Summary of Acts 6:1-7:
The Grecian Jews (the minority) complained to the Hebraic Jews (the majority) that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The 12 Apostles called a meeting and decided to chose 7 men who were full of the Spirit and wisdom to tend to the problem so they could give their attention to prayer and ministry of God’s word.
They chose Stephen, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch (all Grecians). The problem was fixed and the number of believers grew.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 4, Day 5: Acts 6:1-7
11) The widows of the Grecian Jews were being overlooked by the Hebraic Jews in the daily distribution of food. They did what all good leaders do: they delegated and used diplomacy. They had the Grecian Jews (the ones with the complaint) choose 7 men amongst them who were full of the Spirit and wisdom to handle the distribution of food. The disciples entrusted the minority with full authority to solve their own problems. They also prayed about their decision as well.
12) Those who were known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. You have to have God and know how to listen for God to make good decisions, especially when Satan is always trying to tempt you.
13a) Personal Question. My answer: None.
b) Personal Question. My answer: Donate money or time.
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 4, Day 5: Acts 6:1-7
A great lesson for leaders who need to focus on what is important in life, such as spreading the word of God, rather than get bogged down in controversy. While feeding the widows is important, it didn’t require the disciples’ attention. Delegation is something many leaders need to learn.
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 4, Day 5: Acts 6:1-7
Up to this point in the Book of Acts, Satan’s attacks on the church came in the form of direct opposition and intimidation, and he tried to corrupt the church from within. These strategies were all unsuccessful in stopping or slowing the work of the church. Now Satan hoped to “divide and conquer” by raising one group of Christians against another.
We can say that with Acts 5 and 6, the good old days were over for the earliest Christians. They now had to deal with internal corruption, and now disputes and potential divisions. How they dealt with those things made all the difference.
- The Hebrews were those Jews more inclined to embrace Jewish culture and were mostly from Judea.
- The Hellenists were those Jews more inclined to embrace Greek culture and mostly were from the Diaspora (from all over the Roman Empire).
Hebrews tended to regard Hellenists as unspiritual compromisers with Greek culture, and Hellenists regarded Hebrews as holier-than-thou traditionalists. There was already a natural suspicion between the two groups, and Satan tried to take advantage of that standing suspicion.
It’s important to remember that though the titles Hebrews and Hellenists are used, these were Christians, followers of Jesus. They were all from a Jewish background, but they had all embraced Jesus as their Messiah.
There is the hint here of a growing division between the religious leaders and the early followers of Jesus. The care of widows and orphans was an important part of Jewish life, and normally the temple authorities organized the distribution to the needy. Yet it seems that the Christian widows were not cared for by the Jewish leaders; probably because they didn’t like the fact that the apostles kept preaching Jesus when they were told to stop.
The Attitude of the Apostles
The apostles explained that they should remain faithful to their central calling, which was prayer and to the ministry of the word. It was wrong for them to spend their time administrating the practical needs of the widows.
“A ‘table’ at that time meant a place where a money changer did his collecting or exchanging of money. The deacons were elected to oversee the distribution of monies and provisions to the needy among the fellowship.” (Ogilvie)
The apostles delegated and brought more people into doing work of ministry. Meeting unmet needs is a great way to bring more people into ministry.
The qualifications described by the apostles focused the character of the men to be chosen. The apostles were far more concerned with the internal quality of the men than their outward appearance or image.
The idea behind full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom is that these men were to be both spiritually minded and practically minded. This can be a hard combination to find.
The Seven Men
Possibly they chose seven so that one could oversee the needs of the widows a different day of the week.
The seven men all had Greek names, indicating that they were probably Hellenists themselves.
It was important to lay hands on them even if their service was mainly for the practical needs of the widows. Practical service is spiritual service. The same Greek word is used for both distribution (Acts 6:1) and ministry (Acts 6:4). The idea behind the word in both places is service, whether in practical ways or spiritual ways.
Nowhere in this chapter of Acts are these men called deacons, but most consider they were the first to fulfill the office of deacon as described in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The word deacon simply means “servant,” and these men were certainly servants. They could claim the same promise for faithful service that Paul specifically made to deacons in 1 Timothy 3:13: For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
What We Learn from the Apostles’ Actions
- Those with the complaint, the Hellenists, did the right thing: They made the need known, instead of complaining and whining, and they trusted the solution of the apostles.
- Those of the other party, the Hebrews, did the right thing: They recognized that the Hellenists had a legitimate need, which they trusted to the apostles.
- The seven chosen men did the right thing: They accepted the call to unglamorous service.
- The apostles did the right thing: They responded to the need without distracting themselves from their central task.
Because this situation was handled with wisdom and sensitivity to those who were offended, a potentially divisive issue was defused, and the gospel continued to go forth.