Anda di halaman 1dari 9

1

# 19: 2-2-07

Acts 6:1-7
When Jesus finished His work of redemption, He freed sinners from the penalty of sin, death, by dying in
their stead. Jesus accomplished this for every man, through all time - His free and gracious gift to mankind
- redemption.

So what is it that men must do? They must receive the gift. The work of Jesus on the cross is applied to
sinners only when they individually choose to rest from their own efforts, and accept the work of Jesus on
their behalf; when they choose to turn from their sin, and turn to God - by faith, receiving Jesus as their
Savior.

This was the message of reconciliation, by which sinners, who are strangers to God, at enmity with Him,
can know God, and have peace with Him.

Jesus began to extend the message of reconciliation with God to men even when He was still on the earth.
After He returned to heaven, Jesus put that ministry into the hands of the men who had chosen to believe in
Him.

These believers had themselves been the enemies of God, but had now been reconciled to Him through the
death of His Son (Rm 5:10). They had been justified by their faith - freed from all charges of sin and guilt -
and so had peace with God through their Lord, Jesus Christ (Rm 5:1).

Justified by the blood of Jesus, they will be saved from the wrath to come through Him (Rm 5:9) - they
shall not come into condemnation, but have passed from death, to Life (Jn 5:24). They passed from death,
as part of the old creation in Adam, to eternal Life, as part of the new creation, in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17).
What is the only way out of that old creation in Adam? Through death. When these men placed their faith
in Jesus, they were baptized into His death - they died with Jesus, which gave them an exodus out of Adam
(Rm 6:3). That is the only way out of that old creation in Adam - through death. Having made their
exodus out of Adam, these believers then passed from death - to Life.

But just how did they pass from death, to Life - eternal Life? Through a new birth. In believing into Jesus,
they were born again, born of the Spirit - a new creation, in Christ Jesus - receiving His Life - a Life in
which death has no part.

Believers are now members of Christ’s Body - of His flesh and of His bones. Jesus Himself formed that
Body out of His death, breathed Life into that Body after His resurrection, and empowered that Body, after
He returned to heaven.

So what was God’s purpose, for this new creation, in Christ? What did God intend them to do? Well, Paul
wrote that the Body of Christ was God’s masterpiece - His workmanship - created in Christ Jesus for good
works - good works that God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10). That is to say,
God has already determined all of the good works that He intends each member of the Body of Christ to
do; and each member is to then walk in them; to do them.

How are the members of the Body to know what these good works are? The Head of the Body will reveal
them to the members of His Body through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to each one of them.

All of this is in accordance with what God has designed, and what He has implemented for this Body,
through Christ and through His Spirit. But there is one final thing required, in order for God’s will to be
2
# 19: 2-2-07

accomplished; in order for His good works to be done, by the Body. What else is required? The members
of the Body must follow the Spirit’s leading, and submit to Christ - so that God’s will, is done.

And what does that submission take, on the part of believers? It takes love; love for God, that is greater
than love for self - so that not their will, but God’s, is done.

And it takes more love - love that puts the needs of fellow believers, before their own desires. After all,
that’s how the world will know that they are the disciples of Jesus - by their love for one another.

And it takes yet more love - to love those who don’t know Love, at all; who can’t, and won’t, love them
back. These are the ones they must love particularly - for these are perishing, and Christ’s Body has been
created to carry out the rescue operation - to reconcile them to God.

For believers to do the good works that God has intended takes the willingness of love, for others. And as
they are willing, the Christ’s work will be accomplished, through them.

This doesn=t mean that all the members are doing the same thing, in the accomplishment of Christ=s work.
The instructions to each member of the Body is often different. But all members of the Body should work
together in perfect unity - the unity of the Spirit - bound together by their love for Christ, and for one
another. And that love, that unity of the Spirit, shines out through all the works of this Body - wooing men
who lack this love - so that they too can experience the love of God, in Christ.

Now, that was God=s design. And it was indeed a masterpiece: His workmanship, created to do His good
works. The Body of Christ has the ability to function perfectly; just as designed. But what does it
ultimately take, to do so? It takes love.

So then, what is it that would cause this masterpiece not to function as it was designed? Simply - a lack of
love. That alone, and the light would not shine; the love would not flow; the good work could not be
accomplished; the ministry would be thwarted. Simply by a lack of love for others; a will for self.

So with that in our minds, let=s proceed into the next part of the book of Acts. The Body of Christ was
continuing to grow, but Satan was attempting to destroy it - assaulting it from the outside, through the
religious establishment, and even from within the assembly, using those who merely professed to believe in
Christ. But as we begin to look at chapter 6, we see a new danger for the church - not sourced in Satan, but
a danger which came from right within the church itself.

v. 1 In those days - we have the sense that time has elapsed. The number of the disciples continued to
multiply - there had been three thousand, then five thousand men, not including women. There were likely
many thousands of believers by now - mostly in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was also the seat of the religious establishment, who had decreed that anyone who professed
Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue; they would be excommunicated from the
commonwealth of Israel (Jn 9:22). That meant that the Jews would not allow believers to worship with
them, nor would they socialize with them, nor would they buy from them, nor sell to them - those who
named the name of Christ were shunned.

We have seen how God turned this particular aspect of the persecution into an opportunity to reflect His
marvelous Light. The Lord put it on the hearts of believers who still had possessions and property to sell
3
# 19: 2-2-07

them, and shared the proceeds with those in His Body that were in need. These acts of compassion
provided a potent witness to the Jewish people in Jerusalem concerning this community of believers, as
they lived Christ, displaying His love.

In the beginning, those selling possessions and property brought the money to the apostles - laying it at
their feet (Acts 5:35) - that is, turning it over to them - and then the apostles would distribute the monies as
the Lord directed, based on the needs of His Body. That worked well while the community of believers
was small. There were just a few people that were turning over monies; and relatively few people to whom
to distribute the monies.

But the Body of Christ was growing rapidly - the disciples were continuing to multiply - and the work of
distributing the monies to those in need was growing rapidly as well. The growth created a logistical
problem in making adequate distribution.

We read that there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews. So who are these
AGrecians@? By the context, listed in juxtaposition to the Hebrews, these AGrecians@ would be
Hellenists.

Hellenists were Jews, by birth or religion, who primarily spoke Greek, and had a background in Greek
culture. The term in the NT is used chiefly of foreign Jews. Hellenists were Jews born outside the land
God had promised to Abraham - Judea, in that day. These were the Jews of the Diaspora, from the time
when the Jews had been exiled out of their land.

It was these Hellenists who were murmuring - against the Hebrews. AHebrews@, here, refers to the Jews
who were natives of Judea and who spoke primarily the Aramaic language. The apostles were the ones
who were making the distribution. They would be considered Hebrews by this criteria.

It was natural - very natural - for these two groups to be exclusive of one another - even rivals of one
another. The Hellenists, influenced by Greek culture, tended to be more liberal concerning adherence to
the Law of Moses. The Hebrews were more rigid regarding the Law.

The Hellenists, speaking Greek as their first language, attended Greek-speaking synagogues in Jerusalem;
the Hebrews spoke Aramaic, and attended synagogues where the service was conducted in Hebrew. Even
those Hellenists who resided in Jerusalem were typically regarded as foreigners by those who were natives
- who were born in the land.

But these Jews - both the Hellenists and the Hebrews - were really no longer Jews at all, were they? In this
passage, it is clear that they are part of the community of believers - they have all put on Christ. There is
neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female - there is neither
Hellenist nor Hebrew! - all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28).

But the Hellenists do not see themselves as one with the Hebrews, in Christ; they saw themselves as
outsiders, and the Hebrews as insiders. They were naturally inclined to envy them.

The word Amurmuring@ used in verse 1 means a smoldering discontent. This murmuring was under the
surface - it was contained within the community of believers, and so likely not yet visible to those outside
of it. But left unchecked, this smoldering discontent had the potential to burst into flame - showing itself in
angry words, fiery disputes. It could even have brought division into the Body of Christ.

What was the cause of the murmuring, on the part of the Hellenists? Their widows were neglected in the
4
# 19: 2-2-07

daily ministration - the distribution of monies received by the apostles for relief of the poor. These would
have been widows who were childless, and had no other means of support.

A widow was often the poorest of the poor. Once her husband had died, a widow no longer had that source
of income, and was ignored for purposes of inheritance. Also, she usually lacked the skill or strength to
earn a living in that culture. Apart from family that could provide for her, the widow was destitute.

In OT Scripture, God named Himself as the legal protector of widows (Ps 68:5), and as their provider (Deut
10:18). This provision was to be made for the Jewish widow through His nation, Israel (Deut 24:19-21),
and later, for widows in the church, through the other members of the Body of Christ (1 Tim 5:16).

And there were many widows in Jerusalem. It was considered virtuous by the Jewish people to be buried in
the land of Israel. Because of this, many foreign Jewish men would plan to spend their last days there. If
the man was married, his wife, of course, would come with him. When he died, his wife was left, widowed
and without means.

In this way, a disproportionate number of foreign Jewish widows lived in Jerusalem - Hellenist Jewish
widows. The number would have been similarly disproportionate, between foreign and native widows, in
the community of believers.

Now, verse 1 said that the Hellenists were murmuring against the Hebrews because their widows were
neglected in the distribution of alms. It did not say that they imagined they were neglected - it appears to
be true that they were actually neglected - that is to say, they were being overlooked - in the distribution.

So were the Hellenists right then, in their response? No. It is never right to murmur. Paul wrote on that
subject. Turn to Philippians chapter 2.

[Philippians 2:14-15] Paul wrote to do everything without murmurings - without grumbling, complaining -
and without disputings - without arguing. Why? So that you may be seen to be without fault, undefiled - a
child of God, and as such, beyond reproach - that=s Light - and therefore able to shine out into the present
wicked, corrupt generation - Light, shining into the darkness.

God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure - the knowledge of
Jesus - in what? In earthen vessels - so that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us (2
Cor 4:6-7). It=s the light that is to be seen, and will be seen - unless something of self gets in the way.

In this case, that something of self was murmuring. The Hellenists probably made a correct observation -
that some of their widows were being overlooked in the distribution of alms. But their observation led to
two wrong conclusions: First, that they were intentionally being treated as Aless than@ in the distributions,
and second, that it was because those making the distribution were natives - Hebrews - and their widows
were foreigners - Hellenists.

The Hellenists did not see that it was a simple oversight, and that it was caused by the logistics of the
situation - that the Hellenists had more widows than the Hebrews. Why didn=t they see that? Because they
weren’t looking at the situation through the eyes of Love.

Through the eyes of Love, the Hellenists would have seen on the part of the Hebrews that Love is kind (1
5
# 19: 2-2-07

Cor 13:4); it desires to do all men good; it delights in promoting the well-being of men.

And above all, the Hellenists would have seen that Love does not seek its own (1 Cor 13:5) - it does not
serve self, but others; it does not have particular regard for itself - but puts others first, and itself last. Love
esteems others more highly than itself (Ph 2:3). Love is willing to sacrifice itself for another. Love is
willing to lay down its very life for another (Jn 15:13).

The Hellenists had lost the super-excellent way of Love (1 Cor 12:31) - and in so doing, had reverted to
their old natural ways - they were envious; they were easily provoked; they did think evil - of the Hebrews.
The murmuring would soon lead to disputing, and from there, to division.

This dilemma required a heavenly solution. The Lord would direct His Body - all of its members - back
into the way of Love. Through yielding to Him, they would be enabled to bear with one another in love,
and keep the unity of the Spirit - in the bond of peace (Eph 4:2-3).

v. 2-4 When the murmurings of the Hellenists reached the ears of the apostles, they considered the matter.
How had the many widows of the Hellenists been overlooked? Because there were so many of them! As
the number of disciples multiplied, the work of distributing the monies to the needy members of the Body
was becoming a Afull-time job@, so to speak.

So the apostles had a problem. It was apparent that they did not have the time to preach and teach, which
required much time for prayer as well - and have the time needed to make the distribution of alms among
all the members of the Body in need.

We don=t have a record of how they came to their conclusion - but how do you think they made their
decision? They certainly would have prayed to the Lord regarding the matter. Their words bear this out.
They said, AIt is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables@.

The word Areason@ in this context refers specifically to being pleasing to God; in accordance with His
will. It was not pleasing to God that they should leave the word of God, and serve tables - it was not in
accordance with His will. How could they surely know that? Only by having sought His will, in prayer.

Remember that the Lord had specifically commissioned His apostles. Let’s look back at this in Matthew
chapter 28.

[Matthew 28:18-20]

v. 18 The Father delegated His power and authority to Jesus. Now Jesus was dispatching His apostles
under His authority.

v. 19 The word for Ateach@ in this verse means to make disciples. The Lord was commissioning His
apostles that as they were going, they were to make disciples - of all nations. This teaching, then, would
actually be the preaching of the gospel.

v. 20 The word for Ateaching@ in this verse means instructing. The apostles were to instruct those who
became disciples to observe all things that Jesus had commanded the apostles. And Jesus would be with
His Body always, through the Holy Spirit, until the end of the age - when He would catch His Bride up to
be with Him in heaven.
6
# 19: 2-2-07

This was the specific commission of the apostles from Jesus - to preach the gospel, and to teach the word -
the Scriptures, and all the words that Jesus had shared with them personally.

[Return to Acts]

Despite that specific commission, the Lord also had His apostles begin the work of distributing alms within
the community of believers. The only way for them to know what He willed for them to do was to ask
Him, which they apparently did, in voicing the Lord=s will in the matter.

It was not the will of God for the apostles to abandon preaching the gospel, and teaching the word of God,
to serve tables. The phrase Aserve tables@ does not mean serving food. In this context, table is referring
to a money table. To Aserve tables@ means to receive and distribute alms for the community of believers.
The apostles were simply saying it was the will of God to appoint new men to this new and growing work,
this specialized need of the Body.

Now, who did the apostles tell of this decision? Our text says that they called - they bade to, or invited to
come - the multitude of the disciples. It would seem that all were invited - and any that had an interest,
would have come. What group would you say would have been in greatest attendance? The Hellenists.

It was to this group of disciples - these brethren in Christ - that the apostles directed their request, to be the
ones to choose the men for the work of distributing the alms. That is remarkable - that the apostles did not
do the choosing, themselves. I=m sure that this was the Lord=s doing.

Now, why would the Lord have the members of the Body choose the men, and not the apostles? It would
show that all members of the Body were on equal footing, under the Head; that the apostles were not in
authority over the people - Jesus was; and that the members of the Body could freely go to the Lord for
themselves, just as the apostles had, and receive guidance.

Finally, in that the Hellenists had murmured against the Hebrews, the apostles, who were of Hebrew origin,
were removing themselves from the decision-making process, and putting it back on all the members of the
Body to make the decision - creating a unity of purpose in them. Now, that was the wisdom of God.

The apostles did make some general recommendations about the qualifications of the men that were to be
selected - surely also the direction of the Lord. They were to be of honest report - that is, of good
reputation; characterized by a good witness; men of integrity, who characters were well-known and fair.
The reputation of these men was important for the sake of public credibility.

The men should also be full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom, here referring to practical wisdom - showing
sound judgment and good sense. These men would be full of practical wisdom if they were full of the Holy
Spirit, who would give them that wisdom.

These must be men who were in the constant practice of yielding themselves to the Spirit; only in this way
would they make wise and equable distribution of the alms to those in need. Notice that the qualifications
that the apostles suggested are really the perfect qualifications for anyone in any ministry within the Body
of Christ.

The apostles requested that the brethren choose these men - seven of them. In Scripture, seven is the
number of completion, or perfection. This was the perfect will of God, to completely meet the material
needs of His growing Body, through the establishment of these seven men in this ministry of distribution of
alms.
7
# 19: 2-2-07

It is thought by some that the ministry of deacons within the church, as mentioned in Paul=s epistles, is
derived from the ministry of these seven men (1 Tim 3:8-13). The term Adeacon@, derived from the Greek
diakonos, simply means minister or servant. These seven men were to serve tables - diakoneo trapeza - to
minister the daily distribution. The words are related in the Greek.

While recommending that other brethren be chosen specially for this work, the apostles would then devote
themselves to what the Lord had commissioned them for - ministry of the word, and the essential prayer
that must accompany it. This division of ministry within the Body was a novel concept at the time, but the
division was necessary - for the unity of the Body.

We read next of how the brethren responded.

v. 5-6 All the brethren - all - recognized the wisdom of God in this recommendation by the apostles. And
so the brethren chose the seven men. How do you suppose they made the choices? Unquestionably, they
would have prayed, and asked the Lord to decide - perhaps not unlike what the disciples had done when
choosing Matthias for the office of apostle (Acts 1:21-26).

We can tell they asked the Lord, because of the choices that they made. Every single name listed is Greek.
What does that mean? That all these men were presumably - Hellenists. It would not be surprising if these
seven men were recognized leaders of the Hellenists in the church.

Can you see the wisdom of God? Since it was the Hellenists that found fault, the brethren as a whole reply
by selecting Hellenists to make the distribution. Now, how could the Hellenists find fault any longer?

What a wonderfully gracious way to quell this smoldering discontent, which threatened to cause division
within the Body of Christ! If the Hellenists felt they could not trust their Hebrew brethren, they now learn
that their brethren were ready to trust them.

After all, who were they really trusting? The Lord. And in submitting to Him, they washed away the
offense of the Hellenists with an overabundant flow of brotherly love.

Turn to Ephesians chapter 4. Paul was writing of unity of the faith - the faith of Christ - by which the Body
of Christ is growing up together, into the perfect man - the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Paul wrote of forbearing one another in Love - maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph
4:2, 3).

[Ephesians 4:14-16]

v. 14 That is, that we no longer are misled by the thinking of this world.

v. 15 That=s what the apostles did - they took no offense, but spoke the truth in Love, and so set the stage
for the Body to continue to grow.

v. 16 How does the Body edify itself - build itself up - grow up? In Love - by submitting to Christ, who is
Love, who loves through us, one to another. Love is the building bond, that knits the Body together - the
love of Christ.

[Return to Acts]
8
# 19: 2-2-07

We cannot pass up the opportunity to look at what the names of these Hellenists mean. Each is a reflection
of their Lord.

Stephen means victor=s crown. We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering
of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man (Heb
2:9).

Philip means lover of the race. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith, who for the joy that
was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne
of God (Heb 12:2).

Prochorus means leader of praise. Paul wrote, be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus
Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Phil 1:11).

Nicanor means a victor. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Cor
15:57).

Timon means honorable. Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is
above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, in earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).

Parmenas means one who abides; enduring. For consider Him - Jesus - that endured such contradiction of
sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds (Heb 2:3).

Nicolas means conqueror of the people. When Jesus ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and
gave gifts to men (Eph 4:8).

Stephen and Philip are listed first - the only two whose stories are partly included in Acts. Stephen is
specially mentioned as full of faith and the Holy Spirit. His story immediately follows, as he defends the
faith through the Holy Spirit before the Jewish council. We will read of Philip after the first scattering of
the believers abroad, following the great persecution in Jerusalem; Philip will evangelize the Samaritans.

The last man mentioned, Nicolas, is named as a proselyte - a convert to Judaism. He apparently had then
become a convert to Christ. Now the Jews despised proselytes, even though they went through great
trouble to gain them. But you can see by the fact that Nicolas was chosen that the grace of God had begun
erasing even these lines of distinction between the members of the Body, between Jew and Gentile - all
were truly becoming One in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28).

Once the brethren had chosen the seven men, the apostles appointed them to their new ministry in the
Lord=s Body, praying for them, and laying hands on them.

The laying on of hands was an ancient custom that signified the transfer of something from one to another;
it was symbolic. It did not convey any power; all power and authority were retained by Jesus (Mt 28:18).
It did not impart the Spirit; these men were already filled with the Spirit. Here, the laying on of hands
simply meant that these men were being commissioned to their new work.

v. 7 Here we see the result of this restored unity. The word of God increased - for the apostles could
devote themselves to it, continually - and so they preached Christ the more.
9
# 19: 2-2-07

The members of the Body were doing everything without murmurings or disputings - because Love was
reigning. The members of Christ=s Body were seen as faultless, undefiled, without reproach - children of
God, shining as lights into that dark world - drawing men who saw them to the Light of Life, Jesus.

And so, from both results, the number of disciples multiplied the more in Jerusalem; even the priests were
becoming believers. Now, this does not likely refer to the chief priests, the aristocratic power brokers in
Jerusalem, but to the lower echelon of priests who served there.

The ordinary priests were socially and in other ways far removed from the wealthy chief-priestly families
from which the main opposition to the gospel came. We will see that this conversion of large numbers of
the priests essentially set the stage for the vicious opposition that arose against Stephen, of which we will
learn next week.

Reading: Acts 9 and 10, Mt 16:13-19.