But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. Those who spoke Greek complained against those who spoke Hebrew, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. "We apostles should spend our time preaching and teaching the word of God, not administering a food program," they said.
"Now look around among yourselves, brothers, and select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We will put them in charge of this business.
Then we can spend our time in prayer and preaching and teaching the word."
This idea pleased the whole group, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (a Gentile convert to the Jewish faith, who had now become a Christian).
These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.
God's message was preached in ever-widening circles. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.
Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.
But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia.
None of them was able to stand against the wisdom and Spirit by which Stephen spoke.
So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, "We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God."
Naturally, this roused the crowds, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council.
The lying witnesses said, "This man is always speaking against the Temple and against the law of Moses.
We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us."
At this point everyone in the council stared at Stephen because his face became as bright as an angel's.