While it doesn't specifically say so, most assume that these men are the first deacons of the early church. The elders were overcome with responsibili... Read more
While it doesn't specifically say so, most assume that these men are the first deacons of the early church. The elders were overcome with responsibilities, and they sought some assistance. It appears that the Greek-speaking Hebrew widows were not getting as much attention as the Aramaic-speaking Hebrew widows. Keep in mind that this church had grown well past 5,000 men, and that's not counting women and children. When the distribution of provisions became a daunting task for the Apostles, they directed the people (probably the Hellenistic Jews) to recommend men to assist in this task. We see in verse 7 that they laid their hands on these seven men, thus ordaining them, many presume as deacons.
Those men appointed in Acts 6 were:
All seven of these men had Greek names, but they were Jews either by birth or through proselytization. It appears that the goal was to give the Greek-speaking Hebrew widows representation in Jerusalem by appointing like-minded men to help in the service of the church. These Hellenist Jews were selected to make certain there was no discrimination perceived against the Hellenist widows.
It should also be noted that Stephen's first mention after his ordination is regarding his preaching ministry and Apostolic-like miracles. Likewise, Philip engages in that same Apostolic-style ministry as we read of his missionary endeavors in chapter 8; that was after many of the Jewish Christians fled Jerusalem because of persecution. Therefore, it is not possible to deduct from these verses that these seven men had no preaching responsibilities; obviously Stephen and Philip preached.
Were these seven men the first deacons described by Paul in I Timothy 3:8-13 (see notes)? Maybe, but there's nothing here to absolutely validate that. However, the verb in verse 2 for "serve" is diakoneo (d?a?????). The noun for "deacon" is only in the New Testament in I Timothy 3 in most English translations; there it is actually a participle form of this same verb found here in verse 2. Simply stated, a participle is a verb used like a noun. So, there's no question that deacons are those who serve, and these seven men were selected to "serve." As mentioned, two of these men go on to accomplish greater tasks - Stephen's bold message and martyrdom in Acts 7 and Philip's introduction of Christianity to the Samaritans in Acts 8
Stephen's a new deacon, and he's preaching. However, he upsets some people with his proclamation of Jesus and finds himself standing before that same Sanhedrin that seems to hate this new Jesus movement. They brought him in with some trumped-up false accusations. I feel a bold message coming on. Let 'em have it Stephen! The message is found in Acts 7 (see notes).
Incidentally, we don't have much to go on regarding the "synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians." There were multiple Jewish synagogues in Jerusalem attended by people of varying interests/backgrounds. The people indicated in verse 8 came from one of those synagogues. Probably, Stephen had made a stop by their synagogue, and they obviously did not appreciate his preaching. Read less
Not everyone was sharing their possessions with the proper attitude. After a man named Joses (Barnabas ) sold his land and brought the entire proceeds... Read more
Not everyone was sharing their possessions with the proper attitude. After a man named Joses (Barnabas ) sold his land and brought the entire proceeds of its sale to the Apostles for distribution, another named Ananias and his wife Sapphira just loved the attention he had received after doing so. However, being a bit stingy, they sold a piece of property, brought some of the proceeds to the Apostles (in front of a crowd) and represented that this was the entire amount received from the sale. It's an amusing story. They arrive individually before Peter to get their recognition for their generous contribution...only to find a bigger surprise than they anticipated. The story is enhanced by the fact that they came in before the Apostles and the crowd of admiring Believers separately - first Ananias and three hours later Sapphira. Both are struck dead as they perpetuate the lie. When I hear some Christians talk about being "slain in the spirit," I can't help but reflect on this passage and think, "Well...there's your Biblical precedent for it!" Notice, their sin was lying to the Holy Spirit. Only saved people can be held accountable before God like that. This was clearly chastisement of Believers resulting in death.
Some might find these two immediate deaths troubling. Ananias and Sapphira were NOT two sold-out Christians who simply had a lapse of judgment and good character. Their intent from the beginning was wrong...amounting to conspiracy to deceive for the purpose of garnering praise from the Apostles and the people. Their actions were not inadvertent; they were blatantly defiant against God. Thus, they become the examples of God's chastisement of Believers who exercise a cold rebellion against God
Times are good here in Jerusalem among the Believers. A lot is happening to confirm their faith. Gathered there at the temple at Solomon's porch, people from out of town start coming to visit these new Believers, and they're bringing people with them to get healed; new people continue to get saved. The Apostles are winning the hearts of the multitude daily. Well...it's time for the Sanhedrin to get rolling again. They arrest the Apostles and place them in common prison until they can convene a meeting for the next day. However, an angel delivers them from prison, and the next morning they're out preaching in the temple again (now...that's bold). The guards are once again sent out to bring the Apostles before the Sanhedrin. For fear of the people, they do so with as little fanfare as possible.
Before the Sanhedrin, the high priest asks in verse 28, "Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us." That's quite an interesting statement coming from the high priest. In fact, they had been responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, but they had made every effort to make the crucifixion look like a Roman plot from start to finish. That's why they had arrested Jesus at night and conducted six trials while the people slept. The next morning, when the Jewish populace awoke, Jesus was hanging on a Roman cross. Yup...the Jewish leaders had gone to a lot of trouble to make it look like an all-Roman crucifixion. Now, here's Peter telling the crowds of Jews the real truth. Naturally, the Sanhedrin doesn't like the truth.
Peter boldly lets loose on them again. Having heard Peter's reply, we read in verse 33, "When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them."
Gamaliel (a Pharisee) was part of the Sanhedrin and well respected among them. He reasons that they should release the Apostles because, if what they are preaching is not of God, it will self destruct. Obviously looking for a face-saving way out, the Sanhedrin adopts his solution. Gamaliel's words are heeded, and the disciples are released with just a beatin' in verse 40. Verse 41 says they left their beatin' rejoicing!
Incidentally, sometimes false doctrine lasts for centuries. The words of Gamaliel here, an unregenerate, but reasonable man, cannot be adopted as a doctrinal principle for Christians. As Believers, we are well aware that the power of Satan will last in this world until the second coming of Jesus Christ. So, it is not true as Gamaliel said in verse 38, "...if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought." Read less
Sanhedrim: more correctly Sanhedrin (Gr. synedrion), meaning “a sitting together,” or a “council.” This word (rendered “council,” A.V.) is frequen... Read more
Sanhedrim: more correctly Sanhedrin (Gr. synedrion), meaning “a sitting together,” or a “council.” This word (rendered “council,” A.V.) is frequently used in the New Testament (Matt. 5:22; 26:59; Mark 15:1, etc.) to denote the supreme judicial and administrative council of the Jews, which, it is said, was first instituted by Moses, and was composed of seventy men (Num. 11:16, 17). But that seems to have been only a temporary arrangement which Moses made. This council is with greater probability supposed to have originated among the Jews when they were under the domination of the Syrian kings in the time of the Maccabees. The name is first employed by the Jewish historian Josephus. This “council” is referred to simply as the “chief priests and elders of the people” (Matt. 26:3, 47, 57, 59; 27:1, 3, 12, 20, etc.), before whom Christ was tried on the charge of claiming to be the Messiah. Peter and John were also brought before it for promulgating heresy (Acts. 4:1-23; 5:17-41); as was also Stephen on a charge of blasphemy (6:12-15), and Paul for violating a temple by-law (22:30; 23:1-10).
The Sanhedrin is said to have consisted of seventy-one members, the high priest being president. They were of three classes (1) the chief priests, or heads of the twenty-four priestly courses (1 Chr. 24), (2) the scribes, and (3) the elders. As the highest court of judicature, “in all causes and over all persons, ecclesiastical and civil, supreme,” its decrees were binding, not only on the Jews in Palestine, but on all Jews wherever scattered abroad. Its jurisdiction was greatly curtailed by Herod, and afterwards by the Romans. Its usual place of meeting was within the precincts of the temple, in the hall “Gazith,” but it sometimes met also in the house of the high priest (Matt. 26:3), who was assisted by two vice-presidents. Read less
Chapter 4 continues with an incident that began in Acts 3 . In chapter three Peter and John were just minding their own business as they headed into t... Read more
Chapter 4 continues with an incident that began in Acts 3 . In chapter three Peter and John were just minding their own business as they headed into the temple when they were stopped by a lame man there looking for a handout. Acts 3:6 says, "Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." Afterward the man gets up and goes into the temple with Peter and John.
The people who had been seeing the lame man day in and day out for perhaps decades sought an explanation, and bold ol' Peter feels inclined to preach to them Jesus. You can imagine the commotion this message caused - so much so that the Jewish leaders are upset...again. That's where we pick it up here in chapter 4 with verses 1-2, "And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead." Remember, the Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection...PERIOD! Verse 4 gives us the magnitude of how rapidly the early church grew. Luke specifically tells us that this number of 5,000 represents the total number of male-only Believers at this point in time in early Jerusalem church history.
Secular historical sources tell us that the Roman Empire sanctioned specific religious activity during this period. To the government officials all the way over in Rome (about 1,700 miles northwest), Christianity was a sect of Judaism, remaining that way until 64 A.D. when Nero began specifically targeting Christians for persecution. Therefore, previous to 64 A.D., the Jewish leaders seemed to feel a certain authority over those who preached Jesus; on this occasion, they take the liberty to lock up Peter and John until they can assemble the whole council of Jewish leaders for a hearing. This Jewish council was known as the Sanhedrin, and it was these very Jewish leaders who had orchestrated the accusations against Jesus leading up to the crucifixion. The Roman government allowed the Sanhedrin to police their own people, including the disciplining of these renegade Jews known as Christians.
Just for some extra perspective here...it was the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, controlling the priesthood during this period of time. These are the ones who had Peter and John arrested on this occasion. Not only had they caught Peter and John preaching the resurrection, they were preaching that the resurrection is facilitated by Jesus Christ himself. The Sanhedrin was comprised of both Sadducees and Pharisees. The Pharisees had a running conflict with the Sadducees regarding the validity of the resurrection of the dead. However, both factions agreed that it was harmful to their cause for anyone to be preaching the resurrection with the Jesus component added.
It's worth noting in this passage that, even in the face of death, Peter is denying nothing here...nor is John. Even after a night in Jewish custody, the next day when Peter and John appear before the Sanhedrin, Peter turns loose on these men with an admirable boldness. Was he tactful? Naaaaaa! He accuses them of crucifying Jesus in verse 10 and proclaims to them that Jesus resurrected from the dead. Peter goes Messianic in verse 11 when he quotes David from Psalm 118:22 , "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner." Isaiah had made certain that all would understand this "stone" to be a reference to the Messiah when he wrote in Isaiah 28:16 , "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." This verse is also used by Jesus himself in a parable to the Jewish leaders regarding his imminent crucifixion in Matthew 21:42/Mark 12:10/Luke 20:17 So...when Peter ties the reference to the rejected stone of Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16 to Jesus, and then in no uncertain terms tells the Sanhedrin that they have crucified the prophesied Messiah, that's a powerful statement of indictment against the Sanhedrin. Just to make certain they don't miss the point, Peter adds in verse 12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Incidentally, we also see a reference to the "stone of stumbling" prophecy in Romans 9:33 and I Peter 2:6 .
What to do, what to do? For fear of the vast multitude who had responded to the salvation message, the Sanhedrin confers and then decides to simply threaten Peter and John. However, right there in their faces Peter proclaims in verse 19-20, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Because of the people, what else could the Sanhedrin do? They threaten some more and let them go.
The confrontation and verbal victory over the Sanhedrin is big news back with the new Believers at the church in Jerusalem. Understand the magnitude of what has just happened. Peter boldly declared that salvation was only through Jesus to the very men who orchestrated the illegal trials of Jesus leading up to the crucifixion, yet they walked away without a scratch. Notice in verses 25-26 the reference to Psalm 2 . This Messianic Psalm of David gets considerable New Testament treatment. As recorded by all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22 ), Psalm 2:7 seems likely to be the purpose of God's voice from Heaven at the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist saying, "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." The capture and release of Peter and John precipitates a big prayer meeting that ends with verse 31, "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." Read less
Disciples: Let them take care of themselves.
Jesus: No, you care for them.
Disciples: How can we? The needs are so many?
Jesus: What do you hav... Read more
Disciples: Let them take care of themselves.
Jesus: No, you care for them.
Disciples: How can we? The needs are so many?
Jesus: What do you have?
Disciples: Just ____________.
And Jesus multiplied what they had to meet the needs. Not only that, the disciples left satisfied as well. Read less