Acts 6

Thursday Evening Bible Study

September 5, 2013


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved?

The church was born on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples.  Peter preached, 3,000 people responded, and the church was born.

Though the church has now grown to over 5,000 people, the church is still just in the city of Jerusalem, and is made up entirely of Jews who have come to believe in Jesus as their Messiah.

6:1-7 Seven Servants

:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

:1 the number … was multiplying

 plethuno – to increase, to multiply

We are going to see a problem crop up in the early church.  The problem was a result of the church growing.

That’s not a bad thing.  Those are the kinds of problems we want to have.
We’ve been having some kinds of growth problems as well.  There are some areas of need that are cropping up in the church, solely because we’ve been having a few more folks coming to church than we have in the past.

:1 the Hellenists

Hellenistes – a Hellenist;  one who imitates the manners and customs or the worship of the Greeks, and use the Greek tongue;  used in the NT of Jews born in foreign lands and speaking Greek

These were the Jews who didn’t live or grow up in Palestine, and had learned to adopt the customs of the Greeks as well as speak Greek.

Some of the translations use the word “Greeks” here.  It’s important to know that these are not Gentiles, but Jews who have been living away from Israel and have learned to speak Greek and practice Greek customs.

:1 the Hebrews

Hebraios – Hebrew; in a narrower sense, those who live in Palestine and use the language of the country

These were the Jews who lived in Palestine and spoke Aramaic, a language related to Hebrew.

:1 were neglectedparatheoreo – to examine things placed beside each other, to compare; to overlook, neglect

:1 distributiondiakonia – service, ministering

esp. of those who execute the commands of others; the office of deacon in the church; the service of those who prepare and present food

This word is going to be important to our study.  The word has to do with serving or ministry.  The particular ministry that was having trouble had to do with the “distribution” of food to the poor, but the word itself simply has to do with “serving”.

:1 dailykathemerinos – daily

:1 widowschera – a widow


Helping the helpless

In the days of this ancient society, it was the husband who was the provider for the family.  When the husband/father died, life was very, very difficult for the widow and the orphans who survived.
From the earliest days of the church, the church took on the responsibility to meet the needs of the most helpless and poor in society – the widows and the orphans.

(Jas 1:27 NKJV) Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Just like today, in the early church there began to be abuses of the church’s welfare system.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they shouldn’t be helping anybody who was able to earn a living.

(2 Th 3:10 NKJV) For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

Paul wrote to Timothy laying out some guidelines as to just who was qualified to receive the church’s assistance.

(1 Ti 5:3–4 NKJV) —3 Honor widows who are really widows. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.

Some families were abandoning their elderly parents and not helping them out.  Paul reminds Timothy that families need to take care of their own.  The church should only be taking care of those who have no other place to turn to.

:1 complaintgoggusmos – murmuring, muttering; a secret displeasure not openly avowed

I think that sometimes you could translate this word as “whining”.

About the closest I could come to “whining” was … Play Ultimate Dog Tease. 



In Acts 6, the issue was not abuse of the church’s resources, but the issue was one of “partiality”.
The “Hellenists” were claiming that their widows weren’t getting a fair share compared to those widows who were “Hebrews”.
Whether there really was any partiality at work, we don’t know.  It looks like the apostles decide that the problem was more about lack of organization than it was showing favorites.
It’s not uncommon for people to complain, and sometimes the things they complain about just aren’t true.  They misunderstand what the situation is.
See “prayer request cartoon”.  “Eugene, you’ve shared the same prayer request for 47 years.  Now either forgbet about it, or buy yourself a pony!”  Sometimes even with prayer requests, we just don’t see the bigger picture.  So we whine.
When you find yourself complaining, do you ever ask yourself, “Do I really understand the situation?”

:2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.

:2 summonedproskaleomai – to call to; to call to one’s self

:2 multitudeplethos – a multitude

:2 desirablearestos – pleasing, agreeable

:2 we should leavekataleipo – to leave behind

:2 servediakoneo – to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon

This is the verb form of the word for “servant” or “ministry”.

:3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;

:3 seek outepiskeptomai – to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes

:3 of good reputationmartureo – to be a witness, to bear witness; to utter honorable testimony, give a good report

The word is “passive”.  There have been “reports” on these men.

:3  fullpleres – full, i.e. filled up (as opposed to empty)

:3 wisdomsophia – wisdom

We talked on Sunday that “knowledge” is about facts.  Wisdom is knowing what to do with what you know.  It’s the application of knowledge.

For these men to take over serving the widows, they are going to need “wisdom”.

They are going to need to be able to handle the problems they will be facing with the complaining people.

:3 we may appointkathistemi – to set, place, put; to appoint one to administer an office

:3 businesschreia – necessity, need; duty, business

We might call it the “business” of helping the widows, but it was actually a “need” in the church.  Their ministry was meeting a need.


Seeing the needs

I’ve got Drew working on a project that will be hopefully up and running on the webpage by this weekend.  We are calling the new page “Servant Central”.  Our goal is to begin to organize a central place where the “needs” of the church are made public.  These are the things where we have “needs” and where those of you who might be looking for a place to serve might think about jumping in to.
Sometimes we are just unaware of the needs around us.
Play “Get Service” video.

:4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

:4 prayerproseuche – prayer addressed to God

:4 the ministrydiakonia – service, ministering

Waiting on tables isn’t the only “ministry” in the early church.  Prayer and the “word” are both ministries, a way of serving.

:4 give ourselves continuallyproskartereo – to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one; to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing

:4 we will give ourselves continually to …



When I was growing up, there were times when my mom would ask me to do something.  Sometimes I responded with, “Mom, I don’t have time to do that”.  My mom’s answer to me was full of wisdom.  She said, “Richard, you always have time for the things that are important to you.”
There’s more truth to that than we think.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that we just don’t have time for everything that is important to us.

We might say, “Well my family IS important to me, but I just don’t have time for doing the things I want to do with my family”.

The truth is, we have made choices about our priorities.

For some of us, our priority is whatever is right in front of our face.  We can’t see beyond the immediate situation we are facing.

We need to step back and ask ourselves about or priorities.

Jesus taught His disciples to be servants.
(Mk 10:42–45 NKJV) —42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

This was a lesson that Jesus impressed on the apostles over and over again.

They know that their Lord was a “servant” (diakonos) and He taught them to serve (diakoneo).

At this point in the apostles’ lives, they are stepping back and looking at their priorities.  They are taking a hard look at what it means for them to “serve”.

The priority for the apostles is to be clearly teaching the church and establishing what the Word of God is all about.  No one else can do this for the church.

But others can serve the poor and wait on tables.

When it comes to the priorities in your life, ultimately no one else can make your life choices for you.
When you start to hear your spouse or your kids regularly complain about you not being around enough, does it have your attention?
How do you prioritize your responsibilities to your family, your job, your personal “fun” time, and your relationship with God?

Play “God Pie” video

Sometimes we don’t need to make drastic changes, sometimes just a little change is all we need for the long run.

The apostles were open to making choices about how they spent their time.


Prayer and Word

Though this was to be the major responsibility and ministry of the apostles to both pray and learn/teach the word, it is also the main ingredients for the spiritual health of all of us.
We all need to make sure we are doing the “ministry” of praying and learning the Word.
This isn’t all there is to the Christian life, but it’s at the very center of it.
It is so vitally important that you learn to set aside time each day to pray and read, even if for just a little bit of time.

:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,

:5 the saying pleased the whole multitude

Perhaps this is an example of the “word of wisdom” at work.

Pastor Chuck used to tell this story –
“When we were growing up I had two brothers. And my mom was a outstanding pie baker among other things and there was always that problem of the last piece of pie. And so often my brother and I would be vying for that last piece of pie. And that’s a polite way of saying “fighting”... I’ve fought over more than one piece of pie ... and it was an advantage of being the older brother too. But when we would bring our dispute to my mom and we would both be claiming that piece of pie or desiring our portion of that piece of pie she would always let one of us cut it in half and the other one got the first choice. ... Boy I mean we got out the “micrometers” … it was just a good solution to a difficult problem.”

:5 pleasedaresko – to please

Related to the word “desirable” in verse 2.

:5 choseeklegomai – to pick out, choose, to pick or choose out for one’s self

:5 and they chose …

All seven men have Greek names.

The church responds to the concern over the neglect of the Hellenistic widows by picking seven men who were “Hellenistic”.
They picked men who would be particularly sensitive to the needs they were trying to meet.

:5 StephenStephanos – “crowned”

Stephen is one of the two deacons that we will get to know a little better.

:5 PhilipPhilippos – “lover of horses”

Philip is the other deacon that we will spend time looking at.

:5 ProchorusProchoros – “leader of the chorus”

:5 NicanorNikanor – “conqueror”

:5 TimonTimon – “honorable”

He had a friend named “Pumba”.  J

:5 ParmenasParmenas – “abiding”

:5 NicolasNikolaos – “victor of the people”

:5 Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch

proselyteproselutos – a newcomer; a stranger, alien; a proselyte; one who has come over from a Gentile religion to Judaism

The implication of “proselyte” is that Nicolas used to be a Gentile, but he had converted to Judaism, and then became a Christian.

Nicolas is about as “Hellenistic” as you can get.

I wonder if Nicolas would go back to Antioch (play Antioch map clip) and be a part of planting a church there.  This would be the church where Paul and Barnabas worked out of as their “home base”.

Antioch would be a church that would develop a large Gentile population.  Peter would get into trouble with Paul by being a hypocrite in treating the Gentile folks differently when the big shot Jewish believers showed up.

:6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

:6 they laid hands on them

We see another purpose for the laying on of hands.

It is used for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
(Ac 19:6 NKJV) And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
It is used for healing.
(Mk 16:18b NKJV) …they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
It is used for giving spiritual gifts.
(2 Ti 1:6 NKJV) Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Here it is used for “ordaining” or setting a person up in ministry.
And they are “ordained” to be busboys, waiting on tables.

:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

:7 spreadauxano – to cause to grow, augment; to increase, become greater; to grow, increase (of plants)

:7 multipliedplethuno – to increase, to multiply

:7 greatlysphodra – exceedingly, greatly

from sphodros, “violent”

:7 the word … spread … multiplied greatly


Delegation multiplication

I think the implication is that when we learn to delegate and spread out responsibilities in ministry, that everything goes better.
Could you imagine what it would be like if the pastor had to teach the Children’s classes, hand out the bulletins, lead the worship, create and print the bulletin, invite the neighborhood to church, run the media computers and the sound board, visit the sick, perform weddings and funerals, greet people as they enter the church, watch the cars in the parking lot, clean the toilets, vacuum the carpets, make the coffee …?
The problem is that some of us pastors do try to do too much, and as a result when Sunday morning comes we don’t have anything to say because we didn’t take any time to prepare.
After Moses got the Israelites free from Egypt, he ran into a problem.
(Ex 18:13–18 NLT) —13 The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?” 15 Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. 16 When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.” 17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.

Moses’ father-in-law had a wise suggestion.  He suggested that Moses learn to delegate, to share the load.

In the early church, as they began to grow, the apostles learned to delegate more and more.
D.L. Moody used to say that it was better to put ten men to work than to try to do the work of ten men.

:7 a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith

I find it fascinating especially since most of the priests were Sadducees.
Some have suggested that the tearing of the veil in the temple might have had an influence on the priests (Mat. 27:51).
I would imagine that as the apostles performed miracles, and continued to speak about Jesus rising from the dead, these things would have an impact as well.

6:8-15 Serving Stephen

:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

:8 faithpistis – conviction of the truth of anything, belief;

:8 powerdunamis – strength power, ability

:8 wondersteras – a prodigy, portent; miracle: performed by any one

:8 signssemeion – a sign, mark, token

:8 full of faith and power

This sounds like a guy who ought to be heading up some “miracle crusade” or something.

But he’s one of the guys who just “waits on tables”.

We will be talking about the gift of “miracles” on Sunday.  Apparently Stephen had this gift, though we don’t have any specifics as to what kinds of miracles God did through him.


It starts with faithful service

Somehow we can get our eyes off of what it important to God and begin to think that fireworks and circus performers are what count.
God is looking for faithful people who have servants’ hearts.
I think the place to start in the church is by doing the things that need to be done:
(Lk 16:10–12 NKJV) —10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?

It might be helping out in Sunday School. It might be patrolling the parking lot.  It may be helping with the coffee on Sunday morning.

When I first went to Pastor Chuck and asked him if I could be in ministry at Calvary Chapel, he told me to go teach a Sunday School class.  But I said “no” because that seemed beneath me.

When I arrived at Calvary Anaheim, I started learning a little more humility.  My first ministry was helping set up chairs on Sunday morning.  Eventually I got involved in the band.  I started a small Bible Study, and then I got invited to be on staff … in charge of the Children’s Ministry.

The fellows that are my assistant pastors didn’t start as pastors.

Dave Dunagan and I go back to my days at Calvary Anaheim where he got involved playing bass in the band and then eventually helping me lead on Sunday nights in front of a small group. When we started the church, he and Laurie agreed to help us start the church, but assumed it was just going to be the four of us in their living room.

Dan Looney used to help do janitorial work when we used to be at the old Ice House.  He used to help me patch the roof when it rained.

So did Joy.  Joy also was a helper in the Children’s Ministry.  Now she leads it.

Drew used to help with the janitorial stuff as well.  He was my chief “rat catcher” and leaky roof water catcher guy.  Drew also helped with Children’s Ministry, then ran the Junior High ministry, then went off to Russia where he was a full time missionary for four years.

Caleb Beller also got his start serving the church in the Children’s ministry and has taught elementary kids, Jr. High kids, then the College Group and on and on…

Now he is the director of Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe in Hungary.

Daniel Grant started in the Children’s Ministry, then moved up to take over the Junior High ministry.  Now he’s full time on the mission field in Africa.

Do you see a pattern?

:9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.

:9 FreedmenLibertinos – (a Latin word) one who has been liberated from slavery, a freedman, or the son of a freed man

Libertine, denotes Jews (according to Philo) who had been made captives of the Romans under Pompey (pre-Christ) but were afterwards set free; and who although they had fixed their abode in Rome, had built at their own expense a synagogue at Jerusalem which they frequented when in that city, The name Libertines adhered to them to distinguish them from free born Jews who had subsequently taken up their residence at Rome. Evidence seems to have been discovered of the existence of a “synagogue of the Libertines” at Pompeii.

:9 Cyrenians, Alexandrians … Cilicia and Asia

Play Freedmen Cities map video.

These men were from these areas around the Mediterranean.

Because Cilicia is near Tarsus, where Paul (Saul) was from, some have thought that Paul was part of this synagogue and part of the argument.  We will catch our first glimpse of Saul/Paul at the end of the next chapter when Stephen is put to death.

:9 disputingsuzeteo – to seek or examine together; to discuss, dispute, question


Profitable arguing

G.F. Pentecost told of a man in great distress who came to see him at an evangelistic meeting.  He was under deep conviction and was frantic with the terror of a conscience that was continually condemning him.  He was also very angry with D.L. Moody who had preached the week before, and with Pentecost himself.  “I wish you and Moody had never come to this city!” he shouted with a terrible oath. “Before you came, I wasn’t troubled about my sins.  You talk of peace and joy, but you have turned my soul into a living hell.  I can’t stay away from the meetings, and to come to them only makes me worse.  You promise salvation, but all I find is torment.  I wish you would leave, then I’d get back my old peace.”
Sometimes arguing is just a sign of conviction.
This same word “disputing” will be used to describe what Paul will do after he’s converted, taking up the “arguments” that Stephen had been making:
(Ac 9:29 NKJV) And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.

I wonder how much of Stephen’s “arguments” brought conviction on Saul/Paul?

The old Eskimo proverb:  When you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that barks the loudest is the one that got hit.
They may be very strong against you now, but who knows what God is doing in their heart?

:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.

:10 wisdomsophia – wisdom

I wonder if this isn’t the operation of the “word of wisdom” at work.

Perhaps the “word of wisdom” can carry into apologetics – giving a rational defense of the faith.

:10 wisdom … Spirit

It’s not just arguments that God uses, but the “Spirit”.

Convincing people to become believers is not just a matter of having all the right “gotcha” answers to their questions.

The work of the Holy Spirit must be involved as well.
I think that means that we need to learn the role of prayer when we are sharing our faith.

:11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”

:11 secretly inducedhupoballo – to throw or put under (the bus??); to suggest to the mind; to instruct privately, instigate, to bribe or induce (someone) unlawfully or secretly to perform some misdeed or commit a crime; to induce (a person esp. a witness) to give false testimony

:11 speak blasphemous words

Some people, when they can’t win the argument, will resort to insults, and lies.

:12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.

:12 stirred upsugkineo – to move together with others; to throw into commotion, excite, stir up

:12 seized himsunarpazo – to seize by force; to catch or lay hold of (one so that he is no longer his own master); to seize by force and carry away

:13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous 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 change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”

:14 will destroykataluo – to dissolve, disunite;  (what has been joined together), to destroy, demolish

:14 changeallasso – to change, to exchange one thing for another, to transform

:14 customsethos – custom; usage prescribed by law, institute, prescription, rite

:14 we have heard him say …


A pint of poison

One of Satan’s strategies is to hide a pint of poison in a lake of truth.
Some of what they are saying is actually true.
Jesus did talk about the temple being destroyed:
(Jn 2:19 NKJV) Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Jesus did challenge the “customs” of Moses.
The Jews not only had the written laws of Moses, but they also had a set of “oral laws”, the customs that supposedly Moses had said, but were never written down and were just handed down by word of mouth through the rabbis.
The Jews eventually wrote these “customs” down.  It is called the Mishna.

Jesus constantly challenged the teachings of the Mishna, like …

(Mt 15:1–6 NKJV) —1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

Though Jesus challenged the Mishna, He never contradicted the written Law.  Instead He said He came to fulfill the Law.

The problem is that these false witnesses aren’t giving the whole story.
They are leading the Sanhedrin to rule on half-truths.

:15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

:15 looking steadfastlyatenizo – to fix the eyes on, gaze upon

:15 as the face of an angel

There was something happening in Stephen.  Exactly what we don’t know.  Perhaps he started to glow a bit…

When Moses spent time with God, his face would glow.

(Ex 34:29 NKJV) Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.
Perhaps Stephen was beginning to blow a little …

We’ll pick up the story next week when Stephen delivers his defense before the Sanhedrin.