What is the Meaning of Acts 6-7

“Community and Administration”

Acts 6-7

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Acts 6 into 8:4 have similarities to the previous chapters.

  • Disciples brought before the Council (Acts 4:3; 5:17–18; 6:12)
  • Defense before the Council (Acts 4:5-12; 5:27-32; 7:1-54)
  • The reactions of the Council (Acts 4:16-17, 21; 5:33-40; 7:54-58)
    • in chapter 4 they deliberate and release the apostles
    • they are restrained from putting them to death in chapter 5
    • but in chapter 7, Stephen’s sermon is enough and they stone him

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So there is an increasing amount of hostility.

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Chapter 6:1-7 begins and ends with a note about the continued growth of the church. Acts 6:1, 7.

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  • The problem: the widows of the Hellenistic Jews are overlooked in the daily serving of food (Acts 6:1).

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This section emphasizes once again the community (Acts 2:45; 4:34-35). Part of the problem is who is going to minister to their needs? Either the disciples or the apostles? The other part of the problem is what is stated, the issue with the widows.

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  • The solution: the apostles instruct the disciples to select seven men to the task (Acts 6:2-4)
    • Qualifications
      • Good reputation
      • full the Holy Spirit
      • full of wisdom
      • [accurately represent interests]

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At least some of the men who were selected have Greek names and we can conclude that they came from the group of people that felt discriminated against.

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  • the men are set apart (Acts 6:5-6)

The congregation selects the leaders. They then present the leaders to the apostles for confirmation. They pray and lay hands on them. They clearly are unified. [APP: church vote?]

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Point: So here we have another threat to the unity of the early church. There were structural changes that were enacted to solve it.

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We are also introduced to two men: Stephen and Philip. Both of these men will play key roles in the following chapters. Just like Luke introduced Barnabas in chapter 4 who will play a key role the book of Acts later, so also he introduces these two men here.

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As it began, the section ends with the statement about the growth of the church. Another point seems to be that when the word of God has preeminence in the ministry and “hands on” tasks are delegated to good men, growth in the church happens. There needs to be a difference between those who minister physically and those who minister through the word of God and prayer.

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Chapter 6 is a new major geographical section in the book of Acts. On into the end of chapter 9, we have the extension of the church into Judea and Samaria. Stephen in chapter 6 and his sermon in chapter 7 and subsequent stoning begin the formal persecution of the church beginning in chapter 8… Acts 8:1 says that the church was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.

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“Stephen’s Martydom”

We have his arrest in verses 8-15; his defense in 7; and his death at the end of chapter 7.

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His Arrest

This section begins and ends with proof of Stephen’s character. Acts 6:8, 15.

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Stephen is a man of character and at the time of his arrest he was performing miracles. But he has opposition, verse 9. Stephen is debating with these men. What are they debating?

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At any rate, Stephen is victorious in verse 10. They secure false witness against Stephen, they arrest him and bring him before the Council (11-12).

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Notice what they say Acts 6:11. Evidently, what Stephen was teaching was something that had to do with the Mosaic Law. Stephen is evidently saying and debating something that the others have construed to mean that he is speaking blasphemous words against Moses.

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If you are full of grace and power like Stephen, in your preaching there could be some who could misunderstand your preaching as blasphemy against Moses. What do you think they are speaking about?

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Much of the book of Acts is preparing us for the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. In other words, what do we do with the Gentiles who are coming to Christ? This dialogue at the end of chapter 6 is preparing us for further discussing this issue of Moses and the Gentiles. We first gain sympathy for Stephen and his martyrdom; at the same time we are told he is full of grace and power, speaking with wisdom and the Spirit of God.

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The story of the Gentile Cornelius chapter 10 and the recounting of that story in chapter 11 prepare us as well.

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And we’re given the rest of what Stephen is accused of in the rest of chapter 6.

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Combining all now we’ve got the accusations

  • Stephen speaks against Moses and God (11)
  • Stephen speaks against the Temple and the Law (13)
  • Stephen teaches that Jesus will destroy the Temple (13)
  • Stephen teaches that Jesus will alter the customs which Moses gave (14)

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It would not take much to misconstrue what Stephen was actually saying to make it sound like this. If he was saying what Paul said in Eph. 2:14-15, it would be clear.

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My Translation of vv. 14-15. “For He Himself is our peace, who made both into one, and broke down the dividing wall, which is the racial hostility, in His flesh. (v15) He broke down racial hostility by ending the Law with its commandments and regulations. He ended the Law so that in Himself He might create the two into one new person, resulting in peace.

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Yeah, that could get you into trouble.

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In fact, Paul is charged later (Acts 21:20–21, 28; 24:6; 25:8).

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Face of an angel?

Pohill, Marshall, Stott, everyone: same radiant face of an angelic creature, like Moses coming down from the mount (Ex. 34:29). Like someone who was in God’s presence….but why didn’t they recognize it and do something about it? They enjoy attacking angels?? [again, the opposition is illogical]

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Stephen’s Defense

Stephen’s defense takes up pretty much all of chapter 7. Stephen is coming at his defense with the perspective of this: just as their fathers did (persecuting the prophets), so do they. They accused him of speaking against Moses; Stephen will accuse them of the same (their fathers wouldn’t receive Moses, they don’t receive Jesus either). They accuse him of speaking against the Temple; Stephen defends that as well. He addresses their points.

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Evidently, the way Stephen speaks at the end of his defense… Is not necessarily trying to get on their good side. Stephen’s defense has two main parts…

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  • Selections from the history of Israel (Acts 7:2-50)
  • The comparison between their fathers resisting God and them resisting God (7:51-53)

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Stephen begins with Abraham and runs to Moses. Stephen recounts God’s promises to Abraham and, when they were to be fulfilled, God sent Moses.

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In Acts 7:23-29, Moses comes to deliver Israel from Egypt. Verse 25 is key: they did not understand; they rejected him, verse 27 says.

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In Acts 7:30-43, God comes down to rescue his people and sends the once rejected Moses to deliver them…. And once they are delivered and enter the wilderness, again the people do not obey, 7:39, and turn to idolatry.

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And so Moses is rejected two times in Stephen’s speech. He is rejected in verses 25-27 and in verse 39. Stephen is drawing a comparison between Moses and Jesus, in verse 37. Just like the father’s rejected Moses, so also have they rejected Jesus.

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Stephen also takes up the issue of the Temple. Acts 7:44-50. He follows the tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple. His point here is found in Acts 7:48-50. His point seems to be that they, too, have progressed since Moses’s instruction. They no longer worship in the tabernacle of Moses, but in the Temple. And obviously they did that, because of God’s additional instruction. And now God gives additional instruction and is forming up a new Temple, the people of God.

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Now the application!  Stephen is saying what the Scriptures, especially the prophets, have said. It is well known how God’s people have persecuted their own prophets (2 Kings 17:13–14; 2 Chr 24:21; Jer 2:30; 26:20–23).

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Stephen’s audience did not listen to Moses. Moses said of God that God would raise up for the Jewish people a prophet like himself. Acts 7:37

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They thus persecuted and killed a prophet, Stephen, just like they did Jesus. Stephen’s point is that his audience and their ancestors are the ones who have acted against Moses and have rebelled against him, not Stephen or those who follow Christ.

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His stoning …

  • After hearing this, his accusers are enraged.
  • Stephen’s vision (55-56): why is Jesus standing? Either …
    • Jesus is vindicated in God’s presence and is protecting Stephen with the same righteousness?
    • Jesus stands to receive Stephen’s spirit, out of honour?
  • The reaction to his speech: this is a spontaneous stoning, it seems, although could be related to their earlier intentions (Acts 5:33).
  • Stephen’s final words
    • Receive my spirit
    • Don’t hold this against them (cf. Lk. 23:34)

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Acts 8:1. You can see that Judea and Samaria are specifically mentioned here. The focus of this region will carry us through until the end of chapter 9.

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Chapter 6 and 7 were Stephen’s martyrdom. We’ll see Philip’s ministry for the rest of chapter 8 and Paul’s conversion in chapter 9.

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