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Bible Commentaries
Acts 6

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

1. The church began by adding 3,000 souls. (2:41) Then more were added daily. (2:47) The number grew to over 5,000 men. (4:4)

2. Now the number was multiplying. The lowest whole number by which you can multiply Isa_2:1-22 . That means the church was not added - it was doubling.

3. As with any rapid growth - there are growing pains.

4. Hellenists - Greek speaking (as opposed to many Jews who were Hebrew speaking). There were many Jews who lived in nations that spoke only Greek and that is the only language they knew.

5. B. W. Johnson says, "The Grecians" were not Greeks, or Gentiles, but foreign Jews, who were born and brought up out of Palestine, and spoke the Greek language. This class of Jews was found in almost every city where Paul preached."

1. Caution: We must not separate and divide the church by nationality, race, color, or language.

2. There was a feeling of superiority by those who spoke Hebrew, as if they were better, more deserving, and of more importance.

3. It is also possible the the Hebrew speaking just made more complaints. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."

6. The daily distribution shows that the needs were being met on a daily basis. God did this with the children of Israel in the wilderness. He gave them manna each day. Not a weeks supply. The model prayer teaches us to pray, "Give us this day, our daily bread."

7. I do not believe the neglect was intentional, just an oversight. When it was learned that some had "fallen through the cracks", the problem was addressed immediately.

Verse 2

2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, " It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.

1. It was time for a "family meeting" - The apostles called a meeting of all the church.

2. We have a job to do. We can not stop preaching to cook green beans.

3. Green beans are important. Feeding the hungry is vital. We must not neglect this. As Jesus taught, "This we ought to do, and not leave the other undone." ( Luk_11:42 )

4. It was not because serving tables was "beneath" them. The apostles were not too good to do this kind of work.

5. It was a matter of priority.

1. Many have made the work of deacons of lesser importance than the work of elders.

2. I disagree. Elders have an important work to do. Deacons have an important work to do. Preachers have an important work to do. None is superior to the others.

3. We must find our place to serve - and do what we can.

Verse 3

3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;

1. How many deacons does a church need? As many as it takes to take care of the "business" of the church. Churches have great variety in the number and size of the programs of work. We need deacons to appoint "over this business."

2. Are these men deacons? I have no doubt.

1. They were men already proven and capable.

2. They were appointed for a specific work.

3. NOTE: Many deacons today are just appointed, then we try to find them a work. In the New Testament, they were appointed to a specific work in an area where they had proven themselves.

3. Seven are to be chosen. Some speculate about the number seven. It would seem to be that seven were deemed enough to handle the problem.

4. Three qualifications were given here.

1. Of good reputation - He should already be known. He should be thought of with respect and honor. His life should lead others to think well of him.

2. Full of the Holy Spirit - He should be one who's life is guided by the Spirit of God.

3. Wisdom - He must be able to use common sense, wisdom, to solve problems and find acceptable and workable solutions.

5. There are many tasks, important area of work, which need to be managed, overseen, and guided by men of wisdom. The church needs deacons to guide it.

Verse 4

4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. "

1. For many years it was thought that elders took care of spiritual matters, and deacons were to manage physical things. Deacons can also oversee programs of work that are spiritual.

2. The apostles would continue to focus on their work - prayer, seeking guidance from the Father, and preaching, teaching, evangelizing.

Verse 5

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,

1. The whole congregation agreed with the plan and proposal.

2. There has been a lot of discussion about how to select and appoint elders and deacons. There seems to be no set process.

3. In Jerusalem the church (especially the Greek speaking widows) had a major part in selecting men to help.

4. Notice that all seven men named - have Greek names. We know little about 5 of these men. Only Stephen and Philip are mentioned later in Acts.

Verse 6

6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

1. Once selected (nominated), they were brought to the apostles. The apostles prayed for them.

2. They laid their hands on them. Here we are introduced to the second level of miracles in the NT church.

1. The apostles (Holy Spirit baptism) could perform all kinds of miracles.

2. They also could lay hands on Christians and impart to them some spiritual gift.

3. The difference is this: Those who received this spiritual gift could work miracles, but they did not have the power to pass them on to others. We will see this clearly in Act_8:1-40 .

3. Just a comment about appointing (ordaining). The word "ordain" is used in Tit_1:5 . This word means "to appoint, to set in place, to put one in charge." Preachers are ordained. Not by some board, but when a church asks a man to work with them (preacher, elder, or deacon) they are "put in charge" to do the work assigned to them.

Verse 7

7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

1. Again we see the pattern of church growth. Problem. Problem solved. Church grows.

2. Here we are introduced to a new term. From Act_2:1-47 believers were "added" to the Lord. Now they are "multiplied."

3. The church is not just growing, it is exploding. It is growing exponentially. It is growing by leaps and bounds.

Verse 8

8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

1. We are told nothing about how these seven men worked and solved the problem.

2. Luke now moves on to tell us about the work of Stephen.

3. Stephen was full of faith and power (imparted to him by the apostles) and worked miracles.

Verse 9

9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.

1. Synagogue - is a Greek word meaning - gather together. The synagogue was a place people gathered together to read, disucss and study the Scriptures. It was also a place of prayer.

2. Many synagogues were special places to promote an adgenda. All who agreed with this particular agenda would meet together and discuss ways to accomplish their goals.

3. This synagogue was for Freedmen (Libertines). They were men born under the Roman occupation which gave them Roman citizenship. They were not just Jews under occupation. They were free Roman citizens, with more rights than other Jews.

4. There were, in Jerusalem, more than 460 synagogues. Some count as many as 480.

5. Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia were areas where men would be born as Roman citizens. Their goals were different than the Jews who felt restricted and oppressed under Roman rule.

Verse 10

10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.

1. Being Roman citizens gave them some advantages - in courts, with the judicial system, and rights of travel.

2. But they did not have the ability to resist the wisdom which came from Stephen.

Verse 11

11 Then they secretly induced men to say, " We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. "

1. In similar fashion to what the Jewish leaders did to Jesus, these men sought to discredit Stephen by accusing him of speaking against Moses' Law and against God.

2. Blasphemy is the speaking evil against or reproachful, railing accusations.

3. It is interesting that they were speaking railing accusations against Stephen by accusing him of blasphemy. They were guilty of the very offense of which they were charging Stephen.

Verse 12

12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.

1. They got the people, elders and the scribes stirred up. Again, similar to what happened with Jesus.

2. They arrested him and brought him before the council - the Sanhedrin.

Verse 13

13 They also set up false witnesses who said, " This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law;

1. The arranged for men to lie (false witness) against Stephen.

2. When one speaks in a defamatory way of the Law or the Temple - they were said to blaspheme. So that was the charge against Stephen.

Verse 14

14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us. "

1. And yet another similarity with the death of Jesus - they charged him with saying that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the temple.

2. They also accused him of teaching that the customs would be changed.

1. Custom - This word is not a term of a "law" such as the 10 Commandments.

2. Custom is what is done often, repeatedly, until it becomes ingrained, as if it were law. Let me give one simple example.

3. Pray BEFORE you eat. I was taught as a child that I could not eat a single bite of food until we said prayer. Why? Does the Bible command such?

4. Here is what the Bible teaches -

1. We should be thankful for our food - 1Ti_4:4-5

2. We should offer thanks AFTER we have eaten and are full - Deu_8:10

5. So - What is the origin of the "law" requiring us to pray BEFORE we eat? The answer is - Custom. Long standing habit, tradition. "We have always done it this way."

3. It was not the Law of Moses that they were concerned about. It was the loss of their many traditions, customs, (loopholes) which they had invented. Stephen was showing the weakness of following their traditions.

Verse 15

15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

1. All who were in that meeting watched with great interest to see how he handled the charges made against him.

2. They knew the charges were false. But, if he called these men liars, he would be in deeper trouble for showing a lack of respect for the Jewish leaders.

3. They saw the countenance, appearance and look of an angel.

4. Albert Barnes says, "This expression is one evidently denoting that he manifested evidence of sincerity, gravity, fearlessness, confidence in God."

5. Here is not the proper place for a study of angels in the Bible. We often think of them in long white robes wings on their back, and a halo of golf above their head. When Abraham entertained angels he was not aware that they were indeed angels. He just say three men coming down the road toward him.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Acts 6". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/acts-6.html. 2021.
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