Acts 6 Jesus Ascends; Apostle Chosen
Summary

As the church grew in numbers, problems arose. Some were external. The Jewish opponents tried to stop the movement by persecuting the church. Some other problems arose from within. The personal sin of Ananias and Sapphira was settled quickly but brought fear upon all the church. Here, a complaint arose because some felt their widows in need were being neglected. How the apostles dealt with this problem is exemplary. They chose seven men who appear to have been Hellenists (the group from whom the complaint had been lodged) to judiciously provide for the widows. One of these men was Stephen. Certain Jews rose up against him and accused him of blasphemy and brought him to the Council.

Seven Chosen to Serve

6Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[1] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3Therefore, brothers,[2] pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

Question 1

Who were complaining and what was the issue involved in the complaint?

Question 2

What were the qualifications of the seven men chosen to deal with the complaint?

7And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Question 3

3. In what ways was the solution to the complaint a good example?

Stephen Is Seized

8And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Question 4

What corrupt methods did the Jews from the Synagogue of Freedmen use against Stephen?

Question 5

What charges did they bring against Stephen before the Council?

People
  • Widows
  • Were being cared for by the church

  • Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas
  • Were chosen to oversee caring for the widows

  • Jews from the Synagogue of Freedmen
  • Accused Stephen of blasphemy in the Council

Places
  • Jerusalem

Seven Chosen to Serve

6Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[1] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3Therefore, brothers,[2] pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

Acts 6:1

The “Hebrews” were Jews who lived in Israel and followed the Hebrew language and customs.

The “Hellenists” or “Grecians” lived elsewhere, spoke Greek, and imitated Greek customs.

The complaint seems to have been that there was prejudice in dealing with ethnicity.


Acts 6:2

Notice, the apostles’ primary mission was to preach the gospel. While providing for both these groups of Jewish widows was important, they should not be distracted from primary duties.


Acts 6:3

They called the entire church together and asked them to select seven committed men.


Acts 6:5

The men chosen all seem to have had Hellenist names. One was a proselyte. Wisely, the care of Hellenist widows appears to have been placed in hands of those who would understand best. Stephen (first martyr) and Philip (preacher to Samaria) are important to the continuing story.


Acts 6:6

“Laid hands on them” probably means that the apostles appointed and authorized their work.

7And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 6:7

Do not overlook that many Jewish priests became Christians.

Stephen Is Seized

8And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Acts 6:9

The “Synagogue of the Freedmen” was perhaps populated by liberated Jewish slaves (libertini).

Many Jews enslaved by Pompey in Rome (61-63 B.C.) gained freedom and left Rome.

These Freedmen are identified with Cyrene (northern Africa), Alexandria (Egypt), Cilicia, and Asia. They are apparently radical, outspoken Jews who challenged Stephen.

The “Theodotus Inscription” found by Raymond Weill in 1914 is thought by some scholars to have described a function of this synagogue to provide for itinerate freedmen Jews in Jerusalem.


Acts 6:11

Their methods are corrupt. They suborned witness to lie about Stephen.


Acts 6:13

Further evidence of their corruption.


Acts 6:15

The council is the same court that had previously tried Peter and John.

Perspectives

The church took immediate measures to correct any perceived inequities.

Men chosen to do God’s work should have exemplary character.

Christians are often slandered and made victims of corrupt people with impure motives.