Acts Chapter Six
I. Content of the Chapter
Deacons in the Church
I. The reason why deacons are appointed (v.1-2, 4).
II. The conditions for deacons (v.3).
III. The procedure for choosing and appointing deacons (v.5-6).
IV. The result of appointing deacons (v.7).
V. The example of deacons------Stephen:
A. Being full of faith and power (v.8).
B. Speaking by the wisdom and the Spirit (v.9-10).
C. Being envied and hated by enemies (v.11-14).
D. Manifesting the heavenly appearance (v.15).
II. Verse by Verse commentary
Acts. 6:1 “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.”
YLT: “And in these days, the disciples multiplying, there came a murmuring of the Hellenists at the Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily ministration,”
Meaning of Words: “distribution”: service, assignment, management, position.
Literal Meaning: “the Hebrews by the
Hellenists” the Grecized Jews.
They were born outside of
“There arose a complaint against the
Hebrews” “The Hebrews”
refer to the Jews who lived in
“Because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution” The needs of the widows who do not have the care of relatives become the responsibilities of the church (1Tim. 5:16).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying” Every time the church increases rapidly and the number of the church is multiplying, it is the moment that the enemy makes the disunion in the church.
2) “There arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists”------the internal difficulties in the church always result from the natural differences among believers, e.g. the differences in races, nationalities, languages, habits and customs, educational background, social classes and etc.
3) We should never consider “complaint” a petty thing. If one has not gone up into the gap, the oneness of the church will be destroyed and the division will be made.
4) “Their widows were neglected in the daily distribution” What greatly harms the oneness of the church is the different treatments among believers.
Acts. 6:2 “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.”
YLT: “and the twelve, having called near the multitude of the disciples, said, `It is not pleasing that we, having left the word of God, do minister at tables;”
Meaning of Words: “serve”: minister, divide; “desirable”: virtue, morality, fit, pleasing.
Literal Meaning: “serve tables” refers to being concerned about the physical needs of believers.
“It is not desirable” in the original means “it is not our virtue”. The Lord chose and called the twelve apostles and let them fulfill their ministries of the word of God. If the apostles throw away their original ministries in order to take care of the needs of believers in life, it is not the apostles’ virtue of love, humbleness, ability and etc but their clumsiness. Please note that it does not mean that serving the tables is inferior to praying and preaching. It means that they disobey God’s original intention of choosing and calling them if they leave prayers and preachment and take the responsibility of serving tables.
This verse shows us two kinds of ministers: 1) the minister of the word of God; 2) the minister of serving tables. In other words: 1) the minister of the spiritual provision; 2) the minister of dealing with things. However, it does not means that both of them is not concerned with each other because it is recorded later that Stephen who served tables also partook in the provision of the word (See v.10). It means that each believer should develop his advantages according to his gifts.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The craftiness of the devil is to utilize our daily (“tables”) problems to divert our attention so that we may leave the spiritual need (“the word of God”).
2) Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). It is true that men need the provision of food, however, we need the provision of the word of God more.
3) In the service, some are important, such as taking care of the widows and etc. However, these works may probably delay the more important works.
4) It’s better for the church not to ask the preacher to be the general manger concurrently because not only it injures the gifts of the preacher and what the Lord has entrusted him but also it does not bring any benefit to the church. We have many functions in the world, however, we could only choose the fittest one and do it well so that we could help men in the world.
5) Every time some troubles take place in the church, it is the chance to test the leaders of the church because they may: a) dare not deal with the things; b) shirk their responsibilities); c) use “punishment” to take the place of “dealing with”; d) have not seized the origin of the problems.
Acts. 6:3 “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;”
YLT: “look out, therefore, brethren, seven men of you who are well testified of, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may set over this necessity,”
Literal Meaning: “seek out from among you seven men of good reputation” “Of good reputation” in the original means “being well testified of”. The testimony is true and good reputation may be false.
“Full of the Holy Spirit” In the original, “full of” describes the state of inner fullness (See v.5, Acts. 7:55; 11:24; Luke. 4:1) instead of the outer bathing (Acts. 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9; Luke. 1:15, 41, 67).
“Full of the Holy Spirit” One’s being filled with the Holy Spirit is temporary. One’s being full of the Holy Spirit is permanent and he keeps the state of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
“And wisdom” The previous “full of the Holy Spirit” stresses on the spiritual life and power. Here the “wisdom” stresses on the knowledge and ability of working.
“Whom we may appoint over this business” “over” is the verb and means serving. The word “minister” (Pill. 1:1; 1Tim. 3:8-13) is from this word.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) This verse indicates the conditions for choosing and appointing deacons: a) “out from among you”------the “disciples” who have learned a lot in the church (See v.2); b) “of good reputation”------have good testimony before men; c) “full of the Holy Spirit”------have spiritual pursuit before God; d) “and wisdom”------have the ability of management in affairs.
2) The selection of deacons is absolutely not like “the conception of democracy” in the Christianity-----the minority is subject to the majority. It is done by accepting the authority of the Lord and the management of the Holy Spirit and it is not the consultation of men’s opinions.
3) The deacons are not merely “chosen”. They “grow up” to be deacons. If there is only “choosing” and there is not “growing up”, more difficulties will arise in the church.
4) He whoever is willing to be chosen to be a deacon must have considerable spiritual stature and character. In the spiritual service, the spiritual character is much more important than the workmanship.
5) We should not only seek to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” but also keep the state of “being full of the Holy Spirit”.
6) Only when we always keep the state of “being full of the Holy Spirit” will our inner life be abundant and we be full of “wisdom” so that we are able to deal with the heavy affairs in the church.
7) The service of the church is the corporate service. Leaders in the church should never attempt to monopolize everything and they should choose appropriate ones to share the burdens of the church.
Acts. 6:4 “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’”
YLT: “and we to prayer, and to the ministration of the word, will give ourselves continually.’”
Meaning of Words: “continually”: persistently and earnestly.
Literal Meaning: “but we will give ourselves continually to” “give ourselves to” in the original means to put one’s heart into a certain matter and put his heart into the matter persistently and firmly.
“To prayer and to the ministry of the word” “Prayer” is speaking to God for men. “The ministry of the word” is speaking to men for God. Please note that prayer is mentioned before the ministry of the word because only prayer could promote the effect of the ministry of the word. After one who has got the word of God before Him, has understood the will of God and has been strengthened by Him, he will be able to fully supply the blessings from God before men.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) In our busy works, we may neglect that prayer is
the best thing that we could devote to the
2) It is normal to “pray” first and then to “preach”. It falls if there is little “prayer” and much “ministry of the word”. It must be defeated if one only “preaches” and does not pray at all.
3) Prayer is required in preaching the gospel. The one who preaches the gospel must be a prayer. We must pray completely in order to lead and accompany our ministry of the word.
4) Prayer and the ministry of the word are a spiritual circulation------prayer brings in the ministry of the word and the ministry of the word brings in prayer again. Without prayer, the ministry of the word will lack the provision and power of life and without the ministry of the word, the burden one has received in prayer cannot be conveyed.
Acts. 6:5 “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
YLT: “And the thing was
pleasing before all the multitude, and they did choose Stephen, a man full of
faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon,
and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of
Meaning of Words: “Stephen”: crown; “Philip”: lover of horses; “Prochorus”: leader of singer and dancer; “Nicanor”: conqueror; “Timon”: honor; “Parmenas”: firm; “Nicolas”: conqueror of the people.
Literal Meaning: “Stephen…and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas” These names were all the Greek names and undoubtedly, the seven men were the Hellenists.
“Nicolas, a proselyte from
Many Bible exegetes held that the “Nicolas” here was the “Nicola” in the Revelation (Rev. 2:7, 15). However, no assurance could prove it.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Choose men from the Hellenists in order to solve the problem among the Hellenists. It shows us that the selection of deacons is arranging men according to affairs instead of dealing with affairs according to men.
2) If the church wants to deal with the problems, those who are familiar with the problems should be found to deal with them.
Acts. 6:6 “whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.”
YLT: “whom they did set before the apostles, and they, having prayed, laid on them [their] hands.”
Literal Meaning: “whom they set before the apostles” Please note that they were “set before” the apostles. It is not like what men do today that the one who lays hand on stands and the one who is laid hands on “kneels down”.
“And when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.” “Laying hands on” in the Bible has several aspects of meanings: 1) passing on the blessings (Gen. 48:13-20); 2) distributing the honor (Num. 27:18-19); 3) giving the gifts (2Tim. 1:6); 4) healing (Acts. 28:8); 5) union------in the Old Testament, laying hands on the stock shows that the one who offers the sacrifice and the sacrifice are united together and the sacrifice’s bleeding and being killed is regarded that the one who offers the sacrifice bleeds and is killed and therefore his sins would be remitted (Lev. 1:4); in the New Testament, it shows the union between the one who lays hands on and the one who has been laid hands on (1Tim. 5:22).
Here the apostles’ laying hands on represents that the body has “communication, union, Amen and seal” with the one who has been laid hands on. On one hand the body agrees on the selection of the Holy Spirit in the church and on the other the body partakes in their service and bears the responsibility of the ministers together in the Spirit.
Acts. 6:7 “Then the word of God
spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in
YLT: “And the word of God
did increase, and the number of the disciples did multiply in
Meaning of Words: “word”: logos; “spread”: grow, increase.
Literal Meaning: “Then the word of God spread” “spread” implies the growing-up of life; the word of God is life and it grows gradually as if the seed has been sowed in men’s hearts (Mark. 4:14).
This verse shows the result that is manifested after the church had chosen and appointed the deacons. The reason why the word of God spread is that: 1) the problem had been dealt with (v.1); 2) the apostles gave themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word (v.4); 3) the church was in peace; 4) members served according to their gifts.
“And a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” “Priests” previously inherited the service of the Old Testament to offer the sacrifice and partook in the service of obeying the ordinances of the Old Testament. Today they were obedient to “the faith” which declares another sacrifice------Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many (Heb. 9:28)------and therefore the system of sacrifice of the Old Testament became needless (Heb. 10:1-4, 11-14).
“Were obedient” shows trusting and obeying. Believing God is to obey Him. Faith itself is obedience and faith also brings obedience (Eph. 2:8-10; James. 2:14-26).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) If the problems in the church have been dealt with very well, the spiritual revival will be brought in.
2) A normal church could be manifested in three aspects: a) the witness is strengthened------“the word of God spread”; b) the number of men increases------“the number of the disciples multiplied greatly”; c) the resisters are conquered------“a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith”.
Acts. 6:8 “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”
YLT: “And Stephen, full of faith and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people,”
Literal Meaning: “Stephen, full of faith and power” “faith” is grace------what God has given men to make them enjoy the benefits freely. The greatest grace that men could receive is God Himself is received and enjoyed by men. “Power” is the power that the Holy Spirit comes upon men (Acts. 1:8).
“Did great wonders and signs among the people” these are the specific performances that he was full of faith and power of the Holy Spirit and God was with him.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Stephen was not the apostle and he was the deacon who served tables. However, his deeds were recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Contrarily, the work of many apostles had not been recorded in this book. It shows that what’s important is not one’s position in the church but the effect of his work.
2) The deacons in the church are not only good at going on errands and working but also are strong and abundant in the spiritual life just like Stephen who was full of “faith and power” and did “great wonders and signs”.
3) One has to be “full of faith and power” first and then he is able to do wonders and signs. God is our faith and the Holy Spirit is our power and then naturally we could do wonders and signs.
Acts. 6:9 “Then there arose some
from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and
those from Cilicia and
YLT: “and there arose
certain of those of the synagogue, called of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and
Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia, and
Meaning of Words: “Freedmen”: release, free; “disputing”: discuss, argue, search for the answer together.
Literal Meaning: “some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen” “Freedmen” means “men who have been released”, i.e. the salves who have been released. They may be the Jews and their offspring who had been captured to Roman to be slaves by the Roman Governor Pompeii in B.C. 63 and later were released.
“Alexander” is the capital of
“Cilicia” is one of the provinces of the Roman Empire and
it is in the southeast corner of Asia Minor and it is close to
“Asia” is one of the provinces of the Roman Empire and
it is in the west of
“Some from what is called the Synagogue of…” “The Synagogue of…” shows that there were many Synagogues in
“Disputing with Stephen” Some Bible exegetes held that it was a misstep of Stephen to dispute over the gospel with others. According to the following records, though he had won the opponents (v.10), he did not make the opponents be convinced gladly and wholeheartedly and contrarily made the opponents have greater enmity and try to frame him (v.11-14). On one hand we admit that it is not the way of saving men for Christians to make a score off the opponents. If possible, we should avoid disputing with men when preaching the gospel and pay attention to the following principles: 1) do not bruise the opponents’ self-esteem; 2) do not irritate the opponents’ sentiment; 3) state calmly when not agreeing on the opponents’ ideas; 4) cease the talk when the sentiment of the opponents is agitated.
On the other, we think that the “dispute” of Stephen was unavoidable at that time and the reasons are as follows: 1) from this verse we could know that the opponents “arose” to dispute (i.e. arising the dispute) with Stephen when he was preaching the gospel and Stephen was forced to retort; 2) the retort of Stephen was helped and sealed by the Holy Spirit (v.10); 3) though Stephen martyred because of this, he saw the heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God and praising him (Acts. 7:55-56); 4) the state of the martyrdom of Stephen probably made the indelible impression on the young man Saul (Acts. 7:58-60) and made great effect on Paul’s being saved and works------the Lord used Stephen to bring a greater vessel.
Acts. 6:10 “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.”
YLT: “and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit with which he was speaking;”
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The key for believers to bear witness of the Lord is “to speak by the wisdom and the Spirit”. Every time we speak for the Lord, we should not think simply by ourselves and we should speak according to the communion and prompt of the Holy Spirit in us (Luke. 12:12).
2) If a believer lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James. 1:5).
3) Men could resist believers and could not resist the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Actually who they resist is not us “men” but “the Holy Spirit” (Acts. 7:51).
Acts. 6:11 “Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’”
YLT: “then they suborned men, saying ‘We have heard him speaking evil sayings in regard to Moses and God.’”
Meaning of Words: “blasphemous”: scurrilous, calumnious; “words”: words in season (rhema).
Literal Meaning: “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses” Probably Stephen preached that the Law of Moses and the ordinances of sacrifice are only the shadow and are not the image itself of the things (Heb. 10:1) and Christ is the reality of the Law and sacrifices (Col. 2:17). The resisters distorted his words in order to incriminate him.
“And God” The Jews regarded Pentateuch as the living oracles of God (Acts. 7:38) and therefore speaking blasphemous words against the Law of Moses is slandering the word of God.
Acts. 6:12 “And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.”
YLT: “They did stir up also the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and having come upon [him], they caught him, and brought [him] to the sanhedrim;”
Meaning of Words: “stir up”: incite, agitate, provoke.
Literal Meaning: “And they stirred up the people” “Stir up” in the original means the “shaking” of the volcanic eruption and it is the strong jounce.
“And they came upon him, seized him” “Came upon” is a word in the original and it indicates rushing with violent emotion. “Seize” refers to a kind of violent arrest.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Stephen bore witness of the Lord and was contrarily slandered (v.11, 13-14) and seized and martyred for the Lord (Acts. 7:60). He indeed partook in the tribulation of Christ (Col. 1:24) and had the model of the death of the cross.
2) Those who seized Stephen acted as rioters (according to the original meaning). The religious fever is very dreadful (Gal. 1:13-14).
Acts. 6:13 “They also set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law;”
YLT: “they set up also false witnesses, saying, `This one doth not cease to speak evil sayings against this holy place and the law,”
Meaning of Words: “blasphemous”: scornful, to lower, to overturn.
Literal Meaning: “does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law” Stephen may quote the words of the Lord Jesus to show that: 1) He is the true holy place and tabernacle (John. 2:19; Heb. 8:2); b) the Law of the Old Testament had insufficiencies and He came to perfect and elevate the level of the Law (Matt. 5:17-47). And therefore he was misunderstood and distorted on purpose by men.
Acts. 6:14 “for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.’”
YLT: “for we have heard him saying, That this Jesus the Nazarean shall overthrow this place, and shall change the customs that Moses delivered to us;’”
Meaning of Words: “the customs”: regulations, customs, traditions.
Literal Meaning: “this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place” Stephen may quote the word of the Lord Jesus in order to warn the Jews that the Holy city and temple will be destroyed (Matt. 23:38; 24:2).
“And change the customs which Moses delivered to us” “The customs” refer to the explanations of the scribes to the Law and the Jews regarded that they were from Moses and anyone who resisted the customs equally resisted the Law of Moses. The Lord Jesus condemned them for transgressing the commandments of God on account of their tradition (Matt. 15:3-6).
Acts. 6:15 “And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.”
YLT: “and gazing at him, all those sitting in the sanhedrim saw his face as it were the face of a messenger.”
Literal Meaning: “saw his face as the face of an angel” Luke, the author of this book, had not seen Stephen and he may describe so according to the impression of Paul because Paul was one of the eyewitnesses at that time (Acts. 7:60).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The messenger of the gospel has to fully enjoy the benefits of the gospel and be steeped in the heavenly grace first and then he will show the heavenly countenance.
2) If we believers always communicate with the Lord and look on the glory of the Lord, with unveiled face, we will reflect the glory of the Lord on our face (2Cor. 3:7, 18; Exod. 34:30).
III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons
The Benefits of Cooperation in the Church
I. Keep the union of the church (v.1).
II. Avoid many abuses (v.1-2).
III. Give fully play of one’s strong point (v.2-4).
IV. The preachers were allowed to give themselves to the spiritual things (v.4).
V. All believers participated (v.5 the first sentence).
VI. Magnify the Lord with one accord (v.6).
VII. Bring in the blessings of God (v.7).
Turning the Crisis into a Turning Point
I. The enemy made crisis in the church:
A. the number was multiplying (v.1a).
B. there was the gap of language and culture (v.1b).
C. there was too many people and affairs and the widows were neglected (v.1c).
II. The performances that the church should have in face of the crisis:
A. not disregard it------the twelve apostles summoned the multitude of the disciples (v.2a).
B. find out the reason of the crisis------the apostles that they could not monopolize everything (v.2b).
C. find the suitable men for the relevant positions------find the suitable men (v.3a).
D. give the power and responsibilities------appoint them over this business (v.3b).
E. look upon God more------they gave themselves to prayer (v.4a).
F. supply life more------they gave themselves to the ministry of the word of God (v.4b).
III. The crisis was dealt with well and it turned into a turning point of the church:
A. the saying pleased the whole multitude (v.5a).
B. those who had gifts were approved (v.5b).
C. the fellow-workers had communication and union (v.6).
D. bring in the blessings of God (v.7).
The Conditions for Deacons in the Church
II. Of good reputation (v.3b)------one has good testimony because of his walking.
III. Full of the Holy Spirit (v.3b)------one has the more abundant spiritual life.
IV. Full of wisdom (v.3b)------one has the ability to deal with affairs.
V. “They chose” (v.5a)------one has been generally acknowledged.
VI. Full of faith (v.5b)------one relies on God.
The Example of Stephen
II. He was full of the Holy Spirit (v.5b).
III. He was full of faith and power (v.8a).
IV. He did great wonders and signs (v.8b).
V. He spoke by the wisdom and the Spirit (v.10).
VI. He was peaceful in persecution and his face was as the face of an angel (v.15).
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Sharon Ren