Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Ac 6:1-7. First Election of Deacons.
1. the Grecians—the Greek-speaking Jews, mostly born in the provinces.
the Hebrews—those Jews born in Palestine who used their native tongue, and were wont to look down on the "Grecians" as an inferior class.
were neglected—"overlooked" by those whom the apostles employed, and who were probably of the Hebrew class, as being the most numerous. The complaint was in all likelihood well founded, though we cannot suspect the distributors of intentional partiality. "It was really just an emulation of love, each party wishing to have their own poor taken care of in the best manner" [Olshausen].
the daily ministration—the daily distribution of alms or of food, probably the latter.
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.
2-4. the multitude—the general body of the disciples.
It is not reason—The word expresses dislike; that is "We cannot submit."
to leave the word of God—to have our time and attention withdrawn from preaching; which, it thus appears, they regarded as their primary duty.
to serve tables—oversee the distribution of provisions.
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.
3. look ye out among you—that is, ye, "the multitude," from among yourselves.
seven men of honest report—good reputation (Ac 10:22; 1Ti 3:7).
full of the Holy Ghost—not full of miraculous gifts, which would have been no qualification for the duties required, but spiritually gifted (although on two of them miraculous power did rest).
and wisdom—discretion, aptitude for practical business.
whom we may appoint—for while the election was vested in the Christian people, the appointment lay with the apostles, as spiritual rulers.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
4. we will give ourselves to prayer—public prayer, as along with preaching their great work.
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:
5. Stephen, &c.—As this and the following names are all Greek, it is likely they were all of the "Grecian" class, which would effectually restore mutual confidence.
Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
6. when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them—the one proclaiming that all official gifts flowed from the Church's glorified Head, the other symbolizing the communication of these to the chosen office-bearers through the recognized channels.
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.
7. word of God increased … disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly—prosperity crowning the beautiful spirit which reigned in this mother community.
a great company of the priests were obedient, &c.—This was the crowning triumph of the Gospel, whose peaceful prosperity was now at its greatest height. After Stephen's teaching and trial made it clear that sacerdotal interests could not stand with the Gospel, such priestly accessions became rare indeed. Note (1) how easily misunderstandings may arise among the most loving and devoted followers of the Lord Jesus: but (2) How quickly and effectually such misunderstandings may be healed, where honest intentions, love, and wisdom reign: (3) What a beautiful model for imitation is furnished by the class here complained of, who, though themselves the majority, chose the new office-bearers from amongst the complaining minority! (4) How superior to the lust of power do the apostles here show themselves to be, in not only divesting themselves of the immediate superintendence of temporal affairs in the Christian community, but giving the choice of those who were to be entrusted with it to the disciples at large! (5) How little of formal organization did the apostles give to the Church at first, and when an emergency arose which demanded something more, how entirely was the remedy suggested by the reason of the thing! (6) Though the new office-bearers are not expressly called Deacons here, it is universally admitted that this was the first institution of that order in the Church; the success of the expedient securing its permanency, and the qualifications for "the office of a Deacon" being laid down in one of the apostolical Epistles immediately after those of "a Bishop" (1Ti 3:8-13).
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
Ac 6:8-15. Stephen Arraigned before the Samhedrim.
8. And Stephen, &c.—The foregoing narrative seems to be only an introduction to what follows.
full of faith—rather, "of grace," as the best manuscripts read.
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.
9, 10. synagogue of the Libertines—Jewish freedmen; manumitted Roman captives, or the children of such, expelled from Rome (as appears from Josephus and Tacitus), and now residing at Jerusalem.
Cyrenians—Jews of Cyrene, in Libya, on the coast of Africa.
them of Cilicia—amongst whom may have been Saul of Tarsus (Ac 7:58; 21:39).
and of Asia—(See on Ac 16:6).
And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
10. not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake—What he said, and the power with which he spake it, were alike resistless.
Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
11-14. blasphemous words against Moses—doubtless referring to the impending disappearance of the whole Mosaic system.
and against God—This must refer to the supreme dignity and authority which he claimed for Christ, as the head of that new economy which was so speedily to supersede the old (compare Ac 7:56, 59, 60).
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,
And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
15. as … the face of an angel—a play of supernatural radiance attesting to all who beheld his countenance the divine calm of the spirit within.