- It is truly amazing to me as I read this chapter of how it reminds me of SBBC or any other church for that matter.
- Satan loves to get God’s people “sidetracked.” This is a ploy of his to make his job easier.
- Satan’s job? Yeah, ruin God’s plan, ruin God’s people, ruin or disrupt anything that pertains to God.
- “Side-tracked” means to get people off course. The disciples here in chapter six are getting sidetracked by the “Helenists.”
- The “Helenists” were Hebrew Jews natives to Palestine from the Diaspora. They were Grecians. They were Hebrew Jews who spoke the Greek language but many sojourned often to Jerusalem.
I. Sidetracked By The Helenists
A) Concerning the widows
- Look at Acts 6:1…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. 2) 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.
- Note first that the disciples (followers of Jesus) were “multiplied” meaning increased or they there growing in numbers.
- Anytime you have growth, you add more problems, more issues and more for the leaders to take care of.
- The thing to keep in mind when dealing with church members (or Christians in general) is that the duty of the pastor is to preach and teach the Word. That’s it. It their duty to see that the church is fed the right spiritual food to produce spiritual growth and maturity.
- There will always be fires (problems) start up and if not addressed will burn the church down. But pastors are not firemen. They are men of God sent by God to preach the Word of God. That’s it.
- Next in verse 1 we see “…there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews.” You see, the word “murmuring” means a dispute, or argument.
- Later in the verse you find the reason for the dispute (murmuring)… “because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”
B) The widows were being neglected
- Look at Acts 6:1…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.
- Well, what was “the daily ministration?” First of all, the word “ministration” means the ministering or helping with their needs.
- God blesses (Makes happy) those who bless widows, and God curses (punishes badly) those who curse (treat badly)
- Deuteronomy 27:19…Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.
- This was the law of God through the work of Moses and the Jews.
- Isaiah 1:17…Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
- Jeremiah 22:3…Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.
- Isaiah 1:17…Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18) Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19) If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20) But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
- Jeremiah 22:1…Thus saith the LORD; Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word,
- Verse 3… Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place. 4) For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people. 5) But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation.
- Exodus 22:23…Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. 23) If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; 24) And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
- God said He will hear their cry! Oh what a blessing for widows and orphans that are of Godly nature… He will hear your cry.
- Many of you may remember that I preached a 19 page sermon titled “The Widows in The Church.” I will not bore you again with that as we study that again in acts.
- But remember this…God expects for the family to support and care for their widows and the church is to pick up support and care when the family is not able.
- The problem we are seeing here in Acts 6 is that the church was neglecting the widows. The church was burying the husband, and taking the house and all property and valuables and putting its contents (usually money from a sale of said items) in the church funds.
- Then the widow is left on the streets to take care of herself with no income, nowhere to live.
- Remember also that women did not have the rights and Women’s Lib available to them.
- If their husband was dead…they were too basically.
C) The widows were really not their concern
- Obviously the early church had taken over the ministry of the synagogues and probably were more efficient because they had the love of Christ that generated in their hearts. So, as they ministered to the widows there was some injustices being done towards the Hellenistic Jews who had moved in, heard the gospel, repented and asked Jesus to come into their heart. They were moving in with families that lived in Jerusalem and maybe some of them pitched a tent in the back yard or took over the nearest Holiday Inn or whatever and it was an over population problem.
- They were accepted because they weren’t part of the original church. It’s like the “born deaf” who do not accept other deaf that had been hearing at one time to lose their hearing due to an illness or accident late in life.
- Deaf is deaf, widows are widows. It doesn’t matter where they come from or where they have been, what they are wearing or how long they have been in the church.
- So, basically the dispute (murmurings) was about the church’s funds set up for the widows and what to do about it.
- Now let us observe Acts 6:2… Then the twelve (The apostles) 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.
- Here we see the twelve apostles getting together to discuss this matter and they say… “It’s not going to be right for us to stop our teaching and look out for the needs of these families who need food on their tables.”
- Of course we already know that the topic of this discussion was the concern for the widows mentioned in verse 1.
D) Choosing 7 honest men
- As we know, the duty of the apostles was to preach and teach the churches the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Their duty was not to take care of all the issues the church was having.
- But since they were there, the church was concerned for their widows (As they should be) and they considered the apostle’s wisdom of some value and definitely they had witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit of God in their lives… well what do you think we should do about our widows?
- Here is what Peter tells them in Acts 6:3…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.
- These seven men of “honest report” means… 7 men with a good reputation. Seven men that would report their findings about the widows and be honest in their report.
- These 7 men would be hard to find in most churches today. In fact, we don’t even have seven men in our deaf church.
- Typically, men who were married or widowed or have some experience in this area would be chosen. No men below the age of 30 would even be considered.
- The church was now going to appoint or vote 7 men and create a committee to oversee or take care of the widows.
- Why not just one or two people to resolve this issue? Why 7? My thought is this… First of all 7 is God’s number. It is a number that means completion. It is a number that means perfection.
- One or two or even three men would really not be sufficient to take care of all the widows at that time that were in need.
- The more minds that you can put together on a project the better. Because there may be 7 different perspectives of a solution to the problem that can be considered.
E) Back to our task at hand
- Now notice Acts 6:4…But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
- In other words… let us get back to doing what God sent us to do before we were sidetracked.
- Their duty was Prayer first and then ministry of the word (preaching and teach the words of Jesus Christ.)
- Now that the apostles were ready to get back to their obligation of spreading the “good news (gospel)” of Jesus Christ, the men needed to choose seven men of honest report.
F) Seven chosen
- Look at Verse 5a… And the saying pleased the whole multitude: This made the entire church happy. This is the reason we vote and try to get everybody involved with SBBC.
- Verse 5b…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: 6) Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
- Why Stephan and Philip? These were apostles. They were evangelists not deacons in the church.
- Typically the men in the church would choose someone who was already members of the church and wit good standing (good reputation) of the church already.
- The rest of the men chosen would be “elders” in the church.
G) Getting A Church On Fire For God
- Acts 6: 7…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.
- When the church got their act together, asked good sound men of God for advice, and followed that advice… God blessed the church.
- Note three things that took place, three blessings of God that came about because God’s people were faithful…
- “…the word of God increased;” This means that the “knowledge” of God’s word grew. They were understanding what it meant. You see, before Jesus came along preaching and teaching was given by the Pharisees and scribes and it was really nothing more than a set of rules to live by.
- “…and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly;” This means that there were new members to the church added. They were coming from all around town.
- “… and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” These were priests of the church at Jerusalem who had been converted from Judaism to Christ.
- Al of this taking place because God’s people were on praying grounds sharing a deep concern (the widows) and responded quickly to it.
- Might I add that a quick response may often bring a quick blessing from God.
H) God’s man gets on fire for God
- Look at Acts 6:8… And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
- The man of God must be full of faith first. Faith in God and His deliverance.
- When a pastor has faith then he will receive the power of God through the Holy Spirit which will then perform great wonders an miracles among the people.
- If God’s man is on fire for God and living by faith.. the church will be blessed.
- A pastor many times will get discouraged because people leave, people ignore the preaching of God’s word, or they seem to be separating from the fold. But it is the church’s duty to take the pastor and its congregation, put them together and discuss the problems that seem to be plaguing the church.
- Working together for a solution is better than no one doing anything, or expecting the pastor to do everything.
- The church is not the pastor only…it is the entire church body. The body of Christ.
II. Another Issue Arises
A) Three different classes of people
- Talk about getting sidetracked, check out Acts 6:9… 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.
- Okay, let’s stop right there. Note first of all that there were 3 different churches represented here in this verse. 1) the synagogue of the Libertines (Freed men), 2) and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, 3) …and of them of Cilicia and of Asia.
- In all likelihood these three worshiped in the same synagogue together.
- A synagogue was a meeting for those dispersed Jews who did not have temple access so they created a worship place in their community where they could read the O.T.
- I explaining these three groups…
- The “Libertines” were also called “Freedmen.” They were descendants of Jewish slaves captured by Pompeii (63 B.C.) and taken to Rome. They were later freed and formed their own community there.
- Cyrenians – These were men from Cyrene, a city in North Africa. Simon, the man who was chosen to carry Jesus’ cross was a native of Cyrene.
Alexandrians – This is another major North African city (Alexandria) located near the mouth of the Nile river. The powerful preacher Apollos was from there.
- Cilicia and Asia – These were Roman provinces in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).
- It is thought that since Paul’s hometown was Tarsus was located in Cilicia, that he probably attended the synagogue there.
B) The wisdom of one always brings ridicule
- In the last part of verse 9… “disputing with Stephen. “ We see a problem arise that is hard to misunderstand. It is nothing more than Satan trying to get the man of God filled with the wisdom of God sidetracked.
- When a preacher of the word of God gets sidetracked he loses momentum, interest and focus on his objective.
- Satan is good at that. He has mastered many plans of attacks on God’s people that work flawlessly.
- Note verse 10) And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
- These three groups of people here were no doubt disbelievers in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the OT evidence that He was the Messiah.
- This may have been the subject of the debate (disputing) because to this group of worshipers would consider any words about Jesus, his death, burial, and resurrection as blasphemy against God and Moses as mentioned in verse Here is what getting sidetracked 11) Then they suborned (introduce carefully) men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against
- Now they are talking about Stephan. They are saying that Stephan is a blasphemer. Nothing could be further from the truth as we can remember earlier in chapter 6 and verse 5 when the twelve chose Stephen and the entire multitude of people were pleased with his choosing.
- How quickly people are to turn their votes against Stephan. It further states up in verse 6 that Stephan was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.”
- Satan was not happy that things were starting to look favorable towards the preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ so he has to create a diversion, get everyone sidetracked.
C) Getting people stirred up
- Acts 6:12) 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,
- So, the Libertines I presume were advised to apprehend Stephan and stand him before the council of the synagogue for judgment.
- When we see that “they” stirred up the people it was the three groups of people who stirred up the rest of the people.
- All it takes is ONE person to back talk, backbite, or go against the grain. When the people get stirred up it doesn’t take long for a riot to start. In this case and many others it could be what the early settlers of America called a “lynch mob.” This is a mob ready to lynch (hang) someone and many times unjustly.
D) An unjust council
- Look in Acts 6: 13) And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
- To me as I look at this scripture verse there are several things wrong.
- They “set up false witnesses” – They accumulated several “Yes men” to make false witness accusations against Stephen. “Yes men” are men (or wimps) who will agree to do anything for the cause of what they think is right without conviction or even thinking about it first. Sometimes they ask for money to say “yes.”
- Accusing a righteous man of blasphemy – They were unable to win an open debate over the multitude of eye witnesses so they resorted to deceit and conspiracy as was the case with our Lord Jesus in Matthew 26:59-61.
- Calling their synagogue “this holy place.” – How can they possibly think that their church was holy. I was listening to John MacArthur this morning and he was preaching from Revelation 4:8… And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. John said that in scripture and Jewish custom as we see in scripture when a word is repeated several times because it is very important to understand the magnitude of emphasis on the word described. Like Jesus will say… “Verily, verily (or truly, truly) I say unto you…” The important emphasis is on what Jesus was about to say. So in looking at the word “holy” said three times day and night by the four beasts puts a heavy emphasis on “holy.” And by the way, do you remember when Moses went up into the mountain to receive the 10 commandments and God said in Exodus 3:5…And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. The ground was not really holy. That mountain was not truly holy. It is the mere fact that when God arrives on any scene, on any ground it is immediately sanctified (made holy) because His holiness demands purity and hallowed ground. I’m sorry but I truly do not believe for a minute that the Libertines in Acts 6 were standing on Hallowed ground. I don’t believe that their synagogue was “this holy place.”
- Let us now close with the last two verses in Acts 6. Look at verse 14) For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. 15) And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
- Let us first examine verse 14… “For we have heard him say.” They may have been a little persnickety here as the apostles (and Stephen) claimed to be “eyewitnesses of Christ’s work. Now they are saying “We are ear witnesses of what this Stephen said.”
- Now then they are saying that they “…heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.”
- First of all, what they heard was what they misunderstood the very words of Jesus that Stephen was merely repeating. Jesus said (Stephen repeated) John 2:19…Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
- “the temple” …Jesus was talking about was not the temple at Jerusalem but rather the temple (fleshly body) of Christ. After all, doesn’t God remind us in 1 Corinthians 3:16…Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17) If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
- I mean, this is preached all through the New Testament. These men in Acts 6 did not understand what Stephen was talking about any more than the Jews of John 2:20) Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
- The Jews thought that Jesus was talking about the earthly man made building called a temple. The Libertines of Stephen’s accusers were thinking the same thing.
- Isn’t it amazing how the way satan enters people’s bodies and confuses their mind to twist God’s word. In fact, the reality of it all is that they cannot be saved and possess the Holy Spirit of God if they cannot comprehend the words of Jesus. It is the filling of the Holy Spirit that teaches us what God’s word means.
E) The face of an angel
- Look at Acts 6:15) And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him (Stephen), saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
- This term “the face of an angel” in our world today is mostly applied to the face of a child. It also is applied to a person who looks innocent of charges drawn up against them.
- I believe that as some commentaries implied the meaning to be that Stephen remained calm, and kept his composure, and looked innocent by the expressions on his face while being accused.
- I believe that he also reflected the presence of God upon him as Moses did when coming down of Mt. Sinai in Exodus 34:29-35.
- We will examine this “angel face” further in chapter 7.