May 19, 2019 // By:Dave // No Comment
obeying God is the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and each other.
So far we have seen God adding to the church, and we have seen God subtracting from the church to stop corruption (Anannias and Sophirah)
We have also now seen multiplication of believers (disciples)
We now are going to see the enemies mathematics … division.
This is not the same type of division that we see when a cell becomes two, then four, etc. that is cellular division for the sake of growth in an organism. we expect that as normal growth and we later expect cells to specialize in their function and form groups according to that specialization: called organs and tissue, etc
we don’t want bones cells in our skin, or liver cells in our brain tissue, that is the equivalent of cancer. There must always be organization for an organism to function effectively.
Here we have the possibility of division in an organism (the Church , the body of Christ) triggered by the enemy, and lets see how the body responds with organization with some prequalifications to the nature of the organization.
Acts 6:1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.
notice that the complaint is from a group of people against another group (rather than an individual against another?
-there has already been complaining, and even grouping up, ganging together, over this issue.
who are the hellenistic jews ?
what is the complaint?
2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.
3 “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.
4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
notice that everyone agrees with this solution in verse 5 and no one complained “you guys are not being humble”, or “what puts you men ABOVE dealing with this personally”?
verses 2 and 4 specify the motivation among the apostles for delegating this divisive issue.
they are attempting to focus on their calling and gifting… their “best yes” and realize that everytime they say yes to one thing it means saying no to another.
so they delegate the issue to men they can trust.
the qualifications are in verse 3.
- good reputation
- full of the Spirit
- full of wisdom
… discuss all three of these in turn and how we qualify or are disqualified in comparison.
5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.
6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
notice that these men are all greek, (Hellenistic jews) elected to oversee what is perceived to be preferential treatment against hellenistic jews.
7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.
9 But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen.
synagogue of the freedmen was a local group of jews in Jerusalem, meeting in one of hundreds of these “special synagogues” (much like local denominations of churches we have in our neighborhood today, people of like minds meeting together) in this case they were all or at least mostly those who had once been slaves and now , are freed. Their places of origin are listed in verse 9. Note that one of the sources of origin is Cyrene?
why is this significant ?
well, we will be shortly reading about Saul of Tarsus, witnessing the stoning of Stephen in the next chapter … a stoning triggered by the confrontation between stephen and members of this synagogue of the freedmen.
Tarsus was a major (if not the greatest) commercial city in Cyrene. and it’s likely that Saul already knew some of these men, which may be how we got involved with the stoning. (which led to his getting papers to go to Damascus to arrest more followers of the way, which led to his conversion)
10 But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
sounds just like the mock trial they held against Jesus. They accuse him of breaking the laws, but break laws in order to achieve the accusation
(bearing false witness is a commandment violation)
12 And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council.
13 They put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law;
14 for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.”
15 And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.
notice his face was like that of an angel…
numerous commentaries all admit the same thing “we can’t know for sure what this means”
opinion: maybe his face looked peaceful (that’s great, but hardly worth noting in this context)
what would have been worth noting is another possibility that all the commentaries also said was a possibility …
his face was shining (perhaps “glowing”)
since angels are light (1 Cor 11:14 indicates that angels are light) (the name lucifer, given to the unfallen high angel, means light bearer)
and we are told that Moses face was shining with the glory of God when he came back down from the mountain in Exodus 34.
the council accuses Stephen of blaspheming against Moses, and God made his face shine just like Moses before them
(I can see God doing this just to remind them once again, how “off” they really were)
Stephen is full of the Spirit, which we have discussed means totally submitted to God’s will and leading.
yet, here he is, in trouble.
discuss our modern post-christian attitude about God’s blessed path and compare this delusion to the reality
We understand that God blesses those who do things His way in His timing yet here is a man whom scripture tells us is filled with the spirit and full of wisdom about to be stoned for doing exactly that … Gods will and Word
How do we reconcile our cultural definition of blessing with what is happening to Stephen (about to be killed for righteousness sake)?played out before us here in Acts 6 (leading to the Martyrdom in Acts 7