Development of a New Community #2
Good Questions by Josh Hunt
1. The Choosing of the Seven
1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)--Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God."
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us."
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. Acts 6:1-15 (NIV)
2. As the Church grew it began to encounter the problems of an institution. No nation has ever had a greater sense of responsibility for the less fortunate brethren than the Jews.
In the synagogue there was a routine custom. Two collectors went round the market and the private houses every Friday morning and made a collection for the needy partly in money and partly in goods. Later in the day this was distributed. Those who were temporarily in need received enough to enable them to carry on; and those who were permanently unable to support themselves received enough for fourteen meals, that is, enough for two meals a day for the ensuing week. The fund from which this distribution was made was called the Kuppah or Basket. In addition to this a house-to-house collection was made daily for those in pressing need. This was called the Tamhui, or Tray.
It is clear that the Christian Church had taken over this custom. But amidst the Jews themselves there was a cleavage. In the Christian Church there were two kinds of Jews. There were the Jerusalem and the Palestinian Jews who spoke Aramaic, the descendant of the ancestral language, and prided themselves that there was no foreign admixture in their lives. There were also Jews from foreign countries who had come up for Pentecost and made the great discovery of Christ. Many of these had been away from Palestine for generations; they had forgotten their Hebrew and spoke only Greek. The natural consequence was that the spiritually snobbish Aramaic-speaking Jews looked down on the foreign Jews. This contempt affected the daily distribution of alms and there was a complaint that the widows of the Greek-speaking Jews were being--possibly deliberately--neglected. The apostles felt they ought not to get themselves mixed up in a matter like this; so the Seven were chosen to straighten out the situation.
It is extremely interesting to note that the first office-bearers to be appointed were chosen not to talk but for practical service. --Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
3. The word overlooked indicates that this neglect was neither direct nor intentional. The busy apostles had not appointed anyone to handle these matters, so they simply slipped through the cracks.--Holman New Testament Commentary
4. Suspicious of the motives of the native-born stewards in charge of the distribution, these Hellenists raised a complaint that might well have hardened into a bitter split if it had not been handled wisely.--Teacher's Commentary
5. It is right that those who give themselves to preaching and teaching have time to do so. The rest of the body must do what needs to be done to that preachers and teachers can be free to do their jobs.
6. Notice that the Twelve offered a suggestion, not a dictatorial decision. The apostles put forth the idea, but the church elected the leaders (just as they chose Matthias in chapter 1). Look at the names of the seven men. As I suggested earlier, most commentators believe they were all Hellenists, though that cannot be proven since Palestinian Jews also had Greek names. One stands out as a Gentile convert (proselyte).--Holman New Testament Commentary
7. They seem to be bending over backwards to heal the wound. A great example of going the second mile and turning the other cheek.
8. The apostles confirmed the congregational decision by laying their hands on them. It is best not to read our current practices of ordination back into the text of Acts with regard to this gesture of hand-laying. In the Old Testament the laying on of hands deals with the transfer of some personal characteristic or responsibility from one person to another, as from Moses to Joshua (Num 27:16-23). The gesture is used in several ways in Acts: in healings (9:17), the gift of the Spirit (9:17; 8:18), and in commissioning to a task (6:6; 13:3). Even in the commissionings the emphasis is not so much on appointment to an office as to designation for a task.--New American Commentary
9. God's message was preached in ever-widening circles. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.NLT Here Luke placed one of his common punctuation marks (see 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:31)--a report that the Word of God was spreading in ever-widening circles. Jesus had told the apostles that they were to witness first in Jerusalem (1:8). In a short time, their message had infiltrated the entire city and all levels of society. Even some Jewish priests were being converted (as many as eighteen thousand priests may have been living in Jerusalem at the time)!
The work increased, and the Word spread, at least in part because the apostles were dedicating more of their energies to that ministry. They could not have imagined, however, an explosion of the magnitude that lay just around the corner in the short but significant ministry of the church's first martyr.
--Life Application Bible Commentary
10. The word for looked intently (atenizo) is a Lucan favorite. We can almost see Stephen making eye contact with the high priest and other members of the Council. What they saw must have startled them. No anger. No fear. No bitterness. Instead, a quiet confidence, peace, security, and courage obviously brought about by the presence of the Holy Spirit and God's grace in his life. Even at that, Luke's choice of words seems remarkable--his face was like the face of an angel.--Holman New Testament Commentary
11. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
In his book, Confronting Jezebel, Steve Sampson writes about a lesson he learned watching the family cat. Steve writes, "One afternoon, as I was sitting on our deck, my attention was drawn to our cat. As always, it would spend time in the back of the house, stalking birds. I watched the little sparrow run ahead a few feet as our large, gray cat stalked it. Suddenly, just when the cat was ready to pounce, the bird seemed to receive a revelation. The bird realized it had two dimensions. It not only could walk, but also could fly. Instantly it took off, leaving the earthbound realm, where the cat was destined to stay. As it gracefully and confidently flew away, it seemed to be saying, 'See you later, Mr. Cat.'"
Steve says believers also live in a higher dimension. We have to decide whether we will live in a completely earthbound realm, where we are stalked and potentially defeated by the enemy, or if we will live in a higher reality. God has made the realm of living by the power of His Holy Spirit available to all believers, though few ever seem to take advantage of His provision.
--Steve Sampson, Confronting Jezebel Discerning and Defeating the Spirit of Control, 2003 Chosen Books. Pg 132. Submitted by Jim Sandell Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Illustrations, (Austin, TX: WORDsearch, 2004), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "SPIRIT-FILLED LIVING".