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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Acts 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-15

BEHIND ALL THE attacks and difficulties which confronted the early church in Jerusalem lay the great adversary, Satan himself. He it was that stirred the Sadducees to violence and attempts to intimidate. He filled the heart of Ananias to lie, and thus bring in corruption, tempting the Spirit of the Lord. Now, these earlier attacks having been defeated, he moves in a more subtle way, exploiting small differences that existed within the church itself. The “Grecians” of whom the first verse of this chapter speaks, were not Gentiles but Greek-speaking Jews, coming from the lands of their dispersion, whereas the “Hebrews” were the home-born Jews of Jerusalem and Palestine.

The first and greater trouble within the church—that of Ananias—was about money. If the second was not about money, it was over a matter very akin to it; being as to the distribution of daily necessities, entailed by having all things common. The first was about getting the money in: the second about doling out the money, or its equivalent. Those from a distance thought that partiality was being shown in favour of the local people. The greater trouble created only a small difficulty, for it was met instantaneously in the Spirit’s power: the smaller trouble created the greater difficulty, as we see in our chapter. This, we believe, has nearly always been the way in the church’s history: the most difficult cases to settle are those in which at the bottom there is very little to be settled.

It was only a “murmuring” that arose, but the apostles did not wait for it to become a formidable outcry. They discerned that Satan’s object in it was to divert them from the preaching of the Word to social service, so they took steps to end any possible objections. They instructed the church to select seven men to undertake the business, who should be, “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” Their administration was to be marked by wisdom and honesty that should be above all reproach.

In this business the church was to select its own officers; but then the business was the distribution of the funds and food that the church had itself provided. We never read of the church being called upon to select or appoint its elders or bishops or ministers of the Word, inasmuch as the spiritual grace and gifts which they distribute are not provided by the church but by God. The selection and ordination of these consequently lies in the hands of God. To the elders at Ephesus Paul said, “The Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” God appoints those who are to administer His bounty.

So the apostles continued to give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. For those who are taught the Word comes first (see 1 Timothy 4:5), for we only pray rightly as we are instructed in the Word. For those who minister prayer comes first, for apart from prayer they will not speak the Word aright.

Just as wisdom prevailed with the apostles, so grace prevailed in the church, for all the seven men chosen bore names which would suggest a

Grecian rather than a Hebrew origin, and one of them is said to have been a proselyte, which infers that he came even of Gentile extraction. In this way the multitude took care that all murmurings and questionings, whether well-founded or not, should be hushed to silence. The apostles identified themselves with the church’s choice, by laying their hands on the chosen men, with prayer. The adversary behind the scenes was again foiled.

He was more than foiled really; for instead of the apostles being diverted from the Word of God, it increased greatly, and many fresh conversions took place, even many priests being reached. Moreover one of the seven, Stephen, became a special vessel of the grace and power of the Spirit of God; so much so, that for the rest of our chapter, and the whole of Acts 7:1-60, we follow that which God wrought through him, until the time of his martyrdom.

The power operating in Stephen was so marked that it stirred up opposition in fresh quarters. The men of the various synagogues, mentioned in verse Acts 6:9, were apparently all of the Grecian class, to which Stephen himself belonged. All their argumentative skill was as nothing when pitted against the power of the Spirit in Stephen, so they had recourse to the usual device of lying witnesses and violence. In verse Acts 6:11 they put Moses in front of God; but then they knew what would most appeal to the passions of the crowd, to whom Moses, being a man, was more real than the invisible God. So also, in verse Acts 6:13, “this holy place” which was before their eyes, takes precedence of the law; and finally, “the customs which Moses delivered us,” were perhaps dearer to them than all. Dragging Stephen before the council, they charged him with blasphemy, and with proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth as a destroyer of their holy place and customs. There was this much truth in this charge, that the advent of Jesus had indeed inaugurated a new departure in the ways of God.

In this public way the controversy between the nation and God was carried a step further. They threw down the gauntlet, and God accepted their challenge by so filling Stephen with the Spirit that even the fashion of his face was altered, and everybody saw it. Through his lips the Holy Ghost proceeded to give a closing word of testimony against the nation. The council found themselves arraigned at the bar of God by the Holy Ghost, speaking through the very man that was being arraigned at their bar.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Acts 6:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/acts-6.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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