First Election of Deacons.
1. the Grecians—the Greek-speaking Jews,
mostly born in the provinces.
the Hebrews—those Jews born in
Palestine who used their native tongue, and were wont to look down on
the "Grecians" as an inferior class.
were neglected—"overlooked" by those
whom the apostles employed, and who were probably of the Hebrew class,
as being the most numerous. The complaint was in all likelihood well
founded, though we cannot suspect the distributors of intentional
partiality. "It was really just an emulation of love, each party
wishing to have their own poor taken care of in the best manner" [Olshausen].
the daily ministration—the daily
distribution of alms or of food, probably the latter.
2-4. the multitude—the general body of
It is not reason—The word expresses
dislike; that is "We cannot submit."
to leave the word of God—to have our
time and attention withdrawn from preaching; which, it thus appears,
they regarded as their primary duty.
to serve tables—oversee the
distribution of provisions.
3. look ye out among you—that is, ye,
"the multitude," from among yourselves.
seven men of honest report—good
reputation (Ac 10:22; 1Ti 3:7).
full of the Holy Ghost—not full of
miraculous gifts, which would have been no qualification for the duties
required, but spiritually gifted (although on two of them
miraculous power did rest).
and wisdom—discretion, aptitude for
whom we may appoint—for while the
election was vested in the Christian people, the
appointment lay with the apostles, as spiritual rulers.
4. we will give ourselves to
prayer—public prayer, as along with preaching their great
5. Stephen, &c.—As this and the
following names are all Greek, it is likely they were all of the
"Grecian" class, which would effectually restore mutual confidence.
6. when they had prayed, they laid their hands on
them—the one proclaiming that all official gifts flowed from
the Church's glorified Head, the other symbolizing the communication of
these to the chosen office-bearers through the recognized channels.
7. word of God increased … disciples
multiplied in Jerusalem greatly—prosperity crowning the
beautiful spirit which reigned in this mother community.
a great company of the priests were
obedient, &c.—This was the crowning triumph of the
Gospel, whose peaceful prosperity was now at its greatest
height. After Stephen's teaching and trial made it clear that
sacerdotal interests could not stand with the Gospel, such priestly
accessions became rare indeed. Note (1) how easily misunderstandings
may arise among the most loving and devoted followers of the Lord
Jesus: but (2) How quickly and effectually such misunderstandings may
be healed, where honest intentions, love, and wisdom reign: (3) What a
beautiful model for imitation is furnished by the class here complained
of, who, though themselves the majority, chose the new office-bearers
from amongst the complaining minority! (4) How superior to the lust of
power do the apostles here show themselves to be, in not only divesting
themselves of the immediate superintendence of temporal affairs in the
Christian community, but giving the choice of those who were to be
entrusted with it to the disciples at large! (5) How little of formal
organization did the apostles give to the Church at first, and when an
emergency arose which demanded something more, how entirely was the
remedy suggested by the reason of the thing! (6) Though the new
office-bearers are not expressly called Deacons here, it is
universally admitted that this was the first institution of that order
in the Church; the success of the expedient securing its permanency,
and the qualifications for "the office of a Deacon" being laid down in
one of the apostolical Epistles immediately after those of "a Bishop"
Stephen Arraigned before the
8. And Stephen, &c.—The foregoing
narrative seems to be only an introduction to what follows.
full of faith—rather, "of grace," as
the best manuscripts read.
9, 10. synagogue of the
Libertines—Jewish freedmen; manumitted Roman captives, or the
children of such, expelled from Rome (as appears from Josephus and Tacitus), and now residing at Jerusalem.
Cyrenians—Jews of Cyrene, in Libya, on
the coast of Africa.
them of Cilicia—amongst whom may have
been Saul of Tarsus (Ac 7:58; 21:39).
and of Asia—(See on Ac 16:6).
10. not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit
by which he spake—What he said, and the power with which he
spake it, were alike resistless.
11-14. blasphemous words against
Moses—doubtless referring to the impending disappearance of
the whole Mosaic system.
and against God—This must refer
to the supreme dignity and authority which he claimed for Christ, as
the head of that new economy which was so speedily to supersede the old
(compare Ac 7:56, 59, 60).
15. as … the face of an angel—a
play of supernatural radiance attesting to all who beheld his
countenance the divine calm of the spirit within.