Study Notes

Acts 6:7-15


We're looking at the early church in the book of Acts.

6:7 The Word Kept Spreading

As the Word of God spread, the number of disciples increased. This is one of the most basic principles taught in the Bible, and yet church leaders around our country just don't get it. The church growth movements mention the need for multimedia, paved parking lots, coffee shops, and even aerobics classes. But the "secret" ingredient to making churches grow biblically is to teach the Word of God. That's why Paul told Timothy,

2Tim. 4:1-2 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the Word...

That is both the church's origin and commission: Preach the Word.

Even people steeped in religion for their entire lives were having their eyes opened to the truth. A whole lot of the priests were getting saved! The Word of God can even break a dead religious heart.

6:8 Stephen

You might remember Stephen's name being mentioned as one of the seven guys chosen to oversee the ministry of the daily food distribution for widows (Acts 6:5).

Some church folks look down on table-waiting-, service-type of ministries. Like somehow serving is for the "lower" people in the church who aren't gifted to lead and teach. But nothing could be further from the truth. Listen to the testimonies of your favorite Bible teachers and you'll discover that almost all of them were lawn mowers, toilet cleaners, and carpet vacuumers for their churches.

Yes, Stephen was "just a table-waiter," but God blessed him for having such a servant's heart. Because God's approach is always,

Matt. 25:21 "...You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things..."

And so the Lord poured His grace and power into Stephen, and used him in miraculous ways.

6:9-10 A Certain Synagogue

Most historians believe that synagogues originated about 600 years before, during the days of the Babylonian Captivity, when the temple had been destroyed and the Jews were taken away from the land of Israel.

A minimum of ten men were required to form a synagogue, and - like churches today - there were often several in each place, as divisions of all sorts separated them. So, it should come as no surprise to discover that there were 400-500 synagogues in Jerusalem at this time!

Arguments And Accusations

Now, if you've ever been used by God in effective ministry, you have learned from experience that attacks are inevitable. The devil will use people to start arguments with you and launch accusations at you.

But what never stops surprising me is who the devil will use. In Stephen's case, those that were arguing and accusing were Hellenists. Remember, the very reason he'd entered into ministry was to make sure that the Hellenistic widows didn't get overlooked in the food ministry!

But this is exactly the way it will often happen. The very people you have a heart for - the very people you are ministering to - will frequently turn on you. We're never surprised when the world comes against us. But what is really devastating is when the people you're serving or serving with are the ones arguing and accusing. David wrote in Psalm 55,

Psa. 55:12-14 is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend; We who had sweet fellowship together walked in the house of God in the throng.

I have never been so attacked as I have been by those within the church. No wonder it's so common to meet people who "used to be in ministry." Yes, it's discouraging - but that's exactly why the devil uses this method.

Wisdom And Spirit

These men rose up and argued with Stephen. But the same qualities which made Stephen a good deacon also made him an excellent apologist. Remember that he'd been selected based on being...

Acts 6:3 "...full of the Spirit and of wisdom..."

Now, it was those very things that the arguers weren't able to cope with: the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking!

6:11-15 False Accusations

Another thing to expect when serving in ministry: When your opponents find that they're not winning the arguments, they will simply switch to accusations. That's why we need to be living in a way that's not open to accusation. Paul wrote that we should...

Phil. 2:15-16 ...prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the Word of life...

However, even if you're living above reproach, your accusers will often just launch false accusations against you.

In Stephen's case, they twisted what he was saying and teaching. And since it was their word against his, you would expect him to vehemently defend his words. But while Stephen will speak up, it won't be in his own defense. He is going to use this as an opportunity to preach the gospel to the Sanhedrin!

Jesus, too, was falsely accused and did not speak in His defense.

Is. 53:7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.

Solomon wrote that there is...

Eccl. 3:7 ...a time to be silent and a time to speak.

May God grant us the wisdom to know when to defend ourselves and when not to.

Next week, we will hear what Stephen said to the Council...

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