Don Styles
Principles of Ecclesial Life

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 women."

"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 food.

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 problem.

"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 assignment

"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 committee.

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.

"' 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. 3:2-12).

"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 ecclesia.

Stephen -- While handling additional administrative responsibilities, Stephen was still deeply involved in other areas of ecclesial life. He was not a one-dimensional disciple.

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