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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary
Acts 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-6

6:1-8:3 CHANGES IN JERUSALEM

Organizing church affairs (6:1-6)

In the Jerusalem church there were two types of Jews, those brought up in Palestine who spoke Aramaic and those brought up in other places (such as Jews of the Dispersion) who spoke only Greek. The Greek-speaking Jews were known as Hellenists. Throughout Palestine there was tension between the two groups, and this tension carried over into the church. The Hellenists complained that, when widows were given their daily share from the common pool, the Hellenist widows were being neglected (6:1).

To ensure that the daily distribution of food was handled fairly and in the right spirit, the apostles invited the church to choose seven suitable men, whom the apostles then appointed to look after the work. It appears from their Greek names that those chosen were Hellenists (2-6). With the appointment of these men, the apostles took the first steps towards the organization of the the church.

Deacons (church helpers)

When Christianity later spread to nearby regions, other churches followed Jerusalem's example of appointing people to look after specific affairs. As a result an order of deacons, or church helpers, became a regular feature of life in the early church (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8). The word 'deacon' was related to the words used to denote the Jerusalem seven and their work. It was the common Greek word for servant or minister (Romans 12:7; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:17).

The New Testament nowhere defines the work of deacons. In the case of the Jerusalem seven, their main purpose was to accept responsibility for certain everyday tasks and so give the apostles more time for prayer and teaching (Acts 6:4). In churches that later grew up elsewhere, pastoral care and church leadership were the responsibilities of the elders. Deacons were a separate group who had other responsibilities (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 3:8; cf. Acts 20:28; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 5:1-5). The variety of needs within the church meant that opportunities existed for both men deacons and women deacons (Romans 16:1-2; 1 Timothy 3:11; cf. Luke 8:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:10).

Deacons were to be spiritual people, for right attitudes were necessary even in carrying out routine activities (Acts 6:3; 1 Timothy 3:9). But the work of deacons was not limited to such activities. Two of the Jerusalem seven, for example, were gifted preachers (Acts 6:5; Acts 6:8-10; Acts 8:5).

The Bible records no instructions concerning how deacons were appointed, though the action of the Jerusalem church may suggest some guidelines. The church leaders apparently invited the church members to select suitable people, taking into account their character, behaviour, ability, family life and Christian commitment (Acts 6:3a; 1 Timothy 3:8-13). After due prayer and consideration, the elders made the appointment (Acts 6:3b; 1 Timothy 3:10), in the understanding that only Spirit-gifted and Spirit-controlled people could properly do the work of deacons (1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 1 Corinthians 12:11; 1 Peter 4:11).


Verses 7-15

Preaching of Stephen (6:7-15)

With the conversion of a large number of priests (not high priestly Sadducees, but ordinary temple officials), the Christians' ties with the temple might have become even stronger (7). But the preaching of Stephen quickly saw those ties broken decisively, at least in the case of the Hellenists. Stephen was one of the seven men who administered the church's welfare work, but he was also a prominent preacher and miracle-worker (8).

Stephen saw that Christianity and Judaism could not go hand in hand. With Jesus' death and resurrection, Judaism was finished. The Jewish religious system, along with its laws, ceremonies, priests and temple, had fulfilled its purpose and was now replaced by something new. When the Jews heard Stephen preaching these things in one of the Hellenists' synagogues in Jerusalem, they reported him to the Sanhedrin for preaching against Judaism (9-15). The Sadducees were pleased at last to have an accusation against the Christians that was certain to win popular support. They knew that the people would not tolerate this threat to their national religion (see v. 12).

 


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Bibliography Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Acts 6:4". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/acts-6.html. 2005.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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