CPRC Men’s BS
Verses 1-8 These verses record the institution of the office of deacon and the increase of the church.
- “Those days” were the early days of the NT church from around AD33 onwards when the number of disciples multiplied.
- The problem that arose was that the Greek widows were not being catered for as the Jewish ones were, in the benevolence being distributed by the church.
- The Grecians (Greeks) were non-Jewish widows living in Jerusalem, presumably previously married to proselytes (Gentile converts to Judaism) who were now believers.
- The Hebrews were Jewish widows now converted.
- The “daily ministration” were the daily distribution of money or gifts in kind (e.g. food) to those in need.
- The problem concerned the widows because they and presumably their orphans had no means of support. See James 1:27, I Tim.5:3, 5,9-16 where Paul’s criteria are set forth.
- Perhaps they did not have a comprehensive list (as they later did as Paul speaks of the “number”) and only the well-known Jewish widows were being remembered.
- The apostles decided to institute the office of deacon, or distributer of alms by the election of the congregation of whom there were to be seven men to oversee this work.
- The whole church made their choices known to the apostles-how we are not told.
- This tells us the congregation chose them and the apostles ordained them and what their duties were.
- The laying on of hands was the setting apart in ordination by the apostles (nowadays church elders) who by this act: a) Commissioned them and identified with them (support/prayer)
- b) Conferred on them authority/gifting/power. See II Tim.1:6, I Tim. 4:14, Heb.6:2. This ordination originated with Moses and the Levites (Num.8:10) and Joshua (Num.27:18-23 and Deut. 34:9).
- This is a model for the church today where according to our church order confessing male members elect men to office who are then ordained by elders laying on their hands, because it is Biblical.
- Numbers in the church grew and noteworthy were the number of priests converted.
- The requirements of a deacon are: sincerity, fullness of the Spirit, wisdom, sobriety, blamelessness, one wife (or single), having been proved (I Tim.3:8-13).
- Stephen was able to do great wonders and miracles because he was gifted (I Cor.12:9,10).
The Jews’ false witness against Stephen
- The various groups arrayed against Stephen were the synagogue of the Libertines, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicians and Asians, all presumably Jewish proselytes.
- The synagogue of the Libertines were either a very liberal synagogue (antinomian) or one composed of previous slaves (Jews or heathen) of the Romans who had gained their freedom after their enslavement by General Pompey 63BC.
- Cyrenians were from Libya (e.g. Simon who carried the cross). Alexandrians were from Egypt’s largest city. The Cilicians and Asians were from what is now Turkey where Paul would evangelise later.
- They could not refute Stephen’s message because it was Scripturally based, reasonable and Spirit-inspired (Psalm 119:98, Luke 21:15). He knew his Old Testament history and its explanation/fulfilment in Christ very well.
- Instead they pressganged wicked liars to make false charges against him.
- The accused Stephen of speaking ill in blasphemy against Moses and God.
- The Jews misinterpreted Jesus words concerning the destruction of the temple of his body and his adding to the law of Moses in the Beatitudes (Matt.5 for example).
- The accusation would have merited the death penalty because it betrayed hatred of Moses and God (Lev.24:10-16).
- Stephen’s face shone (like Moses when he came down from the mount), with joy and holiness, reflecting the glory of God in the face of Christ whom he was beholding (Ps.34:5, II Cor.3:18).
- This happened for two reasons: firstly to convince the accusers of his holiness and truth and glory and secondly to prepare him for his upward call.
Next study (DV) Thursday December 20th 8pm on Acts 7.