Acts 6:7
And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) The word of God increased.—The tense indicates gradual and continuous growth. The fact stated implies more than the increase of numbers specified in the next clause. The “word of God” is here the whole doctrine of Christ as preached by the Apostles, and, we must now add, by the Seven who are commonly known as Deacons, and there was, as the sequel shows, at this stage, what we have learnt to call an expansion and development of doctrine.

A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.—The fact is every way significant. No priest is named as a follower of our Lord’s. None, up to this time, had been converted by the Apostles. The new fact may fairly be connected with the new teaching of Stephen. And the main feature of that teaching was, as we shall see, an anticipation of what was afterwards proclaimed more clearly by St. Paul and (if we assign the Epistle to the Hebrews to its probable author) by Apollos: that the time for sacrifices had passed away, and that the Law, as a whole, and the ritual of the Temple in particular, were decaying and waxing old, and ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:13). We might have thought this likely to repel the priests, and to rouse them to a fanatic frenzy. We find that it attracts them as nothing else had attracted. To them, it may well have been, that daily round of a ritual of slaughtered victims and clouds of incense, the cutting-up of the carcases and the carriage of the offal, had become unspeakably wearisome. They felt how profitless it was to their own spiritual life, how little power there was in the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). Their profession of the new faith did not necessarily involve the immediate abandonment of their official function; but they were drifting to it as to a not far-off result, and were prepared to meet it without misgiving, perhaps with thankfulness, when it became inevitable.

Acts 6:7. And the word of God increased — The matter of the complaint, and other hinderances being thus removed, and the apostles more entirely at leisure to attend to the great and peculiar duties of their office, the success of the word increased, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem was, σφοδρα, very much augmented; and a great company — Greek, πολυς οχλος, a great crowd, or multitude, of the priests were obedient to the faith — That is, they embraced the doctrine of the gospel, and evinced the sincerity of their faith in it, by a cheerful compliance with all its rules and precepts.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 the word of God increased - That is, the gospel was more and more successful, or became more mighty and extensive in its influence. An instance of this success is immediately added.

And a great company of the priests - A great "multitude." This is recorded justly as a remarkable instance of the power of the gospel. How great this company was is not mentioned, but the number of the priests in Jerusalem was very great; and their conversion was a striking proof of the power of truth. It is probable that they had been opposed to the gospel with quite as much hostility as any other class of the Jews. And it is now mentioned, as worthy of special record, that the gospel was sufficiently mighty to humble even the proud, and haughty, and selfish, and envious priests to the foot of the cross. One design of the gospel is to evince the power of truth in subduing all classes of people; and hence, in the New Testament we have the record of its having actually subdued every class to the obedience of faith. Some mss., however, here instead of "priests" read Jews. This reading is followed in the Syriac version.

Were obedient to the faith - The word "faith" here is evidently put for the "Christian religion." Faith is one of the main requirements of the gospel Mark 16:16, and by a figure of speech is put for the gospel itself. To become "obedient to the faith," therefore, is to obey the requirements of the gospel, particularly what requires us to "believe." Compare Romans 10:16. By the accession of the "priests" also no small part of the reproach would be taken away from the gospel, that it made converts only among the lower classes of the people. Compare John 7:48.

7. word of God increased … disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly—prosperity crowning the beautiful spirit which reigned in this mother community.

a great company of the priests were obedient, &c.—This was the crowning triumph of the Gospel, whose peaceful prosperity was now at its greatest height. After Stephen's teaching and trial made it clear that sacerdotal interests could not stand with the Gospel, such priestly accessions became rare indeed. Note (1) how easily misunderstandings may arise among the most loving and devoted followers of the Lord Jesus: but (2) How quickly and effectually such misunderstandings may be healed, where honest intentions, love, and wisdom reign: (3) What a beautiful model for imitation is furnished by the class here complained of, who, though themselves the majority, chose the new office-bearers from amongst the complaining minority! (4) How superior to the lust of power do the apostles here show themselves to be, in not only divesting themselves of the immediate superintendence of temporal affairs in the Christian community, but giving the choice of those who were to be entrusted with it to the disciples at large! (5) How little of formal organization did the apostles give to the Church at first, and when an emergency arose which demanded something more, how entirely was the remedy suggested by the reason of the thing! (6) Though the new office-bearers are not expressly called Deacons here, it is universally admitted that this was the first institution of that order in the Church; the success of the expedient securing its permanency, and the qualifications for "the office of a Deacon" being laid down in one of the apostolical Epistles immediately after those of "a Bishop" (1Ti 3:8-13).

A great company of the priests; none so violent opposers of the gospel as these were (their interest in all likelihood, heightening their opposition); yet great is truth, especially the Spirit of truth, and did prevail; and though in itself the number might not be so great as to be called a great multitude, yet, considering who they were that were converted, it was very wonderful, and the few might pass for many.

Were obedient to the faith; Christianity is not a bare speculation, but a practical religion; and we believe no more than we practise: Fac quod dicis et fides est, Aug. And the word of God increased,.... This stratagem of Satan did not succeed to divide the church, but issued in the better decorum and discipline of it, and in the spread and success of the Gospel; God thus making all things to work together for good;

and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; where Christ was crucified, the apostles were scourged, and treated with the utmost contempt, the sanhedrim and rulers of the Jews dwelt, who used all their power and craft to crush the Gospel, and hinder the progress of it, but in vain, there the word increased; which it may be said to do, when saints are edified by it, and sinners are converted under it; and in this last sense it is chiefly to be understood here: the instances of conversion were very numerous; how large must this church now be!

and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith; that is, to the Gospel, which contains things to be believed, articles of faith; proposes Christ the great object of faith; and is the means of producing faith, and which is of no profit, unless it is mixed with faith: and to obey this is cordially to embrace the doctrines of the Gospel, and cheerfully to submit to the ordinances of it. And that the priests, and a large number of them, should do this, is very marvellous; since they were the most inveterate enemies of the Gospel, and persecutors of the saints; but what is it that efficacious grace cannot do? the Syriac version instead of "priests" reads "Jews", but unsupported by any copy.

{5} And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the {f} faith.

(5) A happy result of temptation.

(f) This is the figure of speech metonymy, meaning by faith the doctrine of the Gospel which brings about faith.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 6:7, attaching the train of thought by the simple καί, now describes how, after the installing of the Seven, the cause of the gospel continued to prosper. “The word of God grew”—it increased in diffusion (Acts 12:24, Acts 19:20), etc. Comp. the parable of the mustard-seed, Matthew 13:31-32. How could the re-established and elevated love and harmony, sustained, in addition to the apostles, by upright men who were full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom (Acts 6:3), fail to serve as the greatest recommendation of the new doctrine and church to the inhabitants of the capital, who had always before their eyes, in the case of their hierarchs, the curse of party spirit and sectarian hatred? Therefore—and what a significant step towards victory therein took place!—a great multitude of the priests became obedient to the faith, that is, they submitted themselves to the faith in Jesus as the Messiah, they became believers; comp. as to ὑπακοὴ πίστεως, on Romans 1:5. The better portion of the so numerous (Ezra 2:36 ff.) priestly class could not but, in the light of the Christian theocratic fellowship which was developing itself, recognise and feel all the more vividly the decay of the old hierarchy. Accordingly, both the weakly attested reading Ἰουδαίων, and the conjecture of Casaubon, approved by Beza: καὶ τῶν ἱερέων, sc. τινὲς, are to be entirely rejected; nor is even Elsner’s view (which Heinsius anticipated, and Wolf and Kuinoel followed) to be adopted, viz. that by the ὄχλος τῶν ἱερ. the sacerdotes ex plebe, plebeii sacerdotes, כהנים עם חארץ, are meant in contradistinction to the theologically learned priests, תלמידי חכמים. The text itself is against this view; for it must at least have run: πολλοί τε ἱερεῖς τοῦ ὄχλου. Besides, such a distinction of priests is nowhere indicated in the N. T., and could not be presumed as known. Compare, as analogous to the statement of our passage, John 12:42.Acts 6:7. τῶν ἱερέων: the reading Ἰουδαίων is advocated by Klostermann, Probleme in Aposteltexte, pp. 13, 14, but not only is the weight of critical evidence overwhelmingly against it, but we can scarcely doubt that St. Luke would have laid more stress upon the first penetration of the Christian faith into districts outside Jerusalem—this is represented as the result of the persecution about Stephen, Acts 8:4; cf. John 12:42 (see also Wendt, 1899, p. 145, note). The whole verse shows that the γογγυσμός had not interfered with the growth of the Church. The conjecture that in the word ὄχλος reference is made to the priests of the plebs in contrast to the learned priests is in no way satisfactory; if this had been the meaning, the words would have been πολλοί τε ἱερεῖς τοῦ ὄχλου, and no such distinction of priests is anywhere noticed in the N.T., see further below.—ἐν Ἱερουσαλὴμ: Hilgenfeld (so Weiss) considers that, as this notice implies that there were disciples outside Jerusalem, such a remark is inconsistent with the statements of the after-spread of the Church in this chapter and in 8, and that therefore the words ἐν Ἱ. are to be referred to the “author to Theophilus”. But so far from the words bearing the interpretation of Hilgenfeld, the historian may have introduced them to mark the fact that the growth of the Church continued in Jerusalem, in the capital where the hierarchical power was felt, and that the growth included the accession of priests no less than of laymen.—ὑπήκουον τῇ πίστει: the imperfect may denote repetition—the priests kept joining the new community, Blass, in loco; cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 10:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:8—the verb (very frequent in LXX) is only used in Acts in this place in the sense given, but often in St. Paul’s Epistles. No doubt when the number of Jewish priests was so large (according to Josephus, twenty thousand) both poor and wealthy would have been included in the statement, and we cannot limit it to the Sadducees. It must be borne in mind that the obedience of these priests to the Christian faith need not of necessity have interfered with the continuance of their duties in the Temple (so Felten), especially when we remember the attitude of Peter and John; but the words certainly seem to mark their complete obedience to the faith (see Grimm-Thayer, sub v. πίστις, i. b, [197]), and in face of the opposition of the Sadducees and the more wealthy priestly families, an open adherence to the disciples of Jesus may well have involved a break with their former profession (Hort, Judaistic Christianity, p. 49, and Ecclesia, p. 52). May there not have been many among the priests waiting for the consolation of Israel, men righteous and devout like the Pharisee priest or priests, to whom perhaps we owe that expression of the hopes of the pious Jew in the Psalms of Solomon, which approach so nearly in style and character to the Hymns of the priest Zacharias and the devout Symeon in the early chapters of St. Luke’s Gospel? see Ryle and James’s edition, Psalms of Solomon, Introd., lix., lx. Spitta refers the whole verse to his source , as a break in the narrative, without any connection with what follows or precedes. Clemen assigns Acts 6:1-6 to his special source, H(istoria) H(ellenistarum); Acts 6:7 to his H(istoria) Pe(tri). Jüngst assigns Acts 6:1 to Acts 6:7 b, c, to his source , 7a to his R(edactor). The comment of Hilgenfeld on Acts 6:7 is suggestive (although he himself agrees with Spitta, and regards the verse as an interpretation), “Clemen und Jüngst nicht einmal dieses Verstein ungeteilt”.

[197] A(ntiochena), in Blass, a fair rough copy of St. Luke.7. And the word of God increased] i.e. was more widely spread now that the Apostles were freed from secular cares, and left to give themselves unto the ministry of the word. (Cp. for the expression Acts 12:24, Acts 19:20.)

a great company of the priests] To these men the sacrifice would be greater than to the ordinary Israelite, for they would experience the fullest weight of the hatred against the Christians, and would lose their status and support, as well as their friends. This is no doubt the reason why such special mention is made of them.

were obedient to the faith] As faith in Christ was the first demand made from those who desired to enter the new communion, it is easy to understand how the Christian religion gained from the earliest times the name of “the Faith.” Cf. Acts 13:8, Acts 14:22, Acts 16:5, Acts 24:24.Acts 6:7. Ηὔξανε, increased) Whilst harmony was maintained, and assiduity in the word of GOD.—ὄχλος, the multitude) The expression ὄχλος is applied even to a not very large number; ch. Acts 1:15; Luke 5:29; Luke 6:17; John 12:17. Wherefore there is nothing improbable in this passage. As to the priests, there might have been less hope: now, as it is, others are influenced in the greater numbers, owing to their example. The rest of the people are alluded to in the next clause.—[ὑπήκουον τῇ πίστει, were obedient to the faith) Faith here denotes the testimony of the Gospel, which is most worthy of belief: wherefore in other passages the expression is used, to obey the Gospel, Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; and thence, obedience to the faith, Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26. GOD exhibits to us His testimony; which he who receives as true, submissively lends his ears, and so renders obedience.—V. g.]Verse 7. - Exceedingly for greatly, A.V. Were obedient to the faith. Compare the phrase, obedience of faith or "to the faith" (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:25). The addition of a great multitude of priests was an important incident in the Church's history, both as they were a higher order of men, and a class very liable to be prejudiced against the faith which would rob them of their importance. To the faith (τῇ πίστει)

Opinions differ greatly as to whether this is to be taken as meaning faith in Jesus Christ, or faith considered as Christian doctrine - the Gospel; the faith in the ecclesiastical sense. This passage and Galatians 1:23 are the strong passages in favor of the latter view; but the general usage of the New Testament, added to the fact that in both these passages the former meaning gives a good, intelligible, and perfectly consistent sense, go to confirm the former interpretation.

1. In the great majority of New Testament passages faith is clearly used in the sense of faith in Jesus Christ: "the conviction and confidence regarding Jesus Christ as the only and perfect mediator of the divine grace and of eternal life, through his work of atonement" (Meyer).

2. This interpretation is according to the analogy of such expressions as obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), where the meaning is, clearly, obedience to Christ: obedience of the truth (1 Peter 1:22). Accordingly, faith, though it becomes in man the subjective moral power of the new life, regenerated through the power of the Spirit, is regarded objectively as a power - the authority which commands submission.

3. This interpretation is according to the analogy of the expression hearing of faith (Galatians 3:2), which is to be rendered, not as equivalent to the reception of the Gospel, but as the report or message of faith; i.e., which treats of faith, ἀκοὴ, hearing being always used in the New Testament in a passive sense, and often rendered fame, rumor, report (see Matthew 4:24; Matthew 14:1; Mark 1:28; John 12:38; Romans 10:16). Compare, also, obedience of faith (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26), where faith is to be taken as the object, and not as the source, of the obedience; and hence is not to be explained as the obedience which springs from faith, but as the obedience rendered to faith as the authoritative impulse of the new life in Christ.

The great majority of the best modern commentators hold that faith is to be taken as the subjective principle of Christian life (though often regarded objectively as a spiritual power), and not as Christian doctrine.

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