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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.
Ver. 1. Of the Grecians ] Ελληνισται , Graecists; such (say some) as were by birth and religion Hebrews, but dispersed among the Gentiles; those to whom James and Peter wrote their Epistles. Others think they were Greek proselytes, that were circumcised, and read the Septuagint.
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.
Ver. 2. It is not reason ] αρεστον , an arrest or order, saith Erasmus; a plea, judgment, or sentence, saith Budaeus.
Serve tables ] And do other such offices for the relief of the poor. Bishop Hooper is famous for his board of beggars, who till they were served every day with whole and wholesome meats, he would not himself sit down to dinner. Laudent te esurientium viscera, non ructantium opulenta convivia, said Jerome to Demetrius, "Charity is better than courtesy."
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.
Ver. 3. Full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom ] i.e. Civil wisdom to manage the public stock, and to put all to the best for the relief of the necessitous saints. "I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions," Proverbs 8:12 .
4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
Ver. 4. To prayer, and to the ministry ] Between these two they divided their time. An argument of their integrity in the ministry. If we were to preach only, saith the apostle, we could then wait upon tables; but the one half of our time is to be taken up in prayer, the other in preaching. So the priests of old: "They shall teach Jacob thy judgments," saith Moses, "they shall also put incense before thee," Deuteronomy 33:10 . So Paul begins, continues, and endeth his epistles with prayer. So Luther professeth that he profited more in the knowledge of the Scriptures by prayer in a short space, than by study in a longer; as John by weeping got the sealed book opened.
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:
Ver. 5. Prochorus, Nicanor, and Timon ] Hi tres celebrantur seduli in lectitandis sacris. (Malcolm.) These three (as David’s first three worthies) are famous for their unweariableness in God’s work.
6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
Ver. 6. They laid their hands ] So putting the blessing upon them. A very ancient rite, borrowed from the Church of the Old Testament.
7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Ver. 7. A great company of the priests ] Despair not therefore of the worst; God hath his time to call them. Wycliffe was a great enemy to the swarms of begging friars, with whom it was harder to make war than with the pope himself; whom he pronounced Antichrist, and made him lose in England his tenths and Peter’s pence. a Howbeit, sundry of the frairs fell to him, and embraced his opinions; among whom, one that was the pope’s chaplain, professing that he came out of his order and out of the devil’s nest. (Speed.)
a An annual tax or tribute of a penny from each householder having land of a certain value, paid before the Reformation to the papal see at Rome; also, a similar tribute paid by several northern lands. The institution of Peter’s pence has been attributed to Ine king of Wessex, 688-728, and to Offa king of Mercia, 755-94. It is mentioned as due by ancient law in a (Latin) letter of Canute in 1031. It was discontinued by statute in 1534. ŒD
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
Ver. 8. And Stephen, full of faith ] He "using the office of a deacon well, did purchase to himself a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus," 1 Timothy 3:13 . A diligent man stays not long in a low place.
9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
Ver. 9. Certain of the synagogue ] There were colleges at Jerusalem, as now at our Universities, whither foreigners came for learning sake. These withstood Stephen; like as in the beginning of the Reformation, Eckius, Roffensis, More, Cajaton, Faber, Cochlaeus, Catharinus, Pighius, all these wrote against Luther (besides the two kings of England and Hungary), summo conatu, acerrimo desiderio, non vulgari doctrina, as one saith, a In like sort Rochester, Rastal, More, set at once against John Frith, martyr; whereof the one by the help of the doctors, the other by wresting the Scriptures, and the third by the help of natural philosophy, had conspired against him. But he, as another Hercules, fighting with all three at once, did so overthrow and confound them, that he converted Rastal to his part.
a Pareus in Medal. Hist.
10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
Ver. 10. By which he spake ] "Because he convinced them with great boldness, neither could they withstand the truth." These words are found in one very ancient copy, as Beza witnesseth.
11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
Ver. 11. Then they suborned ] This they had learned of that old manslayer,John 8:44; John 8:44 .
12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him , and caught him, and brought him to the council,
Ver. 12. Caught him, and brought him ] Sic vi geritur res, the adversaries’ best arguments. In the conclusion of the disputation at Oxford with Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, Weston the prolocutor triumphed with Vicit veritas; he should rather have said, Vicit potestas. Not right, but might hath carried it.
13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
Ver. 13. Blasphemous words ] So was Athanasius accused.
14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
Ver. 14. Shall destroy this place ] sc. Unless they repent.
And shall change the rites ] But shall change them for the better. This they cunningly concealed, and made the worst of things, therefore they are counted false witnesses; like as Doeg’s tongue was a false tongue (though he spake but the truth), Psalms 120:3 , and deceitful, Psalms 52:4 , condemned to be broiled on coals of juniper, which burn very fiercely, and are a great while ere they go out. A report or testimony may be false, either by denying, disguising, lessening, concealing, misconstruing things of good report; or else by forging, increasing, aggravating, or uncharitably spreading things of evil report; which though they he true, yet if I know them not to be so; or knowing them to be true, if I divulge them not for any love to the truth, nor for respect to justice, nor for the bettering of the hearer or the delinquent, but only to disgrace the one and incense the other; I cannot avoid the imputation of a slanderer and false witness.
15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
Ver. 15. As it had been the face of an angel ] Such was the purity of his conscience, the goodness of his cause, and the greatness of his courage. There is a history of a Dutch martyr, who calling to the judge that had sentenced him to the fire, desired him to lay his hand upon his heart; and then asked him whose heart did most beat, his or the judge’s? Many of the martyrs went with as good cheer to die as to dine. Cromwell going to his death, ate a hearty breakfast, Ridley called it his weddingday. And another, clipping the stake he was burnt at, said, "Welcome, mine own sweet wife, welcome the cross of Christ."
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 6". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29