Acts 6



The Choosing of the Seven (6:1-7)

1 In this section, all the believers are called disciples (verses 1-2,7). The original twelve disciples had now become “apostles.”

There is a very important truth to be seen here. All Christians are disciples. There are not two kinds of Christians—one kind who are ordinary believers and another kind who are specially chosen to be “disciples.” That is a false idea; we are all called to be disciples. Some people think that for most Christians the road of life is supposed to be relatively easy, and that only for a few so-called “disciples” is the road supposed to be hard. But that is not so. Every Christian is called to pass through the narrow gate and to walk on the narrow road of disciple-ship (see Matthew 7:13-14 and comment). Every Christian is called to take up his cross and follow Jesus (see Mark 8:34; Luke 14:26-27 and comment).

Among the believers a disagreement arose between the Grecian Jews and the Aramaic-speaking community. While Jesus was on earth there had been only Aramaic-speaking Jews among His followers. At that time the Gentiles and Greek-speaking Jews from other countries had not yet begun to believe in Christ. In New Testament times there were two main groups of Jews: first, those who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic37 and lived in Israel; and second, those who spoke Greek38 and lived in other countries of the Roman Empire.

In Jesus’ time, some Greek-speaking Jews also lived in Jerusalem, and after Jesus’ resurrection some of them believed in Him. Among them were some widows. After some time, these Greek-speaking Jewish believers began to complain that their widows were not getting their fair share of the food that the apostles were distributing each day to the needy in the church. Recall that many of the believers had sold their possessions and turned the money over to the apostles to be distributed to those in need, among whom were always widows (Acts 4:34-35). It’s possible that the apostles were so busy with other duties that they didn’t have time to see that the food was distributed to everyone equally.

Notice how quickly complaining and division arose in that first Christian church! And the very first dispute was basically over a money matter—how the money of the church was to be spent and the goods distributed. Even though the number of disciples was rapidly increasing, Satan was there trying to bring division, discontent, and envy.

2-4 In the church different Christians have different tasks. The apostles had been especially appointed to preach and teach the word and to pray. Therefore, they appointed seven other men to distribute the food. Later on, those in the churches who performed such works of service became known as deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-10).

The apostles said that the seven men chosen for this work must be full of the Spirit and wisdom. Likewise, in our churches today we must select as pastors, elders, and deacons only those who are full of the Spirit and wisdom.

The apostles here have given us a good example to follow. If any leader becomes so busy that he can’t fulfill all his obligations and duties satisfactorily, then he should delegate some of his duties to some other worthy person in the church. However, there are many leaders who prefer to keep all the authority for themselves and not share it with others. This is not right. For example, it is best if pastors and preachers do not take responsibility for the financial affairs of the church. It is better if they devote their time to prayer and the ministry of the word (verse 4).

5-6 The seven men chosen here all have Greek names; therefore, we can conclude that they were all Greek-speaking Jews. The first one mentioned here, Stephen, is the subject of verses 8-15 and all of Acts Chapter 7. The second, Philip, appears at length in Acts Chapter 8. Nothing is known about the other five.

Notice that all the disciples—that is, all the church members—first chose the seven men. Then, after that, the apostles laid hands on them and commissioned them for their work. To commission people by the laying on of hands was a Jewish custom (Numbers 27:22-23). The custom soon became common among Christians. Some Christians believe that for a person to obtain the full blessing of the Holy Spirit it is necessary to have a pastor or elder lay hands on him (see Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6). However, that does not seem to be the case in this passage, because these seven men were full of the Spirit before anyone laid hands on them (verse 3).

7 A growing church is a living church. A non-growing church is a dead church. That first church was certainly alive! Even many of the Jewish priests believed in Christ and came and joined the church.

Stephen Seized (6:8-15)

8-10 Stephen was a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (verse 5). For this reason, he was also full of God’s grace and power (verse 8). Anyone who is filled with faith and with the Spirit inwardly will manifest God’s grace and power outwardly.

There were many Jewish synagogues in Jerusalem. One of them was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen. The Jews of that synagogue began to oppose Stephen. But they couldn’t stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by which he spoke (verse 10); therefore, they began to accuse him falsely behind his back.

11 They secretly persuaded some men to bear false witness against Stephen. Perhaps they paid these men some money for doing this. Their false accusation was this: that Stephen had blasphemed against Moses (that is, against the Jewish law which Moses received from God) and against God. This same accusation of blas-phemy had earlier been brought against Jesus Himself (Mark 14:61-64).

12-14 The Jews seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. Then they called the false witnesses. These witnesses falsely accused Stephen of speaking against the holy place (the Jewish temple in Jerusalem) and against the law (verse 13). Jesus had spoken about the destruction of the “temple” of His body (John 2:19-21), and Stephen had evidently repeated Jesus’ words. But just as Jesus’ own words had been twisted by false witnesses, so Stephen’s words were twisted by these false witnesses in the same way.39 In Jesus’ case, the witnesses had accused Jesus of saying: “I will destroy this man-made temple” (see Mark 14:57-58). Here these false witnesses accuse Stephen of using these same words.

Jesus had once said about Himself: “… one greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6). Stephen well understood Jesus’ meaning: Now that the Messiah had come, the Jewish temple and all the Jewish sacrifices and ceremonial traditions were no longer necessary (see Hebrews 7:18-19; 8:7,13 and comments). Stephen no doubt had said this to the Jews, and this is what had made them so angry with him.