Tom: In this, our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we are in the Book of Acts. 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. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Now, Dave, doesn’t the church look to this verse, at least in part, for the position of deacons, the kind of people who take care of the administrative aspects of the church?
Dave: Yeah, Tom, your reading began—verse 3 begins “wherefore,” so we’ve got to figure out why “wherefore” is there. And just, you know, the first two verses tell us that there arose a murmuring. A fantastic time in the church, but the Greeks aren’t getting along with the Hebrews, and the Greeks are complaining that their widows are being neglected. You know, everybody’s not getting their fair share. We mentioned last week, that’s the beginning of the downward path: selfishness, looking out for my own interests. I’m not saying that it was wrong for them to point out the discrepancy. I think that should be made clear.
Tom: Just a little “Mary and Martha” kind of issue here?
Dave: I think it’s maybe a little more than that. They’re not getting the amount of help that’s commensurate with what others are getting. That’s what I get out of it. So, what do they say? Well, it’s really interesting, Tom. We want men of honest report, first of all, so that others would trust them. They can’t say, “Yeah, this guy’s a Greek, and he’s going to favor the Greeks.” These are men who already have a reputation. They’ve been tried and proven. And the church trusts them. And then, “full of the Holy Ghost.” Wow. What are they going to do? They’re going to divvy up the assistance, but they ought to be full of the Holy Ghost. They should be inspired, spiritually inspired. They should know the Word of God. And, wisdom— “whom we may appoint over this business.”
Tom: Now, Dave, “business,” verse two; at the end it says “serve tables.” What does that mean?
Dave: Well, I think that’s a manner of speaking. The twelve say, “What do you want us to do? Get out here and be waiters and take this food and make sure that it gets to the right people and the right amount?”
Tom: Administrative kinds of things?
Dave: No, not administrative even. Just “handling it all ourselves and divvying it up. We don’t have time for that. We want to give ourselves to the Word of God and to prayer. God hasn’t called us to wait on tables, and so, let’s find seven men who are of good report and full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, etc., and we will appoint them over this job. And we want to give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” And verse 5: “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen.” Now, this is our introduction to Stephen, who is going to be martyred in the next chapter. They chose Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Phillip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch.” So they chose these seven men, “Whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” That’s interesting again. This isn’t something they take lightly. It is merely dividing up assistance for people, but still, this is going to be done under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
Tom: Which we should do everything that way.
Dave: Absolutely. And it goes on, well they laid their hands on them. What does that mean? Well, they identified themselves with them, showing that these men were approved of the apostles. You could take it to mean more although it doesn’t say that here. But, when Paul and Barnabas, in chapter 13, are going to go forth, they are going to lay their hands on them, the elders. Paul said to Timothy, “Remember the word that was spoken to you, the prophecy that was made over you, with the laying on of the hands of the Presbyters.” So, God works through a blessing to these people through them, empowers them, because of the godliness of those who put their hands upon them and pray for them.
Tom: Dave, was this some kind of mystical power that went from these men to these other men by the laying on of hands?
Dave: No. I don’t believe that. It doesn’t indicate that. And you would get that…we get a little farther down, we’ll come to Simon the magician. He thinks that that’s what it is. And, when the apostles come to Samaria and they lay hands on the new believers and they receive the Holy Spirit, and I presume begin to speak in tongues, manifesting the Holy Spirit, then the magician says, “Hey! Let me have this power, too. I’ll pay you good money for it.” And Peter says, “Your money perish with you,” you know, “you don’t understand this. You have no part in this.” So, no, this was not some magic power that they had that they could impart to others. But, it’s an identification and a blessing and an acknowledgement.
“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.” That makes me think of not just the seeker-sensitive church, “Purpose Driven Church.” Wow, we’ve got churches that are really growing, and they’ve got new techniques. Many of them are hybrids. A lot of it comes out of the world, you know. It’s a mixture of worldly ideas. Wisdom, corporate management ideas, and so forth, and promotional ideas. The world knows how to promote and how to get people involved. But, here, this church is growing by leaps and bounds. Three thousand in one day! And, then there were 5,000 in the next chapter. And they’re multiplying greatly without any of these techniques with the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. And why isn’t that enough today? Well, it should be. But if that is not the basis of the growth, then we’re deceiving ourselves with growth that isn’t genuine.
Tom: Dave, it also seems to imply here that there is a practical side to it. There needed to be individuals who are going to be able to function in an orderly way among all this great growth.
Dave: Right. Exactly. We need some order.
Tom: Picking up with verse 8: “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” Wow.
Dave: So, this wasn’t a full time job, in other words. A lot of people, but they probably have designated some assistants. But Stephen isn’t just divvying up food and clothes, you know, passing them out. He’s a preacher. He’s a prophet. He’s doing signs and wonders. “Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.” Wow.
The truth of God is so powerful, and it was being expressed so clearly and in the power of the Holy Spirit by Stephen, that these people could not resist, they couldn’t deny the truth. And that reminds me of what Paul desired for Titus. Remember? He says in Titus2:7-8,9, somewhere around there—I never thought it was important to try and remember the verse number, maybe it should be, but anyway: “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works in doctrine, showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,” and then this is what made me think of it, “sound speech that cannot be condemned so that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say to you.”
Tom, as you know, I pray that for myself: “Lord, help me. Help me to say it in such a way that is so biblical, that is so clear, that nobody can complain. They can’t deny what I say.“ And, this was Stephen. What he says is convicting. No one can deny it. Well, does that mean, then, that everybody’s going to accept it? No, they bring in false witnesses in order to condemn him.