HIS SERVANTS' MINISTRY
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The Book of ACTS
THEME: The appointment of deacons; witness of Stephen, a deacon
In this chapter we see the further result of the defection (desertion from allegiance, loyalty, duty; apostasy) that was in the church. We first saw that defection in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. They were believers who were saved, but they could not remain in the early church with that lie in their lives.
Now the defection we see in this chapter led to the selection of deacons. The chapter continues with the account of one of those deacons, Stephen. He was framed, arrested, and tried.
The Appointment Of Deacons (Acts 6:1-7)
Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. (KJV)
In chapter 5, we saw the battle between the apostles and the Sadducees. Luke now tells us of the internal condition of the Church. The disciples in Jerusalem now numbered way over 5000. In such a large a multitude, it was almost impossible to look after the wants of all with equal care, and some unintentional oversight must have occurred.
We need to understand that this took place early in the history of the church. They tried a form of communal living. It did succeed for a short time, but then, the greed of man took over. We saw what happened with Ananias and Sapphira. Now, there is a bickering of the Grecians against the Hebrews. This is not a clash between two races, nor a demonstration of anti-Semitism. The Grecians were "Hellenists," who were Greek-speaking Jews. Their background was of Greek culture while the Hebrews in Jerusalem closely followed the Mosaic Law. It was quite natural that a misunderstanding came about.
The Holy Spirit had brought the church to a high plane, but was now infected with Satan's work: division and confusion. The sharing of material substance, which first characterized the church, gave in to the selfishness of the old, sinful nature. The Grecians were a minority group. They felt neglected and demanded that their widows be given equal consideration with the Hebrews. Things were not working out as well as they would have liked and was brought to the attention of the apostles.
Acts 6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. (KJV)
The apostles felt that they should not, could not, must not, give up the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They knew it was important for them to continue. If they gave up bringing God's Word to people, to serve tables, that would be disobedience to the Lord. John 21:16-17 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (KJV) . . . The apostles should spend their time in prayer and in the preaching of God's Word, NOT tending tables.
Acts 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. (KJV)
It seemed right to apostles that the whole multitude of the disciples should take part in the selection of these officers. The multitude was instructed by the apostles, to choose men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, not just good men, but men whose goodness was approved among the brethren.
The office which the apostles are about to institute and fill is identified with that of the deacon. 1 Tim. 3:10-13 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (KJV) . . . it was here that seven honest men were appointed because this crisis had arisen. They were not to be filled with wine but were to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
As we see, Stephen was one of the men who met these qualifications. He had wisdom . . . they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake (v. 10). He had real passion for the cause of Christ. Also he was full of faith. He not only had saving faith but also a serving faith . . . a witnessing faith. It was not the amount of his faith but the object of his faith that was important. We learn from this same verse that he was also full of power because of the Holy Spirit. This was the kind of men that were chosen that day as deacons.
The office of deacon came to the Christian from the Jewish Church. Every synagogue had at least three deacons, which were called to feed, nourish, support, govern.
Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. (KJV)
That was the duty and obligation of the apostles. They would carefully keep their hearts and minds on their work and prayer. Ministry of the word . . . the continual preaching of the Gospel of their Lord, Jesus Christ.
Acts 6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: (KJV)
I do not know anything more about the last five men, but the first two, Stephen and Philip, will be mentioned again as in the Book of Acts. They were outstanding men in the early church. Although they were to serve tables, the Bible records them as Godly men.
Acts 6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. (KJV)
I agree with J. Vernon Mcgee on this. Quote: "Now, friends, there is a great deal of hocus-pocus and abracadabra connected with this matter of laying on of hands. A great many people think that some spiritual power is connected to it. They think that putting on the hands communicates something to a person. Frankly, the only thing you can communicate to someone else by the laying on of hands is disease germs. You can pass them on, but you cannot pass on any kind of power."
Just what is the meaning of the laying on of hands? In Leviticus, in the Old Testament sacrifices, the sinner would put his hand on the head of the animal to be sacrificed (Lev.3:2,8,13; 4:4,24,29,33; 8:14,18,22; 16:21; 24:14). This signified that the animal to be offered was taking his place. The offering was identified with the sinner.
More quotes from McGee:
In 1 Tim.4:14: The laying on of hands never communicates anything, my friend. There are those who believe that something will be transferred to the person by the laying on of hands, but the only thing that will be transferred is disease germs -- that's all! Laying on of hands indicates partnership in the ministry. I always insisted that my church officers lay their hands on every missionary we commissioned. Every minister who is ordained should have hands put on him by those who are partners with him. That is what it means, and it is quite meaningful.
In Heb. 6:2: (on baptisms). "Laying on of hands." This was also an Old Testament ritual. When a man brought an animal offering, he laid his hands on its head to signify his identification with it. The animal was taking his place on the altar of sacrifice.
In Acts 19:6-7: (on tongues). These men could now speak the gospel in other languages -- in tongues that could be understood. Ephesus was a polyglot city of the Roman Empire. There were many languages spoken there, just as there had been in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. East and West met all along that coast. It was a great city of that day. These men were now able to give the good news of Christ to the entire city.
In Acts 28:7-8: (on healing). Paul was now exercising his gift as an apostle. He entered in and he prayed. Apparently he did not pray for the man; he prayed for himself. That is, he prayed to determine the will of God. Was this man to be healed through Paul? That is what he prayed to know.
When the apostles put their hands on the heads of the deacons in Acts 6:6, it meant that now the deacons would be partners with them. They were joined together in service to the Lord. It meant that these men were set aside for this office, meaning they fellowshipped in the things of Christ, as representatives in the body of believers.
Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. (KJV)
The number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly . . . DISCIPLES, not apostles!
It is still very important in our day for the Word of God to increase, BUT the TRUTH in the Bible today is sadly being twisted and watered down, and being sought in the new, modern, corrupt and deceptive so-called bibles, that it no longer is the TRUE "Word of God."
The satanic "Word Faith" garbage now being taught and preached in the new "seeker friendly" churches under some very well known preachers, and is absolutely ridiculous. BUT . . . it is widely accepted today by those who claim to be "Christians," even some who call themselves evangelicals! See our article: www.worldlychaos.org/w_c_word_faith_reasons_to_reject.1.htm
To me, an "evangelical" is someone who is:
- #1. Born again.
- #2. Actively and willingly shares the TRUE Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- #3. Has a high regard for the Word of God and believes the Bible is true and was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
- #4. Puts an emphasis on teachings that proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- #5. Believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and is Himself GOD!
- #6. Believes that Jesus did come to Earth as Man to save mankind.
- #7. Believes that Jesus is the ONLY One Who can save us, and that He is the ONLY Way to Heaven.
Going back to Acts 6:7. Do you see that even many of the Levitical priests turned to the Lord? Some of them may have been serving in the temple when the veil was rent in two at the death of Christ (Lu. 23:45). Many of them must have turned to Christ after what they saw that day.
Witness Of Stephen, A Deacon (Acts 6:8-15)
Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. (KJV)
Luke now tells us about Stephen. What a Godly man he was! It seems as though those seven appointed deacons were also endowed with spiritual gifts. They were brought into a special and unique position in the early church. Because Stephen is a strong witness to the Gospel, he brings down the hatred of the Sadducees. False witnesses are then brought before the council to accuse Stephen.
Acts 6:9-10 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. (KJV)
The activity of Stephen, certainly was not greater than that of the apostles during the same period . . . BUT they were naturally attracted to him, because he was a new person on the scene, one who had previously occupied a supposed lower position. The opponents of the Gospel were again aroused into renewed activity. The first persecution took place upon the surprising success of Peter and John in Solomon's Porch; the second, upon the triumphs which followed the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Now we have a third, which springs up upon the appearance of a new advocate of the faith. Now the Jewish leaders were after Stephen!
Acts 6:11-15 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, 13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: 14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. 15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. (KJV)
Stephen is brought before the Sanhedrin, and false witnesses are brought in. The false witnesses tell half-truths. The Lord Jesus DID say that they would destroy the temple and He would raise it up again, BUT He was speaking of the temple of His Body, NOT the literal temple building. At Jesus' trial, the false witnesses misunderstood that and misrepresented it. And now here, they misunderstand Stephen when he says that the temple in Jerusalem will be left desolate. In reality, it was desolate without Christ. They twist what Stephen is saying about the customs of Moses. Men are NOT saved by the Law but by the grace of God. But salvation in Moses' day was by grace even as it is today. Their accusation is based on only a partial truth.
Any time when the advocates of wickedness are defeated in discussion, they resort to lies or slander, or worse, to violence. That is what they did with Stephen. The Pharisees were in charge of the case, and the subsequent proceedings were governed by the same policy which they pursued in the case of Jesus.
This is the first time that the people take part against the disciples. During the first two persecutions the fear of the people had restrained the violence of the persecutors. It had been the Sadducees, who had conducted those persecutions. The Pharisees were more influential and more cunning. They circulated a slanderous report, which was cunningly directed at Stephen, and because of their popularity, enabled them to arouse a strong feeling against Stephen.
The main charge against Stephen was speaking blasphemy against Moses and God, otherwise expressed, against this holy place, and the law. The change of words comes from the fact that the temple and law were the visible representatives of Moses and of God. The specific charges were: “We have heard him saying that this Jesus will destroy this place, and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”
As Stephen stood before the Sanhedrin, falsely and hypocritically accused, he was fully aware of their determination to condemn him without regard to evidence or justice . . . he certainly remembered the similar accusation of Jesus, of Peter and John, then of all the apostles; and his heart must have leaped at the thought of being identified with them in suffering (Phil.1:29; 2 Tim.2:12; 3:12).
There is no need to suppose anything supernatural in Stephen's appearance, such as a halo. For a face naturally fine and expressive, when lit up by emotions so intense and heavenly as those which must then have swelled the breast of Stephen, would be sufficient to suggest such a comparison. If there were any brethren present, they must have looked with tearful delight as they saw this great hero of faith! As for the members of the Sanhedrin, how intense must have been their agitation! The trial proceeds in the next chapter.
Book of Acts
Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28