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Bible Commentaries
Acts 6

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-6

Introduction: The Appointment of First Deacons In Acts 6:1-6 we have the testimony of the appointment of the first deacons in the early Church. This passage of Scripture serves as an introduction to the section division of Acts as it prepares us for the spread of the Gospel beyond Jerusalem because of a great persecution. It is important to note that each of the three major divisions of the book of Acts has an introductory passage in which the disciples are commissioned: Acts 1:6-11 serves as an introduction to the Jerusalem ministry as Jesus commissions the apostles to take the Gospel to the world: Acts 6:1-6 serves as an introduction to the spread of the Gospel out of Jerusalem: Acts 13:1-3 serves as an introduction to Paul’s missionary journeys. In addition, the introductory material in Acts 6:1-6 serves to prepare us for the stories of Stephen the Martyr (Acts 6:6 to Acts 8:1 a) and Philip the Evangelist (Acts 8:1-40). These two stories will testify of how the Gospel spread from Jerusalem because of persecutions.

The Ministry of the Helps in the Old and New Testaments - The story of the first election of deacons is an example of a need arising and being met in the New Testament Church. Note how the leaders dealt with the situation by working together. Why did they decide to structure the leadership of the church with the new office of a deacon; perhaps because this was not a new concept for leadership to the people of Israel?

Note how Joshua ministered unto Moses in Exodus 24:13, “And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.”

In the ministry of the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Levites were called to serve and minister to the priests. In 1 Kings 19:19-21, Elisha began to minister unto Elisha. In 2 Kings 4:8-11, we see that the Shunamite woman ministered unto Elisha, the man of God. Gehazi became the minister to Elisha. John Mark was chosen to minister unto Paul and Barnabas.

Acts 13:5, “And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.”

Paul had companions and fellow ministers who often took care of him and others. Thus, the office of a deacon was not an entirely new concept, but rather a modification of the office of an assistant to a leader or a man of God.

The selection of these deacons marks the next generation of Church leaders. Mike Murdock said that a champion is not made in the boxing ring; rather, he is simply recognized in the ring. [140] In other words, a champion is such because of the hard work and training that he has been through and not just because he fights in the ring. A mother does not become a mother because someone calls her a mother. She becomes so because she has gone through labor and travail and the pains of childbirth. In a similar way, new levels of church leadership are not simply imparted in a day, but are born in one’s life through time and diligence. The laying on of hands may impart an anointing as a seed is planted in the ground, but promotion comes through nurturing that seed. For example, Paul the apostle was recognized as an apostle to the Gentiles many years after he had laboured and toiled in the field. In Acts 13:0, the church at Antioch laid hands upon Paul and Barnabas as an act of appointing and recognizing them as apostles. Paul had spent thirteen years previously labouring in Syria and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21).

[140] Mike Murdock, interviewed by Benny Hinn, This is Your Day (Irving, Texas), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.

Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Acts 6:1 Comments - Acts 6:1 reveals an early division in the Church at Jerusalem between the views of the Greeks and the Jews. This division is seen later in Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles as he made a number of efforts to reconcile their differences in order to maintain unity within the local churches and in the overall body of Christ. Perhaps the greatest example of Paul’s efforts to unite these two cultures is seen in his collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. This topic is discussed in Acts 24:17, Romans 15:26-28, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8:1 to 2 Corinthians 9:15. Paul will also state in several of his epistles that in Christ Jesus there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek.

Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:11, “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”

Acts 6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

Acts 6:2 “Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said” Comments - Acts 6:2 is the first time that the phrase “the Twelve” is used outside of the Gospels. This phrase very likely includes the election of Mathias (Acts 1:26).

Acts 1:26, “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”

We will find this phrase applied only one other time when Paul will use it once in his first epistle to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 15:5, “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:”

Acts 6:2 “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God” Comments - Peter responded to the request of the Greeks in caring for their widows by first establishing the priorities of the Twelve. He explained that they could not leave off the proclamation of the Gospel as Jesus had commanded them. He has once went back to fishing after Jesus’ resurrection, only to be loving redirected back into the full-time ministry on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Peter would not easily forget the lesson that Jesus taught him as He told Peter three times to feed His sheep. We read in Acts 5:42 how “daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” This verse serves to sum up the “witnessing and teaching” of the apostles, which activity has already filled the first five chapters of the book of Acts.

Acts 6:3 “and serve tables” Comments - The phrase “serve tables” suggests that the major focus of the Church’s daily ministry to the widows was in providing their daily necessities, such as food.

Acts 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Acts 6:3 of honest report” Comments - Sad to say, even in the early Church, honesty was not found in the heart of every believer. As the believers were to look out for seven men who were honest, this verse tells us that honesty is recognizable. You can spend time working with someone and see honesty within their character.

Acts 6:3 “full of the Holy Ghost” Comments - The Greek text leaves out the word “Holy” and only uses “Spirit” (Ghost). However, we know from the context of this passage, especially Acts 6:5, that it is a reference to the Holy Spirit.

The attribute of being full of the Holy Ghost is recognizable in the life of the believer. Someone who is filled with the Spirit is filled with joy and has a song in their heart. [141] They are thankful at all times (Ephesians 5:18-20).

[141] Kenneth Hagin, Following God’s Plan For Your Life (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1993, 1994), 26.

Ephesians 5:18-20, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;”

Acts 6:3 Comments - The selection of the first seven deacons in the church at Jerusalem was based upon two fundamental outward manifestations. They were to be full of the Holy Spirit and full of wisdom. These characteristics were the outward testimony of their sincere faith and devotion to Christ. This phrase stands equivalent to that used in Acts 6:5, “full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,” and Acts 6:8, “full of faith and power,” and Acts 11:24, “full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.”

The selection of the first seven disciples is an illustration of Paul’s standard of qualifications recorded in 1 Timothy 3:10, “And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.”

These apostles were very careful to choose out seven men of good report, already proven to be faithful. Romans 12:11 gives us a similar description of such virtues. One who is not slothful in business is someone who has the wisdom to manage finances well, while being honest when handling money. The phrase “fervent in spirit” means “filled with the Spirit”.

Romans 12:11, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;”

Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

Acts 6:4 “and to the ministry of the word” - Comments The ministry of the Word includes witnessing, teaching, preaching and healing. Acts 2-5 is full of this type of ministry, and Jesus' ministry also included these things (Matthew 4:23).

Matthew 4:23, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”

Acts 6:4 Comments Acts 6:4 brings out the importance of prayer and the ministry of the Word of God in the life of those who serve Him. The two-fold emphasis of prayer and ministry is seen in the Song of Solomon where God’s child is exhorted to retreat to the garden of prayer and solitude, then return to the labour of the Lord’s vineyard. Every believer should have a place of prayer in order to experience the Lord so that he can go forth and minister under the anointing.

Acts 6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

Acts 6:5 Comments - F. F. Bruce says that it is interesting to note that the seven deacons listed in Acts 6:5 had Greek names. [142] This implies that they were Greek converts called out to assist the Grecian widows. If not Greek by birth, they were Greek-speaking.

[142] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), 58.

We can also comment on the order in which they are listed. As is typical of biblical lists of names, such as with the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:13), the more prominent names are listed first. We know that Stephen, listed first, later received importance as the first martyr of the Church (Acts 6:8 to Acts 8:1 a). Philip, listed second, received his prominence as the first person to hold the office of an evangelist in the Church (Acts 8:1-40). The other five are not mentioned further in Scriptures. However, we do find the listed in the writings of the early Church fathers. Hippolytus mentions them in his writing The Same Hippolytus on the Seventy Apostles. He tells us that they were among the seventy disciples referred to in Luke 10:1.

“6. Stephen, the first martyr.

7. Philip, who baptized the eunuch.

8. Prochorus, bishop of Nicomedia, who also was the first that departed, believing together with his daughters.

9. Nicanor died when Stephen was martyred.

10. Timon, bishop of Bostra.

11. Parmenas, bishop of Soli.

12. Nicolaus, bishop of Samaria.” ( Appendix to the Works of Hippolytus 49: The Same Hippolytus on the Seventy Apostles 6-12) ( ANF 5)

The birth of the church in Antioch is mentioned in Acts 11:19-30. An early reference to Antioch in Acts 6:5 is a foreshadowing to its upcoming role in the growth of the early Church. This church will also serve to send out Paul and Barnabas into the mission field and as Paul’s lifetime home church.

Acts 6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

Acts 6:6 Comments - This setting apart with the laying on of hands happened throughout the New Testament (Acts 13:1-3, 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6).

Acts 13:1-3, “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”

1 Timothy 4:14, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”

1 Timothy 5:22, “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.”

2 Timothy 1:6, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”

The laying on of hands is one of the six foundational doctrines of the Scriptures according to Hebrews 6:1-2.

Verses 1-15

The Church’s Structure (Divine Service): Key Witnesses that Began the Spread of Gospel into Judea and Samaria While Acts 2:1 to Acts 5:42 gives us the testimony of the founding and growth of the Church in Jerusalem, the stoning of Stephen gave rise to the spreading of the Church to Judea and Samaria. Acts 6:1 to Acts 12:25 serves as the testimony of the spread of the Gospel to the regions beyond Jerusalem as a result of persecution, which was in fulfillment of Jesus’ command to the apostles at His ascension, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In Acts 6:1-7 the New Testament Church begins to structure itself with the office of the deacon. One of these deacons named Stephen becomes the first martyr of the Church (Acts 6:8 to Acts 7:1 a). As the result of a great persecution fueled by the zeal of Saul of Tarsus, the Gospel begins to spread into Judea and Samaria. Philip the evangelist takes the Gospel into Samaria and to an Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:5-40), Saul of Tarsus is converted (Acts 9:1-31), Peter takes the Gospel beyond Jerusalem to the house of a Gentile named Cornelius (Acts 9:32 to Acts 10:48), while Luke provides additional testimonies of Church growth to Antioch and further persecutions (Acts 11:1 to Acts 12:25). These testimonies emphasize the spread of the Gospel into Judea and Samaria.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Introduction: Appointment of First Deacons Acts 6:1-6

2. The Witness of Stephen Acts 6:7 to Acts 8:4

3. The Witness of Philip the Evangelist Acts 8:5-40

4. The Witness of Paul’s Conversion Acts 9:1-31

5. The Witness of Peter Acts 9:32 to Acts 10:48

6. The Witness of Church Growth Acts 11:1 to Acts 12:25

Verses 7-15

The Witness of Stephen In Acts 6:7 to Acts 8:4 Luke records the witness of Stephen. The importance of his testimony is the fact that he is the first martyr of the Church, ushering in a period of persecution that spread the Gospel abroad.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Stephen’s Arrest Acts 6:7-15

2. Stephen’s Sermon Acts 7:1-53

3. Stephen is Stoned Acts 7:54 to Acts 8:1 a

4. The Persecution and Scattering of the early Church Acts 8:1-4

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 6". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/acts-6.html. 2013.
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