|Acts Chapter 6|
Translation by William E. Paul
by Charles Dailey
(Black underlined words match words in the Bible text.)
|Luke brings us to the first wide-spread internal problem that faced the church. Unless it was confronted and cleared up, the church could not survive with its marvelous unity. Luke had reported women specifically being converted (5:14), and now he addresses a related problem.|
|1) Now during the days when the disciples were multiplying in number [in Jerusalem. See verse 7], some Greek-[speaking] Jews began to complain to the Hebrews that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution [of food].|| – Growth has been happening and the official opposition has been ignored. 2:41,47;4:4;5:14,28. The multiplying in number period Luke refers to was nearing an end.
- The Greek-speaking Jews had been raised outside of Palestine in such major centers as Alexandria and Antioch. The tension in the story is between two sub-cultures. The locals considered others inferior.
- Widows had formerly been cared for through the synagogue system, and now the church was doing the same from their group treasury. Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27.
|2) So, the twelve apostles called the whole group of disciples together and said to them, "It is not right that we should neglect preaching the word of God in order to serve meals [to people].||– Providing assistance to the widows was taking time away from the apostles' main assignment of preaching the word. They acted immediately and decisively.|
|3) Brothers, select from among you seven men with good reputations, who are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to take care of this matter.|| – Even with their special gifts, the apostles told the church to select qualified men for them to appoint. The church was in a good position to know each man's reputation, whereas the twelve were from Galilee.
- Both godliness and problem-solving skills were needed and the presence of one does not guarantee the presence of the other.
|4) But we will continue earnestly in prayer and the preaching of God's word."|| |
|5) This arrangement pleased the whole group, so they selected Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus, a proselyte [i.e., convert to the Jewish religion] from Antioch.|| – With thousand of members involved, there was some kind of temporary sub-structure such as committees to get these decisions made so agreeably.
- Luke introduces Stephen and Philip and tells about them later. He also introduces the city of Antioch for later development.
- Nicolaus must have been a pagan, then a Jew and then became a Christian.
|6) [Then] they presented these men to the apostles, who prayed for them while placing their hands on them [to signify their appointment].||– Luke frequently uses the placing on of hands to signify conveying miraculous powers. We believe that is true here because in verse eight Stephen immediately uses such power. See footnote.|
Luke uses the friendly placing of hands in most cases to indicate that miraculous power or healing was conveyed. Other passages where this is true are Acts 5:12; 8:17, 18, 19; 9:12, 17; 14:3; 19:6, 11; 18:8.
|7) So, the message of God increased [in its influence] and the disciples multiplied in number greatly in Jerusalem, [so that even] a large number of [Jewish] priests became obedient to [the message of] the faith.|| – Each man selected has a Greek name, so some (or all) of them were from the complaining segment of the church. This peaceful solution caused the number of converts to soar.
- The conversion of these priests is a remarkable evidence of the Faith. These priests were willing to surrender their inherited careers to follow Jesus. Perhaps they knew the story of Zacharias now recorded in Luke 1.
|8) And Stephen [i.e., one of the seven men chosen to minister to widows, verse 5], who was full of [God's] favor and power, performed great wonders and [miraculous] signs in front of the [Jewish] people.||– We met Stephen in verse 5. He went beyond the serving of widows, serving up new evidence that God was with this new message.|
|9) But several men from the synagogue, made up of freed slaves from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia, began arguing with Stephen.|| – The opposition now moves from the Sanhedrin down to the synagogue level and the impetus came from the Grecian-Jewish group.
- Saul was from Tarsus in Cilicia. Though he was not a freed slave, that's where his countrymen attended the synagogue.
|10) But they could not stand up to the wisdom and [power of] the Holy Spirit by which Stephen spoke.||– Truth, when properly presented, will win. These opponents would do anything to silence Stephen.|
|11) Then they enlisted men to say [i.e., to testify falsely against Stephen, verse 13], "We heard him criticizing Moses and [even] God."|| – They enlisted, vs. 11; they stirred, vs.12, They had arranged, vs. 13.
- When men are determined, lying is not a problem to them. This was a classic smear campaign.
|12) And they stirred up the people, the elders and the teachers of the law of Moses and searched for him, seized him and brought him before the Council.|| – The Council has a new case!
- The fear and awe of the townspeople toward the Christians (5:11,13) was giving away to anger and hostility.
- Similar to the treatment Jesus received. Matt. 26:59-61.
|13) They had arranged for the false witnesses to say, "This man will not stop speaking against the Temple and the law of Moses,|| |
|14) for we [ourselves] heard him saying that this Jesus from Nazareth would destroy the Temple and change the customs handed down to us by Moses."||– Stephen no doubt warned about the end of the Temple as told by Jesus in Matthew 24 and also how Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses. Luke 24:44.|
|15) Then, as all the Council members stared at Stephen, his face appeared to them like an angel's.||– Luke could have learned this from Saul, who was there. Acts 8:1. Luke was with Paul in Rome when he wrote Acts. By that time, Paul had seen an angel and knew what one's face was like. Acts 27:23.|