The appointment of deacons. (1-7) Stephen falsely accused of blasphemy. (8-15)
Verses 1-7 Hitherto the disciples had been of one accord; this often had been noticed to their honour; but now they were multiplied, they began to murmur. The word of God was enough to take up all the thoughts, cares, and time of the apostles. The persons chosen to serve tables must be duly qualified. They must be filled with gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, necessary to rightly managing this trust; men of truth, and hating covetousness. All who are employed in the service of the church, ought to be commended to the Divine grace by the prayers of the church. They blessed them in the name of the Lord. The word and grace of God are greatly magnified, when those are wrought upon by it, who were least likely.
Verses 8-15 When they could not answer Stephen's arguments as a disputant, they prosecuted him as a criminal, and brought false witnesses against him. And it is next to a miracle of providence, that no greater number of religious persons have been murdered in the world, by the way of perjury and pretence of law, when so many thousands hate them, who make no conscience of false oaths. Wisdom and holiness make a man's face to shine, yet will not secure men from being treated badly. What shall we say of man, a rational being, yet attempting to uphold a religious system by false witness and murder! And this has been done in numberless instances. But the blame rests not so much upon the understanding, as upon the heart of a fallen creature, which is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Yet the servant of the Lord, possessing a clear conscience, cheerful hope, and Divine consolations, may smile in the midst of danger and death.
Acts 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.
seven men of honest report--good reputation ( Acts 10:22 , 1 Timothy 3:7 ).
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" ( 1 Timothy 3:8-13 ).
Acts 6:8-15 . STEPHEN ARRAIGNED BEFORE THE SAMHEDRIM.
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.
them of Cilicia--amongst whom may have been Saul of Tarsus ( Acts 7:58 , 21:39 ).
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.
and against God--This must refer to the supreme dignity and authority which he claimed for Christ, as the head of that new economy which was so speedily to supersede the old (compare Acts 7:56 Acts 7:59 Acts 7:60 ).
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.