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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
Acts 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-15

Chapter 6

THE FIRST OFFICE-BEARERS (Acts 6:1-7)

6:1-7 In those days, when the number of the disciples was growing, there arose a complaint of the Greek-speaking Jews against the Hebrew-speaking Jews, in which they alleged that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. The Twelve sent for the main body of the disciples and said, "It is not fitting that we should abandon the word of God to serve tables. So, brethren, look about for seven attested men from your number, men full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this business. As for us, we will give our undivided attention to prayer and to the service of the word." This seemed a good idea to the body of the disciples. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip and Prochoros and Nicanor and Timon and Parmenos and Nicolaos, who was a Gentile from Antioch who had embraced the Jewish faith. They brought these men into the presence of the apostles; and they prayed and laid their hands upon them. So the word of God progressed and the number of disciples in Jerusalem was very greatly increased; and a large number of the priests accepted the faith.

As the Church grew it began to encounter the problems of an institution. No nation has ever had a greater sense of responsibility for the less fortunate brethren than the Jews.

In the synagogue there was a routine custom. Two collectors went round the market and the private houses every Friday morning and made a collection for the needy partly in money and partly in goods. Later in the day this was distributed. Those who were temporarily in need received enough to enable them to carry on; and those who were permanently unable to support themselves received enough for fourteen meals, that is, enough for two meals a day for the ensuing week. The fund from which this distribution was made was called the Kuppah or Basket. In addition to this a house-to-house collection was made daily for those in pressing need. This was called the Tamhui, or Tray.

It is clear that the Christian Church had taken over this custom. But amidst the Jews themselves there was a cleavage. In the Christian Church there were two kinds of Jews. There were the Jerusalem and the Palestinian Jews who spoke Aramaic, the descendant of the ancestral language, and prided themselves that there was no foreign admixture in their lives. There were also Jews from foreign countries who had come up for Pentecost and made the great discovery of Christ. Many of these had been away from Palestine for generations; they had forgotten their Hebrew and spoke only Greek. The natural consequence was that the spiritually snobbish Aramaic-speaking Jews looked down on the foreign Jews. This contempt affected the daily distribution of alms and there was a complaint that the widows of the Greek-speaking Jews were being--possibly deliberately--neglected. The apostles felt they ought not to get themselves mixed up in a matter like this; so the Seven were chosen to straighten out the situation.

It is extremely interesting to note that the first office-bearers to be appointed were chosen not to talk but for practical service.

A CHAMPION OF FREEDOM ARISES (Acts 6:8-15)

6:8-15 Stephen, full of grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. There arose in debate with Stephen certain members of the synagogue of the Libertines and of the Cyrenians and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia; and they could find no answer to his wisdom and to the Spirit with whose help he spoke. So they formed a plot to introduce certain men who alleged, "We heard this man speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." So they agitated the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon Stephen and seized him and brought him to the Sanhedrin. Then they introduced false witnesses who alleged, "This man never stops saying things against the holy place and against the law; for we have heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will alter the customs which Moses handed down to us." And when all those who sat in the Sanhedrin gazed intently at him, they saw his face looking as if it were the face of an angel.

The Church's appointment of these seven men had far-reaching consequences. In essence the great struggle had begun. The Jews always looked on themselves as the chosen people; but they had interpreted chosen in the wrong way, regarding themselves as chosen for special privilege and believing that God had no use for any other nation. At their worst they declared that God had created the Gentiles to be fuel for the fires of hell; at their mildest they believed that some day the Gentiles would become their servants. They never dreamed that they were chosen for service to bring all men into the same relationship with God as they themselves enjoyed.

Here was the thin end of the wedge. This is not yet a question of bringing in the Gentiles. It is Greek-speaking Jews who are involved. But not one of the seven has a Jewish name; and one of them, Nicolaos, was a Gentile who had accepted the Jewish faith. And Stephen had a vision of a world for Christ. To the Jews two things were specially precious--the Temple, where alone sacrifice could be offered and God could be truly worshipped and the Law which could never be changed. Stephen, however, said that the Temple must pass away, that the Law was but a stage towards the gospel and that Christianity must go out to the whole wide world. None could withstand his arguments and so the Jews resorted to force and Stephen was arrested. His career was to be short; but he was the first to see that Christianity was not the perquisite of the Jews but God's offer to all the world.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Acts 6:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/acts-6.html. 1956-1959.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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