Click here to join the effort!
A second time, however, difficulty arises from within Satan's enmity from without was clearly evident. In Ch.5.1-3 Satan had sought to underhandedly get in among the saints, but this had been exposed. Now he attempts another method, but still working on motives of selfishness concerning material things.
The Grecians (or Hellenists) were Greek Jews, not normally resident in Israel. Friction too easily arises between those of varying cultures, even though in this case both were of Jewish origin. They claimed their widows were neglected in the distribution of necessary provisions, therefore that the Hebrews were favored.
The apostles face this matter wisely. Thy had themselves been sent of God to preach the word, not to care for temporal matters. Therefore they ask the assembly to decide on seven reliable men, "full of the Holy Spirit," whom the apostles could appoint to take care of these things, while they gave themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Notice that the assembly may rightly decide who is to take care of temporal matters, the service of a deacon. In reference to spiritual things, the ministry of the word and government in the assembly, the assembly does not at all decide: this is God's decision, to be recognized by all.
God's grace overruled the whole matter of the friction between Jews and Hellenists in a beautiful way, for evidently all seven chosen (to judge by their names) were Hellenists. The Hebrews gave way completely, to allow those who had complained to have charge of the distribution. Yet they chose men who had spiritual qualifications. We read more of Stephen and Philip later, both of whom manifestly used the office of a deacon well, purchasing to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 3:13). The seven men were set before the apostles, who prayed for them and laid their hands on them, in this way expressing their fellowship with the work they were to do.
This emergency having been met in a spirit of faith and grace, by the power of the Spirit of God, the blessing of the word of God increased, the number of the disciples multiplying greatly. A great company of priests are mentioned as included in this expansion. This was no light matter when the high priest and others prominent among them were so bitterly opposed to the name of Jesus. Their confession of Him would no doubt terminate their official position as priests, but they would learn later that they had a better priesthood in common with all the beloved saints of God (1 Peter 2:4-5), not official, but spiritual and real.
Of Stephen we read in verse 5 that he was full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Added to this in verse 8 is that he was full of grace and power (J.N.D.trans.), so that he did great wonders and miracles among the people. This is a precious example of God's working effectively apart from the circle of the apostles. His work arouses the strong oposition of those of the synagogue of the Libertines and other Hellenists from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. Though having been scattered, they were zealous of Judaism and incensed against another Hellenist who would dare to preach the name of Jesus.
Their disputing with him however only exposed their own ignorance compared to the wisdom and spirit God had given him. He was speaking in measure like his Master, whose wisdom silenced Pharisees and Sadducees so effectively that they determined that He must be crucified.
The results are similar here. They found men whom they prompted to speak falsely in accusing Stephen of speaking blasphemously against Moses and against God. Notice, Moses is more important to them than God: in fact, God is left out entirely in verse 13, and the temple and the law added. Using this wicked procedure they excite the people and scribes and elders, so that Stephen is caught and brought before the Jewish council, as the apostles had been before.
The charges of the false witnesses would have meant nothing whatever to the Roman court, but the Jewish council was already antagonized to the name of Jesus, and ready to use any excuse to silence His witnesses. Adding to the false accusation of Stephen's speaking blasphemous words against the temple and the law, they specifically charge him with saying that Jesus would destroy the temple and change the ritual of the law given by Moses. It is evident they were twisting Stephen's words, but even if the charge were true, it was no reason for putting a man to death. Very likely he had spoken before as he did during his subsequent address to the council, to the effect that the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands; and probably repeated the prophecy of the Lord Jesus that Israel's temple would be destroyed, with not one stone left upon another. For they had given the temple the place that by right only belongs to the great Founder of the temple, the Lord Jesus Christ.
At this moment God bears remarkable witness to His servant, causing his face to shine as that of an angel, just at the time when all those of the council were intent on watching him. No doubt Stephen himself was not conscious of this (Cf. Exodus 34:29), though he would certainly know the reality of the power of the Spirit of God virtually enfolding him.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 6". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29