Deacons Are appointed
Another internal problem developed in the early church. The Greek-speaking Christians complained that their widows were being unfairly treated. The favoritism was probably due to the language barrier. To correct this situation, the apostles put seven respected Greek-speaking men in charge of the food distribution. This solved the problem and allowed the apostles to focus on teaching and preaching the Good News about Jesus.
Verse 1 – Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring against the Hebrews by the Hellenist, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
Verse 2 – Then the twelve summoned the multitude of disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.
Verse 3 – “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation full of the Holy spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
1 Timothy 3:7 – Moreover he must have a good testimony among those outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Verse 4 – “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Each of the seven men filled a position that later came to be reserved for deacons. They were responsible for the practical needs of the congregation.
Verse 5 – And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,
Verse 6 – whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
The laying on of hands occurs in several contexts throughout Scripture. It indicated the church’s recognition that God had called these men to a particular ministry.
Verse 7 – And the word of God spread, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Verse 8 – And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
As I read these verses of the early church, I see how far some of our churches today have strayed. When these believers gathered together, they prayed, worshiped, were taught the word of God by Godly men, and signs and wonders were seen. Today, we might hear one prayer done by the pastor, then a motivational speech on how to better ourselves, and no one is saved or changed. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone healed or delivered from some devastating addiction. Or how about distributions of goods to the poor? How sad our churches have become.
Stephen is Brought Before the Council
Verse 9 – Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those form Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.
The Freedmen was a group of Jewish slaves who had been freed by Rome and had formed their own synagogue in Jerusalem.
Verse 10 – And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
Verse 11 – Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
Verse 12 – And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him and brought him to the council.
Verse 13 – They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law;
Verse 14 – “For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”
The charge against Stephen was similar to the charges against Jesus. The Sadducees, which controlled the council, only believed in Moses laws.
Verse 15 – And all who sat on the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.
Stephen’s facial expression reflected his innocence and the Spirit’s role in his life.