Luke tells us that this was a time when the early church was growing by leaps and bounds. In verse 1 we have the first mention in the book of Acts of the word “disciple.” Verse one also tells us that there arose a dispute between the Hebrew and Hellenistic (Greek Speaking) Jews. Who were these groups? The Hebrews were the native born Jews who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah and the others were Jews who had been born or grew up in places where the Greek culture as prevalent and the Greek language spoken. Luke tells us that the widows in this group were being neglected in the daily serving of food. We’re not told why, however.
We are told that the apostles called the people together. The Twelve told them that they did not have time to wait on tables themselves. It was their ministry to be in prayer and teaching the Word. Verse 3 gives us the qualifications for, what some have said, is the office of deacon. It does not say they were deacons. It is interesting to note that the qualifications for a deacon as found elsewhere in Scripture, are not the ones mentioned here. R. J. Kidwell writes the following,
“The men chosen in Acts 6 were selected for a ‘particular’ need in a ‘particular’ city at a ‘particular’ time and the word ‘deacon’ does not appear in the text. Since there were no ‘elders’ in the church at this time, if these men were actually deacons, it would mean that this office was established before the eldership. The qualifications for these ‘seven’ are not he same qualifications set forth later for the office of ”deacons.’ It is also observed that when we read of these men later they were not serving in Jerusalem as ‘deacon’ but some were preaching evangelists in far cities from Jerusalem. Note also when one of them is referred by Luke in Acts 21:8 he is not called a deacon but rather ‘one of the seven.’ This phrase may well be the best way to designate them: ‘the seven’,
Verse 6 tells us that the apostles, after prayer, laid their hands on the seven. In verse 7 we are told that the Word of God kept spreading and that the number of the Body kept increasing in Jerusalem. Also many priests came to know Jesus as the true Messiah of Israel.
The Ministry of Stephen. Acts 6:8-15
Of the seven who were chosen to serve the church in Jerusalem, only Stephen and Phillip get further mention in Acts. We will mention Phillip later in our studies. At this time and in the 7th chapter, we are going to center our thoughts on Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
In verse 8 we see Stephen doing great works and performing signs and wonders. This would be as a result of the laying on of the hands of the apostles. But he came upon some persecution in verse 9. It says that some from the Synagogue of the Freedmen were debating and arguing with Stephen. The verse also tells is where they were from.
Verse 10 tells us that the Jews were unable to hold their ground with Stephen. These Jews were from provinces where the Greek culture was predominant. Stephen was speaking with the backing of the Holy Spirit. Verse 11 reminds one of the trial of Jesus. Juts as the authorities could not find anything to condemn Jesus, they could not find anything with Stephen. We’re told they brought in false witnesses to twist the truth. They brought in people who were willing to lie about what they had heard the Christians preach and teach. Does that not remind you of the trial of the Lord of Glory?
Verse 12 tells us that the ones from the Synagogue of the Freedmen were the ones who stirred up the people. Then they dragged Stephen before the Sanhedrin on the trumped up charges of blasphemy. They accused him of teaching things contrary to the Mosaic Law. Verse 13 says that that the false witnesses came forward and lied about Stephen’s actions, twisting his words. Stephen was accused of preaching that Jesus was going to destroy the temple and alter Mosaic Law. The concluding verse in the chapter says that the Council, as they gazed on Stephen’s face, saw Stephen’s face as that of an angel
Please read the 7th chapter of Acts. We will see how this man of God handled his defense before the Sanhedrin, The title of the next lesson will be “Stephen Gives the Sanhedrin a History Lesson.”