Acts 6:6
Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
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(6) When they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.—This is the first mention of the act in the New Testament. It had had an analogous meaning in the ritual of Israel (Numbers 27:23) in acts of blessing (Genesis 48:13-14) and the transmission of functions. Its primary symbolism would seem to be that of the concentration for the moment of all the spiritual energy of prayer upon him on whom men lay their hands; and so of the bestowal of any office for which spiritual gifts are required. It had been used in the Jewish schools on the admission of a scribe to his office as a teacher. It soon became the customary outward and visible sign of such bestowal (Acts 13:3). Instruction as to what it thus meant entered into the primary teaching of all converts (Hebrews 6:2). It was connected with other acts that pre-supposed the communication of a spiritual gift (1Timothy 5:22). Through well-nigh all changes of polity and dogma and ritual, it has kept its place with Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, among the unchanging witnesses of the Church’s universality and permanence, witnessing, as in Confirmation, to the diversity of spiritual gifts, and, as in Ordination, to their connection with every special office and administration in the Church of God.

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.And when they had prayed - Invoking in this manner the blessing of God to attend them in the discharge of the duties of their office.

They laid their hands ... - Among the Jews it was customary to lay hands on the head of a person who was set apart to any particular office, Numbers 27:18; Compare Acts 8:19. This was done, not to impart any power or ability, but to "designate" that they received their authority or commission from those who thus laid their hands on them, as the act of laying hands on the sick by the Saviour was an act signifying that the power of healing came from him, Matthew 9:18; compare Mark 16:18. In such cases the laying on of the hands conveyed of itself no healing power, but was a sign or token that the power came from the Lord Jesus. Ordination has been uniformly performed in this way. See 1 Timothy 5:22. Though the seven deacons had been chosen by the church to this work, yet they derived their immediate commission and authority from the apostles.

6. when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them—the one proclaiming that all official gifts flowed from the Church's glorified Head, the other symbolizing the communication of these to the chosen office-bearers through the recognized channels. When they had prayed; prayer is the salt which seasoneth and sanctifieth all things.

They laid their hands on them; a rite used in the church of old,

1. In their sacrifices, Exodus 29:15;

2. In their blessings, Genesis 48:143. In their designations unto a charge or office; thus Moses on Joshua, Numbers 27:18:

and from thence it was more easily derived unto the gospel church; our Saviour blessing thus the children which were brought unto him, Matthew 19:13; and this also were ministers ordained in the primitive times, 1 Timothy 5:22.

Whom they set before the apostles,.... They did not barely nominate and propose them to them, but they brought them into their presence, and placed them before them, as the persons whom they had chosen, in order to be ordained by them.

And when they had prayed; for these seven men set before them, that they might appear to be richly qualified for this office, and might honourably and faithfully discharge it, to the peace of themselves, the advantage of the church, and the glory of God:

they laid their hands on them; that is, they ordained them, they installed them into their office, and invested them with it, using the rite or ceremony of laying on of hands, which was used by the apostles for the conferring of gifts, and in benedictions, and at the ordination of officers; and seems to be borrowed from the Jews, who used, it at the creation of doctors among them, and at the promotion of them to that dignity; and which they call or ordination by imposition of hands; though that rite was not looked upon to be essentially necessary: for so they say (f),

"ordination or promotion to doctorship is not necessarily done, "by the hand", as Moses did to Joshua, but even "by word" only; it was enough to say, I ordain thee, or be thou ordained or promoted.''

(f) Juchasin, fol. 60. 1.

{4} Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they {e} laid their hands on them.

(4) The ancient Church, with the laying on of hands, as it were consecrated to the Lord those who were lawfully elected.

(e) This ceremony of the laying on of hands came from the Jews, who used this ceremony both in public affairs, and in the offering of sacrifices, and also in private prayers and blessings, as appears in Ge 48:13-22; and the Church also observed this ceremony, as is evident from 1Ti 5:22; Ac 8:17. However, there is no mention made here either of cream, or shaving, or razing, or crossing, etc.

Acts 6:6.[182] And after they (the apostles) had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

καί is the simple copula, whereupon the subject changes without carrying out the periodic construction (see Buttm. neut. Gr. p. 116 [E. T. 132]). It is otherwise in Acts 1:24. The idea that the overseers of the church (comp. on Acts 13:3) form the subject, to which Hoelemann is inclined, has this against it, that at that time, when the body of the apostles still stood at the head of the first church, no other presiding body was certainly as yet instituted. The diaconate was the first organization, called forth by the exigency that in the first instance arose.

The imposition of hands (סמיכת ידים, Vitringa, Synag. p. 836 ff.), as a symbol exhibiting the divine communication of power and grace, was employed from the time of Moses (Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9; Ewald, Alterth. p. 57 f.) as a special theocratic consecration to office. So also in the apostolic church, without, however, its already consummating admission to any sharply defined order (comp. 1 Timothy 5:22). The circumstance that the necessary gifts (comp. here Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5) of the person in question were already known to exist (Ritschl, altkath. Kirche, p. 387) does not exclude the special bestowal of official gifts, which was therein contemplated; seeing that elsewhere, even in the case of those who have the Spirit, there yet ensues a special and higher communication.

Observe, moreover, that here also (comp. Acts 8:17, Acts 13:3) the imposition of hands occurs after prayer,[183] and therefore it was not a mere symbolic accompaniment of prayer,[184] without collative import, and perhaps only a “ritus ordini et decoro congruens” (Calvin). Certainly its efficacy depended only on God’s bestowal, but it was associated with the act representing this bestowal as the medium of the divine communication.

[182] See, on the imposition of hands, Bauer in the Stud. u. Krit. 1865, p. 343 ff.; Hoelemann in his neue Bibelstud. 1866, p. 282 ff., where also the earlier literature, p. 283, is noted.

[183] Luke has not expressed himself in some such way as this: καὶ ἐπιθέντες αὐτοῖς τὰς χεῖρας προσηύξαντο.

[184] This also in opposition to Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 144.

Acts 6:6. ἔστησαν, cf. Acts 1:23; for ἐνώπιον, see above.—καὶ προσευξάμενοι ἐπέθηκαν αὐτοῖς τὰς χεῖρας: change of subject. This is the first mention of the laying on of hands in the Apostolic Church. No doubt the practice was customary in the Jewish Church, Numbers 27:18, Deuteronomy 34:9; see also Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 281, and Jesus the Messiah, ii., 382, and Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie, ii., 6, pp. 882–886, “Ordinirung, Ordination”; Hort, Ecclesia, p. 216; Gore, Church and the Ministry, pp. 187, 382; but the constant practice of it by our Lord Himself was sufficient to recommend it to His Apostles. It soon became the outward and visible sign of the bestowal of spiritual gifts in the Apostolic Church, cf. Acts 8:15; Acts 13:3, 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6, and every convert was instructed in its meaning as one of the elementary teachings of the faith, Hebrews 6:2. That the act was a means of grace is evident from St. Paul’s words, for he reminds Timothy of the grace thus bestowed upon him, 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6, and from the narrative of St. Luke in Acts 8:15; Acts 8:17, and passages below. But that it was not a mere outward act dissociated from prayer is evident from St. Luke’s words in the passage before us, in Acts 8:17, Acts 13:3, and Acts 19:6. See especially Hooker, v., lxvi., 1, 2; see below in 8 and 13, and Gore, Church and the Ministry, especially note G. Holtzmann would draw a distinction between the laying on of hands here and in Acts 8:17, Acts 19:6. Here, he contends, it only corresponds to the customary usage at the ordination of a Rabbi, as the Seven had already received the Holy Ghost, Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5, cf. Acts 13:1. But Acts 6:8 undoubtedly justifies us in believing that an accession of power was granted after the laying on of hands, and now for the first time mention is made of St. Stephen’s τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα μεγάλα (see St. Chrysostom’s comment).

6. whom they set before the apostles] That they might confirm, as they had proposed to do, the selection made by the whole congregation.

they laid their hands on them] As a solemn dedication of them to the work for which they had been chosen. Cf. Numbers 27:18; Numbers 27:23.

Acts 6:6. Προσευξάμενοι, having prayed) viz. the apostles. The subject of the former verb, they set, is different from that of the latter, they (the apostles) laid hands; so ch. Acts 8:17.

Verse 6. - When they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. They did not pray without imposition of hands, nor did they lay hands on them without prayer. So in the sacraments, in confirmation, and ordination, the outward sign or rite is accompanied by prayer for the thing signified. And God's grace is given through the sacrament or rite in answer to the prayer of faith (see Acts 8:15, and the Office for Baptism, the Prayer of Consecration in the Office for Holy Communion, and the Confirmation and Ordination Services). (For the laying on of hands as a mode of conveying a special grace and blessing, see Numbers 27:3; Deuteronomy 34:9; Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 4:40; Acts 8:17; Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 5:22; Hebrews 6:2.) Acts 6:6
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