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Acts Six

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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Acts 6:1 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.

the Grecians. The “Grecians” were not ethnic Greeks, but Greek-speaking Jews, presumably with ties to the Jews of the dispersion. The “Hebrews,” on the other hand, were natives of Israel itself, and spoke Aramaic.

daily ministration. The words “ministration” and “serve” (Acts 6:2) are cognates in the Greek to the word which later became rendered as “deacon.” The seven men here chosen (Acts 6:3) are not actually called “deacons” in this section, but it is probable that their activities later became codified into an actual office. Every local church would need leaders to handle the more mundane matters in order to free its pastoral leadership for prayer and for the study and preaching of the Word (Acts 6:4). In any case, the spiritual requirements for these seven, as well as those of the later office of deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-12) were little different from those for the pastors who were apparently identical with bishops and elders (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The deacons could, and did, engage in spiritual as well as mundane ministries as time permitted.

Acts 6:2 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.

Acts 6:3 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.

Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

Acts 6:5 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:

Stephen. Stephen was destined to become the first Christian martyr other than John the Baptist (Acts 7:59-60).

Philip. Philip, like Stephen, was a powerful evangelist (Acts 8:5-8, 26-40). The same was probably true, according to tradition at least, of the other five as well. It may be significant that all seven had Hellenistic names, suggesting the church was very sensitive to the charge recorded in Acts 6:1.

Nicolas. Nicolas was not a Jew at all, but evidently a Syrian from Antioch. Either he, or later followers of his, were suggested by some early writers to have founded the compromising sect of the Nicolaitanes (Revelation 2:6, 15). This is unlikely, however.

Acts 6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

laid their hands. This evidently was the first time the practice of laying on of hands was used in the early church. The act was symbolic only, as the seven were already filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3).

Acts 6:7 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.

of the priests. There were many sincere and godly priests in Jerusalem like Zacharias (Luke 1:6-7), and it was probably from among these that this group of converts came. They would have been well aware of the teachings of Jesus and also of the evidences of His resurrection, and were not participants in the priestly cabal which got Him crucified. This response on the part of so many priests is a further incidental evidence of the truth of His resurrection. On the other hand, it is possible that these men, with their training, could well have taken on a leading role in the church and been responsible for its later problems with the so-called “Judaizers,” who wanted the Christians to continue also in all the temple rituals and practices.

Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Acts 6:9 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.

Libertines. The “Libertines” were “freedmen,” formerly slaves. All of these groups were Jewish immigrants to Jerusalem from other lands, and had evidently formed their own synagogue. As such they were quite legalistic and very zealous of the Mosaic traditions, especially the temple worship. They may well have immigrated to Jerusalem for this very reason.

Acts 6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

Acts 6:11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.

Acts 6:12 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,

Acts 6:13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:

false witnesses. Just as in the trial of Jesus, Stephen's accusers had to rely on false witnesses for their case. Stephen undoubtedly preached in the same vein as Jesus had, perhaps even referring to the church itself as a spiritual temple—as Jesus had referred to His body as a temple—and the accusers distorted this teaching into a threat against the physical temple. All through history, including today, the enemies who attempt to undermine the Christian faith have resorted to distortions of one kind or another, as well as ad hominem attacks against its teachers. They cannot use actual facts, as all true facts of Scripture, science and history support Biblical Christianity.

Acts 6:14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.

Acts 6:15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.