Acts 6:3
Why, brothers, look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Seven men of honest report.—The number may have had its origin in the general reverence for the number Seven among the Jews. Possibly, however, the suggestion may have come from the Libertini, or Hellenistæ of Rome, where there was a distinct guild, or Collegium, known as the Septemviri Epulones, or Seven Stewards (Lucan. i. 602), whose business it was to arrange for the banquets held in honour of the gods, which were more or less analogous to the Christian agapœ, on certain set days. (See Smith’s Dict. of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Art. “Epulones.” It is an interesting coincidence that they, too, had been appointed to relieve the Pontifices from a duty which they found too heavy. This view falls in with the inference as to the Roman origin of Stephen which will be found in the Notes on Acts 6:5.

Full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.—The Apostles, it is clear, did not limit their thoughts of the Spirit’s working to prophecy and the gift of tongues. Wherever wisdom, and charity, and kindness were requisite, there was need of a supernatural grace, raising men above prejudice and passion. Of these qualities, no less than of the good report, the whole body of believers were to be, in the first instance, the judges, the Apostles reserving to themselves the right of final appointment, and therefore, if necessary, of a veto. It is significant that the word “wisdom” only appears in the Acts in connection with Stephen (here and in Acts 6:10, and in the report of his speech Acts 7:10; Acts 7:22). We may, perhaps, think of James, the brother of the Lord, as led by what he now saw and heard to that prayerful seeking after wisdom which is so prominent in his Epistle (James 1:5; James 3:13-17).

Acts

FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

Acts 6:3
, Acts 6:5, Acts 6:8.

I have taken the liberty of wrenching these three fragments from their context, because of their remarkable parallelism, which is evidently intended to set us thinking of the connection of the various characteristics which they set forth. The first of them is a description, given by the Apostles, of the sort of man whom they conceived to be fit to look after the very homely matter of stifling the discontent of some members of the Church, who thought that their poor people did not get their fair share of the daily ministration. The second and third of them are parts of the description of the foremost of these seven men, the martyr Stephen. In regard to the first and second of our three fragmentary texts, you will observe that the cause is put first and the effect second. The ‘deacons’ were to be men ‘full of the Holy Ghost,’ and that would make them ‘full of wisdom.’ Stephen was ‘full of faith,’ and that made him ‘full of the Holy Ghost.’ Probably the same relation subsists in the third of our texts, of which the true reading is not, as it appears in our Authorised Version, ‘full of faith and power,’ but as it is given in the Revised Version, ‘full of grace and power.’ He was filled with grace-by which apparently is here meant the sum of the divine spiritual gifts-and therefore he was full of power. Whether that is so or not, if we link these three passages together, as I have taken the liberty of doing, we get a point of view appropriate for such a day [Footnote: Preached on Whit Sunday.] as this, when all that calls itself Christendom is commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit, and His abiding influence upon the Church. So I simply wish to gather together the principles that come out of these three verses thus concatenated.

I. We may all, if we will, be full of the Holy Spirit.

If there is a God at all, there is nothing more reasonable than to suppose that He can come into direct contact with the spirits of the men whom He has made. And if that Almighty God is not an Almighty indifference, or a pure devil-if He is love-then there is nothing more certain than that, if He can touch and influence men’s hearts towards goodness and His own likeness, He most certainly will.

The probability, which all religion recognises, and in often crude forms tries to set forth, and by superstitious acts to secure, is raised to an absolute certainty, if we believe that Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Truth, speaks truth to us about this matter. For there is nothing more certain than that the characteristic which distinguishes Him from all other teachers, is to be found not only in the fact that He did something for us on the Cross, as well as taught us by His word; but that in His teaching He puts in the forefront, not the prescriptions of our duty, but the promise of God’s gift; and ever says to us, ‘Open your hearts and the divine influences will flow in and fill you and fit you for all goodness.’ The Spirit of God fills the human spirit, as the mysterious influence which we call life permeates and animates the whole body, or as water lies in a cup.

Consider how that metaphor is caught up, and from a different point of view is confirmed, in regard to the completeness which it predicates, by other metaphors of Scripture. What is the meaning of the Baptist’s saying, ‘He shall baptise you in the Holy Ghost and fire’? Does that not mean a complete immersion in, and submersion under, the cleansing flood? What is the meaning of the Master’s own saying, ‘Tarry ye. . . till ye be clothed with power from on high’? Does not that mean complete investiture of our nakedness with that heavenly-woven robe? Do not all these emblems declare to us the possibility of a human spirit being charged to the limits of its capacity with a divine influence?

We do not here discuss questions which separate good Christian people from one another in regard of this matter. My object now is not to lay down theological propositions, but to urge upon Christian men the acquirement of an experience which is possible for them. And so, without caring to enter by argument on controversial matters, I desire simply to lay emphasis upon the plain implication of that word, ‘filled with the Holy Ghost.’ Does it mean less than the complete subjugation of a man’s spirit by the influence of God’s Spirit brooding upon him, as the prophet laid himself on the dead child, lip to lip, face to face, beating heart to still heart, limb to limb, and so diffused a supernatural life into the dead? That is an emblem of what all you Christian people may have if you like, and if you will adopt the discipline and observe the conditions which God has plainly laid down.

That fulness will be a growing fulness, for our spirits are capable, if not of infinite, at any rate of indefinite, expansion, and there is no limit known to us, and no limit, I suppose, which will ever be reached, so that we can go no further-to the possible growth of a created spirit that is in touch with God, and is having itself enlarged and elevated and ennobled by that contact. The vessel is elastic, the walls of the cup of our spirit, into which the new wine of the divine Spirit is poured, widen out as the draught is poured into them. The more a man possesses and uses of the life of God, the more is he capable of possessing and the more he will receive. So a continuous expansion in capacity, and a continuous increase in the amount of the divine life possessed, are held out as the happy prerogative and possibility of a Christian soul.

This Stephen had but a very small amount of the clear Christian knowledge that you and I have, but he was leagues ahead of most Christian people in regard to this, that he was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Brethren, you can have as much of that Spirit as you want. It is my own fault if my Christian life is not what the Christian lives of some of us, I doubt not, are. ‘Filled with the Holy Spirit’! rather a little drop in the bottom of the cup, and all the rest gaping emptiness; rather the fire died down, Pentecostal fire though it be, until there is scarcely anything but a heap of black cinders and grey ashes in your grate, and a little sandwich of flickering flame in one corner; rather the rushing mighty wind died down into all but a dead calm, like that which afflicts sailing-ships in the equatorial regions, when the thick air is deadly still, and the empty sails have not strength even to flap upon the masts; rather the ‘river of the water of life’ that pours ‘out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb,’ dried up into a driblet.

That is the condition of many Christian people. I say not of which of us. Let each man settle for himself how that may be. At all events here is the possibility, which may be realised with increasing completeness all through a Christian man’s life. We may be filled with the Holy Spirit.

II. If we are ‘full of faith’ we shall be filled with the Spirit.

That is the condition as suggested by one of our texts-’a man full of faith,’ and therefore ‘of the Holy Ghost.’ Now, of course, I believe, as I suppose all people who have made any experience of their own hearts must believe, that before a soul exercises confidence in Jesus Christ, and passes into the household of faith, there have been playing upon it the influences of that divine Comforter whose first mission is to ‘convince the world of sin.’ But between such operations as these, which I believe are universally diffused, wheresoever the Word of God and the message of salvation are proclaimed-between such operations as these, and those to which I now refer, whereby the divine Spirit not only operates upon, but dwells in, a man’s heart, and not only brings conviction to the world of sin, there is a wide gulf fixed; and for all the hallowing, sanctifying, illuminating and strength-giving operations of that divine Spirit, the pre-requisite condition is our trust. Jesus Christ taught us so, in more than one utterance, and His Apostle, in commenting on one of the most remarkable of His sayings on this subject, says, ‘This spake He concerning the Holy Spirit which they that believed in Him were to receive.’ Faith is the condition of receiving that divine influence. But what kind of faith? Well, let us put away theological words. If you do not believe that there is any such influence to be got, you will not get it. If you do not want it, you will not get it. If you do not expect it, you will not get it. If professing to believe it, and to wish it, and to look for it, you are behaving yourself in such a way as to show that you do not really desire it, you will never get it. It is all very well to talk about faith as the condition of receiving that divine Spirit. Do not let us lose ourselves in the word, but try to translate the somewhat threadbare expression, which by reason of its familiarity produces little effect upon some of us, and to turn it into non-theological English. It just comes to this,-if we are simply trusting ourselves to Jesus Christ our Lord, and if in that trust we do believe in the possibility of even our being filled with the divine Spirit, and if that possibility lights up a leaping flame of desire in our hearts which aspires towards the possession of such a gift, and if belief that our reception of that gift is possible because we trust ourselves to Jesus Christ, and longing that we may receive it, combine to produce the confident expectation that we shall, and if all of these combine to produce conduct which neither quenches nor grieves that divine Guest, then, and only then, shall we indeed be filled with the Spirit.

I know of no other way by which a man can receive God into his heart than by opening his heart for God to come in. I know of no other way by which a man can woo-if I may so say-the Divine Lover to enter into his spirit than by longing that He would come, waiting for His coming, expecting it, and being supremely blessed in the thought that such a union is possible. Faith, that is trust, with its appropriate and necessary sequels of desire and expectation and obedience, is the completing of the electric circuit, and after it the spark is sure to come. It is the opening of the windows, after which sunshine cannot but flood the chamber. It is the stretching out of the hand, and no man that ever, with love and longing, lifted an empty hand to God, dropped it still empty. And no man who, with penitence for his own act, and trust in the divine act, lifted blood-stained and foul hands to God, ever held them up there without the gory patches melting away, and becoming white as snow. Not ‘all the perfumes of Araby’ can sweeten those bloody hands. Lift them up to God, and they become pure. Whosoever wishes that he may, and believes that he shall, receive from Christ the fulness of the Spirit, will not be disappointed. Brethren, ‘Ye have not because ye ask not.’ ‘If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,’ shall not ‘your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?’

III. Lastly, if we are filled with the Spirit we shall be ‘full of wisdom, grace, and power.’

The Apostles seemed to think that it was a very important business to look after a handful of poor widows, and see that they had their fair share in the dispensing of the modest charity of the half-pauper Jerusalem church, when they said that for such a purely secular thing as that a man would need to be ‘full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.’ Surely, something a little less august might have served their turn to qualify men for such a task! ‘Wisdom’ here, I suppose, means practical sagacity, common sense, the power of picking out an impostor when she came whining for a dole. Very commonplace virtues! -but the Apostles evidently thought that such everyday operations of the understanding as these were not too secular and commonplace to owe their origin to the communication to men of the fulness of the Holy Spirit.

May we not take a lesson from that, that God’s great influences, when they come into a man, do not concern themselves only with great intellectual problems and the like, but that they will operate to make him more fit to do the most secular and the most trivial things that can be put into his hand to do? The Holy Ghost had to fill Stephen before he could hand out loaves and money to the widows in Jerusalem.

And do you not think that your day’s work, and your business perplexities, come under the same category? Perhaps the best way to secure understanding of what we ought to do, in regard to very small and secular matters, is to keep ourselves very near to God, with the windows of our hearts opened towards Jerusalem, that all the guidance and light that can come from Him may come into us. Depend upon it, unless we have God’s guidance in the trivialities of life, ninety per cent., ay! and more, of our lives will be without God’s guidance; because trivialities make up life. And unless my Father in heaven can guide me about what we, very mistakenly, call ‘secular’ things, and what we very vulgarly call trivial things, His guidance is not worth much. The Holy Ghost will give you wisdom for to-morrow, and all its little cares, as well as for the higher things, of which I am not going to speak now, because they do not come within my text.

‘Full of grace,’-that is a wide word, as I take it. If, by our faith, we have brought into our hearts that divine influence, the Spirit of God does not come empty-handed, but He communicates to us whatsoever things are lovely and of good report, whatsoever things are fair and honourable, whatsoever things in the eyes of men are worthy to be praised, and by the tongues of men have been called virtue. These things will all be given to us step by step, not without our own diligent co-operation, by that divine Giver. Effort without faith, and faith without effort, are equally incomplete, and the co-operation of the two is that which is blessed by God.

Then the things which are ‘gracious,’ that is to say, given by His love, and also gracious in the sense of partaking of the celestial beauty which belongs to all virtue, and to all likeness in character to God, these things will give us a strange, supernatural power amongst men. The word is employed in my third text, I presume, in its narrow sense of miracle-working power, but we may fairly widen it to something much more than that. Our Lord once said, when He was speaking about the gift of the Holy Spirit, that there were two stages in its operation. In the first, it availed for the refreshment and the satisfying of the desires of the individual; in the second it became, by the ministration of that individual, a source of blessing to others. He said, ‘If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink,’ and then, immediately, ‘He that believeth on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ That is to say, whoever lives in touch with God, having that divine Spirit in his heart, will walk amongst men the wielder of an unmistakable power, and will be able to bear witness to God, and move men’s hearts, and draw them to goodness and truth. The only power for Christian service is the power that comes from being clothed with God’s Spirit. The only power for self-government is the power that comes from being clothed with God’s Spirit. The only power which will keep us in the way that leads to life, and will bring us at last to the rest and the reward, is the power that comes from being clothed with God’s Spirit.

I am charged to all who hear me now with this message. Here is a gift offered to you. You cannot pare and batter at your own characters so as to make them what will satisfy your own consciences, still less what will satisfy the just judgment of God; but you can put yourself under the moulding influences of Christ’s love. Dear brethren, the one hope for dead humanity, the bones very many and very dry, is that from the four winds there should come the breath of God, and breathe in them, and they shall live, ‘an exceeding great army.’ Forget all else that I have been saying now, if you like, but take these two sentences to your hearts, and do not rest till they express your own personal experience; If I am to be good I must have God’s Spirit within me. If I am to have God’s Spirit within me, I must be ‘full of faith.’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.Look ye out - Select, or choose. As this was a matter pertaining to their own pecuniary affairs, it was proper that "they" should be permitted to choose such men as they could confide in. By this means the apostles would be free from all suspicions. It could not be pretended that "they" were partial, nor could it ever be charged on them that they wished to embezzle the funds by managing them themselves, or by entrusting them to men of their own selection. It follows from this, also, that the right of selecting "deacons" resides "in" the church, and does not pertain to the ministry. It is evidently proper that men who are to be entrusted with the alms of the church should be selected by the church itself.

Among you - That is, from among the Grecians and Hebrews, that there may be justice done, and no further cause of complaint.

Seven men - Seven was a sacred number among the Hebrews, but there does not appear to have been any "mystery" in choosing this number. It was a convenient number, sufficiently large to secure the faithful performance of the duty, and not so large as to cause confusion and embarrassment. It does not follow, however, that the same number is now to be chosen as deacons in a church, for the precise number is not commanded.

Of honest report - Of fair reputation; regarded as men of integrity. Greek: "testified of," or "bear witness to"; that is, whose characters were well known and fair.

Full of the Holy Ghost - This evidently does not mean endowed with miraculous gifts, or the power of speaking foreign languages, for such gifts were not necessary to the discharge of their office, but it means people who were eminently under the influence of the Holy Spirit, or who were of distinguished piety. This was all that was necessary in the case, and this is all that the words fairly imply.

And wisdom - Prudence, or skill, to make a wise and equable distribution. The qualifications of deacons are still further stated and illustrated in 1 Timothy 3:8-10. In this place it is seen that they must be people of eminent piety and fair character, and that they must possess "prudence," or wisdom, to manage the affairs connected with their office. These qualifications are indispensable to a faithful discharge of the duty entrusted to the officers of the church.

Whom we may appoint - Whom we may "constitute," or set over this business. The way in which this was done was by prayer and the imposition of hands, Acts 6:6. Though they were "selected" by the church, yet the power of ordaining them, or setting them apart, was retained by the apostles. Thus, the rights of "both" were preserved - the right of the church to designate those who should serve them in the office of deacon, and the right of the apostles to organize and establish the church with its appropriate officers; on the one hand, a due regard to the liberty and privileges of the Christian community, and, on the other, the security of proper respect for the office as being of apostolic appointment and authority.

Over this business - That is, over the distribution of the alms of the church - not to preach, or to govern the church, but solely to take care of the sacred funds of charity, and distribute them to supply the needs of the poor. The office is distinguished from that of "preaching" the gospel. To that the apostles were to attend. The deacons were expressly set apart to a different work, and to that work they should be confined. In this account of their original appointment, there is not the slightest intimation that they were to "preach," but the contrary is supposed in the whole transaction. Nor is there here the slightest intimation that they were regarded as an order of "clergy," or as in any way connected with the clerical office. In the ancient synagogues of the Jews there were three men to whom was entrusted the care of the poor. They were called by the Hebrews "parnasin" or "pastors" (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. et Talin.; Matthew 4:23). From these officers the apostles took the idea probably of appointing deacons in the Christian church, and doubtless intended that their duties should be the same.

3. look ye out among you—that is, ye, "the multitude," from among yourselves.

seven men of honest report—good reputation (Ac 10:22; 1Ti 3:7).

full of the Holy Ghost—not full of miraculous gifts, which would have been no qualification for the duties required, but spiritually gifted (although on two of them miraculous power did rest).

and wisdom—discretion, aptitude for practical business.

whom we may appoint—for while the election was vested in the Christian people, the appointment lay with the apostles, as spiritual rulers.

Look ye out among you seven men; as carefully and circumspectly as ye would in any cases of your own concerns.

Of honest report; a good direction, that obliges to this day, in all elections of any for the service of God and his church.

Full of the Holy Ghost; of the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, which were not bestowed on the apostles only.

And wisdom; or prudence, and skill in the word of God, which only is able to make a man wise unto salvation, 2 Timothy 3:15. Wherefore brethren look ye out among you,.... Or "choose out among you", as the Syriac version adds, and as the Arabic and Ethiopic versions render it; which shows that this sort of officers, deacons, must be members of the church, and of the same church to which they are ordained deacons; and that they must be chosen to that office by the whole community, or by the common suffrages and votes of the people. So the (b) Jews

"did not appoint (which may be rendered) "an overseer of the poor", in a congregation, without consulting the congregation;''

which officer seems pretty much to answer to a deacon.

Seven men, of honest report; why the number seven is fixed upon, perhaps no other solid reason is to be given, but that that number was judged sufficient for the care of the poor in that church, and at that time; nor is it obligatory on other churches to have just so many, neither more nor fewer; for such officers are to be chosen as the church requires: perhaps some regard might be had to "the seven good men of the (c) city" among the Jews, who had great authority in their synagogues, and who had power to sell them, when old and useless; and who seem, according to Maimonides (d), to be the elders of the people. It is necessary that this sort of officers in the church should be men "of honest report"; that have a good testimony both from within the church and without, of their honesty and fidelity; since they are intrusted with the church's stock, and have the care of many devolved upon them: so the collectors of alms among the Jews were to be men , "known and faithful" (e); men of known probity and integrity: and, besides this good and honest report they were to have from others, they were also to be men

full of the Holy Ghost, of wisdom; they were to be men, not only that had the Spirit of God in them, but who were eminent for their rich experiences of grace; and who had superior gifts of the Spirit, whereby they were capable both of defending the truth against opposers, and of speaking a word of exhortation to duty, or of comfort under distress, or of reproof to members, as circumstances required; and it may be at this time when the church consisted of some of all nations, as seems from Acts 2:9 it might be necessary that they should have the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, especially that of speaking with divers tongues, that they might be able to converse with persons of different languages: and "wisdom" is highly requisite in them, that they may be good economists of the church's stock, and dispose of it in the most prudent manner: and conduct themselves agreeably to the different tempers and spirits of men they have to do with, and especially in composing differences among members.

Whom we may appoint over this business; assign or make over that part of their office to them, which hitherto they had exercised, and install them into it, and invest them with it.

(b) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 55. 1.((c) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 26. 2. & 27. 1.((d) In Misu. Megilla, c. 3. sect. 2.((e) Maimon. Hilchot Mattanot Anayim, c. 9. sect. 1.

{3} Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

(3) In choosing deacons (and much more in choosing ministers) there must be an examination of both their learning and their manners of life.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 6:3. Accordingly (οὖν), as we, the apostles, can no longer undertake this business of distribution, look ye out, i.e. direct your attention to test and select, etc.

ἑπτά] the sacred number.

σοφίας] quite in the usual practical sense: wisdom, which determines the right agency in conformity with the recognised divine aim. With a view to this required condition of fulness of the Spirit and of wisdom, the men to be selected from the midst of the church were to be attested, i.e. were to have the corresponding testimony of the church in their favour. Comp. Acts 16:2 and on Luke 4:22; Dion. Hal. Ant. ii. 26.

οὓς καταστήσομεν ἐπὶ τῆς χρείας ταύτης] whom we (the apostles) will appoint[177] (when they are chosen) over the business in question (on ἐπί with the genitive, in the sense of official appointment over something, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 474; Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. iii. 3. 2). This officium, ministration (see Wetstein and Schweighäuser, Lex. Polyb. p. 665), is just that, of which the distributing to the widows was an essential and indeed the chief part, namely, the care of the poor in the church, not merely as to its Hellenistic portion (Vitringa, de Synag. ii. 2. 5, Mosheim, Heinrichs, Kuinoel). The limitation to the latter would presuppose the existence of a special management of the poor already established for the Hebrew portion, without any indication of it in the text; nor is it supported by the Hellenic names of the persons chosen (Acts 6:5), as such names at that time were very common also among the Hebrews. Consequently the hypothesis, that pure Hellenists were appointed by the impartiality of the Hebrews (Rothe, de Wette, Thiersch, Kirche im apost. Zeitalt. p. 75), is entirely arbitrary; as also is the supposition of Gieseler (Kirchengesch. I. sec. 25, note 7), that three Hebrews and three Hellenists (and one proselyte) were appointed; although the chosen were doubtless partly Hebrews and partly Hellenists.

Observe, moreover, how the right to elect was regarded by the apostles as vested in the church, and the election itself was performed by the church, but the appointment and consecration were completed by the apostles; the requisite qualifications, moreover, of those to be elected are defined by the apostles.[178] From this first regular overseership of alms, the mode of appointment to which could not but regulate analogically the practice of the church, was gradually developed the diaconate, which subsequently underwent further elaboration (Php 1:1).[179] It remains an open question whether the overseers corresponded to the גַבַּאִים of the synagogue[180] (Vitringa; on the other side Rhenfeld, see Wolf, Curae).

τῇ διακονίᾳ τοῦ λόγου] correlate contrasting with the διακονεῖν τραπέζαις in Acts 6:2.[181] The apostolic working was to be separated from the office of overseer; while, on the other hand, the latter was by no means to exclude other Christian work in the measure of existing gifts, as the very example of Stephen (Acts 6:8-10) shows; comp. on Acts 8:5.

[177] The opposite of καταστήσ. ἐπὶ τῆς χρ. (comp. 1Ma 10:37) is: μεταστήσασθαι ἀπὸ τῆς χρ., Polyb. iv. 87. 9; 1Ma 11:63.

[178] Comp. Holtzm. Judenth. u. Christenth. p. 613 f.

[179] But the assumption that “the institution of the so-called deacons was originally one and the same with the presbyterate, and that only at a later period it ramified into the distinction between the presbyterate in the narrower sense and the diaconate”(Lange, apost. Zeitalt. II. p. 75, after J. H. Böhmer; comp. also Lechler, p. 306), is not to be proved by Acts 11:30. See in loc. Ritschl, altkathol. K. p. 355 ff., thinks it very probable that the authority of the Seven was the first shape of the office of presbyter afterwards emerging in Jerusalem. So also Holtzmann, l.c. p. 616. Similarly Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 142, according to whom the presbyters stepped into the place of the Seven and took upon them their duties. But the office of presbyter was still at that time vested in the apostles themselves; accordingly, the essential and necessary difference of the two functions was from the very first the regulative point of view. The presbyterate retained the oversight and guidance of the diaconate (Php 1:1); comp. also Acts 11:30; but the latter sprang, by reason of the emerging exigency, from the former, not the converse.

[180] As Leyrer, in Herzog’s Encykl. XV. p. 313, thinks. The ecclesiastical over-seership arose out of the higher need and interest of the new present, but the synagogal office might serve as a model that offered itself historically. The requirements for the latter office pointed merely to “well-known trustworthy” men.

[181] Observe, however, that it is not said: τῇ διαχονίᾳ τῆς προσευχῆς καὶ τοῦ λόγου, and therefore it is not to be inferred from our passage, with Ahrens (Amt d. Schlüssel, p. 37 f.), that by τῇ προσευχῇ a part of “the office of the keys” is meant. See, in opposition to this, Düsterdieck in the Stud. u. Krit. 1865, p. 762 f.Acts 6:3. ἐπισκέψασθε οὖν: the verb, though frequently used by St. Luke in both his writings, is not elsewhere used in the sense of this verse, “look ye out,” cf. σκέπτεσθαι in Genesis 41:33.—μαρτυρουμένους, cf. Hebrews 11:2; Hebrews 11:39; Hebrews cf.4, 5, and 1 Timothy 5:10, Acts 10:22; Acts 22:12, also Acts 16:2; cf. its use also in Clem. Rom., Cor[193], Acts 17:1; Acts 18:1, etc.; Ignat., Phil., xi., 1; Ephes., xii. 2. See also the interesting parallels in Deissmann, Neue Bibelstudien, p. 93. In Jos., Ant., iii., 2, 5, and xv., 10, 5, it is used as here, but of hostile testimony in Matthew 23:31, John 18:23.—ἑπτὰ: why was the number chosen? Various answers have been given to the question: (1) that the number was fixed upon because of the seven gifts of the Spirit, Isaiah 11:2, Revelation 1:4; (2) that the number was appointed with regard to the different elements of the Church: three Hellenists, three Hebrews, one Proselyte; (3) that the number was regulated by the fact that the Jerusalem of that day may have been divided into seven districts; (4) that the number was suggested by the Hebrew sacred number—seven; (5) Zöckler thinks that there is no hypothesis so probable as that the small Jerusalem ἐκκλησίαι κατʼ οἶκον were seven in number, each with its special worship, and its special business connected with alms-giving and distribution—alms-giving closely related to the Eucharist or to the Love-Feasts; (6) the derivation of the number from Roman usage on the analogy of the septemviri epulones advocated by Dean Plumptre, officials no doubt well known to the Libertini (see also B.D.2 “Deacon,” and the remarks of Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 375, on Roman organisation and its value). This is far more probable than that there should be any connection between the appointment of the Seven and the two heathen inscriptions quoted by Dr. Hatch (Bampton Lectures, p. 50, note 56), in which the word διάκονος is used of the assistants in the ritual of sacrificial and temple feasts at Anactorium in Acarnania and Metropolis in Lydia (see on the other hand, Hort, Ecclesia, p. 210), for in the incident before us the word διάκονος is not used at all, and later in the history, Acts 21:8, Philip is described not by that title but as one of the Seven. Nor is there any real likeness to be found between the office assigned to the Seven and that of the Chazzan or officer of the Jewish synagogue (ὑπηρέτης, Luke 4:20), who corresponded rather to our parish-clerk or verger, and whose duties were confined to the synagogue; a nearer Jewish parallel is to be found in the צְדָקָה גִּבָּאֵי, collectors of alms, but these officers would rather present a parallel to the tax-gatherers than to those who ministered to the poor (see “Deacon” in Hastings, B.D.). Whilst, however, these analogies in Jewish offices fail us, we stand on much higher ground if we may suppose that as our Lord’s choice of the Twelve was practically the choice of a number sacred in its associations for every Israelite, so the number Seven may have been adopted from its sacredness in Jewish eyes, and thus side by side with the sacred Apostolic College there existed at this period another College, that of the Seven. What was the nature of the office? Was it the Diaconate in the modern sense of the term? But, as we have noted above, the Seven are never called Deacons, and therefore it has been thought that we have here a special office to meet a special need, and that the Seven were rather the prototypes of the later archdeacons, or corresponded to the elders who are mentioned in Acts 11:30 and Acts 14:23. On the other hand St. Luke, from the prominence given to the narrative, may fairly be regarded as viewing the institution of the office as establishing a new departure, and not as an isolated incident, and the emphasis is characteristic of an historian who was fond of recording “beginnings” of movements. The earliest Church tradition speaks of Stephen and Nicolas as ordained to the diaconate, Iren., Adv. Haer., i., 26; iv., 15, and the same writer speaks of Stephen as “the first deacon,” Acts 3:12; cf. also the testimony of St. Cyprian, Epist., 3, 3, and the fact that for centuries the Roman Church continued to restrict the number of deacons to seven (Cornelius, ap. Euseb. H. E., vi., 43). It is quite true that the first mention of διάκονοι in the N.T. (although both διακονία and διακονεῖν are used in the passage before us) is not found until Php 1:1, but already a deaconess had been mentioned in writing to the Church at Rome (Acts 16:1, where Phœbe is called διάκονος), in the Church at Philippi the office had evidently become established and familiar, and it is reasonable to assume that the institution of the Seven at Jerusalem would have been well known to St. Paul and to others outside Palestine, “and that analogous wants might well lead to analogous institutions” (Hort, and to the same effect, Gore, The Church and its Ministry, p. 403). But if the Seven were thus the prototypes of the deacons, we must remember that as the former office though primarily ordained for helping the Apostles in distribution of alms and in works of mercy was by no means confined to such duties, but that from the very first the Seven were occupied in essentially spiritual work, so the later diaconate was engaged in something far different from mere charity organisation; there were doubtless qualifications demanded such as might be found in good business men of tact and discretion, but there were also moral and spiritual qualities which to a great extent were required of the διάκονοι no less than of the πρεσβύτεροι and ἐπίσκοποι: there was the holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, there was the moral and spiritual courage which would enable the διάκονοι to gain even in the pursuit of their διακονία “great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus,” 1 Timothy 3:13 (Moberly, Ministerial Priesthood, p. 138 ff.); see also on the whole subject, Felten, Apostelgeschichte, p. 139 ff.; Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte, p. 206 ff.; Lightfoot, Philippians, “Dissertation on the Christian Ministry,” and Real-Encyclopädie für protest. Theol. und Kirche (Hauck), “Diakonen” (Heft 38, 1898).—σοφίας: practical wisdom, prudentia, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:5 (Blass, so Grimm); in Acts 6:10 the use of the word is different, but in both places σοφία is referred to the Spirit, “it is not simply spiritual men, but full of the Spirit and of wisdom … for what profits it that the dispenser of alms speak not, if nevertheless he wastes all, or be harsh and easily provoked?” Chrys., Hom., xiv.—οὒς καταστήσομεν (on the reading whom ye, which was exhibited in some few editions of A.V., see Speaker’s Commentary, in loco): the appointment, the consecration, and the qualifications for it, depend upon the Apostles—the verb implies at all events an exercise of authority if it has no technical force, cf. Titus 1:5. The same shade of meaning is found in classical writers and in the LXX in the use of the verb with the genitive, with ἐπί, sometimes with a dative, sometimes with an accusative: Genesis 39:4; Genesis 41:41, Exodus 2:14; Exodus 18:21, Numbers 3:10, Nehemiah 12:44, Daniel 2:48-49, 1Ma 6:14; cf. its use in Luke 12:14; Luke 12:42; Luke 12:44. The opposite is expressed by μεταστήσασθαι ἀπὸ τῆς χρ., Polyb., iv., 87, 9; 1Ma 11:63 (Wendt).—χρείας: the word might mean need in the sense of necessity, Latin opus, want, 2 Chronicles 2:16, Wis 13:16, 1Ma 3:28, or it might mean business, Latin negotium, officium. In the LXX it seems to be employed in both senses, as also in classical writers, but here both A. and R.V. render “business” (so in Polybius), cf. Jdt 12:10 [194] [195]., 1Ma 10:37; 1Ma 11:63; 1Ma 12:45 (χρεία is found no less than eight times in 1 Macc., seven times in 2 Macc., once in 3 Macc.); see Wetstein for uses of the word in Philo and Josephus.

[193] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[194] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[195] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.3. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you] The word wherefore should according to the best MSS. be but, and the end of the sentence should be “from among you.”

seven men of honest report] Lit. attested, i.e. well reported of (as 1 Timothy 5:10). It is rendered “of good report” below (Acts 10:22).

The number seven was no doubt fixed on because that was the number of persons chosen to manage public business in Jewish towns. See Mishna Megillah iii. 1, “The men of the city who dispose of city marketplaces may buy with the price thereof a synagogue, or if they sell a synagogue, they may buy an ark (to keep the Law in), or if they sell an ark, they may buy wrappers (the ornamental and costly covers in which the Law was rolled) for the Law, and if they sell these wrappers they may buy books (i.e. the Prophets and the Hagiographa), and if they sell books they may buy a copy of the Torah, but if they have sold a Torah they may not buy books,” and so on in the contrary order.

On this ordinance it is said, T. B. Megillah 26 a, “Raba says, This is only applicable when the seven good men of the city sell anything in the presence of the men of the city.”

full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom] The best MSS. omit holy. Read, “full of the Spirit, &c.” They were to be approved both by God and man. Men could judge of their wisdom, and God had in these days shed forth the Spirit on many.

whom we may appoint over this business] While leaving to the assembled brethren the selection of the men, the Apostles keep some control still with themselves. They certainly would judge best concerning the spiritual fitness of the chosen seven.Acts 6:3. Μαρτυρουμένους, testified of as to character) Against whom no suspicion of wrongful dealing militated, although there was no need of an oath, a giving of security, or written bond, etc. Comp. 2 Kings 12:15; 2 Kings 22:7. After the example given in Ananias, who was so severely punished in a case affecting his own property, no one would be so (very) ready to break faith in the case of the property of another.—ἑπτὰ, seven) These were appointed, not at the beginning, but after the apostles, and by the apostles. In the government of the Church, GOD has left many things to be settled according as the successive occasions (times) may require; but the Church ought to establish nothing without God. There had been about five thousand men; ch. Acts 4:4; now, with the additions that were made in the meantime, such a number was made up, as that there should be a deacon apiece for the care of the several thousands [viz. seven.].—πλήρεις, full) It is no unimportant matter to dispense the property of the Church. Even in a quæstor (one in charge of the public revenues) and in a deacon, as such, there ought to be administrative and sanctifying gifts. [To wit, ecclesiastical goods are not to be regarded as a spoil, but are to be administered in a spiritual manner, and in such a way as those seven, or as even the apostles themselves, if they were still alive, would use them. God Himself will at some time require an account.—V. g.]—καταστήσομεν) The Indicative, as in 1 Corinthians 6:5; Ephesians 6:16,[44] etc.; Php 2:20.

[44] δυνήσεσθε, for ye may be able. Often, from the objective character of the Greek mind, that is stated positively in the Indic., which more strictly should be stated dependently in the Subjunctive. So in the Greek Testament, in the case of command, or exhortation, or assertion. Here the apostles, speaking authoritatively, use καταστήσομεν for καταστήσωμεν. The latter would have made their act too much dependent on the initiative act of the brethren.—E. and T.Verse 3. - Look ye out therefore, brethren, from for wherefore, brethren, look ye out, A.V.; good for honest, A.V.; Spirit for Holy Ghost, A.V. and T.R.; of wisdom for wisdom, A.V. Good report; literally, borne witness to; i.e. well spoken cf. So in Hebrews 11:5 it is said of Enoch that "he had witness borne to him that he pleased God," and in Hebrews 11:4 of Abel that "he had witness borne to him that he was righteous;" and so in Acts 10:22 Cornelius is said to be a man "well reported of by all the nation of the Jews." In Acts 16:2 Timothy is said to be "well reported of (ἐμαρτυρεῖτο) by the brethren." The Spirit. The number seven was, perhaps, fixed upon with reference to the exigencies of the service, some think because there were seven tables to be supplied; and partly perhaps from seven being the sacred number, the number of completeness - seven Churches, seven spirits, seven stars, seven children (1 Samuel 2:5), seven times (Psalm 119:164). From seven having been the number of the first deacons arose the custom in some Churches of always having seven deacons, which continued some centuries in the Church of Rome. One of the Canons of the Council of Neo-caesarea (An). 314) enacted that "there ought to be but seven deacons in any city," and St. Mark is said to have ordained seven deacons at Alexandria (see Bingham, 'Christ. Antia' vol. 1. p. 232). But the needs of the Churches gradually superseded all such restrictions. Whom we may appoint. The multitude elect, the apostles appoint. The apostolate appears as the sole ministry of the Church at first. From the apostolate is evolved first the diaconate, afterwards the presbyterate, as the need for each arose (Acts 14:23). Of good report (μαρτυρουμένους)

Lit., attested, having witness borne them.

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