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Bible Commentaries
Acts 6

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Act 6:1. Number of the disciples was multiplied. This was said as an explanation of how there came to be some difficulty over caring for the needs of the dependent ones. The Grecians were Jews who spoke the Greek language; I shall quote from history: "The church, though consisting wholly of Hebrews, comprised two classes of persons; one party understood only the Hebrew and Chaldee languages, which was used in their synagogues at Jerusalem and its vicinity, while the other had been accustomed chiefly to use the Greek language, into which the Old Testament scriptures had been translated (the version which we now call the Septuagint), and which had been for some time in common use, previous to the coming of Christ, in all the Jewish synagogues dispersed throughout the cities of Greece, as well as Egypt. These last were called Hellenists or Grecians." Jones' Church History, Chapter 1, Section 2. The Hebrew-speaking Jews had a feeling of superiority over the others, and the Grecians thought. that feeling had crept into the church, so that partiality was being shown in the distribution of food. Daily ministration refers to the disbursements that were made out of the funds of the "community of goods" that was introduced in chapter 2:44, 45 and 4:34, 35. It should be observed that this distribution was made on the basis of need or dependency. The statement in connection with the work is worded, "according as he had need." This idea is further set forth by the fact that it was the widows for whose sake the disturbance of our present verse was caused. And this point should not be overlooked when we come to considering the work of the men who will be chosen later in this chapter.

Verse 2

2 Act 6:2. This is the only place in the New Testament where the work of the deacons is shown. Their qualifications are stated in another passage (1Ti 3:8-12), but the work belonging to men as official deacons is not to be found in any passage but this verse. The twelve means the apostles who were busy delivering instructions to the people on spiritual matters. Not reason denotes it would not be acting with good judgment. Leave the ward of God would mean a ceasing of their preaching the word of God. Serve is from DIAKONEO, and Thayer's definition at this place is, "To minister, i. e., supply food and the necessaries of life." He then comments, "To provide, take care of, distribute, the things necessary to sustain life, Act 6:2. Absolutely, those are said to take care of the poor and the sick, who administer the office of deacon in the Christian churches, to serve as deacons." It is interesting to know that, the six words "use the office of a dea con" in 1Ti 3:10 all come from this one Greek word translated serve in our present verse. Incidentally, this shows that we should regard the men whom the apostles appointed as being deacons. In truth, were we to reject them as deacons, then we would be left with the baffling situation of having been given important qualifications of deacons, but no instructions as to what they were to do, for no information on that subject is in any other place. It is true that the Greek word DIAKONEO in general, without any consideration of the context, could mean unofficial as well as official deacons, and also their work might consist of any manner of service. In that general sense, all members of the church are deacons, both men and women. But we cannot put that meaning unto the word in the present instance, for the apostles stated the kind of service for which they proposed to appoint (making them officials) the men; that was shown in the word tables. This is from TRAPEZA, which Thayer defines, "a table," then gives his explanation, "a table on which food is placed, an eating table." He gives a specific definition of the word in our verse which is, "To set a table, i. e., food before one." This settles the question of the work belonging to men as deacons, that it is to see that food is provided for those who are needy. The amount of loose thinking and acting on this subject that has been done is deplorable. Many people think that the work of the deacons is to "pass the emblems." Others even today will insist that it is the place of the deacons to "attend to any of the temporal affairs of the congregation." They will then expose the weakness and inconsistency of their position by allowing those things to be done by almost any member of the congregation, even though they may not possess half of the qualifications required of deacons. If the elders see fit to ask the deacons to perform some of the temporal affairs of the church, that is their right, and these men may comply with the request of the rulers. But they should not do so as deacons, for such things are no part of the office of deacons.

Verse 4

4 Act 6:4. After completing the arrangements for taking care of the temporal needs, the apostles said they would devote their time to spiritual matters.

Verse 5

5 Act 6:5. A spirit of cooperation prevailed between the apostles and the multitude of disciples. Stephen is mentioned especially in connection with being full of the Holy Ghost. It, was fitting to give him special mention in view of the glorious work he did in defending the faith, and sealing his courage in a violent death. But we know the others also had the qualifications, for they were required of them all and the apostles would not have appointed them had they not been qualified as stipulated. Philip is the same one who became known as "the evangelist," who preached to the people of Samaria. Nothing is said of any of the others that we know about, except what is said of them as a group working in conjunction with the apostles.

Verse 6

6 Act 6:6. Having selected these men according to instructions, the multitude presented them to the apostles who laid hands on them, accompanying the act with prayer.

Verse 7

7 Act 6:7. Word of God increased. After the deacons were appointed to handle the temporal needs of the disciples, the disturbances were evidently calmed. That gave the apostles fuller opportunity for preaching the word of God, and this is why the word increased is used, meaning increased occasions for offering it to the people. The aforesaid furtherance of the preaching resulted in the increase of disciples in Jerusalem. Another thing that helped the spread of the Gospel, was the work of the deacons who engaged in the preaching as well as attending to their official work. For while the specific function of the deacons is to care for the temporal needs of the congregation, that does not need to prevent them from spiritual activities as their talents and opportunities permitted. The mention of priests becoming obedient to the faith is for the purpose of showing the growing influence that the word of God was having among those who were usually opposed to the work of Christ.

Verse 8

8 Act 6:8. Stephen could do these miracles because the hands of an apostle were laid on him (verse 6). The New Testament was not in existence yet and it was necessary to have men equipped to support their preaching with such special evidence. This is taught in Eph 4:8-14, where Paul is considering both the temporary and the permanent form of the plan of salvation under Christ. But while these deacons could preach the word, and even confirm it with miracles, they could not bestow such power upon others, not having that "measure" of the Spirit Hence after they would make converts to the Gospel, it required the hands of an apostle to confer miraculous power on them. (See chapter 8:14-17.)

Verse 9

9 Act 6:9. Certain of the synagogue. The first definition in the lexicon for synagogue is, "In the New Testament, an assembly of men." It is used in the same sense as "a congregation." For a full description of the subject, see the notes at Mat 4:23. Libertines. In his historical comments of this word Thayer gives the following: "Jews who had been made captives by the Romans under Pompey but were afterward set free; and who, although they had fixed their abode at Rome, had built at their own expense a synagogue at Jerusalem which they frequented when in that city. The name Libertines adhered to them to distinguish them from the free-born Jews who had subsequently [afterward] taken up their residence in Rome." Cyrenians were Jewish dwellers in Cy-renaica who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Act 2:10), and gave their name to one of the synagogues of that city. Alexandrians were Jewish colonists of Alexandria in Egypt, who were admitted to the privileges of citizenship and had a synagogue in Jerusalem. Cilicia was a province lying on the northeast shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and was the native country of Paul. The Asia that is meant here is a part of the province of Asia Minor (today known as Turkey). Jews from these various places were in Jerusalem on account of the feast of Pentecost, and were displeased with the teaching of Stephen.

Verse 10

0 Act 6:10. One part of the definition for resist in the lexicon is "to withstand," and means that although the Jews from all the places named combined in disputing with Stephen, they were not able to meet his claims for the doctrine of Christ. Wisdom is from SOPHIA which Thayer defines, "Wisdom, broad and full intelligence." Spirit is from PNEUMA which the same lexicon defines in this passage, "The disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of any one; the efficient source of any power, affection, emotion, desire." The personal intelligence of Stephen was backed up by the Spirit that was given him through the laying on of the hands of an apostle. This explains why those envious Jews could not "meet the arguments" that he put before them.

Verse 11

1 Act 6:11.. Suborned is from HUPO-BALLO which Thayer defines, "To instruct privately; instigate, suborn." It means they influenced these false wit nesses in an underhanded sort of way that was in the nature of a bribe. The inspired writer says that Stephen spoke with wisdom and spirit, so we know these witnesses made false statements, even though we do not have any record of what they said up to this point. But his speech that is recorded in the next chapter will show us that they were the ones who had blasphemed, for that speech is made up of a respectful recital of the history of many centuries, and that account was written by Moses whose inspiration Stephen recognized.

Verse 12

2 Act 6:12. Stephen was out before the public where he had a perfect right to be; he was preaching the Gospel, which every Christian has a right to do. They means the people from the different countries named in verse 9, who had disputed with Stephen but could not show anything wrong with his teaching. On the strength of the false witnesses of verse 11, they worked up a riotous spirit among the people under their leaders. These men ignored all rules of justice and forced him into the council (Sanhedrin).

Verse 13

3 Act 6:13. Once within the grasp of that prejudiced assembly it was not hard to produce false witnesses, for they had already been prepared in mind for such a work by the crookedness mentioned in verse 11. The accusations of this verse are general, and if looked at without any explanation would certainly make an unfavorable impression on any court, and more so on one that was already ill-disposed toward a prisoner. It would be a very wicked thing to blaspheme the holy place (Jerusalem with its temple) and the law (of Moses). To blaspheme means to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate" [falsely accuse.]

Verse 14

4 Act 6:14. These false witnesses pretended to specify concerning the general accusations of verse 13. The falsity of the charges will be realized by all who will follow the teaching of Jesus while he was on the earth. He always spoke respectfully concerning Moses, and censured the hypocritical Jews for not being true to the law. Change the customs. Jesus never taught that in the sense those enemies placed in the term. It is true He often announced that a change of rules was to take place among God's people, but heshowed that even Moses predicted such a change. (Deu 18:18-20.)

Verse 15

5 Act 6:15. Angel is from ANGELOS, and its primary meaning Is, "A messenger, one who is sent," according to both Thayer and Robinson. There could be nothing in the face of a man from the physical standpoint that would show any indication of his being a messenger, except when considered on the negative basis. Had Stephen been guilty of the evil things charged against him, his face or countenance would have reflected it, for he certainly would have had "a guilty look." Instead of such an expression, the countenance of this righteous man had the appearance of one who was faithfully delivering the message (the business of an angel) of Him whose truth was offered for man's benefit. Stephen was not cowed or in the least intimidated by the brazen stare fixed toward him by the crowd in the council.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Acts 6". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/acts-6.html. 1952.
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