Solving an Ecclesial Problem - A Case Study from Acts 6:1-8
Acts 6:1 Trouble over ecclesial welfare
"the number of the disciples was multiplied" -- Cf. 2:41,
3,000 added; 2:47, "the Lord added to the church daily; " 4:4, "many ...
believed ... the number of the men was about five thousand; " 5:14, "And
believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and
"the Grecians against the Hebrews" "Grecians" refers
to "Grecian Jews" (NIV) who were born outside of Palestine and spoke Greek. The
"Hebrews" were "Hebraic Jews" (NIV) who were born in Palestine and spoke
Aramaic. While all were believers in Christ, differences would be apparent in
many aspects of daily life such as customs in dress and choices of
Many Grecian Jews who believed would have resettled in
Jerusalem to be with the ecclesia there.
"the daily ministration" -- As part of the communal
life of the Jerusalem ecclesia (2:44-45; 4:35), widows were evidently served
daily in a group setting (cf. v.2).
Acts 6:2-4, A solution proposed
"The twelve called..." -- The apostles and the
believers had Holy Spirit gifts so why not solve the problem with a divinely
inspired edict? As is evident throughout the New Testament, the gift of the Holy
Spirit confirmed the word of the gospel as truth (Mk. 16:20; Hb. 2:4) but
did not provide miraculous solutions to ecclesial or personal problems (Acts
15:6-7; 1Cor. 12:7-9; Gal. 2:11-14).
"the multitude of the disciples" -- A business meeting
was convened. All were believers and all were to have a part in solving the
"It is not reason" -- "It would not be right" (NIV).
Christ had assigned the apostles the particular task of gospel extension
throughout the world (Acts 1:8). They should concentrate on that
"leave the word of God and serve tables" -- "Leave the
word" is meant in a relative sense for Stephen was active in many areas of the
Truth including gospel proclamation (Acts 6:8-15). However, the apostles wanted
to be free of administrative duties in order to be "continually" involved in
prayer and biblical instruction (v.4).
The pastoral work of serving tables was not unimportant as is
evident by the, quality of disciple needed for the task (v.3), but it was not
the activity upon which the apostles should concentrate.
"Wherefore, brethren..." -- The solution proposed
follows the precedent of Deut. 1:9-14. Overburdened ecclesial leadership shared
responsibility with godly men selected by the believers.
"look out from among you" -- cf. Deut. 1.13. The
apostles could have made the appointments themselves but they were more likely
to secure the cooperation of the community if the believers chose their own
Like Israel, the ecclesia was free to use the method of their
choice in selecting the seven brethren. They could have done so by nomination
and secret ballot, a show of hands, appointing a selection committee, etc.
Ecclesias today have a similar flexibility in using whichever method they prefer
in selecting their serving brethren.
"'...men of honest report..." -- Cf. Deut. 1: 13.
Ideally every brother should meet the qualifications. Realistically, however,
there is a wide range of spiritual development among ecclesial members and this
must be wisely considered when ecclesial appointments are made (cf. I Tim.
"the Holy Spirit" -- "Holy" is omitted in the Greek and
by versions such as the RV, RSV, NIV, etc. Its inclusion by the KJV is, no
doubt, because of the phrasing of v. 5 and no significance should be attached to
its omission in v.3
"whom we may appoint" -- As the ecclesial elders, the
apostles would review the ecclesial selections to ensure they were appropriate
(cf. Deut. 1: 13).
Acts 6:5-6, The solution Implemented
Seven Grecian Jews -- All seven brethren on the
committee had Greek names indicating they were Grecian Jews. They would be more
sensitive to the existing discrimination but their spiritual quality would be a
safeguard against their implementing a policy of reverse discrimination. Their
selection by the. body of believers indicates the community recognized the
problem and was making every effort to correct it in love.
"the apostles ... laid their hands on them" -- thereby
indicating they approved the choices made by the ecclesia.
Acts 6:7-8, The solution enhanced ecclesial growth
"the word of God increased" -- This does not refer to
additional divine revelations but to the increase in the influence of the Truth
and the added numbers who adhered to it, cf. 12:24; 19:20.
"the number of the disciples multiplied" -- appropriate
solutions to ecclesial problems enhance the growth and vigor of the
Stephen -- While handling additional administrative
responsibilities, Stephen was still deeply involved in other areas of ecclesial
life. He was not a one-dimensional disciple.