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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Acts 6

Verse 4


‘But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.’

Acts 6:4

The date of the institution of the diaconate is doubtful—how long after Pentecost we do not exactly know—but the Apostles soon saw there must be a division of labour; that the higher life, the life hid with Christ in God, must not be forgotten in the promotion of applied Christianity. The preceding verse, ‘Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business,’ taken in conjunction with the text, shows that the declaration is no example of mere opportunism; it is the symptom of a principle deep and abiding, which has its message for to-day.

I. This is a time of great activity, but the spiritual side must not be forgotten. Such questions as the supply and training of candidates, Prayer Book revision, and the moral witness of the Church are discussed, but a careful study of the Report and Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference shows that our leaders are alive to the importance and urgency of such problems. Let us thank God for the energy, earnestness, and zeal which are displayed in Church work, but we must not forget the danger of the material obscuring the spiritual.

II. In the work of the ministry we must put prayer and the study of the Word first. If we fail in that, all else will fail. A resolution was passed by the vestry of a church in New York, where Phillips Brooks was rector, to the effect that he was to be left entirely free from all ministerial calls at certain hours of the day that he might be able to give himself to prayer, meditation, and study. An excellent resolution! If we want not a languid but an enthusiastic congregation, not a half-hearted but a wholehearted Church, time must be found for spiritual exercises.

III. The solemn responsibilities of the ministry must be realised, for clergy must be diligent and steadfast and an example to all men. They must give themselves first to the Master, then wholly to His service. Men have difficulties, but they can face them as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. They have their cross to bear, yet they can remember the Apostle’s words: ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ They have their times of despondency, yet they need faint not nor be dismayed, for ‘they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.’

—Rev. G. Bladon.


‘Would it not be well if our people took pains to acquaint themselves with the details of an Ordination Service? Here is an extract from a description of an Ordination of Deacons: “Very solemnly the Bishop conducted the examination. Did they trust they were inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon them this office and ministration? Did they think they were truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ and the due order of this realm, to the ministry of the Church? Did they unfeignedly believe all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament? Would they diligently read the same unto the people assembled in Church? Would they fulfil the special duties of their office gladly and willingly? Would they frame and fashion their own lives according to the doctrine of Christ? Would they reverently obey their Ordinary and other chief ministers, following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions? To each one of these questions the candidates in unison gave an affirmative reply, adding to the last two answers ‘the Lord being my helper.’ Set down in cold print it all looks very precise and very formal, but in the reality it was not so. A deep hush fell over the congregation as soon as the examination began, and the Bishop’s questions, put in clear and heart-searching tones, and the candidates’ replies, given softly and humbly, could not but appeal to the deepest feelings of the congregation, and the remembrance of the solemn scene will not be readily effaced. Next came the act of ordination. One by one the candidates knelt before the Bishop, who placed his hand on the head of each as he committed unto him ‘authority to execute the office of a deacon in the Church of God.’ Then before the deacon rose from his knees the Bishop placed in his hands a New Testament, saying the words, ‘Take thou authority to read the Gospel in the Church of God, and to preach the same if thou be thereto licensed by the Bishop himself.” ’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Acts 6". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.