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THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 6
OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY - MARK DUNAGAN
I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 6:
I. The Seven Chosen: 6:1-6
II. Continual Growth: 6:7
III. Stephen Arrested and Accused: 6:8-15
II. INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS:
'The devil's next attack was the cleverest of the three. Having failed to overcome the church by either persecution or corruption, he now tried distraction. If he could preoccupy the apostles with social administration..they would neglect their God-given responsibilities to pray and to preach, and so leave the church without any defence against false doctrine.' (Reese p. 120)
Carefully note as we study this section, how quickly a complaint can be handed, how easily a congregation can get over and past a problem, if those who compose that congregation have the proper attitude.
III. COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER SIX:
Act_6:1 Now in these days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
'NOW IN THESE DAYS'-Most feel that the first six chapters of Acts cover a time period from 4-6 years.
'WHEN THE NUMBER OF THE DISCIPLES WAS MULTIPLYING'-'constantly increasing' (TCNT).
'THERE AROSE A MURMURING'-1112. goggusmos gong-goos-mos'; from 1111; a grumbling: -grudging, murmuring.
-'complaints were made' (TCNT). We should note that God wants us to be very careful about how we express our concerns or complaints. We seem to forget that God treats "murmuring" in the same way that He treats idolatry and fornication ( 1Co_10:7-10 ; Php_2:15 ; 1Pe_4:9 ).
'OF THE GRECIAN JEWS AGAINST THE HEBREWS'-'We see in this complaint the first symptom of a loss of the harmony and oneness and unanimous good will noted by Luke earlier.' (Reese p. 247)
Points to Note:
The phrase "Grecian Jews", denotes not only Jews who spoke Greek, but Jews who probably used the Septuagint version of the O.T., instead of the Hebrew. Stott notes, 'It has usually been supposed that they were distinguished from each other by a mixture of geography and language. That is, the Hellenistai (Grecian Jews) came from the diaspora (lived outside of Palestine)..while the Hebraio (Hebrews) were natives of Palestine...This is an inadequate explanation, however. Since Paul called himself 'Hebraios' ( 2Co_11:22 ; Php_3:5 ), in spite of the fact that he came from Tarsus and spoke Greek, the distinction must go beyond origin and language to culture. In this case the Hellenistai not only spoke Greek but thought and behaved like Greeks, while the Hebraioi not only spoke Aramaic but were deeply immersed in Hebrew culture.' (p. 120)
'The Hellenistic Jews, to a greater or lesser degree, had adopted more of the Greek ideals and customs...In Jewish communities the Hebrews, who had not adopted the Greek customs, tended to look down on the Hellenists as being somewhat less holy.' (Reese p. 247)
'BECAUSE THEIR WIDOWS WERE NEGLECTED IN THE DAILY MINISTRATION'-
Points to Note:
Here we learn that one of groups which constituted those in need ( Act_4:32-37 ), were widows. The New Testament not only makes provision for the congregation to help its widows, but also provision for permanently taking care of a widow indeed ( 1Ti_5:1-16 ).
The neglect here doesn't seem to be intentional. (a) With the congregation growing so fast, it makes sense that some may have been unintentionally overlooked. (b) Erdman notes, 'widows..who could not speak Hebrew, might most naturally be overlooked' (p. 64). What we have here might be nothing more than a breakdown of communication.
'Neglected'-'Lit., were overlooked. The imperfect denoting something habitual.' (Vincent p. 474)
Note that growth does bring problems. So if we want to grow, it means we need to be prepared to handle the little problems which are the side effects of such growth.
In the big picture, this was a small problem. But small problems which are not dealt with, or handled in a right attitude, can destroy a congregation.
'DAILY MINISTRATION'-'daily distribution' (TCNT). 1248. diakonia dee-ak-on-ee'-ah; from 1249; attendance (as a servant, etc.); figuratively (eleemosynary) aid, (official) service (especially of the Christian teacher, or techn. of the diaconate): -(ad-)minister(-ing, -tration, -try), office, relief, service(-ing).
Apparently relief was given to the widows on a daily basis. Either food, etc.. was provided on a daily basis, or funds were distributed so the widows could buy their own food and take care of their daily needs.
McGarvey notes, 'By daily ministration is meant the daily distribution from the fund contributed by benevolent members, which was made "to every one as he had need". That it was made daily, and that the widows were the principal recipients, confirms our former conclusion that there was no general equalization of property, but only a provision for the needy.' (p. 103)
Robertson observes, 'The temple funds for widows were probably not available for those who have now become Christians.' (p. 72)
Act_6:2 And the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables.
'AND THE TWELVE'-Contrary to the claims of some critics, Matthias was Scripturally elected and is viewed by the Holy Spirit as being a legitimate apostle. Hence we have 12 apostles. This view also informs us that all 12 apostles stayed in Jerusalem in the early days of the Church.
'CALLED THE MULTITUDE'-'The apostles wisely determined to put the trouble right at once.' (Bruce p. 128)
'IT IS NOT FIT'-'Lit., pleasing or agreeable' (Vincent p. 474). 701. arestos ar-es-tos'; from 700; agreeable; by implication, fit: -(things that) please(-ing), reason.
'FORSAKE'-2641. kataleipo kat-al-i'-po; from 2596 and 3007; to leave down, i.e. behind; by implication, to abandon, have remaining: -forsake, leave, reserve.
-'leave in the lurch' (Vincent p. 474)
'THE WORD OF GOD'-i.e. neglect the preaching of the Word of God. Note: The Apostles clearly understood that they were preaching and teaching the Word of God. They knew that the content of their sermons and teaching was inspired by the Holy Spirit ( 1Co_14:37 ; 1Th_2:13 ).
'SERVE TABLES'-1247. diakoneo dee-ak-on-eh'-o; from 1249; to be an attendant, i.e. wait upon (menially or as a host, friend, or [figuratively] teacher); techn. to act as a Christian deacon: -(ad-)minister (unto), serve, use the office of a deacon.
-'The word "table" is used with several different connotations. It may speak of the table off which a family would eat its food, at times even being equivalent of the food which is set on the table...So in this context, which speaks of the receipt and disbursement of the common fund, the word is well suited whether it speaks of food being put on the table of the poor, or simply of the distribution of funds so the poor can purchase their own needs.' (Reese p. 249)
Points to Note:
There is no hint that the apostles felt themselves to be "above" such work. Rather, it is a question of the wise use of talents. The apostles could speak by inspiration. They were desperately needed to teach and preach the Word. Being involved in the distribution of funds would cut into valuable preaching time.
There is a great lesson here for any congregation. People need to be encouraged to serve in the realm of their abilities. And members need to step forward and take care of such things as the "daily ministration", so such individuals as the elders, can be freed to spend their time watching for the souls of Christians ( Heb_13:17 ). One of the best ways that a congregation can help the elders or the preacher, is to take care of the various many physical needs in the congregation, so these individuals are freed to do what they do best.
While benevolence is important, notice that the Church has an even higher mission that caring for the physical needs of its own members. Reese notes, 'that this is just opposite to the emphasis of the "Social Gospel"...That central idea was that the chief interest of the Gospel has to do with every social area: business, government, economics, the family, the community, national and international problems. "Sin" was defined as whatever was evil and unjust in these institutions...And so the main emphasis...was diverted from salvation of men's souls by restoring a right relationship to God through obedience to Jesus, to emphasis on social progress. In the Bible order of things, social progress is a by-product of salvation from personal sin.' (p. 249)
Note again that the pooled funds were only used to relieve the needs of Christian widows.
Act_6:3 Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
'LOOK YE OUT THEREFORE'-'Select from among you' (NASV). 'The term "look ye out" means to "look at" in order to select, to "seek out" as persons for office.' (Boles p. 96)
'BRETHREN'-Notice how the apostles didn't make all the decisions for the congregation ( 1Co_16:3 ). By inspiration they laid down the number of men needed and their qualifications. But they left it up to the congregation to find and select such men.
Points to Note:
A great lesson is found in the above passage. That is, God feels that uninspired people, can take inspired qualifications and find people that fit them. Notice the confidence that God has in our ability to apply His truth to real life. From this example we must reject any theory which assumes that we cannot appoint deacons or elders today, because uninspired men cannot properly interpret or agree on the qualifications provided.
Unfortunately, some have read this event and concluded that decision-making in matters of congregational judgement must always include the whole church, i.e. when any decision in the congregation is made, the whole church must gather together. While it is always wise to gain input from the members, we can't bind such upon any congregation with or without elders. For the apostles had made a decision (i.e. 7 men), before they brought the congregation together.
Others have argued that since this gathering included the whole congregation, including women, that this passage either gives the right or demands that women be present in the business meetings. This argument is inherently linked with the above view, i.e. the whole congregation must always be present when any congregational decision is made. But this text reveals that the apostles (12 men) had already decided a number of things beforehand, i.e. they would not serve tables, the congregation would select them, but they would appoint them, the specific number needed. Thus, the basic assumption needed to even get the above position off the ground, fails to agree with the text.
'SEVEN MEN'-Some say because seven is the number of completeness. But, it rather seems that seven is the number given, because seven men were needed to handle this task.
Point to Note:
Some say that here we find the first "deacons". One writer notes, 'The English reader should remember that the "ministration" of verse 1, the "serve" of this verse, and the "deacon"......, are all forms of the same Greek word.' (P.P. Comm. p. 192)
But we should also note for fairness, that the Greek word rendered "deacon" is often applied to various Christians without any "official" sense attached to it. The word can also simply mean to "minister", i.e to serve ( Rom_15:25 ).
In addition, one problem with making these men deacons, is that all the qualifications given for deacons were not presented before this congregation. Compare Act_6:3 with 1Ti_3:8-12 .
'OF GOOD REPORT'-'with a good reputation' (Robertson p. 73). 'good standing' (Gspd). 3140. martureo mar-too-reh'-o; from 3144; to be witness, i.e. testify (literally or figuratively): -charge, give [evidence], bear record, have (obtain, of) good (honest) report, be well reported of, testify, give (have) testimony, (be, bear, give, obtain) witness.
Act_6:4 But we will continue stedfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word.
'CONTINUE STEDFASTLY'-'devote ourselves whole-heartedly' (Phi)
'IN PRAYER'-both public and private. The apostles believed in the power of prayer ( Jam_5:17-18 ). Unfortunately, even today many view prayer as kind of a last-ditch, if everything else has failed, it couldn't hurt, grasping at straws.... endeavor. Notice how they believed that prayer in the life of a congregation was just as important as preaching and benevolence.
'IN THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD'-Spreading the gospel both publicly, privately, with Christians and non-Christians (2:42; 5:42)
Bruce notes, 'If such men were appointed to take charge of the distribution and see that no further cause for complaint arose, the apostles would be free to devote their undistracted attention..to the preaching of the gospel.' (pp. 128-129)
Act_6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus a proselyte of Antioch;
'PLEASED THE WHOLE MULTITUDE'-'found approval with the whole congregation' (NASV); 'The whole group liked the idea' (Beck).
Point to Note:
Here again we see that unity is a real possibility. This issue could be resolved because the members respected the authority of the apostles and they wanted things to work in the congregation.
'THEY CHOSE'-The text doesn't reveal all the particulars concerning how the congregation finally came up with these seven men, i.e. were names put forward, did people vote, etc...Hence we learn that the congregation has some liberty in the selection process that it chooses to use in appointing elders and deacons.
'STEPHEN'-4736. Stephanos stef'-an-os; the same as 4735; Stephanus, a Christian: -Stephen.
-Probably mentioned first, because he will later figure prominently in this chapter and the next.
'FULL OF FAITH AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT'-'a man of firm faith' (Rieu) 'a man who had a good grasp of the doctrines of Christ, a man of settled convictions.' (Reese p. 253)
'PHILIP'-5376. Philippos fil'-ip-pos; from 5384 and 2462; fond of horses; Philippus, the name of four Israelites: -Philip.
-Who will preach to the Samaritans and the Ethiopian Eunuch ( Act_8:1-40 ). Also known as Philip the Evangelist (21:8).
'PROCHORUS'-4402. Prochoros prokh'-or-os; from 4253 and 5525; before the dance; Prochorus, a Christian: -Prochorus.
-(PRAHK uh ruhs).
'NICANOR'-3527. Nikanor nik-an'-ore; probably from 3528; victorious; Nicanor, a Christian: -Nicanor.
-(nie KAY nor)
'TIMON'-5096. Timon tee'-mone; from 5092; valuable; Timon, a Christian: -Timon.
'PARMENAS'-3937. Parmenas par-men-as'; probably by contraction for Parmenides (a derivative of a compound of 3844 and 3306); constant; Parmenas, a Christian: -Parmenas.
-(PAHR muh nuhs)
'NICOLAUS'-or Nicholas. (nick uh LAY us).
'A PROSELYTE OF ANTIOCH'-Apparently Antioch had been the home town of this man. The word "proselyte" means that he had converted from paganism to Judaism and then he had become a Christian.
Points to Note:
The fact that this man had made it from paganism, to Judaism, to Christianity, proves that if a person really loves the truth, they will find it ( Joh_7:17 ). Some people will argue, but I have already changed once, or I am done changing religions or religious bodies. That type of excuse doesn't stand in the way of the person looking for the truth.
All seven names in this section are Greek names. Now some are quick to point out that this doesn't inherently mean these were 'Hellenistic Jews', for many Hebrews also had Greek names, i.e. Philip, Paul. But McGarvey might be right when he notes, 'It is a remarkable manifestation of generosity in the church at large that all these are Greek names, indicating that the men were selected from the very party whence the murmuring had proceeded. It was as if the Hebrews had said, We have no selfish ends to accomplish, and no jealousy toward you whose widows have been neglected; we therefore give the whole business into your hands, and fearlessly trust our widows to your care...it was a continuation of the perfect unity which had existed before, and which the murmuring had not been allowed to interrupt.' (p. 106)
Act_6:6 whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands upon them.
'WHEN THEY HAD PRAYED'-We often find prayer occupying an essential part when people are being placed into an area of service ( Luk_6:12-13 ; Act_1:24 ; Act_13:3 ).
'LAID THEIR HANDS UPON THEM'-In other places hands are laid upon individuals to set them apart for a work, i.e. to express approval in the person being selected ( Act_13:3 ). That is definitely involved in this case, but this laying on of hands also included the impartation of spiritual gifts (6:8; 8:18).
'We have now seen the three tactics which the devil employed in his overall strategy to destroy the church. First, he tried through the Jewish authorities to suppress it by force; secondly through the married couple Ananias and Sapphira to corrupt it by hypocrisy; and thirdly through some squabbling widows to distract its leadership from prayer and preaching, and so expose it to error and evil.' (p. 124)
Thus we find some things which stop congregations today. Fear and intimidation. Worldliness, hypocrisy, half-hearted devotion. And complaining among themselves.
Act_6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
'AND THE WORD OF GOD INCREASED'-The very goal the apostles were after (6:4). One writer pointed out that the word of God (i.e. the spreading of it) will naturally increase when people are devoting themselves to the preaching of that word (6:4). More people using their talents, the apostles free to devote themselves to unhindered preaching--the result-growth!
'THE NUMBER OF THE DISCIPLES MULTIPLIED IN JERUSALEM EXCEEDINGLY'-'This is the third instance where, after telling us about some difficultly faced and overcome by the Church, Luke tells the heartening news that the difficultly was but a stepping stone to greater growth for the Church.' (Reese p. 256)
Point to Note:
As the word of God increased, the disciples multiplied. There is no secret to Church growth. The congregation will only grow to the extent that the word is being proclaimed.
'A GREAT COMPANY OF THE PRIESTS'-'The priests were so numerous that they were divided into twenty-four courses, with each course working a week at a time in the temple services.' (Reese p. 256) Bruce also notes, 'The ordinary priests were socially and in other ways far removed from the wealthy chief-priestly families from which the main opposition to the gospel came. Many of the ordinary priests were no doubt men holy and humble of heart, like Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist...' (pp. 131-132) (See Luk_1:5 ff).
Here we are witnessing the creme of the crop, the remnant, the true Israel, the honest and good hearts coming out of Judaism ( Rom_11:5 ). McGarvey notes, 'The peculiar relation which the priesthood sustains to any religion must always render the priests the chief conservators of old forms, and the most persistent opponents of revolutionary changes. When they begin to give way, the system which they have upheld is ready to fall.' (p. 109)
The same type of thing had happened when Jeroboam established idolatry in Israel, the priests migrated to the true religion that still existed in Judah ( 2Ch_13:9 ; 2Ch_11:14-16 ).
This stands as a great testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel message, for even those most dedicated to the Jewish faith, could see the truth and became Christians.
One writer put it this way, 'The addition of a great multitude of priests was an important incident in the Church's history..as they were..a class very liable to be prejudiced against the faith which would rob them of their (earthly-MD) importance.' (P.P. Comm. p. 193)
'WERE OBEDIENT TO THE FAITH'-i.e. which infers that there is something in "the faith", the gospel message to be obeyed ( Rom_1:5 ; Rom_16:26 ). Evidently, a man's initial salvation involves more than faith only or mere mental assent. Obedience to the faith in this book involves repentance, confession and baptism ( Act_2:38 ; Act_8:36-38 ).
Act_6:8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people.
'FULL OF GRACE'-The KJV has full of "faith".
'POWER'-i.e. able to work miracles. 'This is the first exhibition of miraculous power by any but an apostle.' (McGarvey p. 111)
'GREAT WONDERS AND SIGNS'-We have already heard about the greatness of such powers (5:15).
'AMONG THE PEOPLE'-Publicly, in the open, and miracles performed upon non-Christians.
Reese notes: 'Sometimes the Bible's record of miracles is explained away by modern critics by saying that people back then didn't understand all that we now know about scientific causes of things that used to be mystifying. But let us remember that Luke was a physician. From what we known of physicians in the first century..we can say that Luke lived in an age when medical knowledge was in one of its great ages.' (p. 257)
I would also like to add that all of our modern scientific advances haven't invented a way to walk on water, instantly calm storms, or instantly heal lame men without any surgery or rehabilitation. If science has done anything, it has only intensified the wonders in the Bible.
Act_6:9 But there arose certain of them that were of the synagogue called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen.
'AROSE'-in a hostile sense. Evidently Stephen has being doing the above things for some time. His influence was being felt in Jerusalem; and thus the opposition began to take him very seriously.
'SYNAGOGUE CALLED..'-The city of Jerusalem was filled with a number of synagogues. Jewish tradition says 480.
'LIBERTINES'-3032. Libertinos lib-er-tee'-nos; of Latin origin; a Roman freedman: -Libertine.
The word "libertine" refers to freed slaves and their descendants. 'Jews who had been slaves, and had by one means or another obtained their freedom.' (McGarvey p. 112)
'AND OF THE'-Quite a bit of discussion exists concerning whether this verse is referring to 5 distinct synagogues or 1 synagogue composed of freedmen from the following geographical regions. 'Because they had been freed from slavery, they must have been foreign Jews who had now come to live in Jerusalem.' (Stott p. 127) Or, such a synagogue existed for such Jews when they visited the city.
'CYRENIANS'-The chief city in North Africa, a large Jewish population was found here ( Act_2:10 ). Ptolemy Lagus (312 B.C.) had taken many Jews captive into Egypt.
'ALEXANDRIANS'-'Next to Jerusalem and Rome, there was, perhaps, no city in which the Jewish population was so numerous and influential as at Alexandria, in Egypt. The Jewish population in Alexandria in New Testament times has been put at about 100,000, or about 2/5 of the whole city..Philo, the great teacher, was living in fame and honor in Alexandria, at the time of the events recorded in Act_6:1-15 .' (Reese p. 259)
'CILICIA'-'The mention of Cilicia suggests that this may have been the synagogue which Saul of Tarsus attended in Jerusalem.' (Bruce p. 133) See Act_22:3 . Cilicia was a Roman province of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), located along the sea coast, north of Cyprus. The capital of this region of Tarsus.
'ASIA'-i.e. the Roman province known as Asia. Asia Minor comprising the same land mass now known as Turkey. Jews from this region also strongly opposed the preaching of Paul ( Act_21:27 ).
'DISPUTING'-4802. suzeteo sood-zay-teh'-o; from 4862 and 2212; to investigate jointly, i.e. discuss, controvert, cavil: -dispute (with), enquire, question (with), reason (together).
-'undertook to debate' (Gspd). This is really the first time in the book of Acts that we find the opposition to Christianity attempting to stop this movement by engaging it in an intellectual or Scriptural debate. Some suggest that Stephen, before his conversion may have been a member this or these synagogues. 'When men became Christians they looked on their fellow worshippers in the synagogues as excellent prospects for evangelization.' (Reese p. 260) (See Act_9:20 )
Act_6:10 And they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake.
'TO WITHSTAND THE WISDOM AND THE SPIRIT BY WHICH HE SPAKE'-'The Greek is very forceful, and literally reads, "They had no strength to withstand". They were not able to answer his arguments.' (Reese p. 260)
'SPIRIT'-Note: The KJV has "spirit" (small "s"). Spirit here may either refer to his own natural abilities (energy, zeal). Or, seeing that Stephen had the spiritual gift of healing (6:8), and considering his sermon recorded in chapter 7, we can also say that he spoke by inspiration, i.e. had the gift of prophecy. 'The strength of his case was such that his opponents in the debate found themselves worsted.' (Bruce p. 133)
Point to Note:
This is simply another passage that objectively reveals that the truth is just that clear. Christianity isn't "one" version of what could be true, or just one opinion among countless others. Notice that God feels that Christianity doesn't have any weak points. It is based on a solid foundation. And anyone who opposes the claims of Christ, will be beaten by someone who does know the Scriptures.
Act_6:11 Then they suborned men, who said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
'SUBORNED'-5260. hupoballo hoop-ob-al'-lo; from 5259 and 906; to throw in stealthily, i.e. introduce by collusion: -suborn.
-'to bring men under one's control by suggestion or by money.' (Robertson p. 76) 'By some means or other, black mail or bribery, they induced them to lie in court about what Stephen had actually said.' (Reese p. 261)
-False witnesses were also found to testify against Jesus ( Mat_26:59 ).
Point to Note:
Carefully note that the enemies of the Church really had to "stretch" and resort to false accusations to accuse the early Christians of something. They couldn't find fault with the personal or private life of Stephen.
'BLASPHEMOUS WORDS AGAINST MOSES, AND AGAINST GOD'-probably this accusation is expanded upon in 6:13-14. Reese notes, 'It must be remembered that at this time the whole Jewish people were in a state of ill-suppressed frenzy because of the Roman domination--and they were sensitively jealous for the honor of the Mosaic institutions. The Law was about all they had left of their former glory.' (p. 261)
Act_6:12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and seized him, and brought him into the council,
'STIRRED UP THE PEOPLE'-'roused the feelings of the people' (Knox). They had done the same thing in reference to Jesus ( Mat_27:20 ).
Points to Note:
Up to this point, the church has been very popular with the masses (5:13). But now persecution is coming from those within the synagogue. And the Pharisees (who controlled the synagogue- Joh_9:22 ) had influence and pull in the community.
In addition, the opponents now frame the debate in a way that makes the church look like a threat. 'Any threat to the temple--real or imagined--was a threat to their livelihood as well as to their religious interests.' (Bruce p. 134)
No longer is the issue the resurrection (which even the Jewish people disputed among themselves). Rather the people are persuaded that this new movement threatens the national honor and heritage of their own nation--even its most prized possessions, i.e. the Law and the Temple.
'AND THE ELDERS, AND THE SCRIBES..BROUGHT HIM INTO THE COUNCIL'-Thus both Pharisees and Sadducees unite in this opposition.
Act_6:13 and set up false witnesses, who said, This man ceaseth not to speak words against this holy place, and the law:
'SET UP FALSE WITNESSES'-'There they had false witnesses stand up and lie' (Beck). One writer notes, 'The similarity of Stephen's trial to that of our Lord is striking. The same set purpose to silence a true-speaking tongue by death; the same base employment of false witnesses; the same wresting of good works into criminal acts; the same meekness and patience unto death...' (P.P. Comm. p. 194)
'CEASETH NOT'-'is never done talking against' (Mof); 'is always attacking the Temple and the Law' (Rieu).
'THIS HOLY PLACE'-i.e. the Temple.
'AND THE LAW'-The Law of Moses. A specific example of this charge is given in the next verse.
Act_6:14 for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us.
'WE HAVE HEARD HIM SAY'-The fact that the witnesses are called false witnesses, infers that they distorted or misrepresented Stephen's preaching. Or, they didn't reveal the rest of the sermon that would put the following words into a more favorable light.
'THIS JESUS OF NAZARETH SHALL DESTROY THIS PLACE'-i.e. this Temple. And Jesus had taught such ( Mat_24:3-34 ; Luk_19:41-44 ). What is left out, is that such would happen because of their rebellion to God ( Mat_23:37-39 ).
'SHALL CHANGE THE CUSTOMS WHICH MOSES DELIVERED UNTO US'-'"Customs" are the ceremonial rites and observances--sacrifices, festivals, clean and unclean meats, etc....including the whole complex system of the mosaic law--it's rituals, symbolism, regulations for daily living, circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, etc..See Act_15:1 ff; Act_21:21 .' (Reese p. 263)
Points to Note:
The concept was true, the New Covenant did "change the customs" ( Col_2:16 ; Gal_5:1-4 ; The Book of Hebrews).
But the impression given in the accusation, especially when occupied with the charge of blasphemy, is that the false witnesses were inferring that Stephen had been saying that such customs were meaningless or had never been important. Stott notes, 'What Jesus taught, then, was that the temple and the law would be superseded, meaning not that they had never been divine gifts in the first place, but that they would find their God-intended fulfillment in him...Moreover, to affirm that both temple and law pointed forward to him and are now fulfilled in him is to magnify their importance, not to denigrate it...The False witnesses accused him of saying that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the temple and change the law. That is, they portrayed the work of Christ in negative, destructive terms. But what Stephen was really doing was preaching Christ, positively and constructively, as the One in whom all that the Old Testament foretold and foreshadowed is fulfilled, including the temple and the law.' (p. 129)
Notice how Jesus elevated the Law of Moses at the same time predicting it's removal ( Mat_5:17-18 ). Paul does the same thing in Gal_3:21-25 .
Act_6:15 And all that sat in the council, fastening their eyes on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
'FASTENING THEIR EYES ON HIM'-'With this look, they said, "What do you have to say for yourself in answer to these charges?"' (Reese p. 263)
'SAW HIS FACE AS IT HAD BEEN THE FACE OF AN ANGEL'-
Points to Note:
Some say that the above expression is figurative, i.e. how would these people know what the literal face of an angel looked like? Hence, the expression means that Stephen's facial expression manifested innocence, confidence, composure, peace, etc..
'It has even been suggested that Stephen's face took on a glow, a radiance similar to what Moses' face had after he had been in the presence of God ( Exo_34:30 ; 2Co_3:7 ff).' (Reese p. 263) The face of an angel is bright ( Dan_10:6 ; Rev_10:1 ).
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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 6". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11