This is as good a place as any to pump the brakes and talk about verse numbers, chapter headings, and letters printed in color. Remember, the words in the Bible are old, dating back to fourteen hundred BC.
Archbishop Stephen Langdon of Canterbury was the first to put the modern chapter division into a manuscript in 1227 AD. In 1387, the Wycliffe Bible printed them, and since then, almost all copies of the Bible have contained them. Eventually, The Old Testament was divided into verses in 1448 AD by a Jewish rabbi named Nathan. The New Testament was divided into standard verses in 1555 AD by Robert Estienne. The first Bible to mark the words of Jesus in Red was published in 1901.
The transition between Acts Chapter Six and Seven illustrates a time when this division unwittingly fragments a story for the reader. The Bible makes the most sense when read within the context of its own narrative. The unnatural breaks sometimes change the pace of the story and flow of a story leading readers to stumble 0n big-picture issues.
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists- The Hellenists we hear about here are Hellinisitc Jews, At that time, there were the Hellists and the Hebrews. The Hellists were those Jews who had moved, forced or not, to live amongst the Gentiles and had adopted the Greek language.
arose against the Hebrews- The Hebrews were the Jews who used the Hebrew language and remained in Judea, near Jerusalem, during the dispersions.
because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. - Considering that in the culture, men earned money, a widow with no male children was hard-pressed to find a meal. Fortunately, the first-century church took the welfare of widows very seriously, giving them regular means to live. We also can begin to notice a small hint of division beginning.
And the twelve - The disciples, already dividing their time between preaching and leading spiritual growth as the Church elders.
summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. - The elders had a job to do, pray and preach the word. It was not arrogance that stopped them from physical service but conviction to do what Jesus had literally called them to do. It is here that the position of Deacon begins, the hands and feet of the church. These men were critical parts of the church as they allowed the elders to devote all of their time to being the spiritual leaders of the church.
Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. - The qualifications are established.
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”- Again affirming that they are the spiritual end of the church.
And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. - If we look at the seven names chosen, they all appear to be Greek which indicates that the men were from the Hellenistic side, the ones who were raising the grievance.
These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. - Laying of hand is found nowhere in the bible prior to this point. It is a symbolic method of invoking the Holy Spirit.
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. - Satan's first attack on the church has been foiled, but its unity. The choice of deacon was a powerful sign of a united body of believers. The Hebrews showed humility by not having representation, the elders had wisdom in praying for and appointing these seven men, and the Hellenists had to show mercy and self-control and not over-compensate their widows and hold back from the Hebrews.
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. - Steven's power came from Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. - These synagogues were not local; they ranged from as far away as Libya, Egypt, Turkey, and South Asia. Their members were former slaves of the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC.
But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. - Steven's mouth was apparently powered by the Holy Spirit, and there was no winning a courtroom debate with God.
Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” - False testimony seems to be a common tactic of the court.
And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” - This is the same type of deception they used in the trial of Christ.
And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Mark 14:57-58
And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel. - To you and me, this verse may slip past as unimportant, but to the men there. As we hear about the his face of an angel, we have to think of all the locations where angles are recorded being accompanied by bright light. When Luke explains that his face is like an angel, he is saying that his face emits some type of supernatural light. We hear of another time in Exodus Thirty Four when a man's face shines with light. Moses meets with God:
Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him. - Genesis 34-35
Is Steven experiencing some supernatural calm, some divine confidence, or being ministered to by God, we cannot tell clearly from the text, but if we read it as a foreshadowing to the events in chapter seven, we can see God's fingerprints all over this story.
Bible Study Questions - Week 6
Who or what are the Hellenists (V.1) and how did they differ from the Hebrews?
Who are the 12 (v.2) and what do they represent in the modern American church?
What did the 12 seem to say their priority was to me in the church? (v.2)
Who are the 7 and what do they seem to represent in the modern American Church?
Who nominated and chose the 7? (v.3)
Who do the disciples represent in the modern American Church?
What was the result of setting up and maintaining the church in this structure?(v7)
Why was Stephen prepared to do his work? (v.8)
Who are these synagogues? (v.9)
What does it mean to "speak blasphemous words?" (V.11)
Does Jesus ever say he will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us?” (v.24)
Bring one question you had from this reading to the group for discussion.
What did you learn or rediscover about God the Father in this Chapter?
What did you learn or rediscover about Jesus Christ in this Chapter?
What did you learn or rediscover about the Holy Spirit in this Chapter?
What did you learn or rediscover about the church in this Chapter? Does it Differ from what you understood?
What did you learn or rediscover about what a pastor should do in this Chapter? Does it Differ from what you understood?
What is the biggest thing you learned or rediscovered in this chapter?
So what? How will the answer to the question above change how you live life on a day-to-day basis?