Introduction: To the persecution and immorality that threatened the church is now added another crisis –dissension within the church.
I. SELECTION OF THE SEVEN TO SERVE
A. The church was called upon to meet some human needs which were of very unusual occurrence.
- The church had a daily ministration (6:1). This involved providing physical necessities to those members in need (2:45, 4:32, 34, 35). Jews had gathered at Pentecost where thousands were converted (2:41).
- Although some were hundreds of miles from home, they remained to learn more of the way Christ. (2:42).
B. Nevertheless, God expects us to give liberally when care of the poor in the church is presented to us.The church in Jerusalem reveals its purpose as God intended (6:3,4).
- “This business” was to “serve tables”. This was a vital work, but secondary. The first work of the church is the “ministry of the word”. Physical needs did not cause the apostles to forsake proclamation (6:2).
- The work of serving tables and preaching was too much for the apostles. One part had to be shifted to someone else. The ministry of the word is connected with prayer (Eph 6:18-20).
C. Even table servers in the church must meet high qualifications (6:3).
- They were to be of good report. To be full of the Spirit is to produce the fruit (Gal 5). To be full of wisdom is to have the ability to apply the facts. The apostles did not select the men.
- They required the church to do this. The apostles determined the qualifications.
D. This is the second problem in the church.
- The first, hypocrisy, was solved by God (Acts 5:1-13). When the problem was solved, the church grew (5:14). In this case, good judgment, a gracious spirit and the “golden rule” were applied and the problem was solved.
- In each case the problem was solved quickly and the church grew (6:7). The apostles’ action was a wise one (6:5). They showed a willingness to share responsibility.
- They did not covet the limelight. Church leaders who demand preeminence are disasters (3 John 9).
E. Luke records the consequent growth in the church (6:7)
- The word “increasing” simply means it continued to exercise its power and influence. The apostles could give more time to preaching. Since more preaching was done, more people became disciples.
- The church in Jerusalem was made up of happy people. It had good leadership. It was actively involved in preaching. Thus it was no accident that it was growing.
F. Even Jewish priests were obedient to the “Faith” (6:7)
- “The faith” which priests obeyed must be “the word of God” which the apostles preached. There must be something in the faith that demands obedience.
- The believers on Pentecost were told how to obey (2:38). The commands did not change (3:19). Whenever faith is mentioned as the basis of God’s forgiveness, it is an obedient faith which is meant (Rom 1:5).
II. STEPHEN DISPUTES WITH THE JEWS (6:8-15)
A. Stephen’s opponents are identified as Jews from foreign lands. “Libertines” might better be translated “Freedmen”.
- Why such opposition came from this group is not easy to say. Whatever the cause, they cannot answer the arguments Stephen makes (6:10).
- It was the great wisdom of Stephen supplied by the spirit of God that enabled him to vanquish completely all opposition to the truth he preached. It will be the same with us (II Tim 3:16-17).
- Since his enemies could not withstand his wisdom, they followed the example of their leaders and determined to silence him. They had no scruples (6:11). “suborned” means “bribed”.
- It is the mystery of evil that in every generation there are champions of every lie ever invented by Satan and that some of those defenders are “church’ people.
B. The same charge is made against Stephen which was brought against Christ (6:11; Mt 26:65).
1. The charge was a lie. Blasphemy was the general charge of which certain specifics were purported (6:12-14). The whole procedure is evidence of the prejudice of the leaders.
- Neither Jesus nor Stephen ever preached that He would destroy the temple. Jesus spokeof the Jews destroying His body (Jn. 2:19-22). The same charge was lodged against Him
- Jesus did prophesy the destruction of the temple, but not that He would do it. Stephen had taught the new covenant in which the customs of Moses would be changed but such would not be by force.
C. Stephen is not moved by fear (6:15).
1. Whether this was miraculous or not is moot. Faith can put a halo on the human
countenance, but it is possible God is giving a sign to the Jews to impress them with the
righteousness of the preacher.
- It seems likely that those who saw his face never forgot it.
Conclusion: This chapter serves as a preliminary to the murder of Stephen. It shows the power of faith in Stephen. Will you accept Jesus by obedient faith? (Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16).