the disciples.
It is not reason—The word expresses dislike; that is "We cannot submit."
to leave the word of God—to have our time and attention withdrawn from preaching; which, it thus appears, they regarded as their primary duty.
to serve tables—oversee the distribution of provisions.
3. look ye out among you—that is, ye, "the multitude," from among yourselves.
full of the Holy Ghost—not full of miraculous gifts, which would have been no qualification for the duties required, but spiritually gifted (although on two of them miraculous power did rest).
and wisdom—discretion, aptitude for practical business.
whom we may appoint—for while the election was vested in the Christian people, the appointment lay with the apostles, as spiritual rulers.
4. we will give ourselves to prayer—public prayer, as along with preaching their great work.
5. Stephen, &c.—As this and the following names are all Greek, it is likely they were all of the "Grecian" class, which would effectually restore mutual confidence.
6. when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them—the one proclaiming that all official gifts flowed from the Church's glorified Head, the other symbolizing the communication of these to the chosen office-bearers through the recognized channels.
7. word of God increased … disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly—prosperity crowning the beautiful spirit which reigned in this mother community.
a great company of the priests were obedient, &c.—This was the crowning triumph of the Gospel, whose peaceful prosperity was now at its greatest height. After Stephen's teaching and trial made it clear that sacerdotal interests could not stand with the Gospel, such priestly accessions became rare indeed. Note (1) how easily misunderstandings may arise among the most loving and devoted followers of the Lord Jesus: but (2) How quickly and effectually such misunderstandings may be healed, where honest intentions, love, and wisdom reign: (3) What a beautiful model for imitation is furnished by the class here complained of, who, though themselves the majority, chose the new office-bearers from amongst the complaining minority! (4) How superior to the lust of power do the apostles here show themselves to be, in not only divesting themselves of the immediate superintendence of temporal affairs in the Christian community, but giving the choice of those who were to be entrusted with it to the disciples at large! (5) How little of formal organization did the apostles give to the Church at first, and when an emergency arose which demanded something more, how entirely was the remedy suggested by the reason of the thing! (6) Though the new office-bearers are not expressly called Deacons here, it is universally admitted that this was the first institution of that order in the Church; the success of the expedient securing its permanency, and the qualifications for "the office of a Deacon" being laid down in one of the apostolical Epistles immediately after those of "a Bishop" (1Ti 3:8-13).
Ac 6:8-15. Stephen Arraigned before the Sanhedrin.
8. And Stephen, &c.—The foregoing narrative seems to be only an introduction to what follows.
full of faith—rather, "of grace," as the best manuscripts read.
9, 10. synagogue of the Libertines—Jewish freedmen; manumitted Roman captives, or the children of such, expelled from Rome (as appears from Josephus and Tacitus), and now residing at Jerusalem.
Cyrenians—Jews of Cyrene, in Libya, on the coast of Africa.
and of Asia—(See on Ac 16:6).
10. not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake—What he said, and the power with which he spake it, were alike resistless.
11-14. blasphemous words against Moses—doubtless referring to the impending disappearance of the whole Mosaic system.
15. as … the face of an angel—a play of supernatural radiance attesting to all who beheld his countenance the divine calm of the spirit within.