But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.—Literally, We will persevere in . . . These formed the true work of the Apostles, as afterwards of the bishops or elders of the Church. “Prayer” includes the public worship of the Church in all its various developments, as well as private prayer and intercession; the “ministry of the word,” all forms of teaching.
It is to be noted that the men thus appointed are never called “deacons” in the New Testament. When they are referred to again it is as “the Seven” (Acts 21:8), as though they were a distinct and peculiar body. Their functions were, of course, in some degree, analogous to those of the “deacons” of the Pastoral Epistles and the later organisation of the Church; but these, as we have seen, had their prototypes in the “young men,” as contrasted with “elders,” in Acts 5:6; Acts 5:10; and the Seven were probably appointed, so to speak, as archdeacons, to superintend and guide them. In some churches, as at Rome, the number of deacons was fixed at seven, in conformity with this precedent (so also at the Council of Neo-Cæsarea, Can. 14, A.D. 314), and they were considered, when the bishop came to be distinguished from the elders, as acting more immediately under the direction of the former, helping him in the details of his office.Acts 1:14. It means that the apostles designed to make this their constant and main object, undistracted by the cares of life, and even by attention to the temporal needs of the church.
To prayer - Whether this means "private" or "public" prayer cannot be certainly determined. The passage, however, would rather incline us to suppose that the "latter" was meant, as it is immediately connected with preaching. If so, then the phrase denotes that they would give themselves to the duties of their office, one part of which was public prayer, and another preaching. Still it is to be believed that the apostles felt the need of secret prayer, and practiced it, as preparatory to their public preaching.
And to the ministry of the word - To preaching the gospel, or communicating the message of eternal life to the world. The word "ministry" διακονία diakonia properly denotes the employment of a "servant," and is given to the preachers of the gospel because they are employed in this as the "servants" of God and of the church. We have here a view of what the apostles thought to be the proper work of the ministry. They were set apart to this work. It was their main, their only employment. To this their lives were to be devoted, and both by their example and their writings they have shown that it was on this principle they acted. Compare 1 Timothy 4:15-16; 2 Timothy 4:2. It follows also that if their time and talents were to be wholly devoted to this work, it was reasonable that they should receive competent support from the churches, and this reasonable claim is often urged. See the 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 notes; Galatians 6:6 note.We will give ourselves continually; we will stick close, and with perseverance, to this work.
To prayer, and to the ministry of the word; the two great employs of a minister of Jesus Christ; to pray unto God for the people, and to speak unto the people from the Lord: these, though great businesses, they durst not delegate from themselves unto others to perform for them.
and to the ministry of the word; the preaching of the Gospel, to which prayer is absolutely prerequisite, and with which it is always to be joined. These two, prayer and preaching, are the principal employment of a Gospel minister, and are what he ought to be concerned in, not only now and then, but what he should give himself up unto wholly, that his profiting might appear; and what he should be continually exercised and employed in: and if parting with that branch of the ministerial function, the care of the secular affairs of the church, and of the poor of it, was necessary in the apostles, that they might be more at leisure to attend to the more important and useful duties of prayer and preaching; it therefore seems necessary that those who are called to labour in the word and doctrine, if possible, should be exempt from all worldly business and employment; that of the ministry being sufficient to engross all a man's time and thoughts.But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 6:4. ἡμεῖς δὲ: in marked contrast to the service of tables, etc., but still every work in the Church, whether high or low, was a διακονία.—τῇ διακ. τοῦ λ., see above.—προσκαρτερήσομεν, “will continue steadfastly,” R.V., see above on Acts 1:14.—τῇ προσ., “the prayer” (Hort); the article seems to imply not only private prayer and intercession, but the public prayer of the Church.4. But we will give ourselves continually] The Greek word is used several times in describing the earnest conduct of the disciples. Thus (Acts 1:14) “these all continued with one accord in prayer,” and (Acts 2:42) “they continued stedfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine.” So Acts 2:46, and St Paul employs it (Romans 12:12), “continuing instant in prayer.”
to prayer, and to the ministry of the word] Which explains what is meant by “leave the word of God” in Acts 6:2. Here again we have the word diakonia to describe the Apostle’s duty of preaching and teaching. Each office was, if duly performed, a part of the service which was laid upon the whole Church. Cp. Milton, Sonnet xix. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”Acts 6:4. Τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ τῇ διακονίᾳ τοῦ λόγου, to prayer and the ministry of the word) Prayer takes precedency of the ministry of the word.—προσκαρτερήσομεν, we will give ourselves continually to) We will make these our sole pursuit. These are most noble functions, which no bishop can delegate to another, as though he himself were intent on more important matters.Verse 4. - Continue steadfastly in for give ourselves continually to, A.V.; in (the ministry) for to, A.V. Steadfastly. The verb προσκαρτερέω is of frequent use in the Acts (see Acts 1:14; Acts 2:42; 5:46; 8:13; x. 7; see also Colossians 4:2). It is used of persons and things to which any one adheres closely and perseveringly, which are put in the dative case, as here. But sometimes it has the prepositions ἐν or εἰς after it, as in Acts 5:46; Hist. of Susann. 7; Romans 13:6. Ver. 5. - Holy Spirit for Holy Ghost, A.V. The mention of Stephen, and the narrative which follows leading up from Stephen's martyrdom to St. Paul (Acts 7:60), show to what the writer is tending. He selects the incidents in the history of the Church at Jerusalem which connect themselves most directly with that after history which was the object he had in view. It has been thought by some that the Greek character of all seven names is an indication that they were Hellenists. Such a conclusion, however, is not warranted, as many Jews who were not Hellenists had Greek or Latin names, e.g. Paul, Sylvanus, Aquila, Priscilla, Marcus, Justus, Petrus, Didymus, etc. At the same time, it is likely that some of them were. One, Nicolas, was a proselyte. The object, doubtless, was to ensure perfect fairness of distribution of the Church charities. Stephen and Philip (Acts 8:5, etc.; Acts 21:8) are the only two of whom we know anything beyond their names.
See on Acts 1:14. Rev., continue steadfastly.
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