Daily Devotional

September 29, 2019

Daybreak: Acts 6:1 through 7:1

“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.” (Acts 6:3)

Often the job application process includes submission of a personal reference — a recommendation provided by someone who knows the individual outside of the workplace. Rather than focusing on work experience and skills (as a former employer might), personal references typically offer insight into aspects such as the person’s character, integrity, and people skills.

I have written a number of references of this type over the years. Occasionally, I find it a challenge to compose something that is both truthful and tactful! However, one I wrote several years ago comes to mind — not because it was hard to find something good to say, but because the young woman in question possessed so many exemplary qualities I ran the risk of sounding overly effusive.

In the reference, I had mentioned the candidate’s cooperative nature and her willingness to help with any task, even those that were challenging. She was dependable, trustworthy, kind, and gracious to young and old alike. I could unhesitatingly confirm that she was a person of high moral standards and impeccable integrity, and that both her words and actions revealed genuine concern for the needs of others.

If a character reference had been written for Stephen and the six others in our text who were chosen to “serve tables” (deal with administrative tasks in the church), no doubt many of the same characteristics could have been mentioned. In the Early Church, as in our day, at the core of every type of ministry was the quality of the person doing it. Spiritual character and attitudes toward other people, more than natural talents or formal training, determine effectiveness in the work of the Lord. And being “full of the Holy Ghost” brings the anointing of the Spirit.

This principle applies not just to pastors and preachers, but to those who sing, teach, clean, create, visit — individuals who serve in any capacity in God’s Kingdom. The daily activities and particular means employed by each one may differ, but such differences are relatively superficial. The basic goals of all these workers are the same, as are their basic qualifications.

All of us have a place we could serve — a role to fill — in the Lord’s work. The question is, are we spiritually qualified? Are we “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom”? Let us purpose, with God’s help, to be people of integrity, godly discernment, and empathy for others, guided by God’s Spirit, so that when a need arises in the work of the Lord, we are qualified to step forward and serve.

Background

Acts 6 covers two key events in the Early Church: the appointment of seven individuals to attend to the physical needs of the growing group of believers (verses 1-7), and the arrest of Stephen for supposed blasphemy (verses 8-15). The first verse of chapter 7 gives the high priest’s question to Stephen, thus setting the scene for Stephen’s response (covered in subsequent verses).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was only a few years past, and the Early Church was growing rapidly. With this increase came a variety of peoples and cultures, resulting in new challenges. The majority of church members were Hebrew-speaking Jews. However, Greek-speaking Jews (or Hellenists), the returning Diaspora who came from other countries, also joined with the disciples. These Hellenists began to complain that their widows were not getting the help they needed. Whether or not this was the case, the disciples took their concern seriously, and with compassion and wisdom, took immediate action.

In verse 1, the noun “ministration” is from the Greek word diakonia, a derivative of the Greek verb diakoneo which means “to serve.” Another form of this word, diakonos, means “deacon.” Therefore, many today refer to these seven men as the first “deacons” of the Church.

One of the criteria established was that these men were to be “of good reputation,” which translates from the Greek word martureo, meaning “a witness.” It can also mean, “to obtain an honest report, be well reported of.”

The task of serving tables, referenced in verse 2, does not refer only to serving food. Trapeza, the Greek word used here, refers more specifically to a moneychanger’s table. This indicates that the responsibilities of these seven men probably included distributing money or provisions to those in need.

The men chosen for this task all had Greek names indicating that they were Hellenists. As such, they would have been accepted by the Greek-speaking Jews, and possibly were more sympathetic to their cause. The appointing of these men pleased everyone, and helped restore unity in the church, as is evidenced by its continued success and growth.

Most Bible historians agree that the Libertines (verse 9) were descendants of slaves who had been captured by Pompey in about 63 B.C., and later were sent back to Palestine, where they had constructed a synagogue. Cyrene was the chief city in Libya, and Alexandria was the capital of Egypt. Cilicia and Asia were both Roman provinces.

The statement in verse 10 that those who disputed with Stephen could not resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke indicates that it was not merely Stephen’s oratorical skill, but the Holy Spirit in him that made such an impact. His accusers could not win a debate against him, so they resorted to false witnesses and untrue accusations. These accusations against Stephen regarding the Temple, or holy place, were the same false accusations that had been brought against Jesus at His trial (Matthew 26:59-61; Mark 14:57-58). Speaking blasphemous words against the Temple, as both were accused of doing, was a crime punishable by death. 

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.    The witness in Jerusalem
    D.    The witness of Stephen
        1.    The selection of Stephen (6:1-7)
            a.    The reason (6:1-2)
            b.    The qualifications (6:3-6)
            c.    The result (6:7)
        2.    The arrest of Stephen (6:8 — 7:1)
            a.    The witness of Stephen (6:8-10)
            b.    The accusations against Stephen (6:11 — 7:1)
                (1)    Blasphemy against God and Moses (6:11-12)
                (2)    Blasphemy against the Temple (6:13 — 7:1)

A Closer Look

  1. According to Acts 6:4, what would occupy the Apostles’ time once helpers had been appointed to take care of managerial duties?

  2. What characteristics of the Early Church likely contributed to the fact that “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied”? Acts 6:7

  3. What can we learn from Stephen’s response regarding how to deal with those who oppose our faith today?

Conclusion

The appointment of the seven men in today’s text “pleased the whole multitude,” and was a testimony to their godly character and Spirit-filled lives. 

Reference Materials