Acts 6:2
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples to them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples.—The Apostles meet the crisis with singular tact and moderation. They do not resent the suspicion; they are not careful to vindicate themselves against it. They remembered, it may be, the precedent presented by the life of Moses (Exodus 18:25), and they act, as he had acted, by delegating part of their authority to others. The collective action of the multitude is strikingly in harmony with the Greek ideas attached to the word Ecclesia, as the assembly in which every citizen might take his share. Representative government might come as a necessity of later times; as yet, every member of the congregation, every citizen of the new polity, was invited, as having a right to vote.

It is not reason.—Literally, It is not pleasing, as in Acts 12:3. The word implies that they had undertaken a burdensome duty, not for their own pleasure, because they liked it, but for the good of the community.

And serve tables.—The word was used for the “tables” of money-changers, as in Matthew 21:12, John 2:15, and was, therefore, equally appropriate whether we think of the relief as being given in money or in kind.

Acts 6:2-4. Then the twelve — For such was now again their number, Matthias having supplied the place of Judas; called the multitude of the disciples unto them — Not the rest of the one hundred and twenty merely, but the whole body of Christian converts, they being the persons to whom satisfaction was then due. See Whitby. It was of great importance that the apostles should immediately take measures to suppress these rising murmurs and discontents; for had they been suffered to remain and take root, they might have produced dangerous disputes and divisions, and have involved the apostles themselves in suspicion and censure. It is not reasonΟυκ αρεστον εστιν, it is not right, proper, or, pleasing; namely, to God; that we — Who have an office to discharge of so much greater weight and consequence; should leave the word of God — Should be less frequently employed in dispensing it; and serve tables — Attend to the distribution of money to relieve the wants of the poor; and yet this we must do, in order to prevent these complaints, unless some further measures be taken by common consent. Wherefore, brethren — As you see how inconvenient it would be to suffer this care to lie upon us, and how inevitably it would render us incapable of attending to the proper duties of our office; look ye out among you seven men — A number sufficient for the present; of honest report — That there may be no room to suspect them of partiality and injustice; full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom — For it is not a light matter to dispense even the temporal goods of the church. To do even this well, a large measure both of the gifts and grace of God is requisite. Whom we may appoint over this business — It would have been happy for the church, had its ordinary ministers, in every age, taken the same care to act in concert with the people committed to their charge, which the apostles themselves, extraordinary as their office was, did on this and other occasions. It may be proper to observe here, that in the first church, the primary business of apostles, evangelists, and elders, was to preach the word of God; the secondary, to take a kind of paternal care (the church being then like a family) for the support especially of the poor, the strangers, and the widows. Afterward, as here, the deacons were constituted for this latter business. And whatever time they had to spare from this, they employed in works of spiritual mercy. But their proper office was to take care of the poor. And when some of them afterward preached the gospel, they did this, not by virtue of their deaconship, but of another commission, that of evangelists, which they probably received, not before, but after they were appointed deacons. And it is not unlikely that others were chosen deacons, or stewards, in their room, when any of these commenced evangelists. But we — Being thus freed from this great encumbrance; will give ourselves continually — Will dedicate our whole time; to prayer, and to the ministry of the word — Which is our grand business, and which we would be glad to prosecute without interruption. It is, doubtless, still the proper business of a Christian minister, whether termed a pastor, elder, or bishop, to speak to God in prayer; and to men in preaching his word, as an ambassador for Christ.6:1-7 Hitherto the disciples had been of one accord; this often had been noticed to their honour; but now they were multiplied, they began to murmur. The word of God was enough to take up all the thoughts, cares, and time of the apostles. The persons chosen to serve tables must be duly qualified. They must be filled with gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, necessary to rightly managing this trust; men of truth, and hating covetousness. All who are employed in the service of the church, ought to be commended to the Divine grace by the prayers of the church. They blessed them in the name of the Lord. The word and grace of God are greatly magnified, when those are wrought upon by it, who were least likely.Then the twelve - That is, the apostles. Matthias had been added to them after the apostasy of Judas, which had completed the original number.

The multitude of the disciples - It is not necessary to suppose that all the disciples were convened, which amounted to many thousands, but that the business was laid before a large number; or perhaps "the multitude" here means those merely who were more particularly interested in the matter, and who had been engaged in the complaint.

It is not reason - The original words used here properly denote "it is not pleasing or agreeable"; but the meaning evidently is, it is not "suitable" or "proper." It would be a departure from the design of their appointment, which was to preach the gospel, and not to attend to the pecuniary affairs of the church.

Leave the word of God - That we should neglect or abandon the preaching of the gospel so much as would be necessary if we attended personally to the distribution of the alms of the church. The "gospel" is here called the "Word of God," because it is his message; it is what he has spoken, or which he has commanded to be proclaimed to people.

Serve tables - This expression properly denotes "to take care of, or provide for the table, or for the daily needs of a family." It is an expression that properly applies to a steward or a servant. The word "tables" is, however, sometimes used with reference to "money," as being the place where money was kept for the purpose of "exchange, etc.," Matthew 21:12; Matthew 25:27. Here the expression means, therefore, to attend to the pecuniary transactions of the church, and to make the proper distribution for the needs of the poor.

2-4. the multitude—the general body of the disciples.

It is not reason—The word expresses dislike; that is "We cannot submit."

to leave the word of God—to have our time and attention withdrawn from preaching; which, it thus appears, they regarded as their primary duty.

to serve tables—oversee the distribution of provisions.

The twelve; for such was their number now again, Matthias having supplied the place of Judas; this is that blessed number, or the root of it, which God hath so much magnified.

The word of God; preaching of the word, and other duties belonging to it.

Serve tables; either providing for the agapae and love feasts, or distributing to the necessities whereby they might be fed, and their tables provided. Then the twelve,.... The twelve apostles, as the Syriac version reads; for their number was now complete, Matthias being chosen in the room of Judas: these being informed of the murmur there was between the two sorts of believers, the Hebrew and thc Hellenistic Jews,

called the multitude of the disciples unto them; either the hundred and twenty, the original members of the church, which first formed it, and on whom the Holy Ghost descended on the day of Pentecost; or rather the whole body of the church: for what the apostles had to say concerned them all; and they all had an equal right to chose their officers, that should minister unto them; and when they were convened together, they addressed them after this manner:

and said, it is not reason; or "it is not pleasing", neither to God, nor to us; so the Arabic version reads, "this does not please us"; nor could it be pleasing to the church itself:

that we should leave the word of God the study of the word, meditation upon it, and preaching it: not that they did relinquish either of these; but they were sometimes obliged to omit them, or not so frequently attend them; the care of the poor taking up more of their time, than the work of the ministry, or preaching of the Gospel would admit of; and therefore thought it not so right and proper, or so acceptable a thing to God and man, that they should in the least neglect a work of so great importance to the souls of men, and cause it to give way to that which only regarded their bodies:

and serve tables; the tables of the poor, collect for them, inspect into their several cases, and circumstances, and distribute accordingly to them; which required a good deal of time, care, thought, and circumspection, especially in such a church, where the numbers were so large. From hence we learn what is the business of deacons, who were afterwards appointed to take this part of the apostles' work off of their hands, and attend to it; which is to serve tables: the table of the Lord, by providing the bread and wine for it; receiving both from the minister, when blessed, and distributing them to the members; and collecting from them for the poor, and the defraying the charge; and observing what members are missing at the ordinance, whom they are to admonish; and if their admonitions are not regarded, to report it to the church: and they are likewise to serve the minister's table, by taking care that he has a sufficient competency for his support; and it belongs to them to stir up the members of the church to their duty in communicating to him; and what they receive of them, they are to apply to his use: and also, they are to serve the poor's table; to whom they are to distribute of the church's stock, with all impartiality, simplicity, cheerfulness, and sympathy.

{2} Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not {c} reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve {d} tables.

(2) The office of preaching the word, and dispensing the goods of the Church, are different from one another, and not rashly to be joined together, as the apostles institute here. And the deacons must seek the consent of the Church more than the apostles.

(c) It is such a matter that we may in no way accept it.

(d) Banquets: though by the name of tables other offices are also meant, which are added to it, such as those which pertain to the care of the poor.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 6:2. Τὸ πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν] the mass of the disciples; i.e. the Christian multitude in general, not merely individuals, or a mere committee of the church. Comp. Acts 4:32. It is quite as arbitrary to understand, with Lightfoot, only the 120 persons mentioned in Acts 1:15, as, with Mosheim and Kuinoel, to suppose that the church of Jerusalem was divided into seven classes, which assembled in seven different places, and had each selected from their midst an almoner. As the place of meeting is not named, it is an over-hasty conclusion that the whole church could not have assembled all at once.

οὐκ ἀρεστόν ἐστιν] non placet, Acts 12:3; John 8:29; Herod. i. 119; Plato, Def. p. 415 A. The Vulgate, Beza, Calvin, Piscator, Casaubon, Kuinoel, incorrectly render: non aequum est, which the word never means, not even in the LXX. It pleased not the apostles to leave the doctrine of God (its proclamation), just because the fulfilment of the proper duty of their calling pleased them.

καταλείψ.] A strong expression under a vivid sense of the disturbing element (to leave in the lurch). On the form, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 713 ff.

διακονεῖν τραπέζαις] to serve tables, i.e. to be the regulators, overseers, and dispensers in reference to food. The expression, which contains the more precise definition for τῇ διακονίᾳ of Acts 6:1, betrays “indignitatem aliquam” (Bengel).

The reference which others have partly combined with this, partly assumed alone, of τράπεζα to the money-changers’ table, Matthew 21:12, Luke 19:23 (“pecunia in usum pauperum collecta et iis distribuenda,” Kuinoel), is excluded, in the absence of any other indication in the text, by the διακονεῖν used statedly of the ministration of food (Wetst. ad Matthew 4:11). Moreover, the designation of the matter, as if it were a banking business, would not even be suitable. The apostles would neither be τραπεζοκόμοι nor τραπεζοποιοί (Athen. IV. p. 170). They may hitherto in the management of this business have made use, without fixed plan, of the assistance of others, by whose fault, perhaps, the murmuring of the Hellenists was occasioned.Acts 6:2. προσκαλεσάμενοι δὲ οἱ δώδεκα: whatever may have been the irritation caused by the pride or neglect of the Hebrews, the Apostles recognised that there was ground for complaint, and thus showed not only their practical capacities, but also their freedom from any partiality. οἱ δώδ.: only here in Acts, but cf. 1 Corinthians 15:5, where St. Paul uses the title as if it were well and widely known, and required no explanation from him. It is found six times in St. Luke’s Gospel, and no less than ten in St. Mark’s. See also above Acts 1:26, Acts 2:14.—τὸ πλῆθος = the whole Church, not the hundred-and-twenty, as J. Lightfoot. The expression is a general one, and need not imply that every single member of the Church obeyed the summons. For the word πλῆθος and the illustration of its use in religious communities on the papyri by Deissmann, see p. 73. The passage has been quoted in support of the democratic constitution of the Apostolic Church, but the whole context shows that the government really lay with the Apostles. The Church as a whole is under their direction and counsel, and the Apostles alone determine what qualification those chosen should possess, the Apostles alone lay hands upon them after prayer: “The hand of man is laid upon the person, but the whole work is of God, and it is His hand which toucheth the head of the one ordained, if he be duly ordained” (Chrys., Hom., xiv.). The dignity of the Apostles, and their authority as leaders of the Church and ordainers of the Seven, is fully recognised by Feine, but he considers that their position is so altered, and the organisation of the Church so much more developed, that another source and not the Jerusalem Quellen-schrift must be supposed; but if, as Feine allows, such passages as Acts 4:34, Acts 5:2, belong to the Jerusalem source, it would appear that the authority of the Apostles in the passage before us was a very plain and natural development.—καταλείψαντας: on the formation of the first aorist see Blass, Grammatik, p. 43, and also Deissmann, Neue Bibelstudien, p. 18; Winer-Schmiedel, p. 109.—διακονεῖν τραπέζαις: there seems to be an intentional antithesis between these words and τῇ διακονίᾳ τοῦ λόγου in Acts 6:3. The Twelve do not object to the work of ministering, but only to the neglect of ministering to the higher sustenance for the sake of the lower (Hort, Ecclesia, p. 206); thus Bengel speaks of the expression as used with indignation, “Antitheton, ministerium verbi”. διακονία and διακονεῖν are used for ministrations to man, although more usually of man to God; cf. Acts 19:22, of service to St. Paul, διακονία, Acts 11:29; Acts 12:25, of service to the brethren of Judæa in the famine, Romans 15:25; Romans 15:31, 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 9:12-13, of the Gentile collections for the same purpose, so too probably in Romans 16:1 of the service rendered by Stephanas to travelling Christians, cf. Hebrews 6:10, and its use of the verb in the Gospels of ministering to our Lord’s earthly wants, Luke 8:3; Luke 10:40 (both noun and verb), John 12:2; cf. also Luke 12:37; Luke 22:27, Matthew 4:11, Luke 4:39; see further on the use of the word in classical Greek, Hort, Ecclesia, p. 203. The word had a high dignity conferred upon it when, in contrast to the contemptuous associations which surrounded it for the most part in Greek society, Epictetus remarks that it is man’s true honour to be a διάκονος of God (Diss., iii., 22, 69; 24, 65; iv. 7, 20; cf. iii. 26, 28), and a dignity immeasurably higher still, when the Son of Man could speak of Himself as in Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45; cf. Luke 22:27. “Every clergyman begins as a deacon. This is right. But he never ceases to be a deacon. The priest is a deacon still. The bishop is a deacon still. Christ came as a deacon, lived as a deacon, died as a deacon: μὴ διακονηθῆναι, ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι” (Lightfoot, Ordination Sermons, p. 115). In the LXX the verb does not occur at all, but διάκονος is used four times in Esther 1:10; Esther 2:2; Esther 6:3; Esther 6:5, of the king’s chamberlains and of the servants that ministered to him, and once in 4Ma 9:17; διακονία is also found in two of the passages in Esther just quoted, Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5, where in A we read οἱ ἐκ τῆς διακοίας (BS διάκονοι), and once in 1Ma 11:58, of the service of gold sent by Jonathan to Antiochus. What is meant by the expression here? does it refer to distribution of money or in kind? The word in itself might include either, but if we were to limit διακονία to alms, yet the use of the word remarked upon above renders the service higher than that of ordinary relief: “ministration” says St. Chrysostom (although he takes it of alms, Hom., 15), “extolling by this at once the doers and those to whom it was done”. But τραπέζαις presents a further difficulty; does it refer to the tables of exchange for money, a rendering which claims support from Matthew 21:12; Matthew 25:27, Luke 19:23, John 2:15, or to tables for food, Luke 16:21; Luke 22:21; Luke 22:30? Possibly the use of the word in some passages in the N.T., and also the fact that the διακονία was καθημερινή, may indicate the latter, and the phrase may refer to the actual serving and superintending at the tables at which the poor sat, or at all events to the supplying in a general way those things which were necessary for their bodily sustenance. Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte (second edition), refers the word to the ministration of the gifts of love offered at the Eucharist in the various Christian houses (so Scaliger understood the expression of the Agapæ). Mr. Humphry reminds us that the words were quoted by Latimer (1548) in a sermon against some bishops of his time who were comptrollers of the mint.2. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them] They found that there was cause for the complaint, and at once prepared to provide a remedy. By “the multitude of the disciples” we are not to suppose that an attempt was made to gather every one who in Jerusalem called himself a Christian, but that a large and special meeting was convened, before which the Apostles laid their plan. The funds had been given by various persons, and were for the common relief; it was therefore fit that a change in the distributors should be considered in common.

and said, It is not reason] The word properly means pleasing, and the idea meant to be conveyed is that it was not meet that the Apostles should leave the higher functions to which they had been specially appointed, and spend their whole time in the business duties to which the present emergency had given rise.

that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables] Better, “forsake the word.” The verb in the original is a strong form, and indicates that the whole time of the twelve was being spent on this disbursement.

By tables is meant the bench or counter at which the money was distributed. Both in Hebrew and Greek bankers are “tablers.” Cf. “the tables of the moneychangers” (Matthew 21:12).

The word for serve is diakonein, akin to the noun in the previous verse.Acts 6:2. Ἡμᾶς, that we) the apostles.—καταλείψαντας, having left) They were not able at once to attend to both: for which reason they sustain that function which is the more noble. It is dangerous to leave those duties which have been especially entrusted to us. This often happens whilst we are unconscious of it. The bishops have put far away from them this principle, since they have become so involved in worldly things, that spiritual things, excepting the solemn outward pageant, are almost entirely swallowed up in their princely function.—διακονεῖν τραπέζαις, to minister to tables) The phrase expresses the doing of something unworthy of their office. The antithesis is the ministry of the word, Acts 6:4. What were the functions of the deacons in the primitive Church, is a subject of copious disquisition: but the matter may be comprised in a few words. It was the especial duty of the bishops, apostles, evangelists, etc., to preach the word of GOD; it was their secondary duty to have a kind of fatherly care (for the Church was, at the beginning, like a family) of the sustenance, particularly of the poor, of strangers, of widows, etc. But the deacons, of both sexes, were appointed strictly to have the same care of the sustenance of the brethren: and in that department they felt it necessary to bestow very much exertion on the church of Jerusalem; in other places, more or less care as circumstances suggested; whatever exertions they could make, after their principal duty was attended to, they devoted to the preaching of the word.Verse 2. - And for then, A.V.; fit for reasons, A.V.; forsake for leave, A.V. It is not fit; literally, pleasing; ἀρεστόν is often the rendering of טוב in the LXX.; e.g. Gem 16:6; Deuteronomy 12:28. In Exodus 15:26, Deuteronomy 6:18, etc., it stands for יָשָׁר, that which is right. Serve tables. The English reader should remember that the "ministration" of ver. 1, the "serve" of this verse, and the "deacon" which was the name of the new officers, are all forms of the same Greek word (διακονία διακονεῖν διάκονος). In ver. 4 "the ministry of the Word" is opposed to "the daily ministration" of meat. The passage gives a necessary warning to the ministers of God's Word not to spend too much time and strength upon any secular work, even though it be a work of charity. They must give themselves to the Word of God and to prayer. There are Christian laity to serve tables. Reason (ἀπεστόν)

Lit., pleasing or agreeable.

Leave (καταλείψαντας)

Rather forsake or abandon: leave in the lurch.

Serve tables

Superintend the distribution of food.

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