Acts chapter 6          Next chapter            Back to Bible Studies   

From the first verse in this passage we see a remnant of the fact that the Hebraic Jewish Christians still felt themselves superior to the Greek Jewish Christians and this was manifested through the way the food was distributed to widows. The most interesting point in the first section is the Greek word that appears both in verse 1 and in verse 4. In the NIV it is difficult to detect this, but the Greek word 'Diakonai' - 'Ministry' is used regarding both the distribution of food and the Word. It is clear in the Greek text that both are regarded as 'Ministries'. It follows then quite logically that the men who are to be chosen for this 'Ministry of food distribution' had to be men 'Full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom...' (verse 3). What qualifies them for this work is their being filled with the Holy Spirit. We were also reminded of the fact that the money that was laid at the apostles feet in chapter 4 was indeed 'holy' money, to be dealt with very carefully - just like the collection for God's work in the church today.

This speaks loudly against appointments in God's Church based on people's talents or 'inclinations' or position in the community. ALL work in God's church has to do with ministry and the prerequisite is a spiritual qualification, not a physical one. Of course, there is great value in taking people's particular 'gifts' into consideration, but that should be done only once  the spiritual prerequisite has been established. I remember a time in the church that we attended in South Africa that our minister came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit to radically change the way the Church Council was appointed. Up to that point the members of the council were appointed by way of a vote by members of the congregation. As a result, the most prominent citizens of the town were always appointed to the church council, simply because people generally held them in high esteem. However, the truth was that these men hardly had any time for the church due to their busy secular lives. When the system changed to all leaders in the church having to lead Spiritually, these men were highly upset because their busy schedules allowed for no such thing. In the end, many of them left the church in a huff and were replaced by simple, humble, Godly men who were indeed filled with the Holy Spirit. The church started growing almost immediately!

Note in verse 4 and again in verse 6 that the Apostles reserved the right to appoint the men and subsequently lay hands on them. It is also extremely interesting to see that all the names of the men who were appointed are Greek names and not Jewish names, which speaks of much grace in the original church as regards the issue in verse 1. It is no wonder that it says in verse 7 that the church grew and many more were added to their number.

In verse 8 we read about Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power being opposed by the Synagogue of the Freed men. This was a synogogue made up of Jews from other regions who it seems had previously been enslaved. (Another hint here that the Jews in Jerusalem certainly saw themselves as superior to other Jews). We read in verse 10 that these men started arguing with Stephen but could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by which he spoke. First of all this is an indication to us of how an inspired Word is infinetely stronger than a human word, because it is filled with the power of God. All the words of those in ministry should be inspired by God Himself. Secondly it is clearly revealed that these men were not really interested in arguing with Stephen as one would in an authentic debate. In a debate or genuine argument, if one party is properly challenged by the other, then that party accepts defeat and agrees that the other party set forth a very good argument. That is not the case here, which reveals a more sinister motive in their hearts - one similar to what we see displayed towards Jesus when He was crucified. They were evidently not interested in the truth. That is why, when they lose the argument, they resort to deceit, getting some men to testify falsely against Stephen. Let us take careful note of the charges brought against Stephen, as this will form the basis of our study of chapter 8. The charges as found in verse 13 and 14 were: "...This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us"

In verse 15 we find an interesting reference to Stephen's face shining like that of an angel. This reminds us of the face of Moses whenever he had been with the Lord - see Exodus 34: 29 - 35. It is ironic that there is a clue here for those of the Sanhedrin, those who by their own confession revered Moses whose face shone in the same way! The same phenomenon is literally staring them in the face but alas, they don't pick up on it...

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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