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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 6

Verses 1-7

  1. Intro:
    1. Philanthropy! - I used to look down my nose on those who were “philanthropic then I looked up the word!
      1. It is a beautiful word. Philanthropy comes from 2 Greek words philos & anthropos. (“Loving” “Human beings”) {or, “man-lovingness”} [philanthropos]
      2. Being “Philanthropic” means, “showing kindness, charitable concern, and generosity toward other people”.
      3. So by adding one word in front of it “Christian Philanthropy” it helps point to where our kindness, love, & generosity is drawn from.
      4. 1 definition for Christian in the dictionary is: “showing qualities such as kindness, helpfulness, and concern for others.” (Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2005. © 1993-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.)
      5. Christian Philanthropy – “Christians loving their fellow man”.
    2. The Mazatec Indians in Southwestern Mexico have an odd behavior which stems from their concept of “limited good.” They believe there is only so much good, so much knowledge, so much love to go around. To teach another means you might drain yourself of knowledge. To love a second child means you have to love the first child less. To wish someone well - “Have a good day” - means you have just given away some of your own happiness, which cannot be reacquired.
      1. PTL we have a vast reservoir we can dip into; a well that will never run dry; brimming with Gods love, His knowledge, & His goodness.
    3. PRAY: Ty there is no limit to good/knowledge/love.
      1. Lord you & your attributes are: limitless, boundless, immeasurable, infinite, vast, inexhaustible, never ending!
    4. Well, we’ve seen how the church weathered its 1st storm of persecution from the outside, & then hypocrisy on the inside, now let’s see how well hey did on Problem solving.
      1. For the 1st time a major division confronts the church.
      2. This describes how to face & meet crisis in the church.
  2. PROBLEM SOLVING 101! (1-7)
    1. PROPER CARE! (1)
    2. Hellenist – Those who language & culture was Greek.
      1. Hellas = Greek word for their mother land Greece. 2.2.1.1. [Hellen Gk deity, son of Zeus]
      2. Hellenist (Grecian Jews) & Hebraists (Aramaic speaking Jews)
      3. Hellenist migrated from their homeland to various other nations (aka the Jewish Dispersion).
    3. One of the ministries of the synagogue & for the church is to provide food & or financial assistance to those widows & children not supported by relatives.
    4. SERVING! (2-4)
    5. Serve – In Mark’s gospel the Key Verse is Mrk.10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
      1. The 2 verbs that identified Christ was Serving & Giving.
      2. The 2 verbs that identify the Christian is Serving & Giving.
        1. We are not saved by service, but are saved for service.
        2. It’s what Peters mother-in-law does immediately when she gets healed, “she stood up & began to serve”.
      3. One church in China welcomed new believers by saying, “Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, & a new heart to love others with.” (Rick Warren; Purpose Driven Life; pg.230)
    6. (2) The tables (trapezais) may refer to tables used for serving food or to money tables, that is, banks.
      1. Probably it was used here to refer to the place where funds and supplies were administered for the widows.
    7. I love how the leadership summoned the whole church for help; not the church summoning the leadership to do it.
      1. They showed leadership by coming up with the solution.
      2. They also seem to recognize their gift was spiritual leadership, & not necessarily administrative matters.
    8. (3) What was most important about those chosen? Their spirituality & wisdom.
      1. Spirituality is important whether you are doing a bible study or buying someone lunch or giving someone $5 for gas.
    9. Why full of the Holy Spirit? So He could illuminate their natural wisdom; help to control their feelings; direct their wills; & possess every faculty.
    10. What is wisdom? Knowledge rightly applied.
    11. Why is wisdom necessary? They had to distinguish between cases; administer charity; use money with impartiality & integrity. They couldn’t be weak, nor prejudiced.
    12. Q: Would any of these hold you back from serving? How is your reputation? Would your friends consider you full of the H.S.? Do you rightly apply knowledge in your life?
    13. (4) Were the Apostles too good for this work? Were they saying, “We don’t do tables!” No!
    14. There is no ministry that is unimportant for a Christlike servant!
      1. For Jesus said, “I am among you as the One who serves.” Lk.22:27
    15. In serving tables, the men released the apostles for their ministry of Prayer/Word.
      1. On Wednesday evenings…because many come out to serve at the feeding ministry, I’m released to finish up my notes 4 the eve service.
      2. People filled with the Spirit see no small jobs or big places!!!
      3. They see only their Master & the opportunity to glorify Jesus.
      4. No ministry is less of a ministry than another…just different!
    16. THE SELCTION! (5)
    17. Though they are not called deacons here, they seem to be the prototype of this office later revealed by Paul.
    18. Now, you know who blesses me here? The Hebrew Jews! - Why? Their beautiful faith move here.
      1. Faith move? Yep, all 7 guys have a Greek name!
      2. To advert further trouble they basically say, “we fully trust these 7 Greek speaking Jewish believers.”
    19. Stephen is named 1st. He becomes the primary character in the following narrative.
    20. Philip becomes a major figure in the early church.
    21. Nicolas is none other than St. Nicolas (just kiddin) ☺
      1. He was not born an ethnic Jew. He was born a Gentile & later chose to become a Jew. A Jew by adoption, not by birth.
    22. Prochorus later becomes a bishop, according to history.
    23. The other 3 – play no further role in Acts.
    24. Many groups who work in missions have adopted a 4-stage concept of missionary work, 1st suggested by Harold Fuller.
      1. [1] Pioneer - 1st contact w/a people group. He must lead & do much of the work, as there are no believers yet.
      2. [2] Paternal – Expatriates (those who have left their native land for a time) train national leadership. It is like a parent/child relationship. But, the parent must avoid paternalism (i.e. when the desire to help, advise, & protect neglects their individual choice & personal responsibility)
      3. [3] Partnership – National leaders work as equals w/Expat’s. Now it is an adult/adult relationship. The desire is for the church to become a mature “adult”.
      4. [4] Participation – Expatriates are no longer equal partners, but only participate by invitation. The mature church assumes leadership.
    25. Why did I share all of that? I believe that’s what we see starting to take place here.
      1. Right from the beginning they try to help the church towards being self-governing; self-sufficient; & self-propagating.
    26. THE INSTALLATION! (6)
    27. So the Church identified them & brought them to the Apostles.
    28. The Apostles confirmed the churches decision by praying & laying hands on the 7.
    29. The 7 did not become leaders as a result of an election; they had obviously already emerged as leaders.
      1. We don’t create leaders in the church by choosing them; God has already created, chosen, & gifted them…We simply recognize what God has done in them!
    30. THE RESULTS! (7)
    31. Conflict resolved by the leadership acting, the church helping, & these 7 men serving.
    32. The result here was an increase in conversions(7).
    33. Priests – not to be confused with the high priests who joined the Sadducees in persecuting the disciples.
      1. Joachim Jeremias calculates the number of priests in Jerusalem at the time to be approximately 8000, along w/some 10,000 Levites. (Peter Wagner; pg.152)
      2. There was a great gulf fixed between the ordinary priests(poor) & the class of ruling & wealthy high priests. Richard Rackham.
    34. The narrative about Stephen is a major turning point in Acts:
      1. It ends a series of 3 trials before the Sanhedrin.
      2. And will culminate the witness to the Jews of Jerusalem.
    35. Wrap Up!
    36. [1] Church problems are inevitable! [It’s not “if” the come but “when”!]
      1. Problems in church come in many different shades of “dark”, because we are imperfect beings.
    37. [2] Church problems are not invincible!
      1. They should be shown that a solution is possible, & should be met fairly & firmly.
    38. [3] Church problems should be handled by love!
      1. By setting aside differences; seeking the good of all; realizing the need for each other; & by honoring diversities of gifts & division of work.
    39. Christian Philanthropy – “Christians loving their fellow man”.

Verses 8-15

  1. Intro:
    1. Henry Varley said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with & for & through & in a man, who is fully & wholly consecrated to Him.” (Stephen!!!)
      1. It says of Stephen he was: full of faith(6:5); full of Grace(6:8); full of Power(6:8); full of Light(6:15); full of Scripture(ch.7); full of Wisdom(6:3,10); full of courage(7:51-56); full of Love(7:60).
    2. Stephen reminds us so eloquently, by his words by his life: God wants a personal relationship with His people. Not a system, nor a dead religion. He wants you! He wants to be your God & friend. He wants a partnership with His creatures! He wants them to love him & enjoy Him forever!
    3. In a commencement address at Harvard University, Alexander Solzhenitsyn tried to summarize the root problem facing Capitalism & Marxism. He said that the trouble w/both systems is that men have forgotten God. One system does it by its materialistic philosophy; the other system by its materialist economy. (The Acts of God; George & Donald Sweeting; pg.59.)
      1. But “the sin of forgetting God” is not just the sin of economics & governments. It can be the sin of religion as well!
        1. Religious people forget God by setting up a religious system in His place!!!
        2. Stephen was up against such a system!
  2. DYING TO PLEASE GOD! (6:8-7:60)
    1. STEPHEN! (8-15)
    2. (8) From serving tables to doing miracles –
      1. In the parable of Talents, in Mt.25:21, Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
      2. Being faithful in the little things, in the small things, the Lord honors!
      3. D.L.Moody, “There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord; but few of us are willing to do little things.”
    3. (9) The Synagogue of the Freedmen – According to the Talmud, Jerusalem had 480 synagogues at the time.
      1. Freedmen – may have referred to their identity as former slaves, or descendants of captives taken from Palestine during the Dispersion.
    4. (10) This will make more sense when you hear his argument for His Messiah.
      1. His message was so reasonable & he could defend it so well, that he won all the arguments.
    5. (11-15) Well they thought, if you can’t beat emLie!
    6. The unbelievers treated Stephen the way the Sanhedrin treated Jesus.
      1. They arrested him on trumped-up charges & hired false witnesses.
    7. (13) Blasphemous words against the law – The council was behind the times as the law had been nailed to the cross!
      1. Col.2:14 “having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
      2. The veil had been torn & in a few years both the Temple & the City would be gone, & Hosea 3:4 would be fulfilled, “For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol.” Then what?
    8. (15) This reminds me of Charles Spurgeon when he was training young ministers he said to his students, "When you talk about heaven let your face light up with a heavenly glory. When you tell about hell, your everyday face will do."
    9. Interesting, they said Stephen was opposing Moses, but he had a shining face just like Moses! (Ex.34)
      1. Q: Is this what your face looks like when someone’s lying about you?
      2. Here’s the true sign of God’s presence!
    10. Shine, Stephen…shine!
      1. Phil.2:15 “among whom you shine as lights in the world,”
      2. “Don’t expect God to use you as a lighthouse somewhere else, if He can’t use you as a candle where you are!”
    11. But what did they mean the face of an angel? [not fat pink winged/babies with bow & arrows]
      1. Scripture shows an angelic face as something to be feared!
      2. The angel who appeared to Manoah was said to of been “very awesome/terrible!”
      3. When Moses face shone they were afraid to come near him! Ex.34:35
      4. The angel that appeared at the tomb was explained “like lightening!”
      5. Maybe we can picture Stephen’s face as expressing both strength & sweetness!
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Acts 6". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/acts-6.html. 2017.