Notes and References
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Acts of the Apostles
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Acts Chapter 6 and 7
HISTORY OF STEPHEN
These two chapters are the story of Stephen the first martyr for Jesus after the resurrection. The scripture may seem lengthy, but I will not interject too much commentary and let the story unfold on its own merit.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE
1And 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 G1248.
Grecians were Jews from Greece but fully ethnically Hebrew. The Hebrews would have been the local Jews.
2Then 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 G1247 tables G5132.
Let's look at the Greek words for 'serve' and 'tables'.
diakoneo διακονεω (dee-ak-on-eh'-o); from NT:1249; to be an attendant, i.e. wait upon (menially or as a host, friend, or [figuratively] teacher); techn. to act as a Christian deacon:
KJV-(ad-) minister (unto), serve, use the office of a deacon.
trapeza τράπεζα (trap'-ed-zah); probably contracted from NT:5064 and NT:3979; a table or stool (as being four-legged), usually for food (figuratively, a meal); also a counter for money (figuratively, a broker's office for loans at interest):
KJV-bank, meat, table.
Let me stop here for just a second. In these notes regarding the Strong’s concordance, there are the Hebrew - OldTestament numbers and the Greek - New Testament numbers. So this reference work uses NT (New Testament) instead of G (Greek) as my other studies. I may toggle back and forth between G and NT - but they are the same reference number.
When looking at original text definitions in lexicons, do not accept the "church" definitions because these were formed well after the texts were written and they do not represent the original meaning e.g. G1248 "to act as a Christian deacon". Many were formed around the Catholic pope and priesthood form of governance. The church definitions are just that church and are dogma. We have been so indoctrinated, we as the "Body of Christ" have lost many a truth in these scriptures because of dogma and indoctrination.
3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint G2525 over this business.
kathistemi καθίστημι (kath-is'-tay-mee); from NT:2596 and NT:2476; to place down (permanently), i.e. (figuratively) to designate, constitute, convoy:
KJV-appoint, be, conduct, make, ordain, set. NT:2526 '.katholikos (kath-ol-ee-kos'); from NT:2527; universal:
4. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry G1248 of the word G3056.
NT:1248 (used in Acts 6:1 also)
diakonia διακονία (dee-ak-on-ee'-ah); from NT:1249; attendance (as a servant, etc.); figuratively (eleemosynary) aid, (official) service (especially of the Christian teacher, or techn. of the diaconate):
KJV-(ad-) minister (-ing, -tration, -try), office, relief, service (-ing).
logos λόγος (log'-os); from NT:3004; something said (including the thought); by implication a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extension, a computation; specifically (with the article in John) the Divine Expression (i.e. Christ):
KJV-account, cause, communication
5And the saying pleased the whole multitude: 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:
6Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
7And 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.
8And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
Many commentators, almost all actually, say these men are the first “Deacons” of the “church”, by looking at the Greek, I am going to be contentious on this one, and say that these men were never called “Deacons”, by the twelve apostles or anyone else. Why would these men be relegated such a low title or task as table servers and be required to have such high qualifications? I would contend, they were more than likely in our terminology “Bishops” or “Overseers”, rather than “Deacons”.
- 1. the Greek bears it out that the apostles were probably somewhat aggravated and made the comment as to “serve tables” or “diakoneo trapeza”. It is assumed by commentators this is a literal necessity of serving tables. I contend this was an allegory or a sarcasm.
- 2. the Greek also says the twelve apostle’s ministry of the word was “diakonia logos” or deacon of the word.
- 3. there were over ten thousand believers at this point. We must assume that thousands were taking part in this daily “ministration” or “diakonia”. We know there were vast sums of money laid at the apostle’s feet. We know that there must have been a treasury laid up. There must have been a daily distribution of funds. To manage such a financial task would have been huge. To make certain that everyone was taken care of and that no one was abusing the distribution, would have required more skills than just a servant of tables, thus explaining the requirement of “honest men” and “full of the Holy Spirit” for discernment.
- 4. because the phrase deacon of the word is applied to the apostles and deacon is not applied directly to characterize these seven men, but the scripture does say to appoint or “ordain” over this “business”.
- 5. Stephen is one of the seven, the only non-apostolic disciples in the entire New Testament, that did wonders and miracles, as mentioned here in this scripture. (Philip being the other called "evangilist" and "one of the seven" in Acts 21:8.) He was much greater in position than what we would call a church deacon today.
This common doctrine of these men being the first ‘deacons” soley comes from old church traditions and not the Bible as we see here. Here in this chapter we are dealing with Jewish believers only in the preparation for the “Messianic Kingdom” and not the “church”.
STEPHEN FALSELY ACCUSED AND STONED
9Then 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. (These synagogues were in Jerusalem)
10And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
11Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
12And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,
13And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
14For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
15And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
IT ALWAYS TOOK A ‘SECOND TIME’ WITH THE JEWS
7:1Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
2And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
3And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
4Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
5And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
6And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.
7And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.
8And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.
9And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,
10And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
11Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
JOSEPH THE FIRST TIME
12But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
JOSEPH THE SECOND TIME
13And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
14Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
15So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
16And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
17But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
18Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.
19The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.
20In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:
21And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
22And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
MOSES THE FIRST TIME
23And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
24And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
25For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
26And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
27But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
28Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?
29Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
30And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.
31When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,
32Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abrham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.
33Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
MOSES THE SECOND TIME
34I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
35This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.
36He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
37This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
39To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
40Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
41And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
42Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
43Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
44Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
45Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus (Joshua) into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
46Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
47But Solomon built him an house.
48Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
49Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
50Hath not my hand made all these things?
51Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
JESUS THE FIRST TIME
52Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
53Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
54When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
55But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
JESUS THE SECOND TIME - AS JUDGE
56And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
57Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
59And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen was falsely accused and the false accusers laid their garments at the feet of Saul (the soon to be Apostle Paul), the false accusers as the executioners by Mosaic law and Saul the guardian of the garments and representative of the Sanhedrin.
Now one note I would like to make is, Stephen was murdered by an angry religious mob, without due process even according to the laws of the Sanhedrin, which the explanation of is quite lengthy. Saul was party to it fully as a member of the Sanhedrin.
Stephen’s prayer was by the Holy Spirit and shows God’s benevolence and in particular to the man named Saul, the most severe persecutor of the Jewish believers of Jesus, turning every home inside out looking for Jewish believers, who would become the Apostle to the Gentiles and turn the world upside down for Jesus.
JESUS IS STANDING - NOT SEATED
1 (To the chief Musician, A Psalm or Song of David.) Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.
2 As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary Acts 7:55-56
Jesus is usually pictured seated at God's right hand (Psalms 110:1; Hebrews 1:13). It is possible that he is here represented as rising from his throne to receive this martyr. The name the Son of man does not designate Jesus' humanity; it is a Messianic title, based upon Daniel 7:13-14, and designates the Messiah as a heavenly, supernatural being. This is the only place outside the Gospels where the title is applied to Jesus.
Matthew Henry's Commentary Acts 7:54-60
Stephen sees him standing there, as one more than ordinarily concerned at present for his suffering servant; he stood up as a judge to plead his cause against his persecutors; he is raised up out of his holy habitation (Zechariah 2:13), comes out of his place to punish, Isaiah 26:21. He stands ready to receive him and crown him, and in the mean time to give him a prospect of the joy set before him.
These two commentaries show the glorious appearance of Christ awaiting the arrival of his faithful servant, welcoming Stephen into His presence. I could never understand the significance of this vision and always read it is as a wonderful story and no more. The truth is that even in death, Stephen was still testifying of the resurrected Lord, the triumphant resurrected Mashiac, whom death and the grave could not hold and is the only ‘begotten’ of God the Father and whom forever sealed us with the Holy Spirit, by our faith in Him, that we might also have everlasting life.