Acts Chapter Six
Other evils, unhappily, assail the church (chap. 6). The flesh begins to shew itself, in the midst of the power of the Holy Ghost, the trouble arising from the different circumstances of the disciples, and in those things in which grace had been especially manifested, on the side on which they were connected with the flesh. The Hellenists (Jews born in Grecian or heathen countries) murmur against the Hebrews (natives of Judea), because the widows of the latter were favoured, as they imagined, in the distribution of the goods bestowed on the assembly by its wealthier members. But here the wisdom given by the Spirit meets the difficulty, profiting by the occasion to give development to the work, according to the necessities that were growing up; and seven persons are named to undertake this business, for which the apostles would not forsake their own work. We also find, in the case of Philip and Stephen, the truth of what Paul says: "Those who have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."
Observe here, that the apostles put prayer before preaching in their work, their conflict with the power of evil being more especially carried on in it, as well as their realisation of the power of God for the strength and wisdom they needed; and, in order that they might act directly on God's part, it was necessary that grace and unction should be maintained in their hearts.
Observe also the grace that discovers itself under the influence of the Spirit of God in this matter: all the names, as far as we can judge, are those of Hellenists.
The influence of the word extended, and many priests were obedient to the faith. Thus, until now, the opposition from without, and the evil within, did but minister occasion to the progress of the work of God, by the manifestation of His presence in the midst of the church. Take especial notice of this fact. It is not only that the Spirit does good by His testimony, but, although evil is there without and within, yet where power displays itself, that evil does but bear witness to the efficacy of His presence. There was evil, but there was power to meet it. Still it shewed there was leaven even in the Pentecostal cake.
The energy of the Spirit manifests itself especially in Stephen, who is full of grace and power. The Hellenist Jews oppose him; and, not being able to answer him, they accuse him before the council, and in particular of having announced in the name of Jesus the destruction of the temple and of the city, and the change of the customs of their law. Here, observe, we see the free power of the Holy Ghost, without any sending by any other to the work, as in the apostles appointed by Christ Himself. It is not authority in the apostles, it is not in the Jews of Palestine. He distributes to whom He will. It is the godly and devoted Hellenist who renders the last testimony to the heads of the nation. If priests believe on the one side, Jews from without Judea bear testimony on the other, and prepare the way for a still more extended testimony; but at the same time for the definitive rejection, morally, of the Jews as the basis and centre of the testimony, and of the work of gathering together. For as yet Jerusalem was the centre of testimony and gathering. Peter had testified of a glorious Christ promising His return on their repentance, and they had stopped His testimony. Now judgment is pronounced on them by the Holy Ghost through the mouth of Stephen, in whom they shew themselves open adversaries to this testimony. It is not the apostles who, by official authority, break off with Jerusalem. The free action of the Holy Ghost anticipates a breach, which did not take place so as to form a part of the scripture narrative. The thing is done by the power of God; and the taking up to heaven of the witness raised up by the Spirit to denounce the Jews as adversaries, and to declare their fallen condition, placed the centre of gathering in heaven according to the Spirit-that heaven to which the faithful witness, who was filled with the Spirit, had gone up. Already, while on earth, he had the appearance of an angel to the eyes of the council who judged him; but the hardness of their hearts would not let them stop in the path of hostility towards the testimony rendered to Christ-a testimony which comes out here in a special way as the testimony of the Holy Ghost.
── John Darby《Synopsis of Acts》
The appointment of deacons. (1-7) Stephen falsely accused of blasphemy. (8-15)
Commentary on Acts 6:1-7
(Read Acts 6:1-7)
Hitherto the disciples had been of one accord; this often had been noticed to their honour; but now they were multiplied, they began to murmur. The word of God was enough to take up all the thoughts, cares, and time of the apostles. The persons chosen to serve tables must be duly qualified. They must be filled with gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, necessary to rightly managing this trust; men of truth, and hating covetousness. All who are employed in the service of the church, ought to be commended to the Divine grace by the prayers of the church. They blessed them in the name of the Lord. The word and grace of God are greatly magnified, when those are wrought upon by it, who were least likely.
Commentary on Acts 6:8-15
(Read Acts 6:8-15)
When they could not answer Stephen's arguments as a disputant, they prosecuted him as a criminal, and brought false witnesses against him. And it is next to a miracle of providence, that no greater number of religious persons have been murdered in the world, by the way of perjury and pretence of law, when so many thousands hate them, who make no conscience of false oaths. Wisdom and holiness make a man's face to shine, yet will not secure men from being treated badly. What shall we say of man, a rational being, yet attempting to uphold a religious system by false witness and murder! And this has been done in numberless instances. But the blame rests not so much upon the understanding, as upon the heart of a fallen creature, which is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Yet the servant of the Lord, possessing a clear conscience, cheerful hope, and Divine consolations, may smile in the midst of danger and death.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Acts》
 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
It is not right that we should leave the word of God and serve tables — In the first Church, the primary business of apostles, evangelists, and bishops, was to preach the word of God; the secondary, to take a kind of paternal care (the Church being then like a family,) for the food, especially of the poor, the strangers, and the widows. Afterward, the deacons of both sexes were constituted for this latter business. And whatever time they had to spare from this, they employed in works of spiritual mercy. But their proper office was, to take care of the poor. And when some of them afterward preached the Gospel, they did this not by virtue of their deaconship, but of another commission, that of evangelists, which they probably received, not before, but after they were appointed deacons. And it is not unlikely that others were chosen deacons, or stewards, in their room, when any of these commenced evangelists.
 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
Of good report — That there may be no room to suspect them of partiality or injustice.
Full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom — For it is not a light matter to dispense even the temporal goods of the Church. To do even this well, a large measure both of the gifts and grace of God is requisite.
Whom we will set over this business — It would have been happy for the Church, had its ordinary ministers in every age taken the same care to act in concert with the people committed to their charge, which the apostles themselves, extraordinary as their office was, did on this and other occasions.
 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
We will constantly attend to prayer, and to the ministry of the word — This is doubtless the proper business of a Christian bishop: to speak to God in prayer; to men in preaching his word, as an ambassador for Christ.
 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
And they chose — It seems seven Hellenists, as their names show.
And Nicholas a proselyte — To whom the proselytes would the more readily apply.
 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
And the word of God grew — The hinderances being removed.
 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
There arose certain of the synagogue which is called — It was one and the same synagogue which consisted of these several nations. Saul of Cilicia was doubtless a member of it; whence it is not at all improbable, that Gamaliel presided over it.
Libertines — So they were styled, whose fathers were once slaves, and afterward made free. This was the ease of many Jews who had been taken captive by the Romans.
 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
We have heard him say — So they might. But yet the consequence they drew would not follow.
 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
As the face of an angel — Covered with supernatural lustre. They reckoned his preaching of Jesus to be the Christ was destroying Moses and the law; and God bears witness to him, with the same glory as he did to Moses, when he gave the law by him.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Acts》
Chapter 6. Select Deacons
Wait on Tables
Prayer and the Ministry of the Word
I. Qualification for a Deacon
II. Effect of Ordaining Deacons
III. Stephen Seized
── Chih-Hsin Chang《An Outline of The New Testament》
Chapter Six General Review
OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER
1) To note how the church in
handled their internal problems Jerusalem
2) To examine the process of selecting and appointing those who serve in
the Lord's church
3) To evaluate the charges that were brought against Stephen
As the disciples in
multiplied in number, it is not surprising Jerusalem
to read of problems increasing as well. This chapter describes problems
from within and without the congregation.
Hellenists (Jewish Christians who adopted Grecian culture) complained
that the Hebrews (Jewish Christians who sought to preserve Jewish
culture) neglected their widows in the daily distribution (cf. 2:44-45;
4:34-35). The apostles, desiring not to be distracted from their own
work, summon the disciples and charge them to select seven men whom the
apostles might appoint to take care of this responsibility. Seven are
selected by the people and appointed by the apostles through prayer and
the laying on of hands. With the problem solved, the word of God spread
and the number of disciples multiplied greatly, including the obedience
of many priests (1-6).
Stephen, one of the seven, began doing many wonders and signs.
Opposition arose from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen who
disputed with Stephen. Unable to resist the Spirit and the wisdom of
which he spoke, they resorted to false witnesses to stir up the people,
elders, and scribes. Brought before the council, Stephen was charged
with blasphemy against the temple and the law of Moses. The chapter
ends with the council looking at Stephen, seeing his face as the face of
an angel (7-15).
I. THE SELECTION OF THE SEVEN (1-7)
A. THE PROBLEM (1)
1. As the church grew, there arose a complaint
2. The Hellenists were complaining against the Hebrews
3. The Hellenistic widows were being neglected during the daily
B. THE SOLUTION (3-6)
1. The twelve apostles summon the multitude of disciples
a. It was not good that the apostles leave the word of God to
b. The congregation should select seven men that the apostles
1) Of good reputation
2) Full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom
c. So the apostles might give themselves to prayer and the word
2. The multitude is pleased, and select seven men
a. Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit
b. Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a
3. The seven men are appointed by the apostles
a. Having prayed
b. Laying hands on them
C. THE RESULT (7)
1. The word of God spread, the number of the disciples multiplied
2. Many of the priests were obedient to the faith
II. THE CHARGES AGAINST STEPHEN (8-15)
A. HIS MINISTRY (8-10)
1. Full of faith and power, he did great wonders and signs among
2. Disputed with some from the Synagogue of the Freedmen
a. Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and
b. Who were unable to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which
B. THE ACCUSATIONS (11-14)
1. They secretly induced men to charge him with blasphemy against
Moses and God
2. They stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes
a. To come and seize him
b. To bring him to the (Sanhedrin) council
3. They set up false witnesses who charged Stephen with blasphemy
a. The holy place (temple): "We have heard him say that this
Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place"
b. Against the law (of Moses) "...and change the customs which
Moses delivered to us"
C. HIS COMPOSURE (15)
1. All who sat in the council looked steadfastly at him
2. They saw his face as the face of an angel
REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER
1) What are the main points of this chapter?
- The selection of the seven (1-7)
- The charges against Stephen (8-15)
2) As the church in
grew in number, who raised a complaint? Jerusalem
- The Hellenists against the Hebrews
- The Hellenistic widows were being neglected in the daily
3) When the apostles summoned the disciples, what did they first say to
- "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve
4) What proposal did the apostles offer? (3)
- For the congregation to select seven whom the apostles could
appoint over this business
5) What qualifications did the apostles lay down for the selection of
the seven? (3)
- Men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom
6) What would this enable the apostles to do? (4)
- Give themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the
7) What were the names of the seven men who were selected? What is
unique about their names? (5)
- Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicholas
- They are all Grecian (Hellenistic) names
8) How did the apostles appoint those whom the congregation selected?
- Through prayer and the laying on of hands
9) As the word of spread, what two things occurred? (7)
- The number of the disciples multiplied greatly
- A great many of the priests were obedient to the faith
10) What did Stephen, one of the seven, do among the people? (8)
- Great signs and wonders
11) Who began to dispute with Stephen? (9)
- Some from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians,
others from Cilicia and
12) What were they unable to do? (10)
- Resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which Stephen spoke
13) What did they secretly induce men to say? (11)
- "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God"
14) What did they stir up the people, elders, and scribes to do? (12)
- To seize Stephen and bring him to the council
15) What did they set up false witnesses to say? (13-14)
- "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this
holy place and the law"
- "We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy
this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us"
16) As those in the council looked at Stephen, what did they see? (15)
- His face as the face of an angel